A new report released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute accurately characterizes technology threats from communist China. Authored by Dr. Samantha Hoffman, the 33-page document is worth digesting, as it highlights the nation’s “tech-enhanced authoritarianism” and how, “by leveraging-state owned enterprises (SOEs), Chinese technology companies and partnerships with foreign partners … the CCP is building a massive and global data-collection system.”
“Engineering Global Consent” makes the key point that China’s privacy violations and efforts to mine data without user content “doesn’t always involve distinctly coercive and overtly invasive technology … it often relies on technologies that provide useful services.” This mirrors what Dr. Roslyn Layton said in an interview last week, commenting on Huawei, that “maybe people have heard they build these network components and we have been blocking that because there are backdoors in there which can go directly to the Chinese government. But now it’s not just the networks, it’s the services that run over the network. The devices we attach – everyday products. Things like an old Lenovo laptop or a Lexmark printer.”
The report uses the Global Tone Communication Technology Company (GTCOM) as a case study for “tech-enhanced authoritarianism.” GTCOM collects bulk data across the world and processes it for the Chinese government and corporations. The structure of GTCOM mirrors that of other firms created and operating in China. It is a subsidiary of a state-owned enterprise directly supervised by the Central Propaganda Department. GTCOM also has a deep relationship with Huawei, which the Commerce Department recently placed on its Entity List and whose products feature backdoors that can be exploited for cyber-espionage and the compromising personal information.
The report warns, “A key factor in the global debate about whether Huawei should participate in 5G networks is the risk that its technologies can be used for espionage. Huawei’s relationship with GTCOM illustrates how Huawei can embed technologies into its products that allow its data to go straight to servers that the party-state controls. That data can be used for products that range from the state security applications … to the language translation services that GTCOM provides.”
GTCOM is a textbook example of a company that is propped up by state funding, provides consumer services under the guise of a private businesses, and partners with other similar firms who lack privacy protections for the data it collects. Multiply this example by several-fold and you will have a picture of how China uses technology transfers, intellectual property theft, and the aggregation of personal data to further its national objectives.