Big Brother Comes to China

Right now, the Chinese government is in the midst of a massive security overhaul. When the dust clears, the sprawling city of Shenzhen will contain more than 2 million closed-circuit television cameras. That’s double the number of cameras lining the streets and shops of London.

Make no mistake about it — Big Brother is watching the Chinese every moment of every day.

This industrial hub of Shenzhen is not only home to millions of residents — it’s also teeming with high-tech surveillance equipment. As part of a project that began a couple of years before the Beijing Olympic Games, the government installed about 200,000 surveillance cameras throughout the city, according to journalist Naomi Klein.

“China today, epitomized by Shenzhen’s transition from mud to megacity in 30 years, represents a new way to organize society,” Klein writes. “Sometimes called ‘market Stalinism,’ it is a 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.”

The surveillance industry in China is booming. It will be a $43 billion industry by next year, growing 20% annually for the next two years, according to the Chinese Security and Protection Agency. This robust growth won’t happen by itself. China’s ruling political party and big business will be supplying the cash to expand surveillance and security measures in every city and town in the country.

Whatever bumps or growing pains the Chinese economy will face over the next several years, it is all but certain that the current expansion of the security state will continue unabated. And one small company is emerging as a security and surveillance industry leader — nabbing lucrative government contracts left and right, all while buying out smaller competitors to fuel its growing business.