Code is speech.
I grew up in China and have been in China a few times in the past 10 years - the amount of Robocalls and phone scams was overwhelming (in fact, it was so bad that dual SIM mobile phones became popular because you can have a disposable SIM card for non-essential website registrations and one for family members that you keep private use). I had my identity stolen after somehow I went into China Mobile pop-up service storefront in PEK airport to get a local SIM card. People on the line on my back was so close to the counter and peeking application forms with all sorts of private data, which made me very uncomfortable. There are also organized gangs that are operating in selling people's private identity data like mobile phone numbers.
Later it made sense how my identify was stolen in retrospect.
Also, mobile phone number is essentially Chinese citizen's digital identity in a way in that 99% of the website/online services use mobile phone number instead of emails for authentications and 2FA. It's nearly impossible to sign up for any Chinese website without giving your mobile phone number to complete the sign up.
Given China's mobile-centric Internet boom, the amount of phone scams and frauds and identity thefts going on and all businesses (including financial institutions) are relying heavily on, it's a reasonably measure to counter fraud with real identity tying in with mobile phone number issuance.
So no I don't think it's a political motivated move, even though the side effect is making the abuse much more convenient.
No wonder the robocalls and phone scams are overwhelming.
For the university accounts, I'd say only 80% gets trapped into the spam folder (my gmail is an absolute mess, however), but so does 5% of actual relevant emails and conversations, so I'm forced to inspect my spam folder pretty regularly which kinda defeats the purpose of hiding it from view.
Google is quite notorious for their ever changing goal posts regarding email reception. And if your mail is flagged as spam (and based on my own experience the AI behind it is not very intelligent) the only thing you get back is an automated response with completely and utterly useless "support" links.
So while spam may be solved on an individual user level, it's certainly not on the meta level.
That’s not even counting the business related ham google classifies as spam because the sender doesn’t buy email services from people that specialize in making sure marketing trash hits gmail inboxes.
Perhaps it achieves the goal, but is it the best approach? Isn't it doubling down on an already problematic scheme? User names and email addresses are more easily swapped than phone numbers, with facial recognition you're locking yourself even more to the phone number, making it even harder to switch when it becomes compromised.
At least here you need a legal address for bank account anyway, so financial institutions can just mail (the dead tree kind) you an unlock code for online banking, this makes a stolen identity far less useful.
There are ways to solve these kinds of problems that don't also feed the surveillance machinery.
There is no reason to believe the CCP does this to solve the robocalls or phone scams. It would be laughable to think XiJinping and his gangs put this issue on his priority list. The only reason is to locate every individual has a different thought against the government.
Take the Pooh Bear jokes about Xi. He'd love to be able to stop them, but he can't. There's a limit to how total the government's control can be. And with China's capitalist liberalisation, scams and fraud become more attractive, and possibly harder to track down.
CPP police always know the small towns of the most robocall farms and phonescam bases. The reason they do not stop those is because local polices take share from crime money, which also contributes to local economy.
If the CCP gang really wants to stop robocalls and phonescams, they only need to send a task force team from the central agencies. Then they can close all the roads around those small towns and shut down all the phone towers, and then capture all the criminals in a few days. There is no need to use AI for this kind of stuff.
Again, it is simply laughable to think Xi's gang care about robocalls and phonescams. They have too many other things to care about.
If they really had total control, having too many other things to care about wouldn't be a problem. After all, they'd totally control those other things as well. But that "task force team from the central agencies" probably has its hands full securing the little control they have.
Given that they do not have total control, things like combating robocalls and phonescams need to be handled by more mundane countermeasures, like adding bureaucratic requirements to the phone number registration process.
Those people are also able to introduce legislation.
It’s laughable to think everyone in a China thinks the same.
Both China and Soviet Union (probably others too but I don’t know), pre-liberalization were your typical socialist state with lots of means to control people, so they did but... but people didn’t engage in much petty crime or gang crime.
Those types of crimes were more or less very unusual. But in those same states today with more tools to control people, petty crime and gang-related crime (as well as corruption but that kind of always existed), are through the roof.
And it’s not like either are soft on crime.
So what has given a rise to that criminal activity which for practical purposes didn’t exist before. Is it opportunity? That is there was nothing to gain from it before?
The reason for this isn't surveillance or the harshness of punishments.
The reason for it was that when there's an easy default roadmap for your life (School -> Gainful employment), you're not going to drop out of civilized society, and into criminality at the age of 15.
