Comments

AndrewMay 22, 2008 8:10 AM

If more people took the time to read and investigate stories like this it might be less prevelant. Orwell here we come...

carryanneMay 22, 2008 8:42 AM

Amazing! This is a great thing Naomi Klein is doing. The key to defying censorship and brainwashing is communication and letting it come out. So many institutions are turning the blind eye to what's happening in China, and that is supporting the totalitarian success. So I think things are moving in the right direction.

Thank you.

WhatDidYouExpectMay 22, 2008 10:36 AM

So, the Golden Shield is not to protect citizens from terroism, but to protect the government from its citizens.

The place described sounds like a target.

-ac-May 22, 2008 11:52 AM

An outstanding article. However, don't be worried just yet. As we know, centralized databases can cut both ways. Once that database infrastructure is manupulated to expose officals and police and the proxy rewrites are hacked, the same message would get to many Many millions. At precisely the same time.

Reference the movie Enemy of the State--using the watchers' own technology against them.

Davi OttenheimerMay 22, 2008 12:10 PM

Firstly, this transformation does not sound far from America's. Surveillance and suppression of dissent is a very familiar model for consumption.

Consider that the very nature of an American "shopping mall" was to transform a public space with loosely connected independent retailers into a single commercial zone where freedom of speech and expression are lost. In American you can stand on a street corner and state your views under Constitutional protections, but only if that corner is not within the commercial zone considered "private" property of a mall developer.

Thus the success of suppression of dissent for commercial gain is being emulated in China, not originated, no? And why would it not be, given that even Americans have shown they are happy to give up their freedoms and liberties for cheaper goods?

This has been the case since at least the 1970s when the Supreme Court ruled on the matter. It has been in the news as well:

http://www.slate.com/id/2079885/

Also read "What's the Matter with Kansas"

The only chance this will go away is if courts rule that private malls have overtaken public spaces:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F05E7DB1038F932A15751C1A962958260

But the courts are shifting more and more towards favoring corporate interests over individuals, so the chance of this sustaining is low.

Moreover, have we forgotten the shift of the 1950 and 1960s so soon? Hard for me to see the criticism of China without looking closer to home and asking the same questions about how surveillance and political dissent was handled. Remember how the police would arrest political dissidents and publish their names and faces in the local paper for suspicion of being too radical or liberal?

See the movie "The Quorum" for examples:

http://www.quorumthemovie.com/

This is almost identical to what is described in the Rolling Stone article.

Secondly, "export death" has long been a practice of US corporations (toxins, arms, drugs) so exporting surveillance systems that lead to death is really just one step removed. On the other hand, you might call it the exact same thing as export of arms. The shoulder-fired missiles that plague security around the world today are largely a product of the US congressional military complex export policies.

I guess the only surprise for me is that the Chinese would trust an American company to develop and/or install surveillance systems intend for anything sensitive or critical. Would they really trust that there is no back door or secret key?

WhatDidYou ExpectMay 22, 2008 12:13 PM

In totalitarian societies, the citizens are already suppressed, so id cards, cameras, and other tracking is just same old same old.

In "free" socities, citizens have to be convinced (swayed) to believe that such mechanisms are protecting them from something, but in fact they are just the same old same old of the totalitarian socities. We are slowly being swallowed by a now-benevolent dictatorship (yet in disguise) but soon to be non-benevolent when they no longer need our approval (that is, when they have full control).

Davi OttenheimerMay 22, 2008 12:25 PM

"...the Golden Shield is not to protect citizens from terroism, but to protect the government from its citizens."

Curious that you see a distinction. It's about protecting citizens from fellow citizens, as well as others.

Thomas Frank's book explains this in great detail.

GaithMay 22, 2008 1:07 PM

amazing stuff. and to add to that, some computer companies like Microsoft are currently heavily engaged with the Chinese governments to provide "IT Security" services. It looks like the .cn gov will be outsourcing a lot of security services to MSFT.

AnonymousMay 22, 2008 2:06 PM

@carrryanne
"Amazing! This is a great thing Naomi Klein is doing. The key to defying censorship and brainwashing is communication and letting it come out."

Might want to try applying this in the US first before pointing a finger at other nations --- China may be starting to climb out of the pit of censorship and control, but the US, UK et al are rapidly sliding back into it!

Kjetil KjernsmoMay 22, 2008 2:51 PM

Actually, when I visited China last fall, I noticed the relative absence of surveillance cameras. At least, it was very far from London or Dublin, or Oslo for that matter.

Instead, they had a 19 year-old police recruit standing on watch in many obscure places, like underground passages.

It struck me as odd first, and I thought that "with 1.3 billion people, you can do that", but then it struck me as somewhat better than CCTV everywhere.

If someone needs help, like getting mugged or raped, he can step in and help. He does not maintain any records, so there is no paper trail that came come back and haunt you for something that was innocuous at the time.

But then, I guess it comes as no surprise that China too, wants to automate the process. :-(

BrettMay 22, 2008 3:43 PM

Good article, but I have to wonder...is the Golden Shield just a proof of concept for the American Government? I live here and this sounds exactly like what our government would want. The sad part is, there are a lot o pudding-brained people here that would think it is a good idea.

Cameras In BlackMay 22, 2008 3:45 PM

Great article.

The two best investigative journalism articles I've read recently came from Vanity Fair, and Rolling Stone.

What does this mean? I fear that, like Agent K, I'll soon decide The Weekly World News is the best journalism around.

Lawrence D'OliveiroMay 23, 2008 3:54 AM

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."

-- Benito Mussolini

krissMay 23, 2008 4:05 AM

Arctice is comming from the future! It sad that is posted on May 29, 2008 3:24 PM!

