What is the Chinese regime’s dark surveillance campaign across the country?

A giant screen broadcasts news footage of Chinese President Xi Jinping attending via video link a meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in Beijing, China, July 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

In a move that highlights the Chinese regime’s increasing control over the population and its concern for national security, a national campaign has been launched to recruit citizens to remain vigilant against potential threats.. While the Asian giant’s economy faces major challenges, including its worst slowdown in years, President Xi Jinping is focused on maintaining his power and control over the country and the Communist Party.

Recently, Xi delivered a speech before China’s National Security Commission, stressing the need to prepare for worst-case scenarios and improve real-time surveillance. This comes against the backdrop of the multiple challenges that Beijing is currently facing, both domestically and internationally.

An important development is the review of China’s counter-espionage law, expanding the scope of activities classified as espionage. The system also offers big rewards to people who report potential spies. It is feared that this measure will generate mistrust and suspicion among citizens themselves.

Although the call for vigilance has been widely echoed, it remains unclear to what extent it can be translated into concrete actions on the ground. The authorities announced the arrest of a number of spies in recent months, but some of these cases appear to be old and were discovered late, according to what the British newspaper “Daily Mail” reported. The New York Times.

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One notable and dark aspect of this campaign is the scale and spread of its implementation. On high-speed trains, videos are shown warning passengers against sharing sensitive information on social networksPosters urging citizens to “build a line of defense for the people” are displayed in government offices.

File image. Paramilitary police stand guard outside the headquarters of the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, in Beijing, China. September 30, 2022. Reuters/Tingshu Wang

“This move reflects the deep legitimacy challenges and crisis facing the regime,” said Chen Jian, a professor of modern Chinese history at New York University. The New York Times.

Even seemingly unrelated groups and institutions participate. Universities, including departments such as veterinary medicine, require their staff to complete online courses on protecting secrets. Furthermore, youth have been identified as an area of ​​particular concern Universities create student groups tasked with preparing reports on individuals who interact with foreign websites or foreign journalists.

And in Yunnan province, authorities released a somber video of men and women dressed in traditional Yi clothing joyfully dancing and singing about China’s national security law.

Anyone who does not report this will be prosecuted. Covering up crimes will lead to imprisonmentThe dancers sang the video, while the women waved their bright yellow, blue and red skirts.

The main effect of this campaign was