It's not that there's more to gain from criminality now, compared to fifty years ago. It's that there's less to lose. Instead of a social contract that guarantees employment, a shitty apartment, and food on your table, if you just go through the motions, it's a dog-eat-dog-every-man-for-himself world. Unsurprisingly, many people find it easier to drop out of that, and make a living through crime.
 Without even mentioning the truly mind-blowing amount of low-level, and high-level corruption that the USSR experienced.
 Employment wasn't guaranteed - people had to go apply for jobs, have their employment and social records get checked, there was competition for getting into good jobs, etc - but 100% employment was an official goal of the state. This is not the case in either the West, or the East, anymore.
During the chernobyl disaster the USSR kept providing false numbers to the world in order to downplay the significance of the event - to the point of sabotaging the cleanup effort and themselves.
Edit: changed link to original source
Is she in China or overseas? WeChat has different censorship policies for domestic vs foreign accounts, and silent blocking sometimes occurs when foreign accounts communicate with domestic accounts about sensitive topics . It's also not encrypted, and it appears messages are automatically getting forwarded to the local (Chinese) police for investigation .
 We (can’t) Chat
“709 Crackdown” Discussions Blocked on Weibo and WeChat: https://citizenlab.ca/2017/04/we-cant-chat-709-crackdown-dis...
 Over 300 million Chinese private messages were left exposed online: https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/4/18250474/chinese-messages-...
Fair enough. This was with an account that was registered within China, but the traffic is physically originating from the USA.
With all this laser focus on HK / Xinjiang / Tibet something is bound to come up. If they cut the losses by giving independence, maybe leaders would avoid ICC-esque indictments from all this mess.
Maybe it'd be worth allowing anonymous mandatory polling on policies, that way it's not capitulating to external influences and getting a handle of what people are thinking.
But then maybe it's just better to monitor wechat and QQ. But since people feel their stuffs being read, they'll tone down the rhetoric and "behave good" and feign ignorance. A meaningful way of gauging public opinion is now tainted, so much for that. Now there will pockets of people silently stirring in contempt. The usual suspects and instigators won't be the ones to worry about. It's just too much to handle.
And besides all the while we're daydreaming scenarios China can remain unified, people would feel very strained and be suffering. Where do we draw the line between people's feelings and stubborn pride trying to force far flung regions into submission? Maybe it's best to reframe things into what makes society happiest, easiest to manage, and invent a leadership and organizational structure based on those premises. That'd be the most Chinese thing to do.
If China ever has a prolonged economic downturn and stricter sanctions, what happens then? What moves are left?
I get the impression that the video is from the mainland, not Hong Kong. The device he's strapped in looks like a "tiger chair":
Edit: I was looking for a better version of this video on youtube. I couldn't find one, but I did find this English Agence France-Presse story that answers the question of why they'd release a video like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8PgCUap1Vg
The benefit of releasing a video is the fear it provokes.
Not saying this is the case here, but obviously if you calculate outrage cannot grow substantially greater than it already is, might as well try provoking some fear.
Of course it might very well be false, this is just my idea as to why someone might release it if real.
Which isn't much different from having your photo taken for your driver's license, passport, or at the border, all of which the US does.
Burner phones are mostly associated with criminal activity, so tying phones to identities feels like a legitimate function -- which many countries do. And if criminals are trying to register phones through identity theft, this seems like it would be an additional protection.
If you're concerned with privacy, that's what encrypted communications are for, and if you don't want to be tracked by radio, then don't take any phone with you.
> If you're concerned with privacy, that's what encrypted communications are for...
That's all true, but the real question is: what exactly is "criminal activity?" That's how a policy can be made to seem legitimate on the surface, but can actually be quite sinister when examined more closely.
Policies like this one cannot be examined in isolation, and must be interpreted in context .
I'm pretty sure that E2E encrypted communication products are de-facto banned in China, at least for private citizens .
That's all you need for a face scan. You really don't understand how biometrics work do you? You just need a straight on mugshot.
>Burner phones are mostly associated with criminal activity, so tying phones to identities feels like a legitimate function -- which many countries do.
No, mobile prepaid phones are associated with activity where one does not wish to enter onto a full on Know-Your-Customer like relationship to their network. It is completely legitimate. China is just finding an excuse to try to collect biometrics associated with something basically every citizen is going to need to get by.
>If you're concerned with privacy, that's what encrypted communications are for, and if you don't want to be tracked by radio, then don't take any phone with you.
