What happened: Surveillance systems supplied by Chinese companies, including Huawei and state-controlled C.E.I.E.C., to the police in Ecuador have come under fire. The system’s effectiveness is being questioned despite cross-border training and instructions by the two Chinese companies due to an insufficient number of cameras and personnel. The New York Times said that Ecuadorian intelligence agencies, which carried out the previous president’s autocratic orders against political enemies, are allowed access to the footage and data. Governments of three countries partnering with China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with tainted human rights records—Venezuela, Bolivia, and Angola—have bought replicas of the network, according to the report.
Why it’s important: The article runs parallel with widespread worries in Western media about the role Chinese companies will play in authoritarian regimes around the world as it perfects and exports its AI technology. It underlines a common criticism of the BRI: the development program often takes away asset rights from developing countries, giving them to China, which gains both financially and politically. On social media, many have pointed out that such concerns ignore the fact that the US is the largest supplier of weapons globally, and many of its customers are authoritarian regimes.