Entertainment

The Olympics are China’s chance to show off its vision for the future

China is looking at the games as its showcase for not just its athletes and the country’s culture, but also its technological sophistication and its investments in the future.

The Olympics are China’s chance to show off its vision for the future

The 2022 Winter Olympics have evolved into more than just a test for China’s ability to pull off a massive event

Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Today marks both the beginning of the 2022 Winter Olympics and China’s second-ever time hosting the event, with Beijing becoming one of only 10 cities to host more than one Olympics Games.

More so than perhaps any other country, China is looking at the games as its showcase for not just its athletes and the country’s culture, but also its technological sophistication and its investments in the future. But the lengths the country now goes to maintain control over online and offline behavior have put an uncomfortable spotlight on China’s Olympic preparations.

A lot has changed since Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics. China’s status in the world has risen substantially, reflecting its vast economic and geopolitical might and its chillier relationship with the U.S. and Western world at large.

  • Among the most pronounced of these changes is China’s commitment to tech and its intense desire to be seen at the forefront of innovation.
  • Over the last 15 years, we’ve seen the rise of some of the world’s largest and most powerful tech companies out of China, from Alibaba to Tencent.
  • As my colleague Zeyi Yang noted earlier this week, China is using the games to hammer this point home. It has deployed cocktail-pouring robots in the Olympic Village, installed futuristic remote-controlled beds for visitors and implemented its new digital currency system, eCNY, for its first international test.

There’s profound wariness regarding China’s tech and track record. The country’s state surveillance apparatus and its tight control over internet activity and displays of dissent have been a focal point of international concern with the 2022 games, in addition to mounting tensions with the CCP over its growing list of geopolitical and humanitarian crises.

  • China’s official (and mandatory) health and safety mobile app for Olympic athletes was embroiled in security and privacy concerns, after a report from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab highlighted encryption vulnerabilities in the software. The app also contains censored keywords.
  • U.S. government officials are officially boycotting the games over China’s human rights record, while Team USA is advising its athletes to use burner phones while in the country to avoid potential unwanted surveillance.
  • China has outlined rules for visiting athletes, saying they are subject to Chinese speech laws. That has led to national team warnings, including from the U.S. and Canada, about potential legal trouble for anyone who decides to use the 2022 Winter Games as a stage to express political or social opinions the CCP may find unsavory.

China’s COVID protocols dance with dystopia. The Olympic Village will deploy a so-called closed-loop system that Chinese officials will use to maintain an ultra-strict health and safety regimen and ensure athletes are abiding by local laws and regulations.

  • The aforementioned mobile app will be used to govern athletes’ ability to move about the village, using evidence of negative PCR test results similarly to the controversial green QR code system China has used to control the movement of its citizens and dictate quarantine orders.
  • China’s recently deployed 5G network will be the only way to access the internet inside the Olympic Village, with Chinese officials claiming that athletes will be able to bypass standard restrictions imposed to access censored content, like American social media apps, using special SIM cards.
  • But foreign officials are concerned that even this activity will be surveilled and may subject athletes and other team members to potential legal issues. "It should be assumed that all data and communications in China can be monitored, compromised or blocked," the U.S. Olympic organizing committee wrote in a technical advisory document last month.

The 2022 Winter Olympics have evolved into more than just a test for China’s ability to pull off a massive event with nightmarish logistics and health complications, in the middle of a pandemic, no less. They're also now a demonstration of just how well, or poorly, China’s specific vision for the future — of sports, technology, communication and everything in between — gel with the rest of the world.

A version of this story also appeared in today's Source Code; subscribe here.

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep Reading Show less
FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep Reading Show less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins