Hikvision and the China Communist Party

By John Honovich, Published Jan 12, 2016, 12:00am EST (Info+)

Just days after getting $3 billion financing from the Chinese government, Hikvision celebrated opening their own Communist Party company committee. While undoubtedly a great honor and powerful move inside of China, the impact of this to the rest of the world is much more concerning.

In yet another English language exclusive, IPVM examines what Hikvision is doing and the risks this presents for the global video surveillance industry.

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Comments (88)

Next time you talk to a Hikvision employee, ask them about this, i.e.,

  • "What is Hikvision's connection to the Communist Party?"
  • "What is Hikvision doing to ensure that the Party can never have access nor ability to spy or access Hikvision products?"

I am curious what they will say. The reality is, though, that if the Party wants it, there is little to nothing that an state owned enterprise like Hikvision can do to stop it.

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what are doing John you know they have to take a pledge now not to betray china. if they answer that question the wrong way they disappear for ever.

why would you do that to the lowly employees just trying to make enough to eat.

the only answers you will get are these officially if you get them

1. we stand behind fully with whatever position the party takes at anytime.

2. the Chinese government fully respects all business deals, agreement and treaties with other countries and honors them. (even though they wont do so anymore than any other government)

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Eddie, I agree with you in general.

Two things I would respond:

"why would you do that to the lowly employees just trying to make enough to eat."

Hikvision executives seem to be making fairly good money. I do not think that Jeffrey He and his peers are anywhere near starving. But I agree, answer the wrong way, the consequences are severe. But shouldn't that scare reasonable people in the free world?

"(even though they wont do so anymore than any other government)"

The Chinese government is on a whole other level compared to any Western government. Let's not pretend to equivocate or say they are all just the same. China is the middle of a reform / purge of, by its own measure, 100,000+ corrupt officials. China is the middle of kidnapping Hong Kong booksellers who sell books critical of the Party, etc. China has no freedom of the press, rule of law, checks and balances on the Party, etc., so they can do far more (good, bad or evil) than any Western government.

Update: One of the Hong Kong booksellers, who is a Swedish citizen, has 'confessed' to a hit-and-run car accident in China that killed a girl 11 years ago. The Chinese government said that the bookseller decided to return to China in the middle of a Thailand vacation. Considering he has riled the Communist Party elite by publishing books offensive to them and that he was on vacation when this happened, and that there are 4 other booksellers still kidnapped, it's a pretty scary example of how the Party operates.

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When you said employee I though you meant grunt/tech/sales I wasnt thinking management and executives so I misunderstood there.

And while the tatics are different, it doesn"t change the that desire/actions aren't the same. while most western government wont storm a business for the reasons they list out in the open it does not stop them from more covert actions such as IRS audits, federal searches and seizures under the love, sunshine, and kittens act (what ever they call the patriot now) and misc. alphabet letter agencies there are floating out there.

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"it does not stop them from more covert actions such as IRS audits, federal searches and seizures under the love, sunshine, and kittens act (what ever they call the patriot now) and misc. alphabet letter agencies there are floating out there."

What limits them is the fact the US government does not have any media control. When the US government does something wrong, it knows the risk of it being publicized and the problems that come with it.

In China, the media control is unrivaled and the Party can do whatever audits, seizures, kidnappings, etc. and can have it suppressed inside China and the journalists or opposition leaders imprisoned. That is why it is so much harder for this to happen in the US.

Btw, check out various articles about China's media control, it's at a level of sophistication and breath that no country has ever done. Here's a great interview series from Beida (Peeking University) where students and professors speak frankly about it.

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using Undisclosed 8 Manufacturer logic - what is yours (or any other person in your environment - I do not want to use personal argument) grandparent connection to Christian church? What is your connection with inquisition?

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Hikvision's promotion, along with the $3 billion, shows Hikvision's importance to the party and the government.

Related: Chairman Xi Gives Hikvision Two Thumbs Way Up..,

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"Having millions of Hikvision cameras inside foreign networks is very valuable for Chinese government spying."

I did a recent install where the client has a separate camera network and using the latest Hikvision SADP tool I was unable to set an IP address with blank gateway address so I had to go into each camera directly and set the IP.

Maybe they want all device to be able to phone home.

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So remind me again why its worth it buy Hikvision products at ANY cost?

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To put them out of business if they are really losing money on each camera sold here.

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Ha ha but Hikvision has ~ $1 billion USD annual profits from their internal Chinese operations, add in the $3 billion new government financing and the losses Hikvision can absorb are fairly massive relative to the size of the video surveillance market (which is ~$10 billion total excluding China).

And Hikvision does not need to do this forever, just long enough to bankrupt the Shenzhen manufacturers, the Taiwanese, the Koreans, the Western OEMs, etc., so they can get to a world with just a small number of large premium priced competitors.

As Hikvision's Chairman / Communist party secretary declared:

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I think you have too many concerns on Hikvision and China government, and your judgement probably also mixed some biases against China companies. Hikvision is a pretty big company, and its biggest share holder is a research institute of China. they have thousands of employees and also their supplier and customers have many jobs related to Hikvision. that's why China government has more "controls" on Hikvision. and it's also very natural that big state owned companies in China have "communist party committees". the people in this commitees are not dumb, they may actually appreciate US civil rights and value and lifestyle, and they may even stay half of the time in US and speak English well, they may drink beer with you in Las Vegas, but they just pretend to be listening in that meeting, and pretend to agree with what they were told. China people and China company have no big difference to US people and US company. Hikvision is strong not because they were given a lot money by government, which are debts in fact. They are strong because they have many people working overtime and even on Saturdays and Sundays and make cheap and high quality products. They earn money while competitors are losing money, but competitors just envy and don't admit they are losers.

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"its biggest share holder is a research institute of China."

No. Hikvision's biggest shareholder / owner is CETC, which is a branch of the Chinese government based in Beijing.

"they just pretend to be listening in that meeting, and pretend to agree with what they were told."

I can believe some or even many take that approach. That does not mean that they will risk or disobey a direct order from senior Communist party officials.

"They are strong because they have many people working overtime and even on Saturdays and Sundays"

Many people in many companies work hard but that does not explain or account for why Hikvision is 10x the size of Avigilon, 40x the size of Vivotek, etc. I certainly believe the people at Hikvision are hardworking but that alone would make them a regular good company, like Avigilon or Vivotek, etc. What makes them super powerful is their Chinese government ownership.

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My company works with a fair number of manufacturers and I must say that the support and willingness to listen to us is by far the best in Hikvision. When it comes to OEM price,Hikvision is often not the lowest.
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why the key differentiator is ownership?

definitely it is the ability to get massive government contracts which is not the same! this is backing their pressure in other areas.

and they are really working hard...

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John, by your logic big and successful companies inside China pretty much can't get there without Chinese government ownership. Then it won't help to explain the success of Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Dalian Wanda and many other category leaders inside China. Chinese government invested less than $500,000 in Hikvision in 2001, it has grown with a combination of government projects and the hard work of its employees. To attribute most of the power to the Chinese government would be in effect tipping your hat to the communists. If the communists are so good at running businesses and their economy, then why don't we all adopt communism? Of course that is absurd. The Chinese communists have been successful precisely because they abandoned much of communist doctrum and embraced capitalism instead. The Chinese communists are in name only for the most part, they are doing exactly what South Korea, Taiwan and Japan did to lift them from developing economies to that of developed.

I understand the rise of China and in this case a government owned entity like Hikvision may make you uncomfortable, but to take a black and white stance and label a whole group of people as communists, thus more or less enemies isn't helpful. For a lot of people it is downright insulting. Most in China understand the circumstances they live in, they are not stupid. Would they want more press freedom, more personal freedom? Of course. Are they happy with their lives? I would venture to say the current generation are probably happier than most in the West for their lives have improved tremendously in the last 30 years. We in the West assume that if given an alternative the Chinese would embrace Western ideals, I am not so sure.

If you have a chance, you really should visit China and see for yourself. You might surprise yourself, unless you are afraid your opinions can be changed.

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"Then it won't help to explain the success of Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Dalian Wanda and many other category leaders inside China."

Well the Chinese government blocking out Western tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. certainly have helped them greatly.

"to take a black and white stance and label a whole group of people as communists"

Read the original article. I am making a factual assertion based on a primary Chinese reference that the leadership of Hikvision is senior Communist party members and that Hikvision has been promoted inside the Communist party.

Thanks for your feedback, thanks for challenging us to 'read Chinese', you have helped us expose Hikvision's practices and backing. We will continue to do so.

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ok, facts are nothing without setting the (proper) context. for example, your link to China cyber security activities (wiki) - they are listing about 6 facts for 40 years. what does it mean in real? does it mean that there were only 6 by 40 years (ridiculous)? or these were most interesting? what does these fact prove?

and credit line - others are trying to put context (comparing Hik with other Chinese companies and Hik relations with other financial agencies). it would be nice if your articles contain context from the very beginning.

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"and credit line - others are trying to put context (comparing Hik with other Chinese companies and Hik relations with other financial agencies). it would be nice if your articles contain context from the very beginning."

The other credit line was not done / disclosed until after we published our article. So yes, 'it would be nice' but it's by definition not realistic to report the future. Thanks.

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do you mean to implicitly agree with two other arguments?

just can't avoid temptation to use one of your fencing touche.

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want to vote +10!

From inside, they are fighting hostile multiple issues (like air pollution or quick and hyper urbanization), but they are making their own life.

and they are different. differences in people, differences in different places.

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Playing devil's advocate here - these days, ANY security company is potentially subject to control by its home government. Even if Western companies are not directly controlled by their governments, there's always the chance that the local government might ask for a back door or another such favor - or perhaps not even ask. While I can't argue against casting a wary eye on Hikvision, we should be casting a wary eye everywhere.

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In the Western world, if a government asks for a back door, this request can be leaked to the media, and the media will be happy to publish it and it will get widespread coverage. Also, other parts of the 'government', e.g., opposition parties will be happy to criticize this.

In China, if the Communist Party asks for it, and its leaked to the press, the journalist and the company is going to be imprisoned or worse. There is no opposition party allowed nor freedom to criticize the Party.

Though, of course, in the Western case, the government has to ask or be sneaky. In Hikvision's case, it is the government. What's the probability that the US government has Arecont's source code? Very low. What's the probability that the Chinese government has Hikvision's source code? By definition, of course.

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What's the probability that the US government has Arecont's source code? Very low. What's the probability that the Chinese government has Hikvision's source code?

And the odds that China has Arecont's source code?

If they want to do business there... How's that for hypocrisy?

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Btw, some access to the code is the requriment for supplier from any security concerned entity. If concerns are limited, the procedure is like that (description of a real case): Supplier provide dedicated environment with all toolsets and sourses, inspectors are cheking that it contains no stealthes or not alteren in another way. Than they are building all binaries, verifying that they are the same as in official distribution - so the sources are not altered. And finally, they are using tool for static and dynamic analysis, to proove that there are no hidden activities within. I can expect that if tools are also classified - environment should be cleaned up (even physically). And if security is the real concern - full source share is a must.
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While the Chinese government, by definition, has Hikvision's source code, this may not mean as much as it appears.

Any bureaucracy has warring fiefdoms who may not have interest in sharing things with each other. In my country, the Department of Homeland Security consists of agencies that are in some respects competing with each other, and the DHS itself is competing with other government departments. Remember that Watergate uncovered disputes between the FBI and the CIA.

While one Communist Party Central Committee could order the local Hikvision committee to put the "monitor IPVM membership" code into the Hikvision software, that doesn't necessarily mean that the local Hikvision committee would actually do it. The Communist Party in China has had a dispute or two over the years, and those are just the ones that we in the West know about. (The Cultural Revolution was a little hard to hide.)

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Hikvision could help itself greatly if they could somehow explain away this relationship.

I wonder how much they would actually be helped if they could though?

Poll: "Would you buy more Hikvision product if you learned that Hikvision was no longer owned by the PRC?"

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Poll: "Would you buy more Hikvision product if you learned that Hikvision was no longer owned by the PRC?"

That's a worthwhile poll to do in the future. I'd probably though ask it the other way, since it's more directly related to the current reality, i.e., "Knowing that the Chinese Government owns Hikvision, would you be less likely to buy Hikvision's products?"

Added: Chinese Government Owns Hikvision - Impact On Buying Hikvision Products?

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I'd probably though ask it the other way, since it's more directly related to the current reality...

I'd agree, though I was just trying to capture the essence of

Hikvision could help itself greatly if they could somehow explain away this relationship.

My thought being that most people don't know to begin with, so the only real benefit to Hik would be those customers or potential customers who do know and would increase their spending if their fears were assuaged. Everybody else just keeps chugging.

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About 6 months ago, our company decided to avoid using Hikvision because there is a possibility, even if it is small, that the security of our clientele may be compromised. Bottom line, we do not trust Chinese Government influence in the marketplace. A competitor in our local market has gone the exactly opposite and is using nothing but Hikvision. I hope we are right.

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China threaten argument is always a good topic to get readers. But it's really funny to see so many such guessing comments without any evidence.

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Thank you undisclosed Hikvision employee for the comment.

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So much for the mandatory preamble.

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John, this is strictly my opinion. IPVM is very neutral when it comes to doing what they originally set out to do, which is provide real analysis to the industry of comparisons between manufacturers and reviews of the various products they offer to the industry. But, it seems as if IPVM is really on a political kick here, with it, it seems as if there is a real vendetta against Hikvision at times. This is probably caused by Hikvision not responding at all about these types of articles. When critiquing Hikvision products and comparing Hikvision products, IPVM seems to do a fair and unbiased analysis. Lately, Hikvision seems to be on the very positive end of those analysis. But when doing these more political type of articles, such as this one on the recent $3.1 billion line of credit, nowhere do they mention any of the other multi-million or billion dollar lines of credit Hikvision has gotten with some of the bigger international/European banks, only the government loan. It is big news, it would seem, that they received so much of a credit line for expansion, BUT they are the largest CCTV manufacturer in the world and they are involved in some fairly large Safe City CCTV Security installations, in China and other areas of Asia that require an enormous amount of outlay of equipment before getting paid, normally after the jobs are completed. What looks large to a lot of other CCTV manufacturers, is not necessarily large to Hikvision.

When thinking about the whole communism thing in China, whether Hikvision products or every other product we all buy on a daily basis from China, with all sorts of other names on them, I feel we are helping to bring change in China. There is no other bigger game changer in the world than economic pressure. The more China becomes integrated into the world economy, the more they will change towards free rights. Additionally, the more the economy ramps up, the more the people demand equality with the rest of the world, along with freedoms based on their new found wealth. This will continue to put pressure on the government of China to make changes. We can all stick our heads in the ground and complain on every front or we can really look at the history of change in any society, which has always been based more on economic change. Additionally, if not China, manufacturing would move to some other third world country and probably will in the next 20 or 30 years as manufacturing chases cheap labor. My belief is that views of the type being expressed in recent articles by IPVM have a real limited view of world economics, are expressing a negative view of a company that does produce excellent equipment with a first class support mechanism. And that’s all I have to say about that, thank you.

Marty Calhoun

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"But when doing these more political type of articles, such as this one on the recent $3.1 billion line of credit, nowhere do they mention any of the other multi-million or billion dollar lines of credit Hikvision"

That's because Hikvision never got any other billion dollar lines of credit. After we did the $3.1 billion dollar post, the other European line of credit came out and was mentioned in a comment.

How is the $3.1 billion article political? It's $3.1 billion. It's news. And it was news that no one in the West reported on until we broke it.

"There is no other bigger game changer in the world than economic pressure. The more China becomes integrated into the world economy, the more they will change towards free rights."

That's funny because just this morning China detained a Swedish human rights worker and China still won't make clear what happened the 5 Hong Kong booksellers that they kidnapped in the past month for selling books critical of the Party.

More broadly, check out books like Understanding China and The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers, that make well documented cases of how the China Communist Party has been successful at maintaining power and suppressing rights while they grow the economy.

"My belief is that views of the type being expressed in recent articles by IPVM have a real limited view of world economics, are expressing a negative view of a company that does produce excellent equipment with a first class support mechanism."

Marty, I recognize that as a Hikvision platinum dealer, you have done well with Hikvision and that's great. And, as you acknowledge, our coverage of their products has largely been positive. I welcome you to provide more detailed economic analysis or third party citations supporting your views on world economics.

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So. I know you American's love the whole Communism-Bashing.

But in what way is this any different then an American company getting ordered by a secret court to do things for the American gouverment in a secret ruling no-one can talk about ?

The result is the same, one just calls it differently.

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Or a US (secret) court ordering a US controlled company to deliver any data they controll in another country to a US agency.
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"But in what way is this any different then an American company getting ordered by a secret court to do things for the American gouverment in a secret ruling no-one can talk about ?"

Well, for one, when things like that happen in American, it can leak and then the press can run it without being jailed (which as you know has happened).

For example, if the Chinese Communist Party told Hikvision to add a backdoor and a Chinese journalist wrote an article, there's no doubt (1) the article would be taken down quickly and (2) the journalist would be arrested / jailed / disappeared etc.

Secondly, American politicians can publicly campaign and fight against this. A Chinese politician who campaigns against such efforts is going to be arrested / jailed / disappeared.

Of course, even more fundamentally, the US system makes it harder to even do these things (1) because of the fear that the public will find out (not a concern in China because of their media control) and (2) because in China, there is no need for a 'secret court' to tell Hikvision, Hikvision's Community party secretary can simply do it directly. In that way, China is far more efficient and effective in their spying / abuse.

Btw, check out various articles about China's media control, it's at a level of sophistication and breath that no country has ever done. Here's a great interview series from Beida (Peeking University) where students and professors speak frankly about it.

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[NOTE: Poster is a Hikvision distributor]

while in the western world a lot of thing reach the media in a safe way, there is no list of what doesn't reach the media

In China due to the goverment system we know press freedom is very very limited.

My point is that we just don't know how to compare influence of goverments and secret services. For all we know both US and Chinese goverment do the same but we perceive it different because there are some other stories that reach the US press.

Making it look like everything from the US is ok and everything from China is shifty to say the least. Going political is something i was not hoping to find on IPVM. I am sure there are security measures at Guantanamo Bay, maybe we should look in to the parties supplying this also?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading the site and all the articles, but the last few months there have been some articles (not all) on Chinese products that do not promote the objective view your site normally has.

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"Going political is something i was not hoping to find on IPVM."

It's political because the Chinese government owns a video surveillance manufacturer. If the Chinese government stops owning Hikvision then it will no longer be a political issue.

"Making it look like everything from the US is ok and everything from China is shifty to say the least"

What video surveillance manufacturers does the US government own? What video surveillance manufacturers is the US government financing?

The reason why the US is not being criticized here is because the US owns no video surveillance manufacturers and provides minimal financing to this industry. There's many things the US should be ashamed of politically but as it relates to video surveillance, the US government is essentially uninvolved.

Try to understand for those of us in the US. The Chinese have a well documented track record of cyber spying on the US (as does the US on the Chinese, who is worse can be debated).

For US buyers, that Hikvision is owned by the Chinese government is a real concern. In the same way, could you image what the Chinese government would do to a technology company that was owned by the US government? The deck is stacked against foreign companies to begin with in China, there would be no way China would allow such equipment. I totally understand their concerns.

Btw, China's new anti-terrorism laws enables them to put backdoors in foreign technology, you really think they are not putting backdoors or other measures in their own products?

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I appreciate the sentiment coming from the US side, but that also emphasizes that the story is not just about a camera, it's quality and pricing in relation to it's competition.

When I read the 'about' page on IPVM 99% is about the technique and the market. Offcourse this topic can be catogorized as news, my interest in more in the technical aspect.

I see there are more comments of people not liking the stamina that is given (wether correct or not) and the subject matter. And no they are not all Hikvision distributors or employees.

From my perspective, what the NSA and others know about the average Joe and the amount of info they can gather is baffling. That goes for other National Security services too, not just US.

My point is that privacy and the perception of what privacy is, is changing a lot. For most consumers and installers (who are also users) I dont think its a problem.

People use cloud solutions, online storages, free messaging services and what not, all storing user data. Apps store and send user info to who-ever buys it. And 99% of users click 'accept terms' in less than a heartbeat.

I am not saying all is good with Hikvision and the Chinese goverment. I just think most users and buyers will simply not care, as privacy is not what it was years ago.

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[NOTE: Poster is a Hikvision distributor]

While I agree with the fact that the combination leads to many questions, I also agree with the comments about other goverments and companies.

If you choose to use facebook your upload image becomes their property. If a friend of mine uploads a picture of me using a product, they can sell the image without needing my consent.

Just as an example.

Privacy is changing a lot, with a lot of companies and unclear users of the data.

I think a post with a simular view could be posted on many companies with many goverments or influential parties "sponsoring" this.

Hikvision is getting a lot of slack lately on IPVM (As is Avigilon for different reasons).

Probably the price to pay for taking a market share they way they did

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Hikvision is getting a lot of slack lately on IPVM...

Giving them enough rope...

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Where does the US borrow trillions and trillions, that's with a "T" it seems every time there is a budget shortfall? China folks. Yet we are not to buy any of there products? So on one hand its fine and dandy to borrow from these folks and be beholden to the Chinese government for decades to come but its not OK to buy a product that that government supports? This makes no rational sense on many levels, if they are 'bad people' then it should be across the board and that will never happen.

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"Where does the US borrow trillions and trillions ....China folks."

Marty, yes China buys US debt. Most recent stats have China at $1.25 trillion.

You really don't understand why China does this? This is no act of charity.

China buys US debt to keep the value of their currency RMB low relative to the USD. If they did not do this, the RMB would appreciate significantly against the dollar, hurting their exporters, you know like Hikvision.

So what China is doing is investing in US treasuries to give their companies, like Hikvision, an additional trade advantage over US companies.

This may be good, this may be bad but let's not be naive and think China is buying US debt to help us out.

This is explained in many different places such as The Reason China Buys US Treasury Bonds.

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Except the Dollar has been the strongest currency for the past two years, so the buy US debt to keep currency value low has ran its course. Chinese export has been hurt thanks to its peg to the Dollar, which is one of the big reasons the Chinese economy is in trouble.

The argument that China is so deft at manipulating its currency is just that. During the 2008-2009 crisis, China could have easily devalued its currency to bail out its economy, much like what Japan has done. Except it didn't. Going back in time during the Asian economic crisis of 1997-1998, many would have expected China to devalue its currency then as well, it didn't.

So you can't just cherry pick your data to made the point that China is a currency manipulator. Japan, the EU has had a much more dramatic currency devaluation mandated by their monetary policy in the past few years.

Looking at ourselves in the mirror, the US Fed has been engaged in money printing for the better part of the last two decades, which is why the USD has been in a long secular bear market, aren't we manipulating currencies for our own benefit?

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What is Dahua's position in all of this?

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quietly waiting in the wings with a Mr. Burns grin.... EXCELLLLLLEEEENT.

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Any decent size businesses in China has a communist party branch, Dahua of course has its own communist party structure, exactly like that of Hikvision. I understand John is on a crusade against the communists in China. If you really want to have zero associations and provide no benefits by extension to the Chinese communist party, you will have a tough time doing so. This pretty much extend to the iPhone, Macs, the stuff you buy from Walmart and so on.

