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Big Brother Billionaires Get Rich as China Watches Everyone

  • Tiandy’s Dai Lin is China’s latest surveillance billionaire
  • Critics say the country’s monitoring programs go too far
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Illustration: Stephanie Davidson/Bloomberg

Before he became a billionaire, Dai Lin would ride his bike to work, pedaling through the streets of Tianjin to the headquarters of Tiandy Technologies Co., the camera maker he built with support from China’s government.

When Dai started his company in 1994, roadside surveillance cameras were rare in China. Now they’re everywhere -- part of a high-tech surveillance state that’s stoking privacy and human-rights concerns in the world’s most populous nation, raising thorny questions for international investors, and making well-connected entrepreneurs like Dai extremely rich.