Celia Chen

Celia Chen

Reporter for the Tech desk covering China's tech companies news

Celia Chen is a contributor to Inkstone. She covers technology for the South China Morning Post.

Location
Shenzhen
Language spoken
English, Mandarin, Cantonese
Areas of Expertise
China tech
Virus outbreak gives China a convenient reason to collect more data
The coronavirus outbreak has allowed Chinese authorities and companies to scoop up an ever-expanding set of data on citizens, raising questions about privacy and the protection of personal information. “I have no excuse to reject requests by the authorities to share my personal data when it is done in the name of public safety,” said Wang Junyao, a 29-year-old engineer in Shenzhen. “But what about when the virus ends? Surely the conflict between data collection and privacy will only intensify.” While real-name registration and facial recognition were commonplace in everyday life in China before the epidemic, the practices are being extended to over-the-counter purchases of medicine and all f
My hometown is in lockdown. This is how my family’s surviving it
In the past 10 days or so since my hometown Wuhan went into lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, my mom has been outside just once, to take out the trash. Any other year around this time, she would be busy preparing food for Lunar New Year meals or playing mahjong – a tile-based strategic game known as China’s “national pastime” – with family members. But the lockdown, announced on January 23 – two days before the start of the Lunar New Year holiday – has left her to celebrate New Year’s Eve, traditionally a time for family reunions, alone in our home. As the situation in my hometown worsened, I canceled plans to fly back from Shenzhen, the southern city where I am based.   My dad, who
Chinese tech boss won’t hand out cash gifts amid coronavirus concerns
Many Chinese workers can expect their bosses handing them a red packet stuffed with cash during the Lunar New Year celebrations. But this year, employees at Tencent, one of China’s biggest tech companies, won’t be getting the packets directly from company founder Pony Ma. It will be the first time in nearly two decades that this has happened at the company, as China deals with the spread of a deadly coronavirus. The virus has killed nine people in the central Chinese city where it originated and infected 440 others across the country. Tencent, based in the southern Chinese megacity of Shenzhen, has canceled the handout of these red packets, also known as hongbao or laisee, on the first worki
2019 was the year Chinese artificial intelligence clashed with US
In 2017, China told the world it planned to become a world leader in artificial intelligence (AI). Two years later, that promise came to dominate the Chinese, if not the global, conversation about technology. At a conference this past May, John Kerry, the former US secretary of state, said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement was not the “wisest” move. “It would have probably been smart to go try to do it and not announce [the plan], because the announcement was heard in Washington and elsewhere,” he said. His words foreboded a storm approaching Chinese AI firms. Reports days later indicated Washington was considering placing several Chinese surveillance companies on the US Entity Li
Chinese residents grow nervous about facial data privacy
It took 20 minutes of arguing before the hotel in downtown Shenzhen, a tech hub in southern China, finally allowed Wang Qiyu to check in without taking a scan of his face. Wang, a software developer who returned to China two years ago after getting his doctorate in the US, said he felt harassed by the hotel.  “Airport, train stations, stores and hotels – almost every organization asks for facial data,” the 31-year-old said. “But no one tells me why they collect the data and how they protect it.” He is not alone: Chinese consumers, generally thought to be more accepting of trading privacy for security, are growing increasingly vocal about data privacy concerns as facial recognition becomes mo
Chinese youth are falling for age-old fraud
It’s one of the oldest scams in the book – a caller says your kids are in trouble and asks for money. The surprise is that many people, often the elderly, still fall for this age-old trick. But a bigger surprise may be that the racket is getting a Gen Z makeover, and young people are falling for it. The accomplices: easy one-touch mobile payment transfers and the fact that most Gen Z, the digital natives who prefer online chats to voice calls, won’t think of calling the other party to check. For Xue Youbo, an 18-year-old college student, it was all over in a few seconds. The fraudster hacked into a social media account of one of Xue’s friends, enabling him to impersonate the friend and send
Hate giving up data for access? Tell these Chinese all about it
At a restaurant in China’s southern tech hub of Shenzhen, 28-year-old engineer Wang Xiaoxu was hungry. But her hunger quickly turned to frustration and then resignation. Refusing to share her personal data with the ordering system, she was blocked from buying a meal. She gave up. “There were no paper menus, only a QR code that can be scanned on the table,” Wang said. “I had to agree with a request to collect my WeChat name, portrait and region and could not see the menu, make an order or pay my bill if I refused.” Wang’s experience is becoming an increasingly common problem in China, where people have been quick to embrace the convenience offered by digital services but slower to understand
Inside a Chinese detox center for internet addicts
For weeks, Li Jiazhuo’s mom watched him skip meals and forgo sleep to play online games for 20 hours a day. Then one afternoon in May, the 14-year-old was bundled away by two burly men. They said they were from the Education Bureau, there to investigate his skipping school. But they were orderlies from an internet detox center run by a former Chinese army colonel. “He had cut himself off from the real world,” said Li’s mother, Qiu Cuo, crying as she recounted the events of that afternoon. “We dared not block his access to the internet for fear he would harm himself. It was the end of my world.” Li is one of about 100 mostly teenage boys and girls at the Adolescent Psychological Development B
A tech hub takes blows to its ‘dragon’s head’
There’s a joke going around China that the trade war is really between Washington and one Shenzhen neighborhood: Yue Hai. The district is home to some of China’s biggest tech names: social media giant Tencent, telecoms maker ZTE and drone giant DJI.  “Rather than China, it seems the US government has started a tech war with Yue Hai. It is the district officer who should attend the negotiations with US President Donald Trump,” said the joke that has since gone viral. In Yue Hai’s restaurants and coffee shops, the main topic of conversation is now the US campaign against Huawei – also headquartered in Shenzhen. Many are now waking up to the possible blows the US-China trade and tech war could
Business book ‘The American Trap’ is selling like hot cakes in China
As photos of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei showing journalists around his office began to circulate this week, a book on his desk caught the eye of the public – The American Trap. It was a Chinese translation of Le Piège Américain, written by Frenchman Frederic Pierucci, a former executive with French rail transport company Alstom, about his five-year tussle with the US Department of Justice. It was co-authored by journalist Matthieu Aron. The American Trap, first released in France in January, was published in China in April, just as China and the US struggled to reach an agreement to end their trade war. Its Chinese tagline reads: “how to dismantle other countries’ business giants through no