China: Policing by the Covid app

Ian Williams on the threat to privacy as China’s virus ‘traffic light’ code is adapted for surveillance

The World Today Published 4 June 2021 2 minute READ

Ian Williams

Author of ‘Every Breath You Take: China’s New Tyranny’, published by Birlinn

Poets and artists have been inspired for centuries by the dreamy pagodas and pavilions of Hangzhou and its West Lake. Today, the city Marco Polo described as ‘paradise’ is providing a different sort of inspiration – to China’s surveillance state.

Three seemingly unrelated events – involving the city’s most famous son, a locally developed smartphone app that was at the heart of Beijing’s fight against the Covid pandemic, and a local wildlife park – provide important pointers as to where Xi Jinping’s digital control is heading next.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.