So, we have few more days to prevent destiny to become reality!

Eric HMay 23, 2008 10:43 AM

Unfortunately, it's typically Naomi Klein: I always feel like I have only been given the half of the information she wants me to have, with a lot of misinformation tacked on for good measure. She says,

"Remember how we've always been told that free markets and free people go hand in hand? That was a lie. It turns out that the most efficient delivery system for capitalism is actually a communist-style police state, fortressed with American 'homeland security' technologies, pumped up with 'war on terror' rhetoric."

No, that wasn't a lie. It is, however, a lie to assert that a state-capitalist creation in China -- freakin' China, one of the last bastions of Stalinist totalitarianism for crying out loud -- is the same as a free market. Nowhere in this does she note the notorious labor laws, for example, that make it possible to bring in labor from the countryside and then pay them sub-market wages in the factories she visited. The workers are basically illegal aliens in their own country, hoping to make enough money, before they get caught and sent to re-education, to return to the countryside or to leave.

Ms. Klein may be right about a police-state being an effective delivery system for state-capitalism, which is one of the two senses of the word capitalism which she intends. But she also intends to set "free market" equal to "police state", which is Orwellian doublespeak defined. I especially love the way she starts the article off by suggesting that they are losing the idyllic socialist state that China used to be. Apparently, there was no police-state before the Great Leap Backward when George Bush personally forced them to accept Wal-Mart and KFC.

The bits about face recognition from surveillance cameras strike me as mostly nonsense. It's one thing to find faces in a database as part of a sales demo, but another thing altogether to gather data on uncooperative targets in real environments, complete with noise, accumulated dirt, degraded optics, etc. She also apparently believes that the Chinese government can afford to track 1.3 billion people without a significant portion of their resources (capital and human) getting sucked up in the effort. On top of it, she fails to note the irony of writing an article about expanding totalitarianism in which illegal activities are key factors (the fear of theft, the uprisings in China and Tibet, L-1's illegal activities): that's not very effective policing, and even more ironic that she can freely publish it, ostensibly for profit, in the worst police state of all while she can't even read CNN uncensored in the free city of Shenzhen.

However, the parts where she warns about a police-state fired by war on terror rhetoric are accurate. The problem, as several other commenters have noted, is not that China's police state is becoming more tech-savvy, but rather that our own states are becoming more totalitarian. The war on terror has been a boon for totalitarians of all parties. Remember this the next time someone tells you, "The state is great because DARPA brought us the internet." They didn't shut DARPA down after that.

SumDumGuyMay 23, 2008 2:07 PM

@Eric H
-- Wow, you sure read that article with a completely different bias in mind than I did.

For example, you wrote:

> Nowhere in this does she note the notorious labor laws, for example,
> that make it possible to bring in labor from the countryside and then
> pay them sub-market wages in the factories she visited. The workers are
> basically illegal aliens in their own country, hoping to make enough money,
> before they get caught and sent to re-education, to return to
> the countryside or to leave.

Yet, that was EXACTLY the understanding that I took away from the part where she wrote:

> As one young migrant in Guangzhou put it to me, "The local people want to
> make money from migrant workers, but they don't want to give them rights.
> But why are the local people so rich? Because of the migrant workers!"

I think your entire criticism of the article is based on a deliberately one-sided reading. I found every charge you leveled in your criticism to be of a similar nature as the above example, completely based on an apparently deliberate misunderstanding of what the author wrote.

PicadorMay 23, 2008 3:09 PM

-ac- said:

"Once that database infrastructure is manupulated to expose officals and police and the proxy rewrites are hacked, the same message would get to many Many millions. At precisely the same time."

"Reference the movie Enemy of the State--using the watchers' own technology against them."

Ah, movie-plot counter-security!

Good luck with your ninja-like subversion of state power, -ac-. I'll be cheering for you when the ominous L-1 corporate citadel explodes behind you while you dive away from it in slow-motion.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the panopticon will continue to serve its function of making the actions of the state invisible while exposing every move made by its citizens. In the real world, the only time state intelligence data is used against politicians or cops is when it is employed by their enemies within the state machinery; it almost never serves the interests of actual accountability.

Eric HMay 24, 2008 8:48 AM

SumDumGuy

Good catch. I was skimming, given the author. However, I still don't see where she proved her assertion that police-state = free market. They are mutually exclusive, but her life's work is to blur the two in order to indict the latter in **favor** of adopting a more totalitarian state.

Eric HMay 24, 2008 8:54 AM

SumDumGuy

Good catch. I was skimming, given the author. However, I still don't see where she proved her assertion that police-state = free market. They are mutually exclusive, but her life's work is to blur the two in order to indict the latter in **favor** of adopting a more totalitarian state, the main difference being that the *right* people (defined by her) would be in charge of it. Otherwise, I'm in agreement with her assessment of the taxpayer-supported, GWOT-justified growth of surveillance.

carbon 14May 24, 2008 8:55 AM

Picadors last paragraph is the truth, look up dickcheneys house on google earth. the totalitarian information database is already privatized by First Choice. the company that sells the data to identity thieves, and the government.

The people in power hate our freedom, that is why bushists need to surveil every american to know how he votes, what he thinks, etc. Terrorism and terrorists are actually very few, but the government uses this carefully cultivated fear to eliminate all privacy and eventually freedom. Government insiders can then manipulate thier own files like it was wikipedia. Thats what Joe Albaugh did to make every record with the name georgebush on it go away for the entire time of his "military service"
thus hiding his personnel records, as well as the rosters of the alabama unit that was corruptly used to allow him to desert.

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