surveillance network in china

Surveillance in China, II



pursue so far (2) omnipresent
extend integrate network (2)
aim (2) sharp (2) surveillance
roll out compare compound
predict evidence work out (2)
crowd associate suspect (2)
crime analyze residential
masses junction showcase
classify pass (3) number plate
sort of train (2) according to (2)
heat track (3) pedestrian
sign (3) pick (2) overcrowding
slogan database wanted (2)
flag (2) minority swoop in
arrest identify potentially
gender score (2) application (2)
facial prevent expression
alert big data target (2)
agree concern ambitious
ethnic ambition match (3)
activist dissident crack down
elite startup cheerfully






China is pursuing an ambitious plan to create an omnipresent surveillance network. The Xue Yang or Sharp Eyes Projects aims to extend and integrate video surveillance from cities into villages, and from roads to residential compounds.

It aims to use artificial intelligence, big data and deep learning to analyze this mountain of video evidence to work out who’s doing what, where and when, to track suspects and the people they associate with — and even to predict crime.

In November, I visited three tech companies in the cities of Beijing and Chongqing to see how China plans to make the communist slogan, “The masses have sharp eyes” into a reality.

Here are a few of the ideas that the tech companies showcase.

These cameras are looking at a road junction, and they’re identifying that’s passing through. They’re looking at cars, reading the number plates, and they’re looking at pedestrians, classifying pedestrians according to their age, their gender, what kind of clothes they’re wearing, even what kind of hair-styles they have.

This software analyzes crowds. It’s producing a heat-map of where people are massing together, the sort of thing you might use to prevent overcrowding.

You can also see that it is able to track individuals through the crowd, so if you’re looking for a suspect, this is the kind of software you would want to use.

Here we can see two cameras, picking faces out of a crowd, comparing those faces to a national database of suspects, wanted men and women.

The police then look at the matches that are flagged and see whether that person they are looking for. They can then swoop in to potentially arrest or question that the cameras have identified.

A completely different application now, this camera is trained on the face of a truck driver. It’s looking at his facial expressions and what he is doing to see if he is showing any signs of tiredness. If the score rises above a certain level, then he’s seen as too tired to drive, his company will be alerted, they’ll give him a call, and tell him to take a rest.

The Sharp Eyes Project has already been rolled out in another fifty cities. So far, the tech doesn’t quite match the ambition.

But experts agree that facial recognition is improving fast, and is the technology of the future.

Concerns are being raised about whether the system will be used in China to unfairly target ethnic minorities or be used to crack down on dissidents and activists.

But in the tech startups I visited, the young elite staff seem cheerfully unaware of these kinds of concerns.


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1. People living in farming communities and residential buildings won’t be concerned about the surveillance network. True or false?

2. Is this a straightforward or very complicated, complex technical system?

3. What does the communist slogan, “The masses have sharp eyes” mean?

4. The CCTV requires police officers and monitors to detect and analyze what is happening. Is this right or wrong?

5. Could this surveillance system be used to reduce crime and prevent accidents? How could it reduce and prevent crimes and accidents?

6. Is the system and technology exact, accurate and foolproof?

7. Everyone is very positive and optimistic about the network. Is this correct or incorrect?


A. Do you see CCTVs in various places? Give examples.

B. Is there a version of the FBI and CIA in your country?

C. What do people think about surveillance networks? Is there a lot of debate and controversy surrounding it?

D. What will happen in the future?

E. What would people and governments do?

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