If you don't like the smog, you can just stop breathing. Just saying. If you don't like driver's licenses, you can just take a rickshaw across the country. Just saying. If you don't like the reeducation camps...
When one flippantly dismisses the costs one's policy decisions will enact on one's countrymen, civilization is lost. Given government policy implemented so far, forgive me if I find the motives and applications of this information to be downright worrisome.
Then people like my mom get tracked and people like my nerdy friends don't. When one thinks of policy and consequence surely one doesn't simply say "well she exercised her agency, so that's that."
Privacy includes who you communicate with, when, and how often... not just what you talk about.
This is especially true when there might be an unscrupulous government willing to round up social circles for "re-education."
A China Unicom customer service representative told AFP that the December 1 “portrait matching” requirement means customers registering for a new phone number may have to record themselves turning their head and blinking.
Reading it closely, though, the evidence on the face-scanning point seems weak. The source is a customer service representative who said may. That's two weak points: a customer service representative is not who you'd normally ask about policy, and "may" also means "may not". Also, that's the only thing that particular source is quoted about.
I'm not sure what to do, because there doesn't seem to be anything unambiguous in the English-language press. All the articles I've looked are reporting on the same directive that was issued in Sept and took effect Dec 1. So I guess we'll quote the directive in the title above. If anyone can suggest a more accurate title we can change it again.
I'm not sure why Australia does that, but it's really annoying.
* Not trying to justify it either direction.
It isn't for tracking homeless people. It's for building network graphs of calls from burner phones to organised crime people.
Most of the time the burners are useless, but once you have a cluster of them you can automatically do data matching on them all, and sometimes (often!) they got lazy on a couple and used the same identities to buy them.
Once you have a few using the same identity then you track that identity down.
The friction in forcing identification means that lazy criminals at the bottom of the structure at some point forget to do it.
Suppose you buy a PAYG SIM, and then use it to make death threats or bomb hoax calls. Easy for the police to track you down and arrest you. (Of course, they still could using other means, like geolocation, but that could be a lot more work.)
And, of course, it isn't foolproof – one could use a fake ID, one could pay some random poor person to buy it for you using their ID, etc – but, the kind of people who make death threats or bomb hoaxes usually aren't very smart.
Showing your passport is functionally equivalent to getting your picture taken. It ends up as a record in their databases that says John Smith, with these biometrics, purchased a SIM with this number.
I guess using Chinese surveillance tech is a roundabout way of getting them to pay attention, as happened with the Hikvision cameras.
It does not mean that usage is monitored, and usage is the important privacy aspect.
Furthermore, this just puts mobile phones on par with landlines. It used to be that having a phone meant having a landline at home, and obviously that meant knowing exactly who a number belonged to.
There needs to be a balance for everything in the real world. And even most Western countries have concluded that requiring IDs for SIM cards is a necessary measure.
Now, for Chinese authorities one issue (without even going into politics) is that China is a very low trust society where it is almost expected that everyone will flaunt the rules at the first opportunity. So I am half guessing that the government sees technological solutions as a way around that.
(As for renting a room, it would be crazy for a landlord not to know who their tenant is just for practical reasons considering land and tenancy laws in most EU countries)
I think one would have to be especially naive to believe that an ID requirement is in place without any provision for usage monitoring.
Edit: Downvotes for a factual answer? Pathetic.
Not really. Unless you lived alone, a landline was often shared with everyone in the household. Furthermore, just because there is a link (by necessity of delivering a service to a physical location), doesn't mean there needs to be a link.
> (As for renting a room, it would be crazy for a landlord not to know who their tenant is just for practical reasons considering land and tenancy laws in most EU countries)
That's circular reasoning, and could be applied to any law.
Edit: How it's circular reasoning:
"The law is necessary because it has been enacted."
"It's necessary to collect ID when renting a room, because the law requires it."
As for how "most Western countries determined it was necessary" - there weren't exactly large, public debates and demands as happened for e.g. gay rights, were there? The laws just came about, very discreetly.
Edit2, due to posting limit: I did no conflating - my point applies to both your statements, separately.
Edit: I have seen your edit.
I did not write that. You are conflating 2 unrelated topics and 2 unrelated parts of my comment although they were clearly separated.
In many countries IDs are not required by law in order to rent a house (afaik). In the UK (which I know most) it only became a requirement a couple of years ago, specifically to check that the prospective tenant was not an illegal immigrant (in fact the requirement is not to check IDs but not to rent to illegal immigrants...)
Landlords require an ID quite independently of any legal requirement because it does not make sense to entrust a real property to someone if you do not know who they are due to the financial liability and the legal procedures required to evict.
