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  • Recognize this guy?

  • How about this one?

  • Him?

  • They all have something in common.

  • They govern like autocrats.

  • These leaders are rising in an age

  • where technology can make their lives much easier.

  • And leading the way is China.

  • At home, they're pouring billions

  • into the most sophisticated censorship and surveillance

  • apparatus the world has ever known.

  • I spent nearly a decade here.

  • And halfway through that period, something changed.

  • Xi Jinping took power, and cameras started appearing

  • a lot of them.

  • Now, the cameras are everywhere.

  • They hang from traffic lights, intersections, crosswalks;

  • on trees, fences, and subway cars;

  • even inside your taxi or your apartment building.

  • These are, in fact, government surveillance cameras,

  • and there are over 200 million of them here.

  • The government says the cameras

  • are used to fight crime, squash protests

  • and maintain control.

  • It's all designed to make sure the Communist Party of China

  • never loses power.

  • Basically, they want to know what their citizens are doing

  • all the time, and their actions are being judged.

  • Most of the time, it's just police

  • watching on the other end of these cameras.

  • But the idea is that one day soon, artificial intelligence

  • will be able to automate that job,

  • analyzing the day-to-day lives

  • of hundreds of millions of citizens.

  • You might think, well, that's just China.

  • But it's not only in China.

  • See that?

  • That camera is in Ecuador.

  • This is Ecuador's emergency response system,

  • which is known as ECU-911.

  • The government peddles it as a crime fighting tool.

  • Ecuador has around 4,000 national security cameras

  • across the entire country.

  • The cameras all feed into a few centralized rooms,

  • like this.

  • The system was not only made in China,

  • but it was installed by Chinese companies

  • and workers.

  • The Chinese even trained the Ecuadoreans how to use it.

  • Reporter: “They're telling the public that this is for safety.

  • We went back, we can see what the surveillance looks like.

  • So this is, what, 30 people in a room surveilling society.”

  • Wow.”

  • Reporter: “Now my question, though, is:

  • If you wanted to stop crime,

  • would you have 30 people in a room?

  • To me, that number, 30, does not seem like a lot of people.”

  • So 30 people, perhaps monitoring

  • a nationwide camera system might seem little,

  • but it's the deterrent effect of the cameras which

  • impact on people.

  • It's them moderating their behavior

  • based on the fact that they know that they might be being

  • surveilled, and they don't know how that information

  • might be being used.”

  • And that's the point.

  • This might be able to fight crime.

  • But just like in China, the cameras

  • have potential for other use.

  • Surveillance technology exporting this kind of

  • surveillance capabilities to a country like Ecuador

  • makes money.”

  • This is Edin, a global surveillance expert

  • in the U.K.

  • I asked him, so what has China actually exported here?

  • Well it secures our diplomatic relationship

  • with China, and it exports their model

  • of internet governorship and how our security

  • infrastructure is going to look like in the future.”

  • Chinese surveillance systems are increasingly

  • showing up all around the world.

  • Some of those countries have stronger

  • government institutions to regulate than others,

  • but they all need money to buy it.

  • Turns out, the Chinese can help with that, too.

  • We know it started at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

  • Behind the scenes, China was selling

  • its state-of-the-art security setup

  • to visiting delegations.

  • This is where Ecuadorian officials first saw it.

  • So, China and Ecuador made a deal.

  • This is Martha, a former politician

  • turned investigative journalist.

  • This all happened under the former president

  • Rafael Correa, who was widely seen as an autocrat.

  • He rewrote Ecuador's Constitution.

  • He erased term limits.

  • He took control of the courts and silenced the press.

  • Helping him each step of the way was money from China.

  • So, China got Ecuador's oil and Ecuador got things

  • like roads and hospitals.

  • It also got a nationwide surveillance system.

  • And this is what it looks like today.

  • Rafael Correa has been out of office for more than two

  • years now, and Lenín Moreno has taken the country back

  • in a more democratic direction.

  • But even after autocrats leave office,

  • their legacies can live on.

  • After all, there is a system in place

  • with a sinister potential.

  • It just depends how it's being used.

  • Lidia lives in a high-crime neighborhood

  • on the city's mountainside.

  • She says the police rarely respond to crimes

  • that happen directly in front of cameras

  • and that some of the most dangerous neighborhoods,

  • like hers, don't have any cameras at all.

  • While Lidia's neighborhood has none,

  • there's unexpectedly one here, in a safe neighborhood.

  • It's the only camera around, and it can see right

  • into this man's house.

  • Colonel Pazmino was a vocal critic of former president

  • Rafael Correa, and he was often

  • followed by government spies.

  • He says when the Chinese camera system came in,

  • the spies went home.

  • In other words, Colonel Pazmino

  • thinks the system is used for more than emergencies.

  • He believes the state's intelligence unit

  • uses it to track political dissidents like him.

  • In China, authorities have also

  • installed cameras outside of dissidents' homes.

  • We brought this claim to Francisco Robayo,

  • who was ECU-911's director at the time.

  • He said, the system isn't for spying on or intimidating

  • political opponents.

  • He deflected, and so did the country's intelligence chief.

  • We were in a secret, unmarked bunker

  • outside of the capital, and we were not

  • allowed to point our camera at anything

  • outside of this single frame.

  • We came to ask Mr. Costa if the intelligence agency uses

  • the public security cameras to spy on citizens.

  • Midway through our interview, we took a break.

  • Remember how we were only allowed to take this one

  • single frame?

  • Well, that's because they didn't

  • want us filming the background that's deliberately

  • out of focus right now.

  • But when not looking through the lens of the camera,

  • we could still see it clearly.

  • Once we pointed out the feeds from ECU-911,

  • they admitted they also could access the

  • public security cameras.

  • Ecuador's officials maintain the system

  • is a crime-fighting tool.

  • But why the system also feeds into the intelligence agency

  • raises the same concerns that human rights

  • advocates raise in China.

  • These cameras are easier to abuse than use.

  • It just depends what your goals are.

  • And remember, China's goal is political control.

  • That's what these systems were designed for.

  • In effect, China is exporting more than cameras.

  • They are exporting the way they use their cameras.

  • And while other countries also offer systems,

  • including the U.S., many say China

  • is thought to be the most dangerous because it provides

  • funding, even to known dictators,

  • and provides them with a sinister model for how

  • to use it.

  • We've seen cases where governments around the world

  • have used surveillance technology to infiltrate

  • and spy on dissidents, on activists, on lawyers,

  • on opposition parties.

  • So this actually, fundamentally undermines democracy.”