The New York TimesThe New York Times

Four Takeaways From a Times Investigation Into China's Expanding Surveillance State

By Isabelle Qian, Muyi Xiao, Paul Mozur and Alexander Cardia

21 Jun 2022 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

This NYT investigation has scoured over 100,000 bidding documents and shows the extent of dystopian levels of surveillance state the Chinese authorities want to build.

China’s ambition to collect a staggering amount of personal data from everyday citizens is more expansive than previously known, a New York Times investigation has found. Phone-tracking devices are now everywhere. The police are creating some of the largest DNA databases in the world. And the authorities are building upon facial recognition technology to collect voice prints from the general public.

The Times’ Visual Investigations team and reporters in Asia spent more than a year analyzing more than 100,000 government bidding documents. They call for companies to bid on the contracts to provide surveillance technology, and include product requirements and budget size, and sometimes describe at length the strategic thinking behind the purchases. Chinese laws stipulate that agencies must keep records of bids and make them public, but in reality the documents are scattered across hard-to-search webpages that are often taken down quickly without notice. ChinaFile, a digital magazine published by the Asia Society, collected the bids and shared them exclusively with The Times.

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