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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)
Renowned feminist activist, author, and a face of the women's rights movement in India, Kamla Bhasin, passed away today morning at the age of 74.
The news of the same was shared by activist Kavita Srivastava on Twitter. The tweet said, "Kamla Bhasin, our dear friend, passed away around 3am today 25th Sept. This is a big setback for the women's movement in India and the South Asian region. She celebrated life whatever the adversity. Kamla you will always live in our hearts. In Sisterhood, which is in deep grief."
Bhasin, since the 1970s, has been an advocate of women's movement not just in India but other South Asian countries as well. In fact, in 2002, she founded a feminist network named as 'Sangat', which only motive was to work with underprivileged women from rural and tribal communities, often by using non-literary tools like plays, songs, and art.
Having a Master's degree in literature, Bhasin has written many books on gender theory and feminism, and interestingly, many of them have been translated into more than 30 languages. Another quick fact revolving around Bhasin is that the chant of 'Azadi', which is often heard at protests and rallies, was first popularised by her as feminist slogan against patriarchy.
Bhasin was awarded with the "Laadli Life Time Achievement Award" in the year 2017 for her commendable work.
Keywords: Kamla Bhasin, Feminism, India, Patriarchy, Literature, Feminist, Women, Rights
The 76th United Nations General Assembly session opened discussion on 14th September. The high-level General debate began on 21st September and it will continue till 27th September. The agenda of this year's UNGA session is 'Building Resilience through hope to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalize the United Nations'. Only 109 heads of state and government will attend the session in person and approximately 60 other speakers will address the debate via pre-recorded video statements due to the ongoing pandemic.
PM Narendra Modi is the first world leader who has been scheduled to address the General Assembly. He landed in New York at 6:00 AM (IST). "Landed in New York City. Will be addressing the UNGA at 6:30 PM (IST) on the 25th," he tweeted. He was received at the airport by India's permanent representative to the UN ambassador Mr. T S Tirumurti and ambassador of India to the USA Mr. Taranjit Singh Sandhu.
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Before leaving for US PM Modi said, "I will be visiting the USA from 22-25 September 2021 at the invitation of His Excellency President Joe Biden of the United States of America. During my visit, I will review the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership with President Biden and exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest".
During his 5-day visit to the US PM Modi held his first bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden in the oval office of the white house. It was their first in-person meet-up after meeting on virtual mode on three different occasions. He also held a meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris joined by the Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga. He held one on one meeting with the CEOs of some top companies like Qualcomm, Adobe, First Solar, General Atomics, and Blackstone. PM Modi participated in the Quad Summit held on Friday, in which the fight against Covid, climate change counterterrorism, along free and open Indo-Pacific, were the key concerns of the discussion. He also took part in Covid-19 Global Summit hosted by US President Joe Biden. Pakistan's role in terrorism was also heavily discussed
PM held a meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris joined by the Prime Minister of Australia and Japan. Twitter
Today, 25th September 2021 PM Narendra Modi will address the 76th UNGA session at 6:30 PM (IST) which will be live-streamed on various social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. PM Modi will talk about issues concerning pressing global challenges which will include the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to combat terrorism, climate change, and other important issues. It was in 2019 when PM Modi addressed the UN General Assembly physically as the pandemic went global in 2020, the 75th UNGA was held online where the speakers pre-recorded their speeches. In 2021, the option to pre-record statements has been kept open for the world leaders as the pandemic is worsening in some countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fly back to India after addressing the United Nations General Assembly.
Achieving soft, beautiful and happy skin is a dream for most of us or at least a long-pending item on our wish list. While there are lot of suggestions, a laundry list of do's and don'ts to follow, there are some basics that don't change. We have to understand that happy skin is a holistic process that requires one to work on building healthy habits combined with good skincare.
Here's a ready reckoner by ITC Fiama of tried and tested skincare habits that will serve as a reminder that skincare doesn't need to be complicated, it just needs to be consistent.
* Cleanse & Moisturise -- The first and the simplest step towards healthy skin is regular cleansing and moisturising, it is advisable to use a moisturizing body soap that ensures your skin gets the right nutrients and remains supple and nourished. A great product suited to this requirement is Fiama Gel Bathing Bar, which is enriched with nature's goodness. Fiama's bathing bars come in 5 variants and they help moisturize the skin making it appear soft, happy and bouncy.
The first and the simplest step towards healthy skin is regular cleansing and moisturising. | Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash
* Balanced Diet -- Healthy skin is an outcome of a balanced diet. The food we eat provides the building blocks for healthy functioning of our bodies. Our diet has everything to do with the health of our skin. The nutrients, minerals, and proteins found in food support collagen production and healthy cell membranes, and protect skin from harmful stressors, such as UV exposure.
Healthy skin is an outcome of a balanced diet. | Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash
* Smile -- While most of us hate the idea of having crow's eyes and lines while we smile. We rarely realize the benefits of a simple smile. When we smile the blood flow gets better, and the skin receives more oxygen and nutrients. This can help you develop a healthier complexion alternately it also leaves you stress free making you look happy and radiant.
When we smile the blood flow gets better, and the skin receives more oxygen and nutrients. | Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash
* Drink Enough H20 -- With our bodies comprising of 70 per cent water, drinking sufficient amount of water is the easiest way to keep your skin healthy and hydrated. Drinking adequate water helps flush out toxins from our bodies, preventing pimples and acne and boosting the skin's elasticity. No wonder, water is called the elixir of life.
Drinking adequate water helps flush out toxins from our bodies, preventing pimples and acne and boosting the skin's elasticity. | Photo by Bluewater Sweden on Unsplash
* Move Your Body -- Along with cleansing and proper nutrition, another aspect which is important for happy skin is movement. When we move or burn calories, the body produces chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in the brain and trigger positive feelings and happy thoughts. This feeling of pure happiness and joy reflects on the skin, thus having the power to completely change your mood and keep you and your skin beaming. (IANS/ MBI)
When we move or burn calories, the body produces chemicals called endorphins. | Photo by Joanna Nix-Walkup on Unsplash
Keywords: Skin, soft, happy, healthy, food, move, calories, water, smile, moisturise, water, cleanse