The heart of the issue really comes down to this, do we in the West want to engage with China or not. If your answer is yes, then where do you draw the line in terms of commerce? If the answer is no, well, it is a day late and a dollar short already.

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"Any decent size businesses in China has a communist party branch, Dahua of course has its own communist party structure, exactly like that of Hikvision."

Evidence to support this assertion? Please share.

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Every business of significant size has a Chinese communist organization branch inside it, this is a legacy of the communist rule predates the open door policy since Deng Xiao Ping. It is not a secret, nor is it considered coercion inside China. I assume it might be somewhat a shock to most people outside of China, but this has been such a routine for the past 60 plus years under communist rule that people inside China simply take it for granted.

Of course with new entrepreneurial companies popping up and growing fast, every now and then the government wants to remind everyone this is the rule of the land. China tells workplaces they must have Communist Party units - Reuters

So John, considering that nearly one in four adults in China is an official communist party member, it is sort of like growing up in a religious family. You are simply expected to be a member, and most don't think of it, nor do they take it seriously. Chinese have always been pragmatic, if being a member brings less trouble and more advantages in terms of getting into the right school and doing business, and it is the norm anyways, why not?

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"considering that nearly one in four adults in China is an official communist party member"

Factually wrong. China government reports ~85 million party members versus a population of ~1.3 billion, so 6% of the population. ~1 billion are over 18, meaning 9% of adults are party members.

"Chinese have always been pragmatic, if being a member brings less trouble and more advantages in terms of getting into the right school and doing business, and it is the norm anyways, why not?"

Because some put ethics above pragmatism. It's, for example, while Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiabo remains in jail for fighting for human rights.

Your pragmatism here supports human rights abuses, suppression of freedom, wide spread corruption, etc. And the Chinese government practices are a risk to the US government and to US people.

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And the Chinese government practices are a risk to the US government...

To the government itself?

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please, please, please stop using ethical arguments in technical blog!!! ethic is important for a lot of people, but it is a bit private, aren't it?

intentions (== ethics) are changing - but possibilities remains. let keep this ground! so let discuss facts, possible/probable consequences but not ethical assessments (as for each individual they are obvious, from his point of view).

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John, I am talking about Chinese people as a whole are pragmatic. Did I suggest I am pragmatic and support the Chinese government? I find it highly offensive that jump on your morale high horse and lecture me about Chinese communists.

My family was persecuted by the Chinese communists, my parents and extended family were sent to labor camps for "re-education" during the Cultural Revolution. I found myself an outcast for refusing to join the communist youth league, thus depriving myself opportunities for better schools and advancements. My wife was on Tiananmen Square as a student protestor and witness the slaughter of fellow students. So no, you don't get to lecture me about the brutality of the Chinese communists.

Having life in US and been naturalized as a citizen for more than two decades, I lived the American Dream. I see both sides of the coin. I have been trying to have you understand that while the rise of China is highly disturbing to an American like you, finger wagging towards them isn't going to get them to join your view any time soon, despite what may seem to be the "obviously" better system here. The Chinese communists have been around for less than 100 years, that might seem long by American standards, but it would make it one of the shortest dynasties in Chinese history. With 5000 years of continuous history, it is with absolute certainty we can say the Chinese communists won't be around much longer, it will just be a blip in the long time line of Chinese history. That said, you will be surprised to find that most Chinese in China are agnostic towards their government and they don't necessarily have a favorable view of the American experience either. You can't make a case that these people are stupid and/or ignorant. Chinese tourists are the single biggest group of people moving around the world today, they have their eyes and ears open, they can easily get around the government censorships, they know what is going on in the outside world. By comparison, you seem to know very little about China. So once again, you really should visit China and see for yourself. Unless you are afraid you might change your views.

China people are proud of their accomplishments, they have lifted themselves from abject poverty in 30 years to become the biggest economic miracle in history. This has nothing to do with communist rule. All the Chinese communist did was to help create the biggest, cheapest and compliant labor pool for capitalists in history. With regards to Hikvision, I don't think you will any of their employees or senior management people do their pledge to the party, they don't even think about it. It is an unfortunately fact of life they have to make do within the system.

China will change, the communists will be gone. But all the while, you will be hard pressed to find any Chinese wiling to be patient with your cliched lecturing. The world is more nuanced than you think.

As an aside, I stand by my statement about 1 out 4 adults is affliated with the communist party. Why? Because all young adults are more or less require to join the communist youth league.

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Right, Agree with you completely. I like John's openness to speak out his ideas, that he does not like Chinese communists, neither do I. but if John takes trips to China and find chances to talk to the regular people there, he may change his mind. The western media are always trying to collect the bad things about China and try to create some illusions that are already more than the facts itself. The real fact is Chinese communists are not communists any more, they like capitalism more and people there are also not much different to American people. They also love freedom and like to travel and they enjoy the life with friends and family, and they even like American life style more than what has been taught in Chinese textbooks, and absolute no threat to Americans. The China society is having more and more middle-class, and they are sending their children to US to have better education, and many stay at US later as immigrants later. The Silicon Valley has lots of Chinese Americans, they are closer to regular American people rather than regular Chinese.

In the big cities, China people living standards are also rising very fast, many middle-class people now having a living standard close to American middle-class, and their apartment price is often higher than the houses in California. The educated Chinese people sent their children to learn classical music and many have been good piano or violin performers. some rich guys are buying houses in US.

For such a fast rising country and so many people, why American guys think they are threats?

I guess the fact is that US government is trying to exaggerate the threats, and also many American people start to feel surprise and then upset about the fast change of the world. I talked to an American taxi driver in Hawaii and I told him I came from China. He told me he thinks China is a big threat to US, and China holds a lot of debts of US, and even his sons and grandsons won't be able to pay the huge debts, and China has nuclear weapons, what if China allies with Russia and break the peace of world ? also China is ruled by such a government that many people live a miserable life...

I agree many China people have biases on US, which is because of the education and China local media; but it's same in US, many people have biases on China, also because of the same reason. This is funny.

