The “brain” of China, which sees everything in Shanghai

Gigantic information is leaking to the Monitoring Center in the Pudong residential area of ​​the Chinese city of Shanghai. The Center’s staff has access to a total of 290,000 surveillance cameras in Pudong, some of which can be remotely controlled.Deutsche says“.

Pictures appear on the huge screen showing people in violation: a construction worker without a helmet, a driver behind the wheel with a mobile phone in his hand, a man throwing garbage away from the containers.

The “Smart City” concept

According to the Chinese leadership, the observation centers are a segment of the so-called “Smart City” concept.

“For us citizens, this system helps us create a safe, tidy and clean environment,” says Sheng Denden. The 37-year-old Chinese woman is the deputy director of the “Smart City” in the residential area of ​​Pudong and one of the specialists who developed the system.

“For the government, this is a tool for more efficient administration in the city,” she added.

China is increasingly using digital technologies – including to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“We install network sensors near the front doors of homes. These sensors give the appropriate signal when someone leaves the apartment despite the ban, “explains Ms. Sheng.

Through a mobile application, the Monitoring Center keeps in touch with the staff of the neighborhood committees – the so-called party nuts at the place of residence, on which the Communist Party assigns certain tasks.

For example: to monitor whether people in the residential area comply with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. When the front door of a quarantined apartment opens, for example, the neighborhood committee immediately notifies the Pudong headquarters.

The “smart city” can even monitor who does not comply with the obligation to wear a mask, introduced in Shanghai because of the pandemic.

“Algorithms immediately identify violators,” said Sheng, who is currently working on a pilot project. With the help of a face recognition program, in the future surveillance cameras will also transmit information about potential high-risk citizens: those people who have arrived from regions with the spread of the coronavirus will be recognized immediately.

Obviously, profiles for the movement of each individual will be prepared for this purpose. Sheng Denden is not particularly wordy on this issue: “Thanks to the program for recognizing and exchanging information between services, we automatically receive such information.”

Total control

The Pudong Observatory, also known as the Brain, is part of a development process that the Chinese government has launched across the country. The goal is to achieve 100% video coverage in all important public places – stations, intersections, parks, etc. The state-run Chinese media is proud to announce that in this way, the police can recognize anyone on the street in just a second.

Illustration of a facial recognition system

Maraike Olberg of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin is closely monitoring the rapid growth of China’s security apparatus. To this end, it analyzes the publicly available recruitment competitions announced by Chinese municipalities. “We downloaded millions of files from the Internet with some very detailed applications, which describe the monitoring schemes down to the last detail,” she said. From these files, such rules become clear, such as exactly what type of camera is installed at the main entrances of residential buildings.

There is no official “surveillance” in China. The explanation for ubiquitous cameras is usually the “security of citizens”. It is alleged, for example, that thanks to the cameras, the crime rate has fallen sharply. Government documents also state that monitoring projects maintain “social stability”.

Maraike Olberg explains exactly what is meant: “When the cameras monitor all areas of human life, then any potential conflict can be detected in time, extinguished and peace reigned again.”

In China, it is not possible to publicly criticize mass video surveillance. But many Chinese, following the example of Deputy Director Sheng Denden of Shanghai Headquarters, prefer to see only the benefits of the new technology. As for the others – they just have to last.

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