Surveillance State: Inside China’s Quest To Launch a New Era of Social Control

St. Martin’s. Sept. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9781250249296. $29.99. POL SCI
For years, China’s Communist Party has invested in new technologies to surveil and control its population. Chin and Lin (both of the Wall Street Journal) interviewed over 150 people in 14 countries to explore the history of this development, along with how it has manifested in different regions of the country. The story begins in Xinjiang, an autonomous region in Western China with a large Muslim Uyghur population, where authorities have pioneered the use of extreme data collection and surveillance tactics. There, large numbers of people have been detained in “re-education” camps. Not all of these technologies are employed for sinister motives, as the party also benefits from improving the lives of citizens. For example, ambulance drivers in Hangzhou have the ability to change the pattern of traffic lights to speed up their response time. The authors also discuss how China has exported these technologies to bolster authoritarian regimes abroad.
VERDICT Essential reading for those interested in modern China. Readers curious about the various ways that President Xi has expanded his power should also consider Kai Strittmatter’s We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China’s Surveillance State.
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