Bookmarked Trade war? China was buying goods from Australia long before 1788 by Gareth Hutchens (ABC News)

From the 1700s (at least), well before the colony of New South Wales was established in 1788, the Aboriginal people of northern Australia were trading trepang (sea cucumber) with fishermen from Makassar, a port-city on the island of Sulawesi (now Indonesia).

The “Macassan” fishermen would sail to Australia around December each year, with the north-west monsoonal winds.

They would spend months living on Australian beaches, collecting and processing the trepang, before returning home with their haul.

Their catch was destined for China.

“The north coast of Australia, southern China and Makassar were all connected by an international trading network that centred on trepang,” curator Alison Mercieca, of the National Museum of Australia, said in a 2008 lecture.

That trade network matured over centuries, and became a popular source of food for the Chinese market.

“Throughout the nineteenth century it would appear that a majority of trepang traded from Makassar was supplied by the fleets which sailed to Arnhem Land and perhaps even supplying about a quarter of the total Chinese market by the mid-nineteenth century,” she said.

Reflecting upon Australia’s current dependency on China for trade, Gareth Hutchens discusses the relationship that existed between the Aboriginal people of northern Australia, Makassar and China before the arrival of Europeans to Australia.
Bookmarked The TikTok War (Stratechery)

What matters more in an ideological war, though, is influence, and that is why I do believe that ByteDance’s continued ownership of TikTok is unacceptable. My strong preference would be for ByteDance to sell TikTok to non-Chinese investors or a non-Chinese company, by which I mean not-Facebook. TikTok is not only a brilliant app that figured out video on mobile, it is also shaping up to be a major challenge to Facebook’s hold on attention and thus, in the long run, advertising. This would be a very good thing, and I fear that simply banning TikTok will simply leave the market to Instagram Reels, Facebook’s TikTok clone.

Ben Thompson reflects on the growing concern around TikTok. He explains that we often focus on US relations and in so doing ignore the Chinese part to the conversation.

One of the gravest errors made by far too many people in the U.S. is taking an exceptionally self-centered view of U.S.-China relations, where everything is about what the U.S. says and does, while China is treated like an NPC.

In many ways TikTok is similar to Facebook in that it vacuums up data.

That is not to say that TikTok is not capturing data: it is vacuuming up as much as it can, from your usage to your IP address to your contacts and location (if you gave the app permission). This, as many TikTok advocates note, is similar to what Facebook does.

This, to be clear, is absolutely true. It is also at this point where important differences emerge. First, Facebook is a U.S. company, and while TikTok claims that it is independent from ByteDance and stores data in the U.S. and Singapore, its privacy policy is clear:

We may share your information with a parent, subsidiary, or other affiliate of our corporate group.

That means that TikTok data absolutely can be sent to China, and, it is important to note, this would be the case even if the privacy policy were not so honest.

However, the focus of this data is as much political as anything else. ByteDance’s focus is primarily about machine learning and building an algorithm that allows it direct access to our thoughts and attention.

TikTok’s algorithm, unmoored from the constraints of your social network or professional content creators, is free to promote whatever videos it likes, without anyone knowing the difference. TikTok could promote a particular candidate or a particular issue in a particular geography, without anyone — except perhaps the candidate, now indebted to a Chinese company — knowing. You may be skeptical this might happen, but again, China has already demonstrated a willingness to censor speech on a platform banned in China; how much of a leap is it to think that a Party committed to ideological dominance will forever leave a route directly into the hearts and minds of millions of Americans untouched?

It is interesting to think of this all alongside Cory Doctorow’s critique of platform capitalism.

Liked High stakes in a Himalayan hotspot (

Some Chinese camps have been dismantled and heavy equipment withdrawn, but the new road along the banks of the Galwan remains.

“The whole thing is probe, push back and probe and push back, that sort of activity,” says Christopher Snedden, an independent Australian strategic analyst who has written several books about the region.

“I think the Chinese are masters at that.”

Bookmarked (

I started the day reading Peter Oborne’s piece on whether China will replace Islam as the West’s new enemy — and then got sucked into the rabbit-hole of whether we are sliding into a new Cold War, with China playing the role that the Soviet Union played in the old days. This is all about geopolitics, of course, about which I know little. But if you write about digital technology, as I do, this emerging Cold War is a perennial puzzle that pops up everywhere.

John Naughton looks at China and explores the idea that we are entering a new Cold War. Alternatively, Michael Schuman suggests that the answer is to focus on what China is not so good at:

The economic challenges facing China have possible implications for U.S. policy. Rather than worrying so much about what Beijing is up to, Washington might be better off focusing on the home front and enhancing American advantages over China, by, for instance, strengthening the education system and investing in research and development.

Liked Ghost City Photos of a Usually Bustling Shanghai During Coronavirus Outbreak (

For her series One Person City, photographer nicoco has been taking photos of Shanghai that emphasize how deserted the city was due to the COVID-19 outbreak that has killed more than 1000 people in China.

Bookmarked ‘Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims (

More than 400 pages of internal Chinese documents provide an unprecedented inside look at the crackdown on ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.

This exposé on the crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang continues to paints a daunting picture of the future.
Replied to Leaked documents document China’s plan for mass arrests and concentration-camp internment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang (Boing Boing)

In addition to setting out a number of logistical and planning guidelines — such as sanitation and public health measures — the documents detail a system of points-based “behavior modification” tools to punish and reward prisoners who modify their conduct to the specifications of the Chinese state. This points-based system runs in parallel to the “predictive policing” tools that the Chinese state uses to identify and target people for rendering to its camps.

The use of points-based behavior modification sounds like ClassDojo?
Bookmarked Why you should worry if you have a Chinese smartphone | Technology | The Guardian (

China’s use of technology for social control of its citizens is extensive – but it could affect users elsewhere too, says security analyst Samantha Hoffman

In an interview with Ian Tucker, Samantha Hoffman suggests that we need to be careful about the the idea that we don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to data:

I would be. You may think “I’m not researching the CCP or testifying in Congress, so I don’t have anything to worry about”. But you don’t really know how that data is being collected and potentially used to shape your opinion and shape your decisions, among other things. Even understanding advertising and consumer preferences can feed into propaganda. Taken together, that can be used to influence an election or feelings about a particular issue.

This comes back to Edward Snowden’s assertion that:

Ultimately, saying that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say.

Replied to How IBM’s Technology Powered the Holocaust (

It’s not difficult to see the relevance of this episode today. Should Microsoft-owned GitHub provide software to ICE for possible use in the agency’s state-sanctioned persecution of immigrants and asylum seekers? Should Twitter allow Donald Trump to incite terrorism on their service? Should Google provide AI to the Pentagon for the potential development of deadlier weapons? And Christ, where do you even start with Facebook? Palantir, Apple, and Amazon have also been criticized recently for allowing unethical usage of their technology and platforms. “It’s just business” and the belief in the neutrality of technology (and technology platforms) have combined to produce a shield that contemporary companies use to protect themselves from activists’ ethical criticisms. And increasingly, the customers and employees of these companies aren’t buying it because they don’t want history to repeat itself.
According to a book by human rights journalist Edwin Black, Hitler needed logistical help in carrying out the genocide of Europe

I wonder about the technology behind China’s social credit system and the links there. It would seem that what is different is that a lot of this technology is designed by the state for the state?
Bookmarked A million people are jailed at China’s gulags. I managed to escape. Here’s what really goes on inside (

Sauytbay had to teach the prisoners – who were Uyghur or Kazakh speakers – Chinese and Communist Party propaganda songs. She was with them throughout the day. The daily routine began at 6 A.M. Chinese instruction took place after a paltry breakfast, followed by repetition and rote learning. There were specified hours for learning propaganda songs and reciting slogans from posters: “I love China,” “Thank you to the Communist Party,” “I am Chinese” and “I love Xi Jinping” – China’s president.

David Stavrou paints a picture of life inside of a Xinjiang ‘reeducation’ camp. This is based on a testimony provided by Sayragul Sauytbay, a teacher who escaped from China and was granted asylum in Sweden. Some of the harrowing aspects to come out of the account were the living conditions, medical trials and rape of those incarcerated.

The Chinese Embassy denied these accounts and instead argued that Sauytbay was suspected of credit fraud.

Asked to respond to Sayragul Sauytbay’s description of her experience, the Chinese Embassy in Sweden wrote to Haaretz that her account is “total lies and malicious smear attacks against China.” Sauytbay, it claimed, “never worked in any vocational education and training center in Xinjiang, and has never been detained before leaving China” – which she did illegally, it added. Furthermore, “Sayragul Sauytbay is suspected of credit fraud in China with unpaid debts [of] about 400,000 RMB” (approximately $46,000).

However, as China has closed the region off and implemented a system of surveillance, it therefore is difficult to actually prove or disprove any sort of testimony, without it simply being discredited by the state.

Liked How the West Got China’s Social Credit System Wrong (WIRED)

As the 2020 deadline approaches, China’s Social Credit System still remains largely in development. There are some signs, however, that the system could soon incorporate more forms of data collection. For example, Chen says, the China Credit website already encourages users to log in by scanning their faces, though it’s not mandatory. “So there will be a facial-recognition element if the government can persuade people to use that more,” she explains.

Bookmarked Tell the World – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) (4Corners)

Exposing how China is creating the world’s largest prison.

“People started to literally disappear, communities were being emptied of adult men and women.” China researcher

It’s a remote corner of the world, but what is taking place there is nothing short of breathtaking.

“My older brother, younger brothers and two younger sisters, five siblings were all taken by… masked police. Heavily armed Special Forces police raided their home and taken (sic) them by covering their face and shackling them in front of the kids.” Australian Uyghur

Xinjiang province is a vast area of deserts and mountains where the ancient Silk Road once ran. Today its Uyghur population is being systematically rounded up with estimates of as many as a million citizens being held in detention.

Sophie McNeill reports on the rise of the surveillance state in China to suppress the Uyghur people in western China. What stands out from this investigation is the connection to other countries in the form of partnership and resources. This has included association with Curtin University and cotton supply for clothes by companies such as Cotton On. What this cultural genocide highlights is that we all have a part to play whether we wish to recognise it or not.
Liked China’s government has given location-tracking watches to 17,000 children (MIT Technology Review)

The smart watches use chips developed and designed by BeiDou, a Chinese satellite navigation system, to pinpoint a child’s position within 10 meters.The news: Seventeen thousand students at 60 elementary schools in Guangzhou received fancy new gadgets for their wrists last week, according to the Guangzhou Daily (link in Chinese).

Listened China’s hi-tech war on its Muslim minority – podcast from the Guardian

Some of the technologies pioneered in Xinjiang have already found customers in authoritarian states as far away as sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018, CloudWalk, a Guangzhou-based tech startup that has received more than $301m in state funding, finalised an agreement with Zimbabwe’s government to build a national “mass facial recognition programme” in order to address “social security issues”. (CloudWalk has not revealed how much the agreement is worth.) Freedom of movement through airports, railways and bus stations throughout Zimbabwe will now be managed through a facial database integrated with other kinds of biometric data. In effect, the Uighur homeland has become an incubator for China’s “terror capitalism”.

Darren Byler explains how smartphones and the internet gave the Uighurs a sense of their own identity – but now the Chinese state is using technology to strip them of it.

This provides another perspective to the report from Chris Buckley, Paul Moz and Austin Ramzy. This is another piece exploring the rise of surveillance capital and social credit in China.

Bookmarked How China Turned a City Into a Prison (

Children are interrogated. Neighbors become informants. Mosques are monitored. Cameras are everywhere.

Chris Buckley, Paul Moz and Austin Ramzy report on the step up of surveillance in China in response to the Uighurs. This reminds me of an ABC investigation into China’s social credit. Although it might seem harmless to accept Westfield’s capturing of gender or McDonald’s personalised drive-thru service, but this is only the beginning. We need to be informed and have an eye on tomorrow.
Replied to |k| clippings: 2018-11-11 — 11/11 at 100 (Katexic Clippings)

Abandoned? Post-apocalyptic? Or not…the Chongqing Metro Station in the Middle of Nowhere.

When I saw the image of subway entry seemingly in the middle of nowhere I thought it must be some sort of joke. However, I soon uncovered a different world. One involving rapid development:

Development of transport in China

The speed at which all this is happening in China makes me wonder why we speak about ten year plans in Melbourne, Australia.

In part this scenario of a station in a field reminds me of the discussion of the development of infrastructure before people in Stockholm:

In contrast, places like Vällingby, a Swedish suburb outside Stockholm built in the 1950s, were sited around a new Metro station. Building rail infrastructure through built-up areas is extremely expensive, but building it through farmland, before new neighborhoods are built, is comparatively cheap.