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Tech Thursday: Episode 13

Sex dolls withdrawn, facial recognition nabs cyclists, banned WeChat topics, and the source of iPhones

Each Thursday, The World of Chinese takes the most ground-breaking, impressive, or just plain weird technological advancements related to the Middle Kingdom and serves them in bite-sized chunks to keep you up-to-date on the latest news in the world of Chinese technology.

Sex doll startup shut down

It was an icky prospect to begin with, but did it deserve to be shut down? A startup called “Touch” began offering sex dolls for rent (though with the “lower parts” replaced each time for hygiene) and displaying their wares around Beijing last Thursday. With dolls marketed as “Russian,” “American,” and “Chinese” (despite all having basically the identical doe-eyed face), Touch even offered a Wonder Woman model.

With a flurry of attention drawn to this new “sharing” concept, the authorities decided its concept was too lurid to see the light of day. Four days after launch, Touch withdrew the dolls and apologized for being “vulgar.”

The nine “don’ts” of WeChat group chats

With a Party Congress coming up soon, censorship is being tightened ever further. WeChat, the ubiquitous messaging app used by the vast majority of the Chinese smartphone-toting population, has long allowed for group chats of three to 500 people. Its sometimes freewheeling discussions (occasionally populated with saucy remarks, rumors, and pornographic gifs) are set to be clipped with new rules regarding these group chats. Specifically, admins of group chats will be punished if they stray from the Party line.

So what kind of stuff gets you in trouble? Supchina has a translated list:

Politically sensitive topics


Internal memos

Content related to porn, drugs, and terrorism

News regarding Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau that hasn’t been published by official sources

Military data

Information containing state secrets

Seemingly fabricated video clips that defame or insult the police and are released by unknown sources

Any other content that violates related laws and regulations

Yes, it’s a hell of a broad list and possibly contradictory. Essentially the idea is to encourage everyone to self-censor anything that might be at all controversial, illicit, scandalous, or possibly untrue.

There’s a 50-50 chance your iPhone comes from this city…

Half the world’s iPhones are made in Zhengzhou, central China’s Henan province. Manufactured by Foxconn (of Foxconn suicides fame), the plant and industrial chain in Zhengzhou is currently gearing up for mass production of the new iPhone 8, due for release in China tomorrow, and iPhone X in November.

The plant reportedly has a massive 350,000 workers, assembling 350 iPhones per minute, with capacity to produce up to 500,000 iPhones per day.

The figures can all be found in a China Daily report which spends most of its page space excoriating the suggestion the smartphones could ever be produced in the US instead.

Facial recognition goes after “contrary” bike riders

The Global Times has an article about how facial recognition was used to nab rule-breakers riding bicycles and three-wheeled rickshaws. Nine of these 30 “contrary riders” have received punishments after cameras spotted illegal activity at an intersection in Shanghai, then ran their faces against a database—which sounds suitably painful.


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David Dawson is the former deputy editor of The World of Chinese.

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