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Having unveiled its ambition of emerging as the top Artificial Intelligence (AI) superpower by 2030, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken rapid strides in digitizing every conceivable sphere of its activity, so much so even its dictatorial form of governance. With CCP ideology pervading the state-run and data-driven Chinese economy, it is but natural that giant Chinese tech companies and foreign companies with a significant presence in China, have been arm twisted by CCP into sharing sensitive consumer data. This helps the CCP to maintain an eagle eye vigil on its 1.4 billion citizenries through the installation of a humongous number of surveillance devices throughout the country, implementation of the dubious Social Credit System and using digital media to indoctrinate people to its ideology while crushing any form of dissent within the country. The story of CCP’s transformation from a traditionally repressive dictatorship since its inception to the digital dictatorship of President Xi Jinping needs careful study, especially to safeguard nations from the pitfalls of the CCP’s irredentist ambitions.
Historically in 1949, Mao Zedong had proclaimed the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a single-party state controlled by the Communist Party of China (CPC). He remained in power till his death in 1976, during which he slowly consolidated his control through suppression of landlords, targeting political opponents and capitalists with the ‘Three-anti’ and ‘Five-anti’ campaigns, enforcing his vision of a planned economy, purging rightists within the CPC and bringing in the infamous ‘Cultural Revolution’ to remove counter-revolutionary elements in a violent 10-year class struggle. While Chairman Mao set China on the path of growth and industrialization, his regime will always be remembered as being ‘autocratic’ and ‘totalitarian’ and it had a terrible dark side, of bringing about mass repression and millions of deaths through starvation, persecution, prison labor and mass executions.
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Fast-forwarding to more recent times, Xi’s rise from being the Party Chief of the Zhejiang province of the Communist Party from 2002-2007 to his appointment as Vice President in 2008 to elevation as President in 2012, has been meteoric. By 2013, in true dictatorial style, Xi acquired all three leadership roles in China — General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and President of the People’s Republic of China. The first major policy introduced by Xi in 2013 was a far-reaching anti-corruption policy against high ranking officials and local civil servants. What really cemented his Dictatorship was the promulgation of CCP’s official Political doctrine in 2018 called ‘Xi Jinping Thought’, which strengthened power at three levels namely, the nation, the CCP, and Xi himself. If that was not enough, the National People’s Congress (NPC) on December 26, 2020, amended the National Defence Law (NDL) expanding the power of its armed forces headed by Xi to mobilize military and civilian resources to defend its national interests both at home and abroad. ‘Disruption’ and protection of ‘development interests’ have been added as grounds for mobilizing and deploying troops and reserve forces. Such sweeping powers with a lifelong tenure give Xi a dictator’s statue which even surpasses the Dictatorship of Chairman Mao.
In his first year as President, Xi announced the CCP’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, only to rename it as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) a few years later based on feedback from participating countries that the term OBOR sounded too authoritarian. The vision articulated by the CCP for the more inclusive sounding BRI was to undertake infrastructure development and investment in over 70 countries across the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe with a likely investment of about $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years. This was followed in 2017 by the release of Xi’s ‘New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan’, which outlines the development of a domestic AI industry worth $150 billion in the next few years and to emerge as the leading AI power by 2030. Such is the importance accorded to AI by the CCP, that it has also been included as a national priority in the ‘Xi Jinping Thought’. Therefore, the CCP’s quest of achieving world dominance in AI perfectly complements the BRI. China has already invested about $22 billion in the semiconductor industry which makes chips to power AI systems. It is predicted that China’s share in the AI market is likely to expand to about $50 billion by 2022 with raw material sourced from BRI countries.
In reality, AI has given rise to intensified societal surveillance and a clampdown on free expression. The shocking and chilling use of AI has been to quell the Uyghur-Han Chinese clashes in the northwestern autonomous Xinjiang province, which has caused widespread unrest. The CCP has used AI to incarcerate without trial over one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minority ethnic groups in ‘re-education camps’ also referred to as Vocational Education and Training Centers, much like those in existence during Chairman Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’. Surveillance cameras, Facial Recognition software, etc. have effectively been used to segregate, track and restrict the freedom of the Turkish Muslim minority in Xinjiang.
