Andis Kudors: ‘Big Data’ and Chinese Communist Technological Authoritarianism

The U.S. National Center for Counterintelligence and Security is alarming that China’s collection of health care data within the U.S. threatens not only American privacy but also U.S. economic and national security.

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Do you want your DNA or other health care data to be handed over to an authoritarian regime for repression and control? This is the beginning of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center (The National Counterintelligence and Security Center) Report published in February 2021 entitled “China’s Collection of Genetic and Other Health Care Data in the Americas: Risks to Privacy, the US Economy and National Security”. DNA contains information about a person’s past, present and possible future because it shows, for example, whether someone is at high risk for cancer. China is investing heavily in the “biotechnology revolution”, and Beijing’s course is geared towards becoming a world leader in biotechnology. Such a goal is also included in the strategic plan “Made in China 2025”.

Communist China has been collecting health data in the United States and many other parts of the world for years using legal and illegal methods. The goals of the Chinese communists in collecting large amounts of data are different. Medical innovation and scientific progress are part of which there would be no objection. The goal that worries Americans is the Chinese desire to outperform competitors in the biotechnology business. Human rights defenders, on the other hand, can highlight the use of data by Chinese communists in violations of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, as well as the strengthening of authoritarian control over the country’s population as a whole.


The Chinese government has set up a high-tech surveillance system throughout Xinjiang province, mainly targeting Muslims. In 2014, the Chinese government began collecting biometric data on all residents of Xinjiang Province between the ages of 12 and 65. Authorities have collected DNA samples, fingerprints, blood type information and iris scans. In total, the Chinese government has detained more than 1 million Muslims in Xinjiang since 2017 and placed them in camps where people are subjected to communist indoctrination. The US Department of Commerce has blacklisted two subsidiaries of the Chinese company BGI for human rights abuses in China. Washington says BGI is involved in genetic analysis of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang in western China, where Muslims are being held in camps.

Covid Diplomacy “and Data Acquisition

During the spread of the Chinese virus, Beijing has been actively marketing its Covid-19 test kits and setting up laboratories where testing can take place. In August 2020, China’s leading genetic engineering company, BGI, announced that it had sold 35 million test kits in 180 countries and set up 58 laboratories in 18 countries in the past six months. Through these laboratories, China obtained extensive data on foreign nationals. Part of the equipment was distributed as a donation through BGI, complementing “panda diplomacy” with “Covid diplomacy”.

Although no such laboratories were established in the United States, Chinese companies have gained access to U.S. health care data through collaborations with hospitals, universities, and research organizations in the United States. U.S. companies are looking for cheap providers of genome sequencing services, and Chinese biotechnology companies are able to provide such cheap services due to subsidies from the Chinese government. For US companies, it is a matter of spending optimization, while for Chinese it is an opportunity to access the genetic data of US citizens. U.S. officials warn of the risks to national security posed by the Chinese company BGI: sensitive genetic information from U.S. citizens could fall into foreign hands and American companies could lose their genomic advantage over Chinese companies.

International thieves

Another way to obtain data on foreign nationals is through theft of cyber-attacks. In 2015, from the US health insurer “AnthemInc.” 78.8 million people’s data was stolen from computer networks, including names, social security numbers, health identification numbers, employment and income information. In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice filed charges against AnthemInc. and the hacking of media from three other U.S. companies.

Cybercriminals living in China have repeatedly stolen information from US media. About 21 million people were stolen from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. 400 million items of information were stolen from the Marriott hotel chain; from consumer credit company Equifax – data from about 145 million customers. This is not a complete list.

Intelligence and impact operations

China collects a huge amount of information from open sources that can be used in intelligence and influence operations. The data is used to support China’s intelligence, military, security and state operations in the information warfare and targeting. Earlier this year, the U.S. National Center for Counterintelligence and Security published practical advice to health services to avoid potential foreign threats from Covid-19 tests. Parallels are being drawn between BGI and Huawei, which could use 5G technology to obtain even more personal data. BGI and Huawei have made no secret of their cooperation.

In a video that is no longer available on Huawei’s website, the CEO of BGI once said he was processing “staggering amounts of data” from gene sequencers stored on Huawei’s high-performance systems. Responding to Reuters’ questions about whether this information could be passed on to the Chinese government, Huawei said only the users of the technology could decide who to share the data with. Sounds beautiful, just keep in mind that Chinese law requires its companies to share the data they have. China’s National Intelligence Act 2017 stipulates that all Chinese companies and citizens must assist and cooperate with Chinese intelligence services. Data from foreign citizens provide China with ample opportunities to plan its cooperation with officials, politicians and businessmen of the target countries. Researchers, for example, have discovered genetically determined causes of the tendency to depression. Such and similar information about people’s mental health, addictions and debts can be used for blackmail.

Researchers are waking up

Although official China does not try to lure journalists, political scientists and other researchers to its side, there is growing concern about China’s goals and the impact of its policies on democracies. Researchers Christopher Balding (Christopher Balding) and Robert Potter (Robert Potter) calls for China ‘s influence not to be viewed narrowly as 5G and cyber – spying, but also to include in the analysis the cooperation of Chinese companies and universities with partners in free countries, which form a global data collection ecosystem. When large data sets are processed using artificial intelligence (AI), the results can help to create tools that can be used to influence target groups, including through propaganda.

Researcher Samanta Hofmane (Samantha Hoffman) draws attention to Global Tone Communications Technology Co. Ltd (GTCOM), a subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned corporation and under the supervision of the China Central Propaganda Division. GTCOM focuses on the collection of “big data” and artificial intelligence technologies used, among other things, in the processing of facial recognition data. The GTCOM processes a huge amount of information every year and helps the Chinese government identify national security risks. These are just a few examples of the work of researchers who do not turn a blind eye to the risks posed by the Communists.

In conclusion

The tools of “soft power” – cultural exchanges, working with opinion leaders, scholarship programs – in the hands of authoritarian states turn into tools of “sharp power”, because authoritarian states act asymmetrically – behave in a way that visitors are not allowed to do in their homes. The same is true of medical information and the new possibilities of the digital age.

Sharing medical data internationally can serve scientific purposes, but if it is handled by authoritarian states, it can become a weapon against opponents. The Chinese government is doing everything in its power to help maintain the authoritarian (and in some areas totalitarian) communist regime within the country. U.S. security services and experts are sounding the alarm to draw the attention of free nations to the global ambitions of China’s “technological authoritarianism.”

The convergence of the civilian and military spheres in China affects almost anything that China does abroad. At one time, the same happened with Russia, where the so-called political technology methods trained in the 1990s, which were used to achieve domestic political goals, were later used to influence foreign audiences during Putin’s rule. Authoritarian power functions differently from democratic power, so it must constantly think about the tools of control and manipulation to control its people. If it works indoors, then at least some of the methods can be used externally.

China’s Collection of Genomic and Other Healthcare data from America: Risks to Privacy and U.S. Economic and National Security. The National Counterintelligence and Security Center, February 2021, enter

Chinese Open Source Data Collection, Big Data, And Private Enterprise Work For State Intelligence and Security: The Case of Shenzhen Zhenhua, Fulbright University Vietnam, 3 Nov 2020,

Special Report: COVID opens new donors for China’s genegiant. Reuters,

Chinese Open Source Data Collection, Big Data, And Private Enterprise Work For State Intelligence and Security: The Case of Shenzhen Zhenhua By: Christopher Balding & Robert Potter,

Dr. Samantha Hoffman. Engineering global consent, The Chinese Communist Party’s data-driven power expansion,


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