US hedge-funds wax fat by investing in Chinese surveillance

The NYT has a creepy article about profiteering US hedge-funds that are making their fortunes by investing in increased surveillance in China, including technologies designed to recognize pro-democracy demonstrations so that the police can break them up faster.
Wall Street analysts now follow the growth of companies that install surveillance systems providing Chinese police stations with 24-hour video feeds from nearby Internet cafes. Hedge fund money from the United States has paid for the development of not just better video cameras, but face-recognition software and even newer behavior-recognition software designed to spot the beginnings of a street protest and notify police...

Each time China Security and Surveillance makes an acquisition, it holds an elaborate banquet, with dancers. The majority of the 500 or more people invited are municipal and provincial security officials, as well as executives of rival companies that may become acquisition targets.

"When they come, they hear central government officials endorsing us, they hear bankers endorsing us or supporting us, it gives us credibility," Mr. Yap said. "It's a lot of drinking, it's like a wedding banquet."

Link (Thanks, Kathryn)


  1. The most terrifying thing here is that it stinks of Corporate America outsourcing it’s authoritarianism. Similar to it’s sweatshops – it get’s what it needs made on the cheap in countries with little or no respect for people or their rights, and then can import said control extra cheap and easy, while pointing a finger at other country of choice saying “it works for them…”

  2. “Executives of Chinese surveillance companies say they are helping their government reduce street crime, preserve social stability and prevent terrorism.”

    using a similar rationale, the Japanese govt will start mandatory finger printing and photos for all foreigners and permanent residency visa (green card) holders. they just cite terrorism though. strange thing is, all the major terrorist attacks were from the japanese (red army, aum), who are exempt for the fingerprinting.

    another issue is the early-era Kazaa-type (?) p2p called “winny” that everyone uses and loses data through. the japanese govt (justice dept), military, and police have had numerous incicidents of having their pc data pilfered and posted on the net because most japanese govt administrators have no idea how basic pc security works. the risk of sensitive data being lost, was one of the reasons the u.s. scrapped selling their new fighters to japan. foreigners should worry about their passport data being stolen and them being put on some no-fly list of some secretive foreign govt dept with no oversight (hmmm…).

    “A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto said the White House would not comment on specific companies, adding, “It’s not appropriate to interfere in the private decisions of Americans to invest in legally incorporated firms.””

    unless they are selling diapers to cuba.

    Mr. Lantos called American involvement in the Chinese surveillance industry “an absolutely incredible phenomenon of extreme corporate irresponsibility.”

    and a fine example of working toward your corporate objective: to increase shareholder value.

  3. Despite what is constantly spouted by the politicians of the US, democracy is not capitalism. Capitalism is an economic system while democracy is a form of government that is supposed to make things equitable for its citzens.

    China in order to save itself from the Soviet style implosion has been converting to a capitalistic economy. Stock holders only care about increase in share value, not democracy, so it’s no major surprise that they would support an authoritarian communist government in keeping its citizens in line. They’ve never had qualms about investing in countries with strong dictators before, why should they collectively develop a conscience now?

  4. Stuff like this must make Bush green with envy. “[sigh] If only we could do that here!”

    With surveillance cameras everywhere, the Secret Service arresting anti-Bush demonstrators, phone and e-mail messages being tapped illegally, a national ID in the works, the death of habeus corpus, and military tribunals replacing civil courts of law, we’re halfway there.

  5. So, then. The self-fulfilling communist prophecies about capitalists are coming true. Liberty is dead. Long live liberty.

  6. In June of ’02 back Jakob K. Boeskov, invented a weapon called ‘The ID Sniper Rifle’, which would allow protesters to be shot with a dart which would then tag them and allow them to be located by Chinese authorities. Now Boeskovs’s weapon was fake, but he actually got a booth at one of the huge Chinese arms fairs and chronicles how much interest his ‘ID Sniper Rifle’ generated. It’s scary how people on the other side of the coin think. His writings on the subject appeared in the Disinfo anthology ‘Abuse Your Illusions’ and in Black Box magazine. It’s great stuff if you’re interested in just how big big brother is and how enormous the Chinese security market is.

  7. I saw this in the Times yesterday, and my immediate thought (beyond my disgust at money-grubbing corporate whores who want to help the Chinese government repress its citizens) was similar to Nick (#4): once the emerging fascists in our country see how well their technology works oppressing foreign populations, they bring it to the feds and try to make a sale. And, no doubt, in the name of keeping us “safe”, they’ll bite.

    Shouldn’t we, as a nation, be restricting the sale of these insidious technologies to repressive authoritarian states? (I know, ha ha ha.)

    This stuff drives me so insane I almost want to become a Libertarian…

  8. FTA

    “The Chinese government trade association for surveillance companies, which also regulates the industry, predicts that the surveillance market here will expand to more than $43.1 billion by 2010, compared with less than $500 million in 2003. Under the Safe Cities program adopted by the government last winter, 660 cities are starting work on high-tech surveillance systems.”

    Note to wall street. Go long on hoodie manufacturers.

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