It's not just India — Chinese intelligence has its eye on more than 2.4 million individuals across the US, Japan, Canada, Australia, and the UK
- A Chinese big data analytics company Zhenhua Data Information Technology, also called China Revival, has been tracking over 2.4 million people across India, the US, Japan, Canada, China and the UK.
- This includes prominent individuals like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, Britain’s royals, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and others.
- Even though most of the data the Chinese company collects is open source, researcher Christopher Balding points out that at least 10% to 20% of it was obtained via unauthorised access.
AdvertisementChinese intelligence has quietly been doing its work in the shadows for decades sans scrutiny from the global powers that be. The open secret of China collecting vast amounts of data, however, is no longer convenient to ignore, according to a new study led by Christopher Balding from the Fulbright University in Vietnam.
It shows that a Shenzhen-based company — Zhenhua Data Information Technology, also called China Revival — has been tracking over 2.4 million people across India, the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, the UK and other countries.
This includes some of the most influential names around the world like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, Britain’s royals and its Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Atlassian billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar.
Using big data analytics to keep an eye on adversaries is not a new tactic. The US Intelligence Community (IC) has been doing it for years and India has made no secret of the fact that it plans to apply artificial intelligence (AI) for its national security strategy.
However, with China, the problem is of private companies using less-than-honest means to gather data on China’s enemies — and then setting that data to the government.
Who is Zhenhua Data Information Technology aka China Revival?
China Revival is a Chinese company operating out of the Nanshan District in Shenzhen, a district in southern China. It was founded in 2018 and launched its flagship intelligence database — Overseas Key Information Database (OKID) — in December later that year.
The company listed its mission is to, “integrate global open source data and intelligence to help the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Why is this big data analytics by China concerning?
OKID sourced its information not just from social media accounts, but also got its hands on personal information, photographs and details off the dark web.
Balding points out that even though a large amount of the data collected was open source, around 10% to 20% of it was not from public sources. “We have reason to believe some of the data comes from unauthorised data access such as hacking but we cannot be certain,” he wrote in the paper published in the Social Science Research Network (SSRN).
The company’s website described one facet of the OKID as, “Character database — including but not limited to leader and core figures in the field of global military, politics, business, technology, media and civil organisation,” before it was taken down.
Chinese intelligence captures the data of more than 10,000 Indians
OKID has at least 700 Indian politicians with direct mention and another 460 individuals who are relatives of these politicians among the 10,000 Indian individuals that its tracking, according to the Indian Express. Their investigation revealed that the Chinese company was trying to create a ‘family tree’ of over 100 politicians — legacy families like the Gandhis, the Pawars, the Scindias, the Sangmas, and the Badals.
|Prime Minister||Narendra Modi|
|President||Ram Nath Kovind|
|Congress President||Sonia Gandhi and family|
|Chief Minister, West Bengal||Mamatha Banerjee|
|Chief Minister, Rajasthan||Ashok Gehlot|
|Chief Minister, Maharashtra||Uddhav Thackeray|
|Chief Minister, Punjab||Amarinder Singh|
|Chief Minister of Odisha||Naveen Patnaik|
|Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh||Shivraj Singh Chouhan|
|Minister of Defence||Rajnath Singh|
|Minister of Finance||Nirmala Sitharaman|
|Minister of Textiles||Smriti Irani|
|Minister of Commerce and Industry||Piyush Goyal|
|Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)||General Bipin Rawat|
|Chief Justice of India||Sharad Bobde|
|Founder of Bharat Pe||Nipun Mehra|
|Indian industrialist||Ratan Tata|
|Chairman of Adani Group||Gautam Adani|
|Actor-turned-politician||Moon Moon Sen|
It also includes 350 current and former Parliamentarians, 40 former and current chief ministers, 70 mayors and deputy mayors.
More than 35,000 Australians targeted as a part of China’s ‘hybrid warfare’
Amid the bucket of targets in Australia, 656 were classified as ‘special interest’ or ‘politically exposed’ individuals, according to ABC Australia.
|Prime Minister||Scott Morrison|
|One Nation co-founder||David Oldfield|
|National Party President||Larry Anthony|
|ex-Labor Member of Parliament||Emma Husar|
|New Corp journalist||Ellen Whinnett|
|ABC director||Georgie Somerset|
|Victorian Supreme Court Judge||Anthony Cavanough|
|Atlassian billionaires||Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar|
|Australian business man||David Gonski|
|Australian business man||Jennifer Westacott|
|Retired Navy Admiral and former Lockheed Martin Chief Executive||Raydon Gates|
|Former Ambassador to China||Geoff Raby|
|Former Foreign Minister||Bob Carr|
AdvertisementThe UK government and its royals also under Chinese watch
The Telegraph reports that an estimated 40,000 Britons are on the China Revial’s database. Not only does it sell data about UK politicians, the royals, religious leaders, military officers and their families — but also information on the movements of UK and US naval ships.
The rise of China’s global footprint and penetration of intelligence services has not gone unnoticed as global governments are increasingly locking down their digital borders against Chinese companies like Huawei, Bytedance and ZTE. That may keep what’s on the surface at bay, but Chinese ‘hybrid-warfare’ goes much deeper than that.
“Open liberal societies fail to grasp the threats embodied in Chinese authoritarian communism by ignoring non-traditional warfare and influence operations,” wrote Balding.
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