ChinAI #44: Public Security Bureaus and 8 Future Applications of AI

Welcome to the ChinAI Newsletter!

These are Jeff Ding's weekly translations of writings on AI policy and strategy from Chinese thinkers. I'll also include general links to all things at the intersection of China and AI. Please share the subscription link if you think this stuff is cool. Here's an archive of all past issues. *Subscribers are welcome to share excerpts from these translations as long as my original translation is cited.

I'm a grad student at the University of Oxford where I'm based at the Center for the Governance of AI, Future of Humanity Institute.

CETC Frontier Applications of AI in Public Security Surveillance

This week’s translation gives a sense of what a key actor, CETC — a large state-owned defense conglomerate with subgroups heavily involved in civil-military fusion efforts as well as predictive policing efforts in Xinjiang — thinks are the frontier applications of AI in making use of public security videos, from a report at the China Nanjing Smart Public Security Summit last October.

The full translation on the Google doc linked below dives deeper into 8 scenarios, here are the titles to give you a sense:

  1. No Longer Fears of "Overcrowding"

  2. Don’t think that just because no one is standing guard, you can sneak into sensitive areas

  3. In the future, when there are fights in public settings, cameras may “automatically call the police”

  4. If you’re in danger in a place where there’s no one around, you can ask for help by waving your hand at the camera!

  5. Finding Someone is as Easy as Searching for a Piece of Information

  6. Carrying sensitive objects will also be discovered promptly

  7. Internet Streamers can be Effectively Regulated

  8. The camera can detect lies

The context for this is China’s growing domestic security market, which has maintained annual double-digit growth rates, far ahead of other countries in the world, per AskCI Consulting; the proportion of security products that used video surveillance also increased each year in the 2014-2016 period. The article claims China’s public security departments are now experiencing an unprecedented “intelligentization transformation.”

FULL TRANSLATION: What footage do Public Security Bureaus capture every day? The answer will shock you!

To be clear, this article represents one point of view, from a company that wants to package all these scenarios as products to sell, and the top comments from Chinese readers (screenshot below) show a different perspective (you can see comments when you read pieces on WeChat). Some of the comments lament the loss of privacy and 1984; another muses that when the cameras “need to fail” they’ll fail (hinting at distrust of police).

This Week's ChinAI Links

Chinese phrase of the Week:  警察叔叔(jing3cha2 shu1shu1) - “police uncle” - term of endearment to refer to police.

Last week’s issue featured a graphic of China’s AI ecosystem divided into three layers (foundation, technology, application) and links to four giants (BAT + Huawei). Thanks to ChinAI reader Karmen Elgren who has generously recreated an English version of the backend dataset with all these companies, where they fit on the layers, their links to the giants. Give some love to his personal site here.

This Diplomat piece by Meng Yu and Guodong Yu on Chinese courts’ experiments with big data and AI is worth a read.

Check out a Strategic Multilayer Assessment publication on AI, China, Russia, and the Global Order which focuses on how AI fits into the competition between liberal democracy and authoritarianism, edited by Nicholas Wright and integrated by Mariah Yager. In Chapter 5 I provide an overview of China’s national interests in AI and how they intersect with social governance. I also found Lori Saalmon’s piece on Chinese research into integrating neural networks into its hypersonic platforms particularly interesting.

FHI’s Research Scholars Programme at the University of Oxford is accepting applications for those interested in studying topics such as “Which is more likely to be radically transformative in the next two decades: AI or biotechnology?”

Thank you for reading and engaging.

Shout out to everyone who is commenting on the translations - idea is to build up a community of people interested in this stuff. You can contact me at or on Twitter at @jjding99