Have China’s Communists Created Mind-Reading Software?

Mind-reading software.

An artificial intelligence (AI) lab in China claims to have developed software that can measure Chinese Communist Party members' allegiance. (Image: Luis Manuel Tapia Bolivar via Dreamstime)

China is a land of ancient wonders and technological surprises. Recently, an artificial intelligence (AI) lab in Hefei in China’s Anhui Province claims to have developed mind-reading software that can measure Chinese Communist Party members’ allegiance — a claim that, if true, would be both technologically interesting and ethically concerning. No doubt then, that China’s latest advancement in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning has sparked a public uproar.

Analysts claim that China has improved its AI-powered monitoring, utilizing big data, machine learning, facial recognition, and AI to “get into the brains and ideas of its people,” creating what many perceive as a brutal digital dictatorship.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Receive selected content straight into your inbox.

Smarter thought and political ‘education’

On July 1, the institute uploaded a video titled “The Smart Political Education Bar” to brag about their “mind-reading” software, which it suggested could be used on occasion by members to “further solidify their determination to be grateful to the party, listen to the party and follow the party.”

In the film, a subject is seen scrolling through online materials that promote the communist party’s policies at a kiosk, where the institution claims its AI software program (mind-reading technology) is tracking his reactions to assess how attentive he was to the thought education session.

However, the post was removed after it sparked widespread outrage among Chinese netizens.

According to Hung Ching-fu, a political science professor at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, southern Taiwan, the Chinese Communist Party has used technological advances for political gain.

“It has used cutting-edge technology to empower its party state. China has upgraded from early-day facial recognition to AI programs that try to get into brains and minds (more) than meet the eye. Its adoption of advanced AI will reinforce its total controls.” Hung told VOA over the phone.

Hung noted that China’s AI-powered police state would impact its people, who either self-censor or live in dread.

The mind-reading police state will impact its people, leading them to either self-censor or live in dread.
China’s AI-powered ‘mind-reading’ police state will impact its people, leading them to either self-censor or live in dread. (Image: Ekkasit919 via Dreamstime)

Censorship on the internet

Hung also voiced concern about China’s digital censorship, which he believes would put the Communist Party in a “dictator’s dilemma”—a political phrase referring to a government leader’s failure to win the hearts and minds of its people.

“The taller you build your wall [of power], the further you’re cut off from the people… This constitutes what we call the ‘dictator’s dilemma’ in politics. That is, despite their enormous powers, dictators keep out of touch with the people. I don’t think any political systems that are against human nature will sustain,” Hung added. (VOA)

The so-called mind-reading software is only the most recent digital control that China has employed.

China has long used face recognition technology in Xinjiang to track ethnic Uyghurs. It has recently expanded its surveillance using “one person, one file” software to make it simpler to watch its people.

Authorities in Henan province created a similar system late last year to follow “suspect” journalists, international students, and women. Simultaneously, Shanghai prosecutors are said to have adopted AI prosecutors who can file indictments on eight criminal counts, including credit card fraud and allegations of “starting a fight” and “causing problems.”

According to the Chinese online news site, The Paper, a Communist Party school in Sichuan produced the “Smart Red Cloud” in 2017, which was already capable of monitoring party members’ reactions to its political teaching and “calculating” their allegiance.

Victims of China’s digital monitoring

On the condition of anonymity, many human rights attorneys and activists told VOA that they were victims of China’s digital monitoring apparatus.

A rights activist from Wuhan, Hebei, said police once detained him after a roadside camera recorded his face while walking down the street.

Focus on security CCTV camera or surveillance system with office buildings seen in the background.
A rights activist from Wuhan said police once detained him after a roadside camera recorded his face while walking down the street. (Image: Pixinoo via Dreamstime)

As a result of China’s strict censorship and digital surveillance system, a Beijing-based rights lawyer reported that he was unable to send online messages or register online.

Another rights lawyer disclosed that China’s police had been unlawfully gathering biometric data from various sources including the pupils of people’s eyes, along with fingerprints and urine samples of individuals in their custody to improve what he called “precise but evil” monitoring.

According to the findings of recent research by Martin Beraja, an assistant professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and three other scholars at Harvard University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, China’s widespread application of AI technologies is stimulating the sector’s innovation.

According to their findings, although new technology strengthens autocratic authority and increases autocratic demand, this mutuality of advantage may even generate long-term, sustained AI innovation in China, creating what they call an ‘AI-tocracy.’” (VOA)


“In the process of procuring that government contract, they [AI firms in China] get access to this data that allows them, of course, to innovate for the government application that has to do typically with public security or preventing crime, or the like. This has spilled over to their commercial innovation, because, potentially, they may use either the same government data or, if that’s restricted, they may use the same algorithms that were trained with that data to develop commercial products that are used in the private sector,” Beraja told VOA.

China is exporting these technologies to other countries with repressive governments, but according to one blogger from China who is now living in Taiwan: “…such a governance model will lead a society to go to extremes…repeating the irrational policymaking pattern during the (China’s) Cultural Revolution period. That will lead to its own collapse.” (VOA)

Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest

Recommended Stories

A Japanese moai

Unlocking Wisdom: Lessons From the Japanese Moai Tradition

In Japan, tight-knit social groups, moais, have helped people gain insight and support. As an ...

Photo of a group of business people each holding a brightly colored gear and combining them to illustrate a teamwork concept.

Technology Companies and Autism: A New Era of Inclusion

When you think of autism, what comes to mind? Quietness, sensitivity, or difficulty in communication? ...


18 Resourceful Ways That Help Reduce Mental Stress

Many people have experienced stress at some point in their life. People generally sense that ...

Standing at a desk while working.

Is Standing at Your Desk Actually Better Than Sitting?

In modern life, many of us spend the majority of our waking hours sitting. A ...

The Greek philosopher Plato.

Plato’s Influence on Architecture: How Do Architects Think?

Architecture is a discipline where art meets mathematics (engineering). Architects essentially blend these two sides, ...

A dolphin jumping in the ocean.

Dolphins and Sea Lions: The U.S. Navy’s Unexpected Defenders

The performances of dolphins and sea lions at marine parks often leave spectators amazed and ...

An angry woman.

Why You Shouldn’t Get Angry: The 4 Major Benefits

Have you ever heard the saying: “Smart people control their anger, while foolish ones let ...

A bronze statue of Plato.

The Life and Works of the Philosopher Plato, 427-347 B.C.

Plato was a Greek philosopher from Athens, the most famous student of Socrates, and the ...

An inbox full of unanswered emails.

Why Do I Get So Much Spam and Unwanted Emails in My Inbox?

Spam might not have brought an end to the internet or email, as some dire ...

Send this to a friend