Thursday Briefing: Chinese Spies Compete with U.S. Spies


China’s Ministry of State Security is deploying artificial intelligence and other advanced technology to compete with the C.I.A. At the same time, the C.I.A. is pouring resources into monitoring Chinese companies that are developing A.I., quantum computing and other such tools.

The ministry’s main source of information was once gossip at embassy dinner parties. But it has built itself up through wider recruitment, including of U.S. citizens. It has also sharpened itself through better training, a bigger budget and the use of advanced technologies.

A.I. is key to its goals. The M.S.S. has technology that creates instant dossiers of people of interest in Beijing, including American spies and others. It has intensified its intelligence collection on U.S. companies developing technology with both military and civilian uses.

The C.I.A.’s spending on China has doubled since the start of the Biden administration. Gathering detailed information on commercial trade secrets was once the kind of espionage the U.S. avoided, but now information about China’s development of emerging technologies is now considered as important as divining its conventional military might or the machinations of its leaders.

Context: Beijing’s most acute worry is that the U.S. and its allies could choke China off from technological know-how vital for economic and military growth.

The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement yesterday, opening a new front in the legal battle over the unauthorized use of published work to train artificial intelligence technologies.

The lawsuit contends that millions of Times articles were used to train automated chatbots, which now compete with the news outlet. The complaint cites several examples in which a chatbot provided users with near-verbatim excerpts from Times articles that would otherwise require a paid subscription to view.

It apparently follows an impasse in negotiations involving The Times, Microsoft and OpenAI. The Times is the first major U.S. media organization to sue the companies, which made ChatGPT, over copyright issues associated with its written works.

Explanation: Chatbots can generate answers that rely on journalism by The Times to answer questions about events or the news. The Times said that readers might be satisfied with the response and decline to visit The Times’s website, reducing web traffic and revenue.

Police are investigating the death of Lee Sun-kyun, who played the head of a wealthy family in “Parasite,” as a suicide. A police official said the 48-year-old actor left what appeared to be a note.

The award-winning actor had recently been under police investigation on suspicion of illegal drug use. He denied the accusations, and — after a 19-hour interrogation — told reporters that he was the target of a blackmail effort.

Context: Drug arrests have surged since President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a “war on drugs,” from about 10,400 in 2019 to 17,000 this year, and offenders face six months to 14 years in prison. The country’s entertainment industry has recently been shaken by drug abuse scandals.

Deadheads, ballerinas and Mick Jagger: As 2023 winds down, revisit 59 memorable photographs that capture the year in arts and culture.

Each year, my colleague Kim Severson tries to anticipate the coming food trends. She sifts through predictions from big food companies, PR firms, restaurant groups and more to prognosticate next year’s plate. Here’s some of what she has found:

  • Meals are so 2023. Next year will be all about snacks, which one forecaster called “the ultimate lowbrow cool.”

  • But meal-flavored cocktails are coming. Brace yourself for umami-heavy drinks tasting of chicken or caprese.

  • Water and hydration are still en vogue. Look for “wearable hydration sensors,” flavored syrups and water stewardship for conservation-conscious consumers.

  • Buckwheat is a rising star. It’s rich in protein and fiber — and is showing up in everything from foie gras to hot chocolate to monkfish.

There’s more, including soup, florals, A.I. and natural fermentation. Read Kim’s full review here.


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