February 11, 2020

ANALYSIS: How Xi Jinping’s “Controlocracy” Lost Control.

When the true scale of the epidemic finally became, Chinese public opinion reflected a predictable mix of anger, anxiety, and despair. People took to the Internet to vent their rage and frustration. But it did not take long for the state to crack down, severely limiting the ability of journalists and concerned citizens to share information about the crisis.

Then, on February 3, after Xi had chaired the Standing Committee’s second meeting on the epidemic, the CPC’s propaganda apparatus was ordered to “guide public opinion and strengthen information control.” In practice, this means that cutting-edge AI and big-data technologies are being used to monitor the entirety of Chinese public opinion online. The controlocracy is now running at full throttle, with facial-, image-, and voice-recognition algorithms being used to anticipate and suppress any potential criticism of the government, and to squelch all “unofficial” information about the epidemic.

On February 7, Li Wenliang, one of the physician-whistleblowers who tried to sound the alarm about the outbreak, died of coronavirus, which unleashed a firestorm on social media. The Chinese public is already commemorating him as a hero and victim who tried to tell the truth. Millions have taken to social media to express their grief, and to demand an apology from the Chinese government and freedom of expression.

For the first time since coming to power, Xi’s high-tech censorship machine is meeting with intense resistance from millions of Chinese Internet users.

Read the whole thing.

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