China

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Kowloon Walled City

For nearly a century, Kowloon Walled City stood out as a rare modern example of an ungoverned territory. When Great Britain took Hong Kong from the Chinese, they left a Chinese enclave in Kowloon, near Hong Kong island. As the 20th century unfolded, consecutive Chinese governments neglected the governance of the enclave, the British refused to get involved, and it took on a life of its own.

By the 1980s, nearly 50,000 people lived in 300 illegally built structures connected together by an interconnecting maze of passageways and staircases. Drugs and prostitution were common in the walled city, and people from nearby neighborhoods would come to visit cheap unlicensed doctors and dentists. Residents cooked and baked goods that they sold to vendors outside the enclave.

Illusion of freedom in digital age

With the rise of A.I. and an endless sea of personal data available, some start to question, "How free are we?" Yes, it is true that A.I. will free us from many of the meaningless tasks that we are saddled with on a daily basis. However, there are serious concerns as to how our data is used for both positive and negative reasons.

We continue to see China using nearly every tool imaginable to monitor and control the lives of their citizens. Sesame Credit started just a few years ago but is now becoming mainstream in China. For those of you who are not familiar with the system, it is one where citizens are graded by their actions, things they buy, and other factors such as support of their government's policies. If you have a low credit score, you can be prevented from buying a house, sending your kids to private school, and other actions that restrict your freedom.

Emotional surveillance of workers

Employees' brain waves are reportedly being monitored in factories, state-owned enterprises, and the military across China.

The technology works by placing wireless sensors in employees' caps or hats which, combined with artificial intelligence algorithms, spot incidents of workplace rage, anxiety, or sadness.

The "emotional surveillance technology" helps employers identify mood shifts so they can change break times, an employee's task, or even send them home.

"When the system issues a warning, the manager asks the worker to take a day off or move to a less critical post. Some jobs require high concentration. There is no room for a mistake."

Another type of sensor, built by technology company Deayea, is reportedly used in the caps of train drivers on the high-speed rail line between Beijing and Shanghai. The sensor can even trigger an alarm if a driver falls asleep.

China's facial-recognition tech

Sixteen areas in China are using facial-recognition technology that can reportedly scan the country's population in one second, and the world's population in two seconds.

Over the last two years the system has been used to arrest 2,000 people.

The system is part of Skynet, a nationwide monitoring program launched in 2005 to increase the use and capabilities of surveillance cameras.

Japan asks China for pandas

The Japanese government has asked the Chinese government to loan Japan more giant pandas. Amid the growing popularity of the giant panda cub Xiang Xiang, who is on public view at Ueno Zoo in Taito Ward, Tokyo, the Japanese government hopes to realize the loan as soon as possible as a symbol of improved relations between Japan and China.

The Japanese government is considering Oji Zoo and Yagiyama Zoological Park in Sendai as possible breeding facilities for new pandas. Oji Zoo has only one female, Tan Tan, meaning they need a male for breeding. Yagiyama Zoological Park has petitioned for pandas, to cheer up people affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Giant pandas are extremely popular in each country for their cute appearance and rarity; they have become an important diplomatic tool for the Chinese government. China is likely to decide whether to loan more pandas after carefully examining developments in China-Japan relationships.

Big Data Meets Big Brother in China

Imagine a world where your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not).

Now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a Citizen Score, according to rules set by the government. It's getting underway in China, where the government is developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens.

The government hopes, "[The law] will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility."

Huawei offers higher salaries

China’s Huawei technologies, the world’s third largest smartphone maker after Apple and Samsung, has announced plans to build new R&D facilities in Chiba, Japan.

This news shows the general trend of Chinese corporations becoming multinationals, but what struck Japanese people is not this news, but other news that Huawei Japan is offering the starting monthly salary of 400,000 Japanese yen.

According to Rikunabi, one of the largest Japanese on-line job search sites, Huawei is offering 401,000 yen for college graduates and 430,000 yen for Masters degree holders.

Beijing's "street life" under siege

Across Beijing's historic alleyways known as hutongs, construction workers are knocking down local restaurants and bars to make way for new, bigger developments. The historic alleyways are seeing more and more corporate ventures moving in. This is apparently to restore the city to a type of grandeur, but many residents say it is invading their lives and that the "soul" of their community is being lost.

The biggest threat to the world

Big Question: From Vladimir Putin's expansionist aims to the advances of Islamic State, the news is full of threats to global stability - but what do specialists in war studies think we should fear most?

Is Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), close to Europe via its growth in Libya, the greatest threat to global stability? Or is China's rise more to be feared than Vladimir Putin's involvement in the Ukraine crisis?

Chinese navy enters South China Sea

A group of Chinese warships led by the country's sole aircraft carrier entered the top half of the South China Sea on Monday after passing south of Taiwan, the self-ruled island's Defense Ministry said of what China has termed a routine exercise.

The move comes amid renewed tension over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, ineligible for state-to-state relations, following U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's telephone call with the island's president that upset Beijing.