- € 18,99
Named a Notable Work of Nonfiction of 2020 by the Washington Post
As heard on NPR's Fresh Air, We Have Been Harmonized, by award-winning correspondent Kai Strittmatter, offers a groundbreaking look, based on decades of research, at how China created the most terrifying surveillance state in history.
China’s new drive for repression is being underpinned by unprecedented advances in technology: facial and voice recognition, GPS tracking, supercomputer databases, intercepted cell phone conversations, the monitoring of app use, and millions of high-resolution security cameras make it nearly impossible for a Chinese citizen to hide anything from authorities. Commercial transactions, including food deliveries and online purchases, are fed into vast databases, along with everything from biometric information to social media activities to methods of birth control. Cameras (so advanced that they can locate a single person within a stadium crowd of 60,000) scan for faces and walking patterns to track each individual’s movement. In some schools, children’s facial expressions are monitored to make sure they are paying attention at the right times. In a new Social Credit System, each citizen is given a score for good behavior; for those who rate poorly, punishments include being banned from flying or taking high-speed trains, exclusion from certain jobs, and preventing their children from attending better schools. And it gets worse: advanced surveillance has led to the imprisonment of more than a million Chinese citizens in western China alone, many held in draconian “reeducation” camps.
This digital totalitarianism has been made possible not only with the help of Chinese private tech companies, but the complicity of Western governments and corporations eager to gain access to China’s huge market. And while governments debate trade wars and tariffs, the Chinese Communist Party and its local partners are aggressively stepping up their efforts to export their surveillance technology abroad—including to the United States.
We Have Been Harmonized is a terrifying portrait of life under unprecedented government surveillance—and a dire warning about what could happen anywhere under the pretense of national security.
“Terrifying. … A warning call." —The Sunday Times (UK), a “Best Book of the Year so Far”
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.