A groundbreaking work of investigative nonfiction on life in China’s burgeoning surveillance state.
Inside China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control
by Josh Chin and Liza Lin
St. Martin’s Press, September 2022
People living in democracies have for decades drawn comfort from the notion that their form of government, for all its flaws, is the best history has managed to produce. SURVEILLANCE STATE documents with startling detail how even as China’s Communist Party pays lip service to democracy as a core value of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” it is striving for something new: a political model that shapes the will of the people not through the ballot box but through the sophisticated―and often brutal―harnessing of data.
On the country’s remote Central Asian frontier, where a separatist movement strains against Party control, China’s leaders have built a dystopian police state that keeps millions under the constant gaze of security forces armed with AI. Across the country in the city of Hangzhou, the government is weaving a digital utopia, where tech giants help optimize the friction out of daily life. Award-winning journalists Josh Chin and Liza Lin take readers on a journey through both places, and several in between, as they document the Party’s ambitious push―aided, in some cases, by American technology―to engineer a new society around the power of digital surveillance.
China is hardly alone. As faith in democratic principles wavers, advances in surveillance have upended debate about the balance between security and liberty in countries around the globe, including the US. Succeed or fail, the Chinese experiment has implications for people everywhere.
Josh Chin is Deputy Bureau Chief in China for The Wall Street Journal. He previously covered politics and tech in China for the newspaper for more than a decade. He led an investigative team that won the Gerald Loeb Award for international reporting in 2018. Born in Utah, he lives in Taiwan.
Liza Lin works as the journalist covering data use and privacy for The Wall Street Journal from Singapore. Liza was part of the Journal team that won the Loeb in 2018. Prior to the WSJ, Liza spent nine years at Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Television.