Why China Can’t Export Its Model of Surveillance

Article by Minxin Pei: “t’s Not the Tech That Empowers Big Brother in Beijing—It’s the Informants…Over the past two decades, Chinese leaders have built a high-tech surveillance system of seemingly extraordinary sophistication. Facial recognition software, Internet monitoring, and ubiquitous video cameras give the impression that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has finally accomplished the dictator’s dream of building a surveillance state like the one imagined in George Orwell’s 1984

A high-tech surveillance network now blankets the entire country, and the potency of this system was on full display in November 2022, when nationwide protests against China’s COVID lockdown shocked the party. Although the protesters were careful to conceal their faces with masks and hats, the police used mobile-phone location data to track them down. Mass arrests followed.

Beijing’s surveillance state is not only a technological feat. It also relies on a highly labor-intensive organization. Over the past eight decades, the CCP has constructed a vast network of millions of informers and spies whose often unpaid work has been critical to the regime’s survival. It is these men and women, more than cameras or artificial intelligence, that have allowed Beijing to suppress dissent. Without a network of this size, the system could not function. This means that, despite the party’s best efforts, the Chinese security apparatus is impossible to export…(More)”.

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