The Covid-19 War – And How China Won With Data

The Covid-19 War – And How China Won With Data

I just finished watching a video documentary on how China fought coronavirus. China won over coronavirus with Data, collected over years through massive state surveillance of citizens. Yes, the greatest weakness of China, from the perspectives of practicing democracy, seems to have become the best tool in its arsenal against the virus. Russia is executing the same playbook. Taiwan has also done well. These nations are united by one thing: state surveillance of citizens!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not sure there is any country in Western Europe, Africa or North America that can execute the fight against coronavirus with the bravado which China has demonstrated. Simply, none has the tools, and because of that, none can connect the dots. 

From the video, here are some notes:

  • At the discovery of the virus, China activated all its surveillance cameras in public places, collecting faces of its citizens, at scale.
  • China linked the national health database with the travel database, connecting those who travelled to some areas to their medical facilities.
  • China then processed the data with AI, linked with WeChat and its  telecommunication infrastructure, and sent citizens alerts with three color-codes: green, red and yellow. With Green, you can move around. With Yellow, you cannot drive and must keep limited contacts in the public. At Red, you must self-quarantine. That data is shared with clinics/police which can then quickly follow up. 
  • If you are on Red and are required to self-isolate and you do not comply, using facial recognition cameras, the government will know of the violation. This self-isolation is necessary even if you do not have symptoms. Fines and jail times await.
  • Using the public cameras, China was processing where people were in real-time. Once someone has tested positive, the AI system, using the cameras will alert all the people the subject came into contact with instructions on what to do.
  • Data was helping clinics, police and other stakeholders to make informed decisions in near-real time.

Post covid-19, lawyers will revisit the debate on privacy across nations.


Unfortunately, I cannot share the video.

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10 thoughts on “The Covid-19 War – And How China Won With Data

  1. My head is still spinning on this post, but will manage to keep under control.

    The video was prepared by China or who? In this trying time, source matters a lot, before we can even go into the veracity of contents therein.

    From different accounts, the first sign of Covid-19 was in November 2019, and by mid December it was gaining ground, but China had different ideas. From the WHO’s first statement on the novel virus, it erroneously agreed with China that there was no ‘evidence’ of human-to-human infection; the WHO never sent in independent investigators, it agreed with China…

    By January 2020, the US wanted to gain insights into what’s actually happening in China, but China refused, and so the magic continued.

    China was telling the rest of us number of infected people, number of deaths, and number of recoveries; if you didn’t like the numbers, no problem, but you are not going to investigate anything…

    And by March 31, a video popped up, on how China ‘defeated’ Covid-19. We shall leave it at that.

    On the issue surveillance, I do think it’s better to live for 30 or 40 years of quality life, with your privacy and freedom non negotiable, if I get struck by pandemic and die, no issues; but 90 yrs with surveillance? NO!

    Reply
    1. As someone who has lived in China for almost 6 years, I agree with you on this. China has done very well in keeping its dirty secrets. Even while typing this, I know there’s a possibility of me getting in trouble for this. That’s the life in China. Ask anyone who has lived in China for at least a year, you’ll get a better understanding how this works. While some try to make the case for comprehensive state surveillance, imagine that with the current administration in Nigeria. People were furiously about the social media bill because they know what it means

      Reply
  2. I came here for the video. Well, the summary gives some insight. There is always a reservation about data from the Asian Gaint but being someone in research they have truly advanced technological capabilities especially in the area of computation. In the UK where such facial detect cameras were used by the police to identify offenders and criminals, it was strongly objected to by sections of the public. The issue on privacy will be reviewed at the end of this COVID-19, it will be interesting to see where the conversation heads to.

    Reply
  3. This is really interesting. And you know what I think is equally unique about China? All the videos share about their fight against the Coronavirus never showed China in a vulnerable state. If it is not about how she is using technology (self drive buses, robots etc) for distribution of food or fumigation, it is about how they use data to combat the disease. Unlike in European countriesand the US where we see mass graves and body bags. China truly communicated power in her stories of her ombat with the virus.

    Reply
    1. “All the videos share about their fight against the Coronavirus never showed China in a vulnerable state.” -That is indeed a great insight Rasheed. They actually showed being in command unlike Europe and U.S. on this. But could those videos be doctored?

      Reply
  4. With a country like China that wants to be perceived as a Super Power, nothing could be ruled out. This especially when one considers the rate and sequence of release.
    It seems the country has different videos for her different phases of the fight against the COVID 19. The deliberateness that shows through the series of the videos and the state owned media that take the credit, absolutely nothing could be ruled out.

    Reply

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