The real fact is , most China people love US , and the American people, they like to be friends but not enemies. It's absolutely ridiculous to say more about China threats. The threats are created by both sides' media, in order to let people at both sides to transfer their attention, to hate the other side instead. so in China, people were told "all faults are because of US"; and in US, people could be told "all faults are because of China". if you read the book of "1984" (George Orwell) , you may know what I mean.

Also China government is seeing US as strategic partner and leader of the world, so I don't believe the regular China exports electronics to be used as spy tools, this is very stupid idea, and ridiculous. US has the best technology in the world, anyone and any country who want to spy on US, is unlikely to work and easy to be discovered and defeated. Hikvision and other companies in China are trying to do business and make a fast grow of their revenue, do they want to take such risks? I can say it's 100% impossible. Hikvision's competitors in US and other countries may feel this is a good chance to use this rumor to impact Hik's business. this is the most likely reason.

In the end, I would like to say something true but not easy to be realized yet:

Which country has more English speakers now? China or US?

The answer is China, although they are not native speaker, so their English is not as good as American speakers.

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"most China people love US , and the American people, they like to be friends but not enemies."

The issue is not about the 'people' in countries, but governments. American people might be 'great' people but the American CIA may not be that 'great' especially to non-Americans.

Again, will the Chinese government buy IP cameras from a manufacturer owned by the US government? Absolutely not. Powerful governments rightfully fear the actions of other governments.

"Chinese communists are not communists any more, they like capitalism more and people there are also not much different to American people."

Again, it is about governments. Chinese communists are not communists anymore, they are simply an authoritarian, repressive regime that punishes anyone that questions their power.

The US government has its own issues but the Chinese government is clearly on its own level (again the Hong Kong kidnapped booksellers, ongoing Chinese attorneys and media jailed for advocating human rights and the rule of law). Either way, both governments have clear track records of using technology and their divisions to spy, undermine or attack their rivals.

It would be great if people could just be people but governments and the power they exert are real forces. For the record, I would not purchase or use an IP camera owned by the US government just as much as the Chinese government.

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I explicitly agree with everything in your reply, excluding that supplier connection to government matters.

"nobody ever got fired for buying Cisco", despite the fact that it sometimes altered by US gov structure. So does ownership matters?

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Thank you for linking to "Cisco CEO lashes out at NSA, tells Obama to stop bugging IT hardware."

It demonstrates a few things:

  • The US government, like the Chinese government, is not to be trusted when it coming to 'bugging' IT hardware.
  • However, US companies can publicly speak out and fight back against such actions. Again, if Hikvision's CEO does what Cisco's CEO does, he would go to jail, period.

There is a risk for powerful governments infiltrating any IT device. The risk is far more severe when the government owns the IT company and punishes anyone for speaking out against them.

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John, to be fair, all these huge American companies, Cisco, Google, Microsoft Apple companies did not speak out for many years, instead silently complying with subpoena and backdoor requests because of gag orders and the like.

Until somebody, Snowden, spoke out.

And the government would punish him if they only could.

So the net/net was, at least pre-Snowden, exactly as you describe:

when the government owns the IT company and punishes anyone for speaking out against them.

just change IT companies, to all the IT companies.

Yes, now it's better, but not because of our government, but despite it.

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Agree, with remark that it looks like CEO was not initiating of this process - but need to respond to public discussion. so he was nailed down to show loyalty (and he decide to be loyal to public).

Let be narrow down statements and argumentation.

Hikvision products are dangerous (btw - agree), because:

1 - Hik is aiming (and partially achieve) global market dominance (totally agree)

2 - Hik is owned by Chinese government, which can be an argument because, in turn

2.1 - government ownership is dangerous

2.2 - China gov has a big track of "bad things"

2.3 - China political system is different, and this matters

3 - Hik products historically vulnerable for attacks

I see some problem with arguments 2 and 3.

Let start from the easies, the last. It implicitly mean that Hik is incompetent, that in turn partially destroys other argument (make their impact weak).

As for the most interesting, the essence of this article - connections between Hik and Chinese gov - let review opinions:

  • gov ownership helps dominance in unfair way - agree, it helps to make lobby and therefore gov contracts
  • gov ownership makes gov owning sources - agree, but this is irrelevant for discussion (proper design makes access to the sources useless for invasion - see Linux). Source access is and entry step for any serious contract.
  • gov ownership covers "bad things" done by owned company (in China). Agree, but this is relevant only for China customers
  • track of bad things - agree. but it look like that a lot of people here (including John) agree that other countries (in the scope of spying) are in the same level - so this argument is irrelevant
  • political system is different - agree. does it matters?
  • it matters - disagree. scandal in press typically does not induce internal political consequences, when it is about spying (Watergate is irrelevant - it was not about gov policy but about politician career). even external political consequences may be minimal (see Merkel spying). so - in US sometimes public get informed, but things just keep going. this argument is irrelevant for Hik case.

So, argument 2 is mostly irrelevant from technical perspective (that it provide additional abilities in spying and other dangerous things). It only (somehow) helps dominating.

So, as other people here are mentioning, Hik is starting to play the game that other companies (like Microsoft, Apple and Google) are playing - they are big, dominating and therefore dangerous. And they are starting it without goodwill - but it is another story.

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>>And they are starting it without goodwill - but it is another story.

"They" mean Hikvision

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John, as much as you want to make it sound like everything in America is forthright, it clearly isn't. The difference between US and China is clear, the overall superiority of the American system isn't in doubt. That said, the average Chinese know exactly what they are dealing with, which is to stay out of politics and focus on making money and you will be fine. The threats and coercions are overt, meanwhile in US the hypocrisy is rules the day. The average Chinese inside China looks at Guantanamo, Ferguson, Baltimore and secret CIA prisons around the world would just as easily jump to the conclusion that this is a government that isn't all that different than that of the Communist government they have. But at least the communists in China aren't busy telling the world they will bomb you in the name of democracy.

"For the record, I would not purchase or use an IP camera owned by the US government just as much as the Chinese government."

