An interesting article on The New York Times discusses how China is exporting its surveillance technology to the rest of the world:
Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has vastly expanded domestic surveillance, fueling a new generation of companies that make sophisticated technology at ever lower prices. A global infrastructure initiative is spreading that technology even further.
Ecuador shows how technology built for China’s political system is now being applied — and sometimes abused — by other governments. Today, 18 countries — including Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates and Germany — are using Chinese-made intelligent monitoring systems, and 36 have received training in topics like “public opinion guidance,” which is typically a euphemism for censorship, according to an October report from Freedom House, a pro-democracy research group.
With China’s surveillance know-how and equipment now flowing to the world, critics warn that it could help underpin a future of tech-driven authoritarianism, potentially leading to a loss of privacy on an industrial scale. Often described as public security systems, the technologies have darker potential uses as tools of political repression.
“They’re selling this as the future of governance; the future will be all about controlling the masses through technology,” Adrian Shahbaz, research director at Freedom House, said of China’s new tech exports.
As mentioned in the article, although the surveillance systems are being installed with the goal to reduce crime (so they claim at least), the ultimate result is that it has no impact on reducing crime at all. Instead, it’s being used to spy on people and monitor activists and political opponents.
Another bit worth quoting is the following:
Ecuadorean officials traveled again to Beijing to scope out the system, which featured technology made by the parent company of the state-backed C.E.I.E.C.
By February 2011, with guarantees of state funding from the attachés, Ecuador signed a deal with no public bidding process. The country got a Chinese-designed surveillance system financed by Chinese loans. In exchange, Ecuador provided one of its main exports, oil. The money for the cameras and computing flowed straight to C.E.I.E.C. and Huawei.
“The money always ends up going back to China,” Ms. Roldós said.
It became a pattern. In exchange for credit facilities that totaled more than $19 billion, Ecuador signed away large portions of its oil reserves. A surge of Chinese-built infrastructure projects, including hydroelectric dams and refineries, followed.
This strategy for imperialism is also described by John Perkins in his book “The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.” Huge loans are given out, the money always flows back to the imperialist country — in this case China — while the country receiving the loans can’t repay the debt and has to give away their (natural) resources.
In Suriname, where I live, China and Huawei have employed the exact same strategy as detailed above, where they give out loans to finance communications and surveillance infrastructure, with the projects being carried out by Chinese companies such as Huawei, making sure the money flows back to China.