How the US sanctions and isolates companies and governments: the Entity List

Sichuan University (Wikipedia)

The US's Entity List contains the names of companies, research institutes, individuals and others that the US considers a risk to its economic or national security.

Listed companies are blocked from buying, selling, or lisencing goods or services from American firms. They're also blocked from buying or lisencing anything that contain American-made goods, no matter where it comes from.

Chinese entities include:

  • AI startups that specialize in facial and voice recognition, like Hikvision, Megvii, SenseTime and IFLYTEK
  • Huawei, the smartphone and telecommunications company
  • Supercomputer makers like Sugon and The National Supercomputer Centers in Changsha, Guangzhou and Tianjin
  • Sichuan University in Chengdu
  • Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics



October 16th

SenseTime is interesting for many reasons:

SenseTime specializes in facial- and pattern-recognition in images, video and audio, and works closely with the Chinese government, as well as MIT, Qualcomm, Nvidia, and others.

Founded in 2014, Sensetime first received attention for their DeepID algorithm, which was the first facial recognition tool that recognized faces more accurately than the human eye.

SenseTime went on to be named one of China's five "national champions" of AI in 2018, alongside Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, and iFlyTek, which earmarks it for special treatment, government contracts and potentially longterm investment.

Since its founding, SenseTime has raised over $2.6 billion from Alibaba, Qualcomm, Softbank and others.

More recently, the company has been accused of helping Chinese authorities monitor and track Uighur muslims. Critics, inlcuding the US government, say that SenseTime's software is used in China's mass surveillance program in areas like Xinjiang, where authorities deploy a vast surveillance network to monitor and track citizens.

In October, the US put SenseTime on its Entity List, which prevents it from buying or using any technology or product that contains US-made components.

While Sensetime denies that its technology is being used to discriminate against citizens, it does have verified clients among China's police departments, which use its technology in security cameras to find and track suspects. SenseTime previously owned a 51% stake in a join-venture in Xinjiang, but it sold its ownership in early 2019.

China's social credit system

October 2nd

China's social credit system has been described as a nationwide, all-encompassing personal rating mechanism, used to punish and reward citizens based on their financial history, personal contacts and even the amount of time they play video games.

In reality, the social credit system does not produce a single, nationwide credit rating for Chinese citizens. At least not yet. In fact, many people may not have a social credit score, or even know if they do.

Announced in 2014, the social credit system has been tested across a patchwork of social and consumer apps and local government pilot programs (like those already running in Shandong and Xinjiang).

The nearest thing to a nationwide score for Chinese citizens is likely the Supreme People's Court's debtors list, which contains the names of 14.5 million people with longterm debt.

The official social credit system is slated to roll out in 2020. Shortly after announcing the system, the People's Bank of China granted approval to eight private firms ($) to run their own pilot programs. Since then, local government-led ratings systems have also sprouted up across the country as well.

Five years on, the future of the system is somewhat uncertain. When it is fully rolled out, it may ultimately gather data from disparate sources that already exist-- like the debtor's list, local government data, and individual browsing histories and social media activity to compile metrics wherever available.

β€œThe social credit system is just really adding technology and adding a formality to the way the party already operates,” Samantha Hoffman, a consultant at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Foreign Policy.