Dr. Mark Esper, the U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense, has criticized China for establishing a surveillance state and using artificial intelligence (AI) to subdue people’s freedoms. He was speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Global Security Forum in Washington.
“As we speak, the Communist Party of China is using artificial intelligence to repress Muslin minority communities and pro-democracy demonstrators… In fact, the Party has constructed a 21st-century surveillance state with unprecedented abilities to censor speech and infringe upon basic human rights… George Orwell would be proud,” Esper said in a statement (Yahoo News). The George Orwell reference is about the author’s book 1984 that describes an all-powerful authoritarian state.
Esper said that the Chinese government has used its military, economic, and diplomatic power to expand its bad behavior rather than abide by it. Chinese regime’s attempts to weaponize space through the use of satellite jammers and directed-energy weapons are a cause of concern. To counter such efforts, the Department of Defense (DoD) created the Space Force that will act as an incubator for a new generation of technologies. DoD is working on artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons, 5G networks, and long-range precision fires.
He also criticized China’s immoral ways of gaining technological supremacy, pointing out that Beijing uses forced technology transfer, IP theft, and direct state investment to narrow the tech gap between American and Chinese capabilities. Esper revealed that the Justice Department had filed charges against Chinese entities and individuals in seven separate incidents of espionage since 2018.
This includes an attempt by one party to steal sensitive information from a prominent American semiconductor manufacturer. Esper is appalled that despite global criticism, Beijing is steadfast in its totalitarian ways, showing no signs of change. Beijing recently passed legislation that would give it access to data of private companies, including confidential information belonging to American entities.
“Addressing these threats requires us to unite the nation around our competition with China… Our success is contingent upon a cohesive approach across both the public and private sectors. For the department, this means overhauling our policies and reshaping the culture within the department, between the department and industry, and among our allies and partners around the world,” he said in a statement (Defense).
The future of surveillance
According to information provider IHS Markit, the sale of surveillance goods like cameras, recorders, accessories, and video management software (VMS) will cross US$20 billion for the first time this year. The U.S. and China are the leading players in the video surveillance market.
“China accounts for approximately 45 percent global sales revenue, ahead of the United States, which is in second place. Despite the ongoing trade dispute, and industry-specific tariffs and sanctions, the worldwide video surveillance market is forecast to grow by almost 10 percent annually in 2020, with some regional markets, like India and Southeast Asia, expanding even more rapidly,” according to Security World Market.
Another report by Adroit Market Research predicts the global facial recognition market to exceed US$12 billion by the year 2025, driven by strong government and private sector demand. Stationary 3D facial recognition was the top-ranking technology in this sector last year, accounting for 60 percent market share. Until 2025, North America is predicted to maintain its dominant position in this industry. Some of the leading companies involved in developing facial recognition systems include NEC Corporation, Cognitech Systems, Aware, Id3 Technologies, and Ayonix Corporation.