When most supporters read reports about the Chinese government persecuting Christians, they often feel that the problem is thousands of miles away, but recent reports reveal something a little closer to home. What most people do not know is that China is affecting all of our lives – through our mobile phone.
China is not just monitoring Chinese Christians. They are monitoring you.
How? Through borrowed boats.
What? Borrowed boats? If you would like to listen to the detailed explanation, click here.
Let me explain, because this impacts your life directly.
The Chinese Communist Party wants to influence your thinking, but they can’t do it directly, so the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is communicating to you through ‘borrowed boats.’ The phrase is known as “borrow a boat to go to sea (借船出海). It refers to the Peoples Liberation Army strategy of using foreign assets to convey Communist Party messages covertly or overtly, in order to influence political and economical decisions.
Beijing knows that Communism has a very limited appeal to directly influence foreign nations in the way that Russia influenced them, so instead they use foreign vehicles to reach their audience. To put it another way, instead of convincing you to jump into Chinese boats, the CCP is using “boats” that you are already in.
This is how it works:
In it’s simplest form, the CCP identifies things that are used and trusted by you – food brands, transportation companies, clothing brands, news corporations, and even government utilities and then uses them to maximize influence.
The CCP has been investing in shaping opinions by buying up companies that are known and trusted. These are companies that you are probably already familiar with; companies like GE, Volvo, Smith Foods, Ritz-Carlton and Four Season hotels, Hoover, London Taxi Cabs, Hamley’s Toy Store, Motorola, Harvey Nichols, Iron Man race, Sunseeker Yachts, MG Car company, Club Med, AMC theaters, and China just purchased the majority of stock in Norwegian Airlines.
Isn’t it Sinophobic to say that brands owned by a Chinese company is working for the government?
The answer to that question is no. It is the law. When President Xi Jinping took power in 2012, he began a rapid transformation of how companies work in China. Since 2012, the CCP made it a requirement that every large company have a Group Party Committee. This committee ensures that the company is helping the CCP. Alibaba, for instance, has over 2,000 party members as employees.
The CCP embeds officials inside major technology companies in China. In 2017, a national intelligence law was passed that states, “any organization and citizen” shall “support and cooperate in intelligence work.”
Have you ever wondered why you don’t often hear about the persecution of Christians in China on mainstream media? It might be because newspapers and outlets depend on sponsors – sponsors like the ones above. Several of them are also being paid large amounts of money to run adds that look like reports for the CCP.
This is the power of ‘borrowed boats’ theory.
Tencent is a Chinese company that you might have never heard of before, but this is the same company that helped create a credit score system that is being used to persecute Christians. Tencent is also the same company that produced up coming smash-hit movies for your entertainment: movies like Men in Black International, Top Gun: Maverick, and Terminator: Dark Fate.
You see? Borrowed boats!
That is not all. Your phone is also considered to be a ‘borrowed boat’ too.
Some of the biggest phone app downloads of 2020 have the support of the Chinese government and can be used to access your personal information.
Here are the top 10 Apps that you most likely have on your phone that can give the Chinese government access to your information (disclaimer, if you own a Huawei phone – then don’t even bother reading this list below, because even if you never install any apps, the Chinese government has potential access to all of your information).
WeChat does everything. It is the world’s first super app. It is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media, mobile payment, map, reservation maker, taxi caller – it literally does everything.
If you have any connection with China at all, you most likely have WeChat on your phone. It was first released in 2011 and since then has became one of the world’s largest standalone mobile apps, with over 1 billion monthly active users. WeChat has been described as China’s “app for everything” and a “super app” because of its wide range of functions.
Due to its popularity, user activity on WeChat is used for mass surveillance in China. If you have it, the information on your phone is available to the Chinese government.
If you do not know about this app it is because you are either over 30 years old and work for a living. If you have kids – I promise – they know all about it.
TikTok is the short-form video app that has been downloaded 1.5 billion times, and is one of the goofiest places on the internet for kids to hang out. It is like going to a photo booth at a theme park – you know, the ones with no good photos, but you have fun with your friends while using them.
TikTok is also based in China.
