‘Safe like China’: In Argentina, ZTE finds eager buyer for surveillance tech

SAN SALVADOR DE JUJUY, Argentina (Reuters) – In Argentina’s distant northern province of Jujuy, Chinese telecoms large ZTE is putting in a little bit slice of the Asian nation’s huge surveillance state – safety cameras that the native authorities says will assist to curb avenue crime.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors go in entrance of the Chinese telecoms tools group ZTE Corp sales space on the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

Even this comparatively small, little-reported deal is elevating considerations in Washington, which is more and more warning allies to not purchase Chinese know-how that it says could possibly be utilized by Beijing to spy on its clients.

ZTE Corp (000063.SZ) sealed a virtually $30 million surveillance contract with Jujuy in March to offer cameras, monitoring facilities, emergency companies, and telecommunications infrastructure. ZTE first made its gross sales pitch three years in the past.

The deal is an instance of the tech inroads China is making in Latin America even because the United States warns concerning the risks of utilizing Chinese know-how, particularly associated to surveillance. A Chinese official in Buenos Aires informed Reuters the Jujuy undertaking might assist China develop its tech footprint within the nation, by encouraging different cities to undertake related know-how.

Washington has “concerns” about ZTE’s undertaking in Jujuy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department’s Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau stated in a press release.

“China gathers and exploits data on an unrivaled scale, and uses the information to promote corruption, support arbitrary surveillance, and silence dissent,” the spokeswoman stated.

The U.S. worries concerning the undertaking, which haven’t been beforehand reported, present how the United States is scrutinizing each large offers and small in its efforts to sluggish the unfold of Chinese safety know-how across the globe.

The United States has provided little public proof to assist its warnings to allies, and Argentine and Chinese officers performed down considerations concerning the Jujuy undertaking in interviews and statements to Reuters.

ZTE, which has a small presence in Argentina, declined to share firm information on its surveillance know-how initiatives in Latin America or to remark for this story.


At an occasion within the provincial capital San Salvador de Jujuy in May, ZTE’s common supervisor in Argentina, Dennis Wang, alongside Governor Gerardo Morales, his safety minister and police officers, made a presentation and described how the know-how had helped reduce crime charges in China.

Jujuy already has shut ties to China. A Chinese firm is closely invested in lithium mining within the province and China has supplied the financing and know-how for an enormous photo voltaic farm, South America’s largest.

Now Jujuy might be “safe like China,” the native authorities stated in an announcement concerning the occasion.

China’s decrease crime price is due partly to its sprawling – and contentious – surveillance equipment of cameras, facial recognition software program, citizen databases and courts managed by the ruling Communist Party which have excessive conviction charges.

To make sure, authorities in lots of democratic nations together with the United States and Britain additionally make vast use of surveillance know-how. However, human rights watchdogs say China abuses these powers to suppress dissent and protest by its personal residents.

China has constructed an in depth video surveillance system and put in smartphone monitoring know-how within the northwestern area of Xinjiang, the place greater than 1,000,000 Uighurs and different Muslims have been detained in so-called vocational coaching facilities. ZTE and its subsidiaries have been closely concerned in constructing China’s inner surveillance undertaking, in keeping with procurement paperwork, together with the surveillance infrastructure in Xinjiang.

The Chinese official in Buenos Aires dismissed U.S. worries as “anxiety” over the success of Chinese corporations, particularly within the race in direction of 5G telecommunications know-how that corporations like ZTE and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] are spearheading.

The official, who requested to not be named, stated Latin American international locations had a rising want to enhance safety, creating a chance for China to promote surveillance know-how at a aggressive worth.

China’s international ministry stated the united statesaccusation that China exploited information gathered by its firms was “absurd.” The nation was a “firm safeguarder of internet security”, it stated.

There have been no expressions of concern concerning the deal in Argentina, the place China – a serious buying and selling associate and financier – is seen as an necessary ally and never a menace.

Argentina’s international ministry declined to touch upon the united statesconcerns.


Jujuy officers have motive to be open to inexpensive Chinese tech. The province is among the poorest in Argentina and has crime charges barely above the nationwide common.

Security Minister Ekel Meyer stated in an interview in San Salvador de Jujuy that residents accepted the watchful eye of the safety cameras in alternate for safer streets.

He needs to take it even additional by increasing the system to incorporate facial recognition know-how, a device China has been rolling out as a part of its home surveillance net.

Meyer stated any citizen who was regulation abiding had nothing to worry from the surveillance system. “This protects him,” he stated.

ZTE had already arrange a small check zone in a neighborhood public metropolis park and shipments for the primary section of the undertaking arrive in September, the federal government stated.

A supply with data of the Jujuy undertaking stated authorities officers had not carried out any form of evaluation of the know-how’s vulnerabilities.

Joseph Cannataci, a UN Special Rapporteur for information privateness, informed Reuters throughout a current go to to Argentina that the nation wanted to do a greater job of vetting safety tools and software program that it bought.

“I don’t care who you buy it from … You should not assume that the vendor you are buying from is to be trusted. You should carry out your privacy impact assessment,” he stated, referring to a U.N.-recommended check to make sure individuals’s proper to privateness will not be violated. 


The United States and China are in the course of protracted commerce standoff, with tech on the core. ZTE itself was hit with a crippling provider ban final 12 months, and the White House has since taken intention at even bigger rival, Huawei.

This has seen the United States look to steer, usually loudly, world commerce companions to shun Chinese-made know-how, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo firing such warnings throughout a Latin America tour earlier this 12 months.

“The Chinese Communist Party is using technology equipment and services exports to promote Tiananmen-style repression across Latin America,” a White House official informed Reuters.

China launched a lethal crackdown on protesting college students in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 during which rights teams say presumably 1000’s of individuals had been killed. There haven’t been any related incidents in Latin America this century.

“Telecommunications equipment purchasing decisions being made today will have a lasting impact on how the United States works with partners and who it chooses to partner with in the future,” the U.S. official stated.

In South America these warnings, nonetheless, look like falling on deaf ears.

In Venezuela, ZTE additionally helped the federal government of President Nicolas Maduro roll out a smart-card ID referred to as the “fatherland card.” The ID transmits information about cardholders to servers provided by ZTE and is more and more linked by the federal government to sponsored meals, well being and different social applications.

In Ecuador, Huawei and state-owned China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation constructed a surveillance system of greater than four,000 cameras for the federal government that was put in in 2011. In Uruguay, the federal government introduced in February a Chinese donation of two,100 Huawei safety cameras for set up in 4 cities.

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In Brazil, regardless of Trump calling for President Jair Bolsonaro to sideline Huawei, Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao stated in June the federal government wouldn’t exclude the Chinese agency from working a 5G cellular telecoms community.

Analysts stated the United States had taken its eye off the ball within the resource-rich area as China had elevated its world clout.

“Team China is offering good technology, at a very reasonable price with very favorable financing. It’s a pretty compelling package and the U.S. doesn’t really have alternatives to that,” stated Paul Triolo, head of worldwide know-how coverage on the Eurasia Group.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; further reporting by Catherine Cadell and Ben Blanchard in Beijing, and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Ross Colvin

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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