cover image Surveillance State: Inside China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control

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

Josh Chin and Liza Lin. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-24929-6

Wall Street Journal reporters Chin and Lin debut with a rigorous and alarming study of how the Chinese Communist Party uses surveillance technology to monitor residents and quell dissent. They trace the roots of this mass surveillance to Mao Zedong’s Ministry of Public Security, which employed 300,000 people to monitor their fellow citizens. After Mao’s death in 1976, the Communist Party deprioritized social control in order to focus on improving the economy, eventually achieving double-digit annual growth. But as the economy slowed in recent years, draconian mass surveillance returned. In Xinjiang province, home to the country’s Uyghur Muslims, every house has a QR code that the police regularly scan to make sure that all residents are registered with the authorities. Uyghurs, an estimated one million of whom have been sent to reeducation camps, are also subject to regular fingerprinting and the taking of blood samples and voice recordings. The authors also visit Hangzhou, home to the tech giant Alibaba, where the police act more like “glorified security guards” and artificial intelligence is used to optimize living conditions. Throughout, Chin and Lin expose the role of U.S. tech companies in developing China’s surveillance tools and draw vivid profiles of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Uyghur rights activists, and others. This wide-ranging and deeply informed study offers crucial insights into the rising threat of digital surveillance. (Sept.)