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Briefing paper

Huawei’s “Safe City” products have fueled concerns that China is “exporting authoritarianism.” Among the “solutions” Huawei sells globally under this label are facial and license-plate recognition, social media monitoring, and other surveillance capabilities. To better understand these developments, the CSIS Reconnecting Asia Project examined open-sources and identified 73 “Safe City” agreements for surveillance products or services across 52 countries.

Key findings:

  • Huawei is expanding into next-generation markets: Its partners tend to be non-liberal, located in Asia or Africa, and middle-income.
  • The benefits are questionable: The benefits of Huawei’s “Safe City” solutions are difficult to verify and appear grossly exaggerated in some cases.
  • Local context is key: Huawei’s “Safe City” label encompasses a range of technologies, the actual usage of which can vary widely depending on local conditions.
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