This app has become addictive for young kids and owned by Chinese giant, ByteDance. It is now the world’s largest startup, estimated to be valued at $78 billion
In early October last year, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called for a formal investigation into whether TikTok poses a national security risk. Two senators from both political US parties, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), followed suit, calling for a “rigorous assessment” of the potential national security risks of TikTok by US intelligence officials.
Their findings? TikTok posed a threat. It is now banned by all US government employees and US military.
TikTok has pushed back against these allegations. In late October, it published a blog post stating that it keeps all US user data in the United States, with a backup server in Singapore, and that none of it is subject to Chinese law.
Wrong. If the company is based in China, everything they have is subject to Chinese law regardless of where their servers are.
This one is personal, because I love ZOOM. ZOOM is a simple, easy to use, video platform that I loved using, but it is used by the Chinese government to monitor video conferences.
The dangers of having ZOOM software on your phone has been seen over and over again. Several pastors and home groups in China have been raided and arrested while using ZOOM.
After using ZOOM for several months at BTJ, we have determined that this app is completely unsafe for ministries that work in closed countries, and unfit for Christian meetings. Our recommendation is that ministers working in China should steer clear of using this video-conferencing platform altogether and definitely do not have it on your phone.
A team of researchers from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, discovered that some traffic from Zoom was being sent through Beijing – even when participants on the Zoom call were in North America.
It was also revealed that Zoom has several hundred employees in China and that number is only growing.
While Zoom is headquartered in the United States, it was founded (and still headed) by a Chinese citizen. The company currently employs at least 700 workers in China and could be compromised by the government if access to the database is needed.
At BTJ, we were a paying customer of ZOOM and hosted our weekly meetings using the video-conferencing platform. BTJ reached out to ZOOM by both phone and email to ask if their software is open to the Chinese government. ZOOM could not answer the question in person or by email, so last month we officially stopped using Zoom.
Baidu, is the trifecta of software providers that you need to keep off of your phone (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent). You haven’t heard of them? Oh, yes you have, you just don’t know it.
Baidu is a Chinese multinational technology company specializing in Internet-related services and products and artificial intelligence (AI), headquartered in Beijing. It is one of the largest AI and internet companies in the world.
Baidu has the second largest search engine in the world and is currently the fourth largest website in the Alexa Internet rankings, but their big investment is Artificial Intelligence.
Baidu runs the AI cameras in China, monitoring all of it’s citizens. Guess how it is funded?
It partners with huge companies like Ford, Intel, Grab, and Honda to provide AI technology for driverless cars.
That is right. You might not have ever heard about this company, but they might actually be driving your car, helping you stay on the road, keeping you at a safe distance from the car in front of you, and so much more.
China didn’t have the money to develop what they needed to monitor you, so they went to Silicon Valley looking for help and walked away with $12 million in start-up cash.
Now their reach goes even further. Baidu Global Business Unit (GBU) is responsible for Baidu’s international products and services for markets outside of China and their portfolio includes keyboard apps Simeji and Facemoji Keyboard, content recommendation platform popIn, augmented reality network OmniAR, Japanese smart projector popIn Aladdin, and ad platform MediaGo. If you are reading this article, then you most likely interface with one of these apps.
In 2017, Baidu GBU entered into a partnership with Snap Inc. to act as the company’s official ad reseller for Snapchat.
In October 2018, Baidu became the first Chinese firm to join the United States-based computer ethics consortium Partnership on AI. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. China, through Baidu, is going to help write the book on ethics for how the international community should use AI.
This one is for all of you business people out there. If you have ever made a product in China, you most likely used Alibaba. It is a Chinese multinational technology company specializing in e-commerce, retail, Internet, and technology. Founded in 1999, the company provides consumer-to-consumer (C2C), business-to-consumer (B2C), and business-to-business (B2B) sales services via the Internet. They also provide electronic payment services, shopping search engines and cloud computing services.
Today, it is in the top 10 most valuable companies in the world. For the last five years straight, its online sales and profits surpassed all US retailers (including Walmart, Amazon, and eBay) combined.
The founder, Jack Ma, has been a member of the Communist party since the 1980s and supported them throughout the Tiananmen Square incident.