I have to chuckle at this, is this a recent conversion? Considering your last job was at 3VR, a not so successful entity that is heavily funded by the CIA.

3VR Security, Inc. Announces Strategic Investment and Development Agreement with In-Q-Tel

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Thank you for bringing up 3VR. As for 'heavily funded', evidently you either do not know the facts or are trying to deceive.

Let me correct you:

3VR's In-Q-Tel investment, 10 years ago, was a very small portion of 3VR's total $50+ million investment / ownership (~5% or less).

As for a 'recent conversion', I have not worked at 3VR for ~8 years. And if you check our 3VR coverage, you'll see I am generally critical of the company.

Now, by contrast, Hikvision is a state owned company that is directly run by CETC, up into SASAC, the Chinese government arm that manages China's state owned enterprises.

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Of course I don't have access to the actual investment amounts by the CIA, since VC deals tend not to disclose the full details. The points is, 3VR was a heavily funded startup and it got funding from the CIA. Did you have morale qualms when you worked for them then or did it become an issue recently? For all your criticism of 3VR, I don't recall you ever making the link between them and the US government.

I am making the point that with all of my interactions of Hikvision and other Chinese video security companies, 99% of the people are just there trying to make a living, making a living in an authoritarian regime NOT by their choosing. I am certain you were just happy to be part of a startup that could go places, and get funding from whichever source you could at the time. So enough of the grandstanding.

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Here's your word game.

You said, "3VR, a not so successful entity that is heavily funded by the CIA"

I debunked that 3VR was heavily funded by the CIA.

Now, you try to dismiss that crucial part, saying "3VR was a heavily funded startup and it got funding from the CIA."

The funding, as you admit now, was so small, so long ago and the CIA has no ownership, control, board of director, etc. on 3VR, that it is irrelevant.

Hikvision is the opposite, they are in the midst of getting massive contracts and funding from the Chinese government, promoted higher into the Communist Party, etc.

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First of all, how is it when CIA help fund 3VR it gets no ownership stake? That makes no sense at all. Of course it is irrelevant today because 3VR ended up as a dud.

Second, my original point is that you have no qualms working for a company that had CIA funding, however small, that did help pay for your salary then. I am intentionally making this absurd point to show that no matter what conspiracy theory you are trying to make, most everyday people, even ones working for a government controlled entity are just trying to make do.

I have known the Hikvision and most of current Chinese security guys for over a decade, I can tell you not one of them thought of world dominating and spy on Americans when they got their start. They were all just trying to hustle and not get crushed by the likes of Honeywell and Pelco in China. I don't think anyone inside Hikvision or even the government thought they would someday ended up being this giant. Heck, even as early as 2004 and 2005 they were fielding acquisition offers from Geovision and then GE Security! They were nearly acquired by GE and merely missed the deal by a few million dollars. So much for government control!

What you are unwilling to recognize is that Hikvision did get to where they are today mostly due to a booming domestic Chinese market and they executed much better than anyone else. The tipping point was the 2008 Beijing Olympics. When Honeywell had a prime role and so did the likes of Cisco, but it was Hikvision that executed better. For much of Hikvision's early life, it was a underdog routinely rejected by government entities and banks. The much preferred vendors were Pelco and Honeywell because they were regarded as having better technology and quality.

Is the Chinese government taking more of an interest and look to control Hikvision now that they are the world's biggest? Of course. Would the US government behave any different? If a US security startup got to be a world leader in size and technology, I am absolutely certain the US government would go out of its ways to protect and grant favors for the said company as well.

If you just look at all the defense contractors in US, did the US government not repeated bail them out? Most of the majors have had a long history of near bankruptcies, and in most cases the government stepped in and bailed them out with contracts and financial aids. Heck, the US government even actively assist in the exporting of their products. So why are you so incredulous about what the Chinese government is doing for Hikvision?

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"First of all, how is it when CIA help fund 3VR it gets no ownership stake?"

Even when In-Q-Tel invested 10 years ago, they had a very small equity percentage. The CIA nor any government entity has never owned 3VR.

This is the opposite of Hikvision. Hikvision was created as a division of the Chinese government / CETC (i.e., one of 50+ government 'research institutes'). Even today, years after IPO, the Chinese government still owns 40%+ of the float and still controls the board of directors.

Feel free to rant on about 3VR but no US video surveillance company, 3VR or otherwise, has government ownership nor control anything like Hikvision.

Just like the Chinese government is free to own video surveillance manufacturers, US buyers are free to reject such manufacturers based on risks posed to US interests and security.

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John, to narrow down possible conclusion of this interesting flood / flame, may I kindly ask you for two polls (see ideas below):

1 - as a sales person, should you inform your customers about potential danger of Hik products and if yes - in what form

2 - what is your opinion about "big industry barrels" (like MS / Apple / Google / Intel / etc.) - how they impact CCTV industry.

my answers:

1 - sure, but without details, as it is hard to share them without be involved in political discussion and avoid bias at the same time

2 - Intel & MS are great by their open policy, so even ignoring our sandbox they are developing it a bit and at least not harm it. nVidia was game-maker for a while and changed landscape eventually. Google and Apple are banning technologies that are essential for CCTV - i expect without intention, but as they are both promoting problem-oriented close culture, they withdraw code from their products and put barrier to use custom code (in contrast to MS)

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It is unfortunate that the concerns with Chinese government actions can sometimes be extended to encompass its individual citizens.

I'm sorry that it happened to you. I know that US citizens can get the same negative reaction in countries that disapprove of our government.

That is not intent of this thread in any way. Nor does this thread undermine the hard work of Hikvision employees.

The thread just about the Chinese government having a major stake in a *surveillance equipment* company.

As per my earlier comment, when it comes to surveillance equipment, the end user simply has a right to know when purchasing if a major portion of the company's backing is from a government. They don't have to go beyond that disclosure.

No one knows the future, but the end user then can consider their own risk profile and political view to make an informed purchase decision.

I actually never had concerns about Hikvision being a supplier based in China.