In some commercial and legal relations it simply does make sense to assert the identity of the other party.
I needed to acquire that fiscal SSN when buying wine from an Italian web shop but weirdly it's a computed value, not a unique ID you get from some organization: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_fiscal_code
The plan could affect foreigners but it was hard for years already, in that most cellular stores require a Chinese ID to register monthly service (not all take passports). I used to get the salesperson or security guard to lend their ID in my stead, and this is exactly what this policy seems designed to prevent. Hotels and train stations have operated under facial authentication for a couple of years too for Chinese nationals. This seems to be along the same vein, to ensure the person is who the ID says they are. In other words, it's handing over the ID-checking from a person to an awkward police-sanctioned box.
I’ve only successfully roamed with T-mobile on WiFi. Maybe its better now?
I roamed on T-Mobile pretty successfully using a cell connection last year, but I had to buy a $20 1G data pass and some other passes for it to work. It was worth it for the reliable unfiltered internet access.
My current T-Mobile One plan was worse for this than my old grandfathered (Select Choice?) plan, which could limp along at 2G speeds out of the box and only needed the data pass for usable speed.
Most major stores I've seen check ID at checkout time before activating a prepaid SIM.
 Go to any immigrant-dense area, look for a corner store, and you can probably just top up in cash and ignore this.
Remember that this doesn't apply to roaming users or people buying Travel SIM for China, but those people are not a big worry.
To get a SIM card right now in China you need to have valid identification. The only ones that are acceptable are: 1) China Resident Identity Card; or 2) non-Chinese passport. Both of these already have photos.
Not to be paranoid, but you really created a HN account just to add this comment?
BTW, those spammers aren't sitting there on cell phones making calls.
The damage of punishing someone innocent is orders of magnitude greater than the benefit (or pleasure) of scourging villains, so please err on the side of being a welcoming community member. The last thing HN needs is to stew in its own juices with "Keep Out" signs nailed to the clubhouse everywhere.
Chinese also already have ID cards, 'hukou' (a sort of domestic passport), etc. so I would imagine that the government already has everyone's face on record.
Thus, this seems about enforcing the requirement to provide ID when buying a SIM, because enforcement of rules can be problematic in China.
Which reminds me...
They are (obviously?) having problems collecting sales tax. So at one point they are issuing formal receipts as vouchers that eg. restaurants had to buy form the tax office. A sort of advance payment. When a customer asked for a receipt the restaurant gave them a number of these vouchers.
The smart idea is that they had turned these vouchers into scratch cards to encourage people to request a receipt...
China already requires an ID to get a number, so I don’t see how requiring a photo will help them track people even more? Maybe it gives them an updated photo? However, if you don’t get a new number every few years, then it’s useless.
My own country requires a photo ID to get a number and I’ve been to several other countries that do as well. I guess I’m just used to it now. Similar to how we put our photos on resumes, but my American friends were shocked by that.
However identification is required in the US only when starting a contract phone servie (for Credit inquiries). If you don't want your name attached to the phone number it has to be prepaid. Which always made me chuckle considering the two most common people to give us obviously fake names for prepaid phones were drug dealers and police. I've had days working in phone retail where someone came in and started a prepaid line under "John Doe" and paid for it out of a roll of 100's in their sock. Then an hour later I've got an officer in uniform handing me a name and address he needs put on a cheap burner prepaid phone.
If the photo taken to get the number doesn't match the photo on file for the ID, they can now blame the seller. That creates an incentive for the seller to actually check the ID.
That is out of reach for the vast majority of Americans
This has been a requirement for a while now..
Having reread Oath of Fealty recently I am really of the belief it won't be long before we end up with heavily monitored enclaves simply out of a desire of many to not put one thought into their own safety and security if surrounded by like minded individuals who all give up privacy in order to guarantee the safety and security of the group.
All the photo apps today that are associated with youth involve many many pictures of themselves they tag with identifiable information so it is not a big leap to think that this level of privacy is not something they consider a big deal. To them their image is their identity and they want to be recognized. Privacy would only mean protecting what they chose not to make public.
There certainly is this odd occurrence where we have many denouncing loss of privacy who at the same time ask the government to do more for them which requires giving up more information to more groups. It really comes down to, which items of your identity are public and private. your image certainly is public and why would you in any sane society be afraid of that association?
I suggested sending in homeless people to get the phone if it’s a prepaid one.
