A Chinese database today made front page news in Aus, UK, etc. The Post has been looking at the data for a while and here are some thoughts on what it is, what it isn't, what we know/don't, and some context of Chinese data-harvesting and that industry... washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pac…
While it's marketed to the Chinese govt, there's no proof it's used by the govt. The firm is small and closely held. In the data there's very little analysis or markup or proprietary data beside what appears lifted from LinkedIn, Factiva, and public social media...
One US cybersecurity contractor said the data wasn’t near useable for military or intelligence targeting and US officials say they’re not surprised a Chinese co is collecting this data...
But the company is obviously ambitious and conceives of using social media for comprehensive information awareness, tracking Navy warships and the progress of officers, gauging sentiment at think tanks and media in DC, maybe even sowing discord with bot armies...
The bigger point is that in recent years there’s been a proliferation of Chinese data co’s eager to serve natsec goals (and get govt RMB) and Zhenhua wants to be part of a sprawling civil-mil effort to suck in data for strategic gain even if it’s not immediately operationalized
Much of the Zhenhua data seems to be placeholders and it looks like an immature demo. But bigger point is Zhenhua has to be viewed as part of a growing cottage industry of Chinese firms getting (or hoping to get) natsec work hoovering up data, even if it's not operationalized..
Much of that data is already sucked up by, guess who, US companies, which the Chinese are appropriating. China has long valued OSINT collection and now considers data a "strategic resource." Thinkers have suggested machine scraping and buying databases on BRI countries...
It's quite clear where this Chinese civ-mil joint effort is headed--this vision of strategic insights filtering out from layers of stacked datasets, but for all Zhenhua's big aspirations, it's not there yet. And this trove may not be as spooky or unexpected as you imagine.

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More from @gerryshih

23 Apr
Frank & cynical essay from Fudan researcher: American Left "mistakenly" put faith in eventual Chinese liberalization due to their naive idealism, vouched for China, and we took advantage of that strategic opportunity. They can speak for us again h/t @niubi mp.weixin.qq.com/s/NP5q0pUmAtQ1…
admonishes Chinese intellectuals to not to believe in liberal values because US left helped China. That makes them soft-controlled and blindly faithful to US:
这种友好实际上造成了一种对中国知识界的软性的支配,使我们失去了话语权。以至于我们对美国迷信过度,几十年来始终不能平视美国
He names scholars such as Shirk and Shambaugh as friends of China who turned into critics. Says friendliness & expectation of many based on contempt: 美国的很多左派的确是发自内心地对中国“友好”,但是本质上他们的“友好”是建立在对中国的不尊重的基础之上,是一种西方中心式的傲慢
Read 6 tweets
15 Apr
Bombshell from @AP: internal Chinese documents show central govt held teleconference on Jan 14 with instructions from Xi on epidemic & acknowledged likely H2H transmission.
China CDC and WHO publicly said that day "no clear evidence" of transmission. apnews.com/68a9e1b91de4ff…
Some details have been previously reported and known but the memo captures the "sober" concerns central officials had, in their own words, about the risks as well as domestic political considerations. Key part:
On Jan 15 NHC secretly distributed "a 63-page set of instructions to provincial health officials, obtained by the AP. The instructions ordered health officials nationwide to identify suspected cases, hospitals to open fever clinics, and doctors and nurses to don protective gear"
Read 4 tweets
17 Mar
Great Beijing sublet available with sweeping views of 13 c. Drum Tower, western hills, 5 min walk from Line 2, pet friendly. Please inquire (really) washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pac…
Very disappointed to leave China (and aforementioned apt) but I don’t imagine Ill stop covering this beat. Thinking back, reporting conditions have become so difficult that much of the China stories I’m most proud of were in fact reported outside
After a reporting trip to Turkey in 7/2017, I realized the scope of the the Xinjiang detentions/surveillance and we published one of the first in depth reports that got the ball rolling on what was happening apnews.com/1ec5143fe4764a…
Read 7 tweets

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