Thousands of people have disappeared from the face of China with no explanation as to where they went or what has happened to them after Chinese authorities took them away. China is utilizing data-analytics to drive a campaign of censorship and policing similarly practiced under the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
Under Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong there was minimal technology, but in the modern world if a nation were to enact similar practices technology could radically improve the amount of control that a regime could impose upon its populace, which is exactly what Xi Jinping, the current president of China, is doing.
The communist party of China has exuberantly strict rules, and if a citizen fails to ‘toe the party line,’ soldiers come knocking. Often times people are taken away by the ‘police,’ with no explanation of where they went or what has happened to them, for things such as ‘extremist thinking’ or simply traveling abroad. One of the most radical things a citizen in China can do is be a Christian. China has for decades enacted campaigns against Christians that has led to the detention of pastors, the disbandment of house churches, the toppling of religious imagery and the burning of Bibles.
The official religion of the Communist Party, some 90 million people, is atheism and anything that challenges that is considered illegal. Similar practices were enacted by former communist and socialist regimes in the 19th and 20th centuries. But today, the Communist Nation is returning to Mao-like practices, such as replacing religious imagery in the home with pictures of Xi Jinping, the party’s leader.
Just recently, a Uighur student returned from Egypt and after arriving he was detained by police. No one knows what has happened to this young man, not his mother, not his classmates, not anyone. However, Associated Press reporters in China went looking for this young man, and upon arriving at his mother’s house and sharing an image, she responded with tears and stated: “Yes, that’s him.” “This is the first time I’ve heard anything of him in seven months. What happened?”
“Is he dead or alive?”
The students’ classmates think that the Uighur student was detained by authorities and joined the thousands, potentially tens of thousands of people, who were sent to secret detention camps. The mass disappearances, beginning in 2015, are part of a sweeping effort by Chinese authorities to use detentions and data-driven surveillance to impose a national police state.
The government of China refers to its detention program as “vocational training,” with the main purpose of indoctrination. A memo published online by the Xinjiang human resources office described cities, including Korla, as “free, completely closed-off, militarized” training sessions that begin in March and last anywhere from 3 months to 2 years.
Potentially tens of thousands of people are whisked away by authorities each year, since the beginning of the campaign. This form of detention was similarly practiced under the Soviet Union, where anyone who merely thought against Stalin or Lenin could have and would have been shot or detained.
However, the communist nation is taking it a step further. China is preparing to enact a social credit system, formally known as a national reputation system, utilizing the latest technology and government data regarding their economic and social status. The system will focus on four main areas; honesty in government affairs, commercial integrity, societal integrity, and judicial credibility.
The Chinese government is planning to implement the system by 2020, beginning in 2014 the government fast-tracked the implementation of the Social Credit System, resulting in the publication of numerous policy documents and plans. The nationwide system will take years to be fully developed, but several aspects of the system are beginning to take shape. In addition, some initial reports detail how the government will utilize what is posted online as a method of forming a citizens rank.
The rank derives from the four main focal points of the system, and the system will utilize facial recognition software, biometrics, and many other forms of technology to craft the rank of a citizen. China states that the goal of the system is to “raise awareness for integrity and the level of credibility within society.” Also, the Social Credit System is being proposed as a means to perfect the “socialist market economy.”
Utilizing such a system will make the disappearing of dissidents easier because every thought posted online, every action taken, every place traveled, every belief held, and every dollar spent by a by a citizen can easily be tracked and rated. Should a rating drop below a certain undisclosed threshold, the authorities can then swoop in and whisk away an individual.
China’s utilization of such surveillance is making the detention of droves of people unprecedented. The marriage between technology and communism is alarming; it makes the comprehensive systems utilized in the 19th and 20th centuries look like ‘child’s-play.’ Hundreds of millions of people died under rulers such as Mao and Stalin, and what Xi Jinping is enacting could enable such horrors to resurface. Although, as of now, thousands of people have been killed and or are missing as a result of the current dissident infrastructure.
Regardless of the current political climate and the planned Social Credit System that will use technology to detain and censor citizens in China and abroad, both Apple and Google, American companies, have attended censorship conferences in China. The CEO’s participated in what Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, called “a vision we at Apple share.”
The purpose of the event, held by the country’s Communist government, was to promote a more controlled and censored internet globally. To which Mr Cook praised in his keynote speech. Stating, “The theme of this conference — developing a digital economy for openness and shared benefits — is a vision we at Apple share,” he said. “We are proud to have worked alongside many of our partners in China to help build a community that will join a common future in cyberspace.”
Openness? China utilizes the largest system of censorship and digital surveillance in the world, according to Simon Denyer of the Washington Post. Tim Cook called for prospective internet and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to include privacy, security and humanity. However, on the very same day, Wang Huning, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee — the seven-member group that rules China — called for more forceful government involvement online to battle terrorism and crime. He also called for control beyond China’s borders.
The appearance of two top CEO’s from America lends credence to the censorship campaigns put on by China and implies that both Apple and Google are in support of the tyrannical regimes’ methods to control its populace. Their appearance is alarming because both CEO’s are responsible for billions of user accounts worldwide.
Should China’s ambition for global censorship gain steam, with the support of Apple and Google, billions of people across the world could fall victim to the will of a tyrannical government, enacting dissident camps and censorship.
The Chinese government has demonstrated that freedom is not an aspect of their ideology rather control and imprisonment are. Utilizing technology China is enacting the largest example of technocratic communism to date, all with the support of Apple and Google.
Gerry Shih. “ Thousands disappear as China polices thought .” Chicago Tribune. . (2017): . .
Lisa Bourne. “ Apple, Google attend China internet conference that promotes control and censorship .” Lifesite. . (2017): . .
Mara Hvistendahl. “Inside China's Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking.” Wired. . (2017): . .