But more to the point, if you want anonymity in such a regime, you have to commandeer other people’s accounts and hope they don’t get in trouble. This is what botnets do, etc. But you may be able to use payphones or libraries or hotel phones etc. as long as you cover your face, fake your gait etc. and even that may not be enough when we are talking about heartbeat signatures, infrared signatures and so on.
Timing attacks, style of writing analysis etc. can also be used to easily out someone these days. Anonymity is quite fragile.
Read more about the mechanics here... it goes back to the Digital Imprimatur of 2003 which started it all for me
They are unsure how -
China will use its power to prop up autocratic regimes across the world and export its technology and methods to make such autocracy possible and sustainable.
China represents a threat to global democracy which must be recognized and must be treated as such.
I am not trying to play “whatabout,” but I do ask: Is there anything different about China’s behaviour as a superpower? Or are we just seeing a shift in which superpowers have world influence?
At the moment I write this, the front page of HN has an article about China and facial recognition... But also an article about US schools monitoring student emails.
Which seems to me like training a generation of citizens to understand that they live in a prison without walls.
The USA is a democracy and has by and large championed democracy around the world. China is ruled by a 1974 style dictatorship, a country ruled by a single Party not the rule of law.
Comparisons between the US and the CCP conveniently ignore this, yet it is what really matters.
Law enforcement will always exist in a nation of laws, yet the simple fact that law enforcement exists both in a dictatorship and in a democracy does not lead us to conclude democracy and dictatorship exist on an equal moral footing.
The underlying values matter.
Remember that Xi was sent to a re-education camp in his youth and was initially considered to be an average politician. If he was able to rise to power, there’s no telling what changes can happen in the decades to come.
Words are meaningless if not backed up by action.
> Article 35. Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration. 
Also, from the introduction section of the Wikipedia article:
> Though technically the "supreme legal authority" and "fundamental law of the state", the ruling Chinese Communist Party has a documented history of violating many of the constitution's provisions and censoring calls for greater adherence to it. Furthermore, claims of violations of constitutional rights cannot be used in Chinese courts, and the National People's Congress Constitution and Law Committee, the legislative committee responsible for constitutional review, has never ruled a law or regulation unconstitutional. 
> Words are meaningless if not backed up by action.
Exactly: the PRC's constitution forbids gender discrimination, but even government job postings will frequently ask for men only. That shows how significant the words are, in this case.
Have we though? As far as I can tell we've only done that to our enemies. Our "allies" such as Saudi Arabia receive no such "championing".
From other people's point of view, democracy might as well be weaponized regime change.
The counter-argument is that USA has subverted democracies in its sphere of influence and backed harsh, authoritarian regimes when it suited its interests, just like all other Superpowers to date.
It’s not even clear that the US champions democracies within its own borders these days, what with all the gerrymandering, voter suppression, laws prohibiting “felons” or prisoners from voting, the electoral college, and so on.
Was 2016 a democratic election? America seems divided on whether there was interference from Russia, and if so, whether America condemns it or actually supports it.
After all, your current President actually asked Russia to find dirt on his opponent during the election in a “HaHaOnlySerious” way, and the country now seems divided on whether he exerted pressure on the Ukraine to subvert American democracy, and if he did, whether that is a bad thing or not.
I’m not saying that the USA is a harsh authoritarian state in 2019, but please understand that once you leave the echo chamber of people chanting “USA! USA!,’ it isn’t always crystal clear to the rest of the world that America walks its talk.
Something most Americans, let alone non-Americans, don't understand is that the Federal government was a creation of the member states, not vice versa. Perhaps the best example of this aspect driving what currently appears to be non-democratic traits is the composition of the US Senate.
Every single member state, no matter how big or large its population, gets 2 senators. Most American voters (it happens to be left of center voters right now, but if it favored left-wing candidates, right of center voters would flip out) feel like this is unfair, and question why it was put in place.
The reasons hearken back to the creation of the Federal government. The individual states that had to cede their own power for a federal government refused to join the union unless the Senate was created, with equal representation for all member states, regardless of population. Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and other states which are now ironically all left leaning politically, were concerned that the states with large populations, such as Virginia and Pennsylvania, would obliterate the concerns of their citizens in a purely democratic system. Hence the Senate, and as a side-effect, the electoral college system. Think of them as a geographic weighting, where each member state's power by population is limited or expanded to create a more balanced power structure.