The same AI tools are also used to monitor the lives of innocent Chinese citizens through data mining of giant companies. CCP’s intelligence agencies regularly use the data processing capabilities of private companies such as Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei, Bytedance, Baidu, ZTE, etc. to derive actionable
intelligence in quick time. This arrangement obviates duplication of expensive data-processing functions by CCP’s Intelligence agencies. CCP has given legitimacy to this practice by enacting the Internet Security Law in 2017, which mandates all data collected in China to be stored within the country and bans the transfer of data across the border without approval. It also mandates web-based businesses to share data that may affect the ‘security of the nation’, which grossly violates the privacy of individuals. The Social Credit System introduced by CCP ostensibly aims to standardize the assessment of the economic and social reputation of citizens and businesses. It goes without saying that the Social Credit System would reward pro-CCP activities and restrict the freedom to travel and also social liberties of the so-called dissenting voices. It is due to this digital totalism that despite poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic by the CCP administration, only highly sanitized reports came out from China.
The CCP Dictatorship has not restricted itself to using these ‘virtues’ of Digital Authoritarianism on its own citizens. Two recent global examples of adverse effects of Chinese AI systems can be seen in Zimbabwe and the Philippines. In Zimbabwe, Hikvision’s facial recognition technology has been used for border security purposes and for the creation of surveillance cameras enabled smart cities. The Chinese firm CloudWalk Technology, sanctioned by the US government for its human rights abuse against the Uyghur community, has also developed a facial recognition system for the Zimbabwean government. Similarly, the Philippines launched the ‘Safe Philippines’ project in Manila under which about 12000 surveillance cameras using AI tools would be installed in partnership with the Chinese companies Huawei and CITCC, with an amount of about US $ 400 Million borrowed from the CCP government. Today, it is estimated that at least 18 countries are developing mass surveillance systems with CCP’s assistance. Embracing the CCP AI Model could well mean the end of democracy and the rise of dictatorship in these countries.
One can only imagine the enormous destructive potential of the debt trap scheme of BRI coupled with the sinister facet of CCP AI dominance. We thus have a brilliantly conceived formula for modern-day colonization of weak democracies through Digital Dictatorship…and all this achieved without having to fire a single gunshot let alone fight a war!!! The only counter to this is to develop a democratic digital model that will, while enhancing security, still preserve the privacy and human rights of individuals and safeguard the sovereignty of nations. (IANS)
Every child who grew up in the 90s and the early 00s has certainly grown up around Tom and Jerry, the adorable, infamous cat-chases-mouse cartoon. The idea of naughtiness and playing mischief had the standards that this particular series set for children and defined how much wreckage was funny enough.
The show's creators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera initially named their characters Jasper and Jinx. They did not plan for the fame that Tom and Jerry brought them when they released a movie by the name of "Puss Gets the Boot". This movie featured a certain cat and mouse who were a notorious pair, named Jasper and Jinx. When the movie became a hit, the names of the characters were changed and the show shot to fame.
Tom and Jerry became a go-to cartoon for children in the early 00s, and it was one of those shows with a firm foundation, that had already been in the running for decades. The original template had been planned nearly 80 years ago, and the makers did not change it. The music that was played in the many episodes, made a breakthrough in its own way. It is the most easily recognizable melody with utterly nostalgic associations.
Today, Tom and Jerry is still a household name in homes where children love cartoons Image credit: wikimedia commons
A set of supporting characters were defined for the show, to occasionally take the focus off the original pair. There was a large, black woman named Mammy Two Shoes and a bulldog who took Jerry's side. Mammy Two Shoes was discontinued because her character portrayed racist tendencies. A tall white woman replaced her, who was kinder and loved mice. Either of the women's faces was never revealed.
Today, Tom and Jerry is still a household name in homes where children love cartoons. There are a host of other shows besides this that aim to replicate the same aspects of the cartoon but do not come close at all. Despite the immense amount of violence in the show, it is a beloved pastime of parents and children alike.
Keywords: Tom and Jerry, Cartoon, Hanna and Barbera, Television
One of India's leading private museums, the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) Bengaluru, has released new primary research conducted by the ReReeti Foundation, on audience behaviour in India's cultural sector. While more than half of the respondents thought the arts and culture are essential, they rarely manage to make time for it. The majority (60.6 per cent), mostly young people under 30, felt Indian museums could present more engaging content, and most perceived culture as anthropological/ sociological. Of the diverse categories included, music emerged as the most popular cultural activity.
