The Daily Galaxy
May 20, 2008
Thirty years ago the new Chinese city of Shenzhen did not exist. Today, with the help of U.S. defense contractors, the booming city is a model for a high-tech police state 2.0. And, according to some authorities, it’s ready for export.
In fact, China’s massive new surveillance infrastructure efforts leads one to wonder if the recent press surrounding a suspected Beijing Olympic terror plot wasn’t a ruse to pre-empt and head off potential world opinion and criticism. China reported that it had uncovered terror plot to kidnap athletes at Beijing Olympic Games. 35 people were arrested for plotting to kidnap athletes, journalists, other visitors. "Violent terror gang" based in Xinjiang region behind plot, Ministry of Public Security Spokesman Wu Heping told a news conference.
Rem Koolhaas, Prada’s favorite architect, is building a stock exchange in Shenzhen that looks like it floats — a design intended, he says, to "suggest and illustrate the process of the market." The Koolhaas design captures the dynamic boom and energy of this new economic engine driving the growth of post-Mao capitalistic China. A China epitomized by Shenzhen’s transition from an agrarian backwater to megacity in 30 years that represents "a new and potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarian communism — central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance — harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism, or as it’s sometimes called "market Stalinism."
Today, Shenzhen situated on the Pearl River Delta, is a city of 12.4 million people and now houses roughly 100,000 factories. As Naomi Klein writes in her brilliant first-person memoir in the current issue of Rolling Stone, "there is a good chance that at least half of everything you own was made here: iPods, laptops, sneakers, flatscreen TVs, cellphones, jeans, maybe your desk chair, possibly your car and almost certainly your printer. Hundreds of luxury condominiums tower over the city; many are more than 40 stories high, topped with three-story penthouses. Newer neighborhoods like Keji Yuan are packed with ostentatiously modern corporate campuses and decadent shopping malls."
As China prepares to showcase its economic advances during the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, Shenzhen, Klein continues, "is once again serving as a laboratory, a testing ground for the next phase of a vast social experiment. Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts. The closed-circuit TV cameras will soon be connected to a single, nationwide network, an all-seeing system that will be capable of tracking and identifying anyone who comes within its range — a project driven in part by U.S. technology and investment. Over the next three years, Chinese security executives predict they will install as many as 2 million CCTVs in Shenzhen, which would make it the most watched city in the world."
Security cameras are part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known as the "Golden Shield" adopting the latest people-tracking technology — generously supplied with the latest American "homeland security" technologies from giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create Klein observes: an "airtight consumer cocoon: a place where Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cellphones, McDonald’s Happy Meals, Tsingtao beer and UPS delivery (to name just a few of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics) can be enjoyed under the unblinking eye of the state, without the threat of democracy breaking out."
In Shenzhen one night, Klein has dinner with a U.S. business consultant named Stephen Herrington. Before he started lecturing at Chinese business schools, Klein writes Herrington taught students concepts like brand management. Herrington was a military-intelligence officer, ascending to the rank of lieutenant colonel. What he is seeing in the Pearl River Delta, Klein relates, "is scaring the hell out of him — and not for what it means to China."
"I can guarantee you that there are people in the Bush administration who are studying the use of surveillance technologies being developed here and have at least skeletal plans to implement them at home," he says. "We can already see it in New York with CCTV cameras. Once you have the cameras in place, you have the infrastructure for a powerful tracking system. I’m worried about what this will mean if the U.S. government goes totalitarian and starts employing these technologies more than they are already. I’m worried about the threat this poses to American democracy."
Herrington pauses. "George W. Bush," he adds, "would do what they are doing here in a heartbeat if he could."
A few months earlier, in Davos, Switzerland, Klein reports that the CEO of China Mobile bragged to a crowd of communications executives that "we not only know who you are, we also know where you are." Asked about customer privacy, he replied that his company only gives "this kind of data to government authorities."
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