This app is hilarious. Ever buy a new phone and transfer all the data from your old phone to your new phone – pics, passwords, apps etc – using an app? Do you know what app most people use, including me? SHAREIT!
If you are like me and used this program to transfer data on your phone – CONGRATULATIONS – You have just made sure that the CCP was updated on all your information.
#7 UC browser
UC Internet browser is the second most used browser in the world. I have to admit, it is not that popular with me, but it is with a lot of other people. It is especially popular in India and Indonesia. In 2015, it was revealed as part of the ‘Snowden leaks’, that UC Browser leaks sensitive data used by intelligence agencies to track users. The browser had been used to implant spyware on the phones of users to transmit personally identifiable subscriber data, mobile device identifiers and user geo-location data.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) in India, is currently investigating this privacy breach by Alibaba-owned UC Browser. It has been alleged that the second-most-used browser in India has been sending user data to Chinese servers and that it retains control over a user’s device DNS, even after the browser is deleted.
Grindr is the largest networking and online dating application for gay, bi and trans people.
Grindr was one of the first gay geosocial apps to launch in the iTunes App Store and has since become the largest and most popular gay mobile app in the world.
Oh, a quick FYI: gay marriage is illegal in china, but the CCP does not care who you love, as long as they get your information.
It was reported that Grindr allowed engineers in Beijing access to the personal data of millions of U.S. users, including their private messages and HIV status.
It has been reported that Grindr has since been sold.
#9 Call of Duty Mobile
This one is a biggie. Call of Duty Mobile is owned by Timi Games and is one of the largest online gaming platforms in the world. Timi Games is based in China and falls under the same laws of helping with intelligence gathering.
The game was released worldwide on October 1, 2019. In its first month, the game had over 148 million downloads and generated nearly US$54 million in revenue, making it the largest mobile game launch in history. By the end of 2019, the game already secured over 180 million downloads within just three months of launch.
#10 Anything by Tencent
How did you do with the other nine apps? Are you one of the few people in the world that do not have any of those apps on your phone? Well, we are not done yet.
Tencent controls hundreds of subsidiaries and associates that go by different names and their tentacles are far and deep. They have what ever app you in need for your phone in numerous industries and areas, creating a broad portfolio including search engine, e-commerce, retail, video gaming, real estate, software, virtual reality, ride-sharing, banking, financial services, fintech, consumer technology, computer technology, automobile, film production, movie ticketing, music production, space technology, natural resources, smartphones, big data, agriculture, medical services, cloud computing, social media, IT, advertising, streaming media, artificial intelligence, robotics, UAVs, food delivery, courier services, e-book, internet services, education and renewable energy.
Tencent is super active. They have investments in over 600 companies and each of these companies has an app suitable for you.
The question that naturally arises after seeing this list is, “isn’t there an app that can delete any app that is made in China?”
The good news is – there is! The bad news is Google removed it.
Google quickly removed a popular app designed to remove Chinese apps from smartphones. The app, called ‘Remove China Apps’, was immediately popular and garnered nearly five million downloads; people around the world are becoming more informed as to the monitoring of devices by the Chinese government.
The app, ‘Remove China Apps’ was free to download, had no ads, and its sole purpose was to detect which apps on a smartphone were built in China. The app was designed and launched in India where more and more Indians are growing aware of the Chinese government monitoring them. Users simply downloaded the app, ran a scan, and the app would swiftly delete any app associated with China from their phone. Once deleted, a message said ‘You are awesome, no China app found’.
The argument to remove the app however, was based on the fear of nationalism – a fear that more apps could be developed that would remove other apps based on nationalism. For example, China could create an app to delete all apps based in the United States, or New Zealand could make an app that removes any map that shows that Australia as an actual country.
The purpose of this article is not to cause fear, but to raise awareness among the Christian community about things that we are seeing on the field that can directly impact you.
This is one of the reasons why we created DingDash.com. DingDash is a social media site that is free from monitoring. Unlike other social media apps like WeChat, Snapchat, or Instagram that monitor you and store your information and data, at DingDash, you are free to live life unmonitored.
DingDash was developed by BTJ to provide an alternative platform for persecuted Christians.
For a detailed more detailed report about this article, you can listen to our latest podcast: