WUHAN, China – In the early days in Wuhan, the first city first struck by the virus, getting a COVID-19 test was so difficult that residents compared it to winning the lottery. Throughout the Chinese city in January, thousands of people waited in hourslong lines for hospitals, sometimes next to corpses lying in hallways. But most couldn't get the test they needed to be admitted as patients. And for the few who did, the tests were often faulty, resulting in false negatives. The widespread test shortages and problems at a time when the virus could have been slowed were caused largely by secrecy and cronyism at China's top disease control agency, an Associated Press investigation has found. The flawed testing system prevented scientists and officials from seeing how fast the virus was spreading -- another way China fumbled its early response to the virus. Earlier reporting showed how top Chinese leaders delayed warning the public and withheld information from the World Health Organization, supplying the most comprehensive picture yet of China's initial missteps. Taken together, these mistakes in January facilitated the virus's spread through Wuhan and across the world undetected, in a pandemic that has now sickened more than 64 million people and killed almost 1.5 million.
China has pledged to collaborate in global efforts to drive digital development and build a "shared cyberspace" community. It has underscored the importance of the internet and international cooperation, as economies worldwide look to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese President Xi Jinping said China was "ready to work with other countries" to tap the opportunities "presented by the information revolution" and drive growth through innovation as well as open up new grounds in digital cooperation. Efforts also would be made to create a new paradigm for cybersecurity and to build a community with a "shared future in cyberspace", creating a brighter future for humanity, Xi said in a letter he sent and was read at the 2020 World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China. With China-US trade relations still tense, efforts to cut out Chinese vendors such as Huawei from 5G implementations may create separate ecosystems and consumers could lose out on benefits from the wide adoption of global standards, as demonstrated with 4G.
Supply Lines is a daily newsletter that tracks Covid-19's impact on trade. Sign up here, and subscribe to our Covid-19 podcast for the latest news and analysis on the pandemic. ByteDance Ltd. will be required to seek Chinese government approval to sell the U.S. operations of its short-video TikTok app under new restrictions Beijing imposed on the export of artificial intelligence technologies, according to a person familiar with the matter. AI interface technologies such as speech and text recognition, and those that analyze data to make personalized content recommendations, were added to a revised list of export-control products published on the Ministry of Commerce's website late Friday. Government permits will be required for overseas transfers to "safeguard national economic security," it said.
At the same time, AI is being twisted by authoritarian regimes to violate rights. The Chinese Communist Party is reportedly using AI to uncover and punish those who criticize the regime's pandemic response and to institute a type of coronavirus social-credit score--assigning people color codes to determine who is free to go out and who will be forced into quarantine. As the world begins to recover from the pandemic, nations face a stark choice about what vision of artificial intelligence will prevail. As Group of Seven nations meet this year under the organization's U.S. presidency, there is a critical opportunity to shape the evolution of AI in a way that respects fundamental rights and upholds our shared values. That is why G-7 technology ministers will agree Thursday to launch the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, or GPAI, together with other democratic countries.
The U.S. has started to catch up to China on the adoption of Artificial Intelligence technology, says AI expert Kai-Fu Lee. When Lee--the chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures--wrote his book AI Superpowers in 2018, he argued that China was faster in implementing and monetizing AI technology. But the U.S. has started to close the gap on adopting and using AI day-to-day Lee said at Wednesday's TIME100 Talks event. "China was way ahead in things like mobile payments, food delivery, robotics for delivery, things like that, but we also saw recently, in the U.S., very quickly peoples' habits were forming about ordering food from home, about use of robotics in various places, in using more mobile technologies, mobile payments," said Lee, who has been at the forefront of AI innovation for over three decades at Apple, Microsoft, Google and today as an investor in Chinese tech startups. The Chinese Communist Party has placed a huge focus in recent years on technological advancement to drive its economic growth.
Disinfecting robots, smart helmets, thermal camera-equipped drones and advanced facial recognition software are all being deployed in the fight against Covid-19 at the heart of the outbreak in China. President Xi Jinping has called on the country's tech sector to help battle the epidemic. Healthcare tech is also being used to identify coronavirus symptoms, find new treatments and monitor the spread of the disease, which has so far infected more than 90,000 people worldwide. But is it up to the job? Several Chinese firms have developed automated technologies for contactless delivery, spraying disinfectants and performing basic diagnostic functions, in order to minimise the risk of cross-infection.
Among the many issues being raised in the course of the recent Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is the ability of charities to respond to crises and to fulfil their fiduciary and moral duty to apply donations effectively and for the purposes intended. The Wuhan coronavirus versus the Red Cross: better solutions via blockchain and artificial intelligence', available here, it is argued that the present crisis should be seen as a call to arms for the tech industry, which has the relevant know-how and resources to radically change the landscape of crisis response and the management of donations through the implementation and use of blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), both of which are already in common commercial use. Beijing has ordered all public donations for the Wuhan crisis to be funnelled to five government-backed charity organisations. This is a throwback to pre-2016 China, before the Charity Law of China was introduced to enable the establishment of private charities. The Charity Law was intended to develop the charity field and protect the interests of relevant stakeholders.
A new leak of highly classified Chinese government documents has uncovered the operations manual for running the mass detention camps in Xinjiang and exposed the mechanics of the region's Orwellian system of mass surveillance and "predictive policing." The China Cables, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, include a classified list of guidelines, personally approved by the region's top security chief, that effectively serves as a manual for operating the camps now holding hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uighurs and other minorities. The leak also features previously undisclosed intelligence briefings that reveal, in the government's own words, how Chinese police are guided by a massive data collection and analysis system that uses artificial intelligence to select entire categories of Xinjiang residents for detention. The manual, called a "telegram," instructs camp personnel on such matters as how to prevent escapes, how to maintain total secrecy about the camps' existence, methods of forced indoctrination, how to control disease outbreaks, and when to let detainees see relatives or even use the toilet. The document, dating to 2017, lays bare a behavior-modification "points" system to mete out punishments and rewards to inmates. The manual reveals the minimum duration of detention: one year -- though accounts from ex-detainees suggest that some are released sooner. Experts say the platform, which is used in both policing and military contexts, demonstrates the power of technology to help drive industrial-scale human rights abuses. The China Cables reveal how the system is able to amass vast amounts of intimate personal data through warrantless manual searches, facial recognition cameras, and other means to identify candidates for detention, flagging for investigation hundreds of thousands merely for using certain popular mobile phone apps.