But when John raised the government backing and the company's communist party association that I felt that information should be transparent to all.

Country alliances shift all the time, and I would personally have concerns with a foreign government having potential surveillance access - especially in a major way. And the Chinese government's desire for high communication control makes them a bigger concern.

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"I stand by my statement about 1 out 4 adults is affliated with the communist party."

That was not your statement. Your statement was:

"considering that nearly one in four adults in China is an official communist party member"

I am not sure if you are being deceptive or you are just sloppy. Either way, your original statement is wrong and I was able to prove it by citing the Chinese government directly.

Ultimately, though, the number of members is less significant than the actions and track record of the party.

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because this is how things are working in communist state (btw, with your own logic - as it is authoritarian/totalitarian state). they need a commissar to keep an eye (on any important business, and any big business is important), and he need some help from local people.

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I suspect there is an issue to assume far or slightly known thing as monolith. China as an example.

Internally, they are different and representing different parties (all within communist party :)). Here I am sharing the idea of undisclosed 4 manufacturer. Facing to outer world, they just holding each other.

So your argument that in case of something special, there is a good chance that American politician will fight against it - you are right is something wrong is done inside US, but do you really sure it will be the case if it is done outside US for US?

Latest leaks about altering Cisco equipment, stealing sim card keys (hey, that is affecting everybody, right?), stealth viruses targeting nuclear reactors - so what? Not to mention old story with backdoor in cipher for public security. Criticism in press – yes. Any politician? So what the difference in real meaning?

What about this boy (Manning), judged for leaking some facts. Definitely, there are big differences between him and your hypothetical hik employee - but the idea is the same: the system is trying to defend itself.

What many of us is asking you, John – please stay on technical ground, on the ground of possibilities and logic, not intentions and ethic. When you are telling that Hik is now backed up by Chinese government money (so we can suspect there will be more money if need) - this info is highly appreciated. But please stop “they are communists – it is bad” – this is only flood-provoking.

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What would you say about this real case: company in Russian jurisdiction that is supplying virtualization sw(!) to US government departments (including attacked 9/11). Most concerns for both parties are not about access to confidential information, but about possibility for US or RU government to force contract to break.

Btw, nobody so far concerned that HIK devices may turn into "brickcam" at M-day.

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Wasn't it about a year ago that Huawei- the Chinese telco equipment giant was banned from sales in the US? Their equipment was designed to give them access. If you ever do work in a DoD facility, you know that thumb drives are banned because the Chinese had nice little back doors in gozillions of them.

Isn't it about time they just quit it?

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Huawei product did not have any design that could have given access. It was US govt agency that took cautious approach against major Chinese telecom manufacturer and other major companies like Alcatel was pressuring to ban Chinese telecoms from entering the US market. And the thumb drives are not banned because they have backdoor, it is because data can be taken out internally.

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I can make you even more paranoid by telling that Huawei isn't just a telco equipment manufacturer, it also makes chips, specifically DSPs that goes inside you guessed it, video surveillance devices. For that matter, Hikvision and many other manufacturers around the world use these DSPs as well as SOCs made by Huawei as cores of their products. The main reasons are the low prices and ease of integration by using Huawei chips. The former leader Texus Instruments is quickly losing share as a result. So there, you can by extension make an argument that Huawei can somehow flip on a backdoor access with all of these DSPs and SOCs.

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BTW, GSM chip is the master in your mobile phone, so it is possible to attack mobile phone RAM from GSM chip. And GSM chip can be hijacked (concept had been shown about a year or two ago).

so, counting 2+2, any mobile phone from any major manufacturer (intruder need to know some details) can be (in theory) hijacked.

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Their equipment was designed to give them access.

They must have outsourced the design to the CIA.

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I applaud John H for keeping this information visible to us.

It scares me enough about US big brother, but as John H says, we at least have visibility to this via the media. And the US government's goals in general are different from China's goals.

In contrast, it scares the daylights out of me to think of China having surveillance access throughout the US.

And this is independent of my concerns of any government effectively buying a monopoly position in a private business.

My understanding from folks in the industry is that, given Hikvision's prices, you really have to include them or someone else will win the business. I get that.

For any company I would be associated with, e.g. if I were a reseller, I would feel it was my obligation to INFORM them of the data that John has provided. I would also think it would be important to disclose in case in a few years, 'spying' through the systems is uncovered.

But if I purchased a system from someone for cheap and only later discovered those facts of ownership, my trust in that reseller would be permanently broken.

This is not buyer beware situation. This is about transparency of the resellers. It doesn't have to be state with judgment/opinion.

The caveat: If Hikvision hears that you even mention the facts (no opinions) to customers, maybe they will disallow you from selling their product...? I guess then you have an ethics issue. I would still choose to be open with my customers but it is certainly a personal choice.

Would be an interesting poll for resellers and endusers to see who feels such disclosure is merited during a sale.

Regardless, better to be informed here and make your own decisions.

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John,

Many of the key decision makers in Security come from the Vietnam and cold war days. I see many of the commercial venues closing up to companies like this. Buy American is going to get more and more prevalent.

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Buy American is going to get more and more prevalent.

Great! Now who should we have make it for us?

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"Books are bridges between generations & across cultures"

Then how does this:

Sit with this:

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Student: Great offer! Can I have a copy of 'Alice In Wonderland' please?

Mr Hikvision: (Checks list) NO! Spiritual polluter!!

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Student: Well, what do you suggest?

Mr Hik: We have several fine works, how about the classic "Modern Firmware - from Mao to Xi"... or 7 time Comrade's Choice winner, "The Joys of Oppression", or maybe you would enjoy this very hard-to-find spec sheet for our 4K PTZ?

Student: Eh... Do you have any non-fiction?

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I would genuinely like to know the answer to the question posed if IPVM could ask the question?

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11, I understand your point but Hikvision is not going to answer any questions about their Communist party control to anyone publicly. They have made that absolutely clear.

First rule of the Chinese communist party is don't question the Chinese communist party...

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This guy is a real party animal!

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