Indians are obsessed with China’s development story. We are not only jealous of their military might and economic growth, but also the influence they have begun enjoying all over the world. But they are a fundamentally different system from ours, and it doesn’t pay much to compare our indicators.
SKYNET and SHARP EYES
BY 2020, the Chinese would be completely monitored under the system of permanent scanning. Along with their Skynet Surveillace Project for urban public areas, launched in 2005, they also introduced XUE LANG (Sharp Eyes ) project for the rural areas to keep an effective eye on the countryfolk. Sharp Eyes has now been adopted as a primary goal of the CPC. Skynet systems use Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition Technology to identify and intercept criminals. The plan is to integrate these urban public surveillance systems with the private ones, installed at homes, banks, shops, malls, business concerns and vehicles.
Along with this, the most ambitious initiative is the Sharp Eyes project which has been introduced with the idea of appropriating TV sets and smartfons of the civilians to enhance the extension of surveillance systems to households and individuals. Then locals would be asked to keep an eye on their neighbours and report in case of any suspicious or malafide activity. This culture of mutual surveillance is expected to cause a a remarkable cutdown in dissent and usher in more socio-political stability. Law enforcement and traffic regulators are set to benefit, of course, but this also sets the government up as ubiquitous and omnipotent.This is also a dream scenario for research in Big Data, AI and FRT, which require a lot of testworthy data without fearing of much regulation. Any sort of dissent, devious behaviour or criminal activity cannot now escape the prying eyes. Even Orwell’s Big Brother was not this intrusive.
But this China. And here we are in India, who is witnessing quite some hallaballoo over Adhar, and the potential use of its data in criminal investigations. Its not as if China is unique in this regard, since US and UK are also using FRT to track criminals. But it’s the intent, scale and scope of the Chinese that is shocking.
PRESIDENT FOR LIFE
I would rather sing Saul Hudson’s (Slash) song Chinese Democracy than actually rail against the lack of it.In a one-party state, CCP does have quite some responsiveness towards each trend of dissent ,howsoever small it might be. Xi Jinping’s drive against corruption has strengthened his hand,so much so that he has now removed the two –term limitation and set himself to be the President-for-life. Do we hear dissent? This should put an end to the persuit of democratic elements present in the Chinese system.
Then there is Hukou system of household registration which is in vogue in China, which perpetuates regional and class inequalities. There are rural as well as urban hukous, and it is not very easy to convert your registrations. Hukou of a city entitles you to access all normal services provided by the government in that city — education, health care, insurance, etc.Which means if one migrates from a rural area to that city, he is not entitled to these basic government services. While the rural hukous entitle its holders some rights over their lands,urban ones assure pensions and social welfare.There is a lot of resentment over the implementation of this system, but it persists with some minor modifications. But it has served well over the decades. One look at Mumbai or Faridabad and we can appreciate how vital was it that the government exercise some control over rural migration to cities. The Chinese must also be having reasons to protest versus Hukou System ,but know better. Or rather they know that the government knows better.
The Gaokao system, also called the National College Entrance Examination, causes a lot of anxiety ,pressure and heartburn among millions of students and their guardians every year. Not only is the examination very tough, rigorous and competitive, regional and local quotas in selection to various colleges, result in perpetuation of inequalities as well. There are a lot of disparities in educational standards across regions and cities, but what can be done? The system doesn’t listen to minor problems.
TIBET and HONG KONG
What has been happening in Tibet has moved the whole world. For past sixty years, the socio-political freedoms of average Tibetans have been crushed. Their own political systems are long gone. There is no freedom of religion,speech or movement. Monasteries have been shut down on the whims of local officials. Dalai lama lives in exile, and the CPC interferes in the matter of faith and succession. Hong Kong has also seen massive Chinese suppression since the latter gained control after some time. There has been a major clampdown, and dissent has been outlawed. Piece by piece, all autonomy of Tibet has slipped away and it has become just another province of China.
Xinjiang is another case study. Reeducation, reorientation and indoctrinational camps have curbed the morale of the Uighur Muslims. The Uighurs pretentiously called this area. East Turkmensitan. There has also been massive resettlement of the Han Chinese in the region. Surveillance cams have been used to keep an eye on dissidence and separatists have been massively crushed. Predictive and preventive measures have been taken. Bans have been imposed on wearing of burqa by Muslim women, keeping beard by the Faithful and observance of Ramzan fasts. Gene-washing has been resorted to on massive scale by forced copulation between the Han men and Uighur women. Xinjiang is an example of how Han China completely crushes dissidence.
WHERE DO I COMPLAIN
Facebook is banned in China. Most locals use Weibo instead. Google is banned as well. Baidu works just as fine. Even Amazon has failed to find feet in China as 80 percent of the market is controlled by Alibaba. Internet censorship and surveillance have been in vogue for long, and is tightly implemented in China. The locals used it to review social websites like Gmail, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and others, all of whom have been banned. The excessive censorship practices of the Great Firewall of China have now engulfed the VPN service providers as well.
This is the truth of China. Do we need to discuss how India lags far behind, on account of cheap populism, corruption and lack of will to succeed. This is the country we are up against where rights do matter, but more in theory.
Abhinav Pancholi, IRS, Kolkata. The author is an avid sports lover with a passion for literature.
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