The report is based on a survey of 500 people, which included school and college students, professionals across sectors, homemakers and senior citizens. The first initiative of its kind in the cultural space, the report shares valuable insights into the behaviour and expectations of Indian audiences engaging with a broad range of cultural activities. As part of MAP's mission to foster meaningful connections between communities and the cultural sector globally, which includes its innovative digital programme Museums Without Borders, the report shares a wealth of insights that can help museums across the country understand their audiences better. As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.
As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities. | Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Speaking on the recent report, Kamini Sawhney, Director, Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), said, "MAP is focused on changing the notion of a museum in India, by enabling more relevant and inclusive programming, both online and in our space in Bengaluru. The audience research commissioned by MAP, and conducted by the ReReeti Foundation, provides valuable, and actionable insights which we hope will help museums across the country better understand their consumer base, improve decision making and deepen social impact." As much as 62.3 per cent college students and 47.6 per cent professionals/homemakers perceive culture as anthropological and sociological. Music was the most popular cultural event likely to be attended, followed by heritage tours and plays/comedy shows for Indian audiences.
Over 70 per cent of college students visit museums with family and friends; working professionals, homemakers and senior citizens also predominantly visit with groups/ spouses (indicating a need to focus on increased group programming/facilitation). As much as 68 per cent of people were optimistic about going outdoors for activities and events in 2021. As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.(IANS/MBI)
Keywords: Art, Culture, India, Museum, Music
What is the best way to save Goa from deforestation?
Drinking feni, may well be the answer, says the secretary of the Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association Hansel Vaz, who on Thursday said, that sipping the state's unique alcoholic drink and making it popular would directly aid the greening of Goa's hills and other barren landscapes.
"To get more cashews, we need to plant more trees. I always say, by drinking feni you will save Goa, because we will be planting more cashew trees and we will have greener hills. The beauty of cashew is you do not need fertile land. You can grow it on a hill which can provide no nutrition. We will be able to grow more trees, if we can sell feni properly," Vaz said. Vaz's comments come at a time when the hillsides of the coastal state have witnessed significant deforestation for real estate development and for infrastructure projects. Feni is manufactured by fermenting and double distilling juice from the cashew apple.
Best way to keep Goa green is to grab yourself a glass of feni. | IANS
Addressing a press conference in Panaji, Vaz also said that the promotion of feni was also in sync with the Prime Minister's vision for India to go "vocal for local". "There is no conglomerate, multinational company owning the drink. So every time we sell feni, it is a direct cash injection into Goa. If you sell a feni cocktail in Calangute (a popular beach village), it makes a direct impact in Valpoi and Bicholim, because this money is going down there," the Association official said at a press conference in Panaji.
The Association held the media briefing to announce a road map ahead for the feni industry, especially vis a vis streamlining aspects related to production, standardisation and marketing of the brew to make it popular in other Indian states and abroad.
The efforts to streamline the state "heritage drink" comes a month after the Goa government notified a formal policy, 'Goa Feni Policy 2021', which covers 26 different varieties of feni distilled in the state. "There were many barriers related to feni, which the policy has now addressed," treasurer of the Association Tukaram Haldankar said. One such hurdle was the previous government classification, which described feni as "country liquor", which would deter tourists from purchasing the drink. The reclassification of feni as a state "heritage drink" has lent dignity to the brew which has been manufactured locally in Goa since the 16th century.
But there is more the government can do, along with the state's traditional distillers and manufacturers to promote feni, Haldankar said. | Photo by Ishvani Hans on Unsplash
But there is more the government can do, along with the state's traditional distillers and manufacturers to promote feni, Haldankar said. "We request the government to allow the sale of feni in duty free stores in airports and cruise liner terminals. The government should also support us through the department of Tourism, so that feni can be promoted in its programmes. iIf you go to Scotland, they promote Scotch. Goa should promote its feni to Goa," Haldankar said, adding that traditional distillers should also be given subsidies and other measures should be taken to standardise feni, which he said, "would require further subsidies and financial assistance from the government".
"It should be a standard product like scotch, champagne," Haldankar said. "Like Mexico's tequila, Russian vodka and Japan's sake, we need to export our feni across the country and the world and the local distillers should also benefit economically," president of the Association Gurudutt Bhakta also said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: deforestation,cashew,distillers,association,government, goa, feni, India