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Tech Thursday Episode 34

Blockchain scam, Alipay issues digital ID cards, LeTV's (further) downward spiral, and Chinese AI start-up becomes the world's most valuable

04·19·2018

Tech Thursday Episode 34

Blockchain scam, Alipay issues digital ID cards, LeTV's (further) downward spiral, and Chinese AI start-up becomes the world's most valuable

04·19·2018

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.

High-tech denouement to internet exec’s downfall

The Chinese Supreme Court’s open information network has named Gan Wei, wife of LeTV founder and former CEO Jia Yueting, in its list of debtors who have lost credit—colloquially known as the “Deadbeat List,” part of China’s “social credit scheme” to create technological solutions to regulatory problems.

Gan, an actress known for roles in sci-fi and fantasy movies, is joined on the list by her husband (a seven-time Deadbeat nominee) and the Leshi Holdings Corporation. She is said to owe 140 million RMB, plus interest, to Zhongtai Specialty Financing, which made loaned the amount to Leshi in 2016.

There’s a thrilling tale to be told in LeTV’s rise and fall—from innovative streaming TV service to a collapsing empire that tried to expand too quickly into mobile phones, cars, sports, the US market—and the enemies it made with lawsuits against competitors like Bilibili.com to Xiaomi. But while haters were delighted to deliver another kick to the downed giant, others were curious to know the consequences to being on the Deadbeat List.

According to Netease, the court’s restrictions on deadbeats include limits of buying property and traveling on commercial flights, to using soft-sleeper berths on trains, G-class high-speed trains, and seats above second-class on ferries. Good to know that next time you book a soft-sleeper, all your cabin-mates will have paid their debts.

All-in-one digital ID

In the cashless society, Alipay is far more than an online payment tool, but an all-in-one digital service portal for every aspect of your life—from paying water and electricity bills, checking and withdrawing government housing fund, doing tax, assessing your credit score, receiving traffic violation alerts, making hospital appointments, and even making marriage registration appointments.

Some are worried about the tradeoff for a convenient modern life—the vast amount of personal information collected, and the possible supervision and breach of privacy of citizens.

In a new development, three cities, Fuzhou in Fujian province, and Hangzhou and Quzhou in Zhejiang province have announced digital ID cards, available via Alipay starting April 17. Issued by the Ministry of Public Security of the PRC, the digital ID is bound with facial image, finger prints and relevant information stored in the chip of a physical ID card. Currently, citizens can use the digital ID  on limited platforms such as the Restnour hotel in Hangzhou.

Zou Liang, vice-CEO of Ant Finance, Alibaba’s financial service, explained that the digitalization of certifications and credentials are the “industry trend,” and the company will cooperate with more government agencies and third-party partners to “serve more users.”

“Blockchain” Ponzi Scheme

It’s not only tech companies  hot for “Blockchain,” but also criminals, with cryptocurrency-related scams on the rise. Xi’an police recently cracked a Ponzi scheme case that scammed more than 86 million RMB out of 13,000 individuals via their online platform “DBTC” in less than three weeks, selling virtual currency at 3 RMB per piece and manipulating the currency’s price.

Along with his three accomplices, the main suspect, Zhen, developed a sales team of 148, divided into 10 ranks, going on promotions tours to Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, Xi’an, Ningbo and other cities. Furthermore, to built a false image of an international corporation backed by foreign investment, Zhen hired anonymous male expats to “act” as the CEO of their sub company registered in Hong Kong. Looks like the net is finally closing on the “rent a white guy” gig…

AI startup is world’s most valuable

Opinions are split, but for now the AI wars are still anybody’s to winner. China has scored a paper victory, though, with one AI startup, visual recognition developer SenseTime, being given a market valuation of over USD 3 billion, a figure that soon rise to USD 4.5 billion as SenseTime expands into VR and self-driving cars.

Backed by Jack Ma’s Alibaba group, Sensetime supplies face-recognition tech to companies, including China Mobile and Huawei Technologies, and offers digital ID and Viper security services to clients such as the Chinese police. “If you’ve ever been photographed with a Chinese-made phone or walked the streets of a Chinese city,” says Bloomberg, “Chances are your face has been digitally crunched by SenseTime software built into more than 100 million mobile devices.” Have a good weekend…