Regarding the "USA has subverted democracies in its sphere of influence", while this has been true with certain nations (Shah in Iran, Saudi, Guatamala, etc) it has also not been the case with others, such as all of Western Europe post WW2. Nations liberated by the Soviets weren't actually allowed to dictate their own futures, unlike those liberated by the US.
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail.
Yes! When Britain was colonizing the world it was not nearly universally agreed upon that colonialism was bad. Ditto for the USSR and US. China is trying to export a system of values that pretty much the entire developed world knows (and has plenty of examples to cite, some of them recent and close to home) lead to mass oppression and suffering.
(Apparently dang won’t like this comment, and rightly so, so this will be my last comment on this thread.)
But the US did also prop up democratic regimes. Now, in contrast, China and Russia... did they ever help democracy, anywhere?
> From 1975 to 1979, Xi studied chemical engineering at Beijing's Tsinghua University as a "Worker-Peasant-Soldier student". The engineering majors there spent about 15 percent of their time studying Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong thought and 5 percent of their time doing farm work and "learning from the People's Liberation Army".
So, university education in chemical engineering, with 20% political content. Still, not "only an elementary education".
He's basically the Canadian version of Breitbart.
Update: changed link
We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21685327.
It's important to talk about the worlds' woes. Shining light onto issues is how they're resolved.
This thread's topic is about yet another step to reduce anonymity in China. This trend of full-disclosure with regards to any kind of society move ( getting a cell phone, paying a bill, boarding a bus, etc ) IS scary, regardless of the country that employs it.
Lots of countries, not excluding China, have terrible human rights violations that need to be talked about. These kind of issues do make the place a scary proposition to visit for foreigners and tourists -- and furthermore I share the commenters opinion; as a younger person I wanted to travel around China, as an older person who has witnessed recent events, I no longer want to. It's not flamebait, and it's relevant to the thread; these kind of societal decisions sway tourists like myself away from your coutry, regardless of which country it may be.
Can't we reserve 'nationalistic flamebait' for the really ludicrous and racist comments that float around the nation-based threads, rather than the useless anecdotes?
People often seem to think they're making nuanced factual statements when they're actually making blanket emotional ones. Those have degrading effects on discussion here when they're about entire nations, entire classes of people, and so on—and they're easy to avoid if one chooses to.
Part of the issue is that HN threads feel like intimate conversation—which is wonderful and something we consciously cultivate. But it's all fully in public and the audience is large and highly international. Because that gap isn't obvious, it leads people to say things which might be inconsequential in a small group, but are just the opposite here.
It only takes a little objectivity and/or empathy to get what it must feel like to come to HN and encounter putdowns of one's country or one's demographic. That's not cool, and fortunately it's not necessary, so commenters here are responsible for clearly disambiguating their comments from that.
Edit: seems you can't even follow your own rules, both for insulting me and "Don't feed egregious comments by replying; flag them instead. If you flag, please don't also comment that you did." So is my comment egregious and shouldn't be replied to, or is it fine??
The bigger context is that in the US, there is SUPPOSED to be a system in which companies can successfully resist government demands (remember that Apple did this to the FBI when they wanted to crack a criminal's phone passcode), whereas in China, that cannot happen. So yes, people give away their data for stupid conveniences, but Facebook/Google etc aren't supposed to share the data with the government. They have done so, as Snowden revealed, so this is by no means a perfect system.
What really upsets me about China's system is the bigger system of social credit this ties into. You can't get on flights want your score gets too low. The guy exposing fake martial arts masters isn't allowed to leave the country.
Saying that "Facebook/Google etc aren't supposed to share the data with the government" only makes sense in some abstract sense of it wasn't supposed to be like this. But power tends to coalesce - the only "supposed to" is in some abstract moral stewardship sense, a responsibility that has been long forgotten by the business community, if it ever existed in the first place. Facebook/Google want to agglomerate data from the financial surveillance bureaus, and the (nominal) government buys the proceeds from both of them in a "free market" transaction. And then on the output/control side, companies use these surveillance databases to weed out "undesirable" customers, with their competitors following in lock step lest they end up with even more undesirables.
Can you elaborate on what you mean by "aren't supposed to"? The phrase sounds like there's a law prohibiting them from giving data to the government. But AFAIK the third party doctrine says you have no expectation of privacy for data that you hand over to third parties, so they're free to hand over data to the government. The only reason they don't is because of possible blowback from customers.
Of course its difficult to go around "off the grid"; most of these services became big precisely because they make aspects of life easier -- ergo not using them means life is more difficult. But it is feasible to refuse adding data to them without actively violating the law, which is the point of concern.