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CHINA TODAY. TOMORROW, THE WORLD?
In China's shiny new 'Smart Cities', citizens can scarcely cross the road or buy an orange without the Party knowing, and posting a satirical online comment about President Xi's Winnie-the-Pooh-like features can land you in jail.
A generation after the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square, China's autocratic leaders are using powerful new technologies to create the largest and most effective surveillance state the world has ever seen.
This is a journey into a land where Big Brother has acquired a whole new set of toys with which to control and cajole -- 'harmonise' -- the masses. It is also a warning against Western complacency. Beijing is already finding eager buyers for its 'Operating System for Dictators' -- in Africa and Asia, Russia and the Middle East. And with China's corporate giants -- all ultimately under Party control -- being offered a place at the heart of Europe's vital infrastructure, it is time we paid attention.
In this fine-grained and alarming portrait of modern-day China, German journalist Strittmatter details how President Xi Jinping's "thirst for power" and the tools of big data and artificial intelligence are paving the way for "the return of totalitarianism under digital garb." After decades of economic and social reforms, the Chinese Communist Party was "stricken by a mood of crisis," Strittmatter writes, until Xi was inaugurated as its leader in 2012 and began a campaign to reassert Party control over "every last corner of society." Nowadays, sperm bank donors are required to have "excellent ideological qualities," and the government's "social credit system" aims to record "every action and transaction by each Chinese citizen in real time and to respond... with rewards and penalties." Strittmatter documents the use of surveillance technologies to oppress Muslim Uighurs, explores how desire for access to the Chinese market "warps" Western businesses and politicians; notes the disappearance of three citizen journalists during the coronavirus crisis in Wuhan, and examines how Xi Jinping's "New Silk Road" trade initiatives lay the groundwork for "a new world order determined by China." Drawing on a wealth of experience in China, Strittmatter stuffs the book with telling details and incisive analysis. Even veteran China watchers will be impressed and enlightened.