China’s “democracy” includes mandatory apps, mass chat surveillance

Researcher discovers servers in China collecting data on 364 million social media profiles daily.

ARS Tchnica
Date: 3/5/2019
By: Sean Gallagher

BEIJING, CHINA – MARCH 05: Deputies of the 13th National People’s Congress listen to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speech during the opening of the Two Sessions at The Great Hall of People on March 5, 2019 in Beijing, China. According to the government report, the target GDP growth for 2019 is 6-6.5%. In 2019, China’s defense budget will be 1189.9 billion yuan, an increase of about 7.5%. (Photo by Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images)

As the National People’s Congress gathers in Beijing for the beginning of China’s “Two Sessions” political season, state media is making an international propaganda push on social media—including on platforms blocked by China’s “Great Firewall”—to promote China’s “system of democracy.”

That system of democracy apparently involves mass surveillance to tap into the will of the people. While China’s growth as a surveillance state has been well-documented, the degree to which the Chinese leadership uses digital tools to shape the national political landscape and to control Chinese citizens has grown even further recently. That’s because authorities have been tapping directly into Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members’ and other Chinese citizens’ online activities and social media profiles.

The little red app
The China Media Project reports that the CPP has mandated party members download a new smartphone application called “Xi Study (Xue Xi) Strong Nation” (学习强国)—an application that provides a library of articles and videos carrying the teachings of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Party and government groups were to institute mandatory group training periods using Xi Study—similar to the periods of study of Mao’s “Little Red Book” once required by the party.

The application also tracks how much time each party member spends on each Xi-related activity. Points are awarded every time they complete an activity, with bonus points awarded for completing “Xi Jinping Thought” articles or videos watched during “lively intervals,” or huoyue shiduan (活跃时段)—Monday through Friday from 8:30pm to 10pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30am to 10:30am and 3:30pm to 4:30pm.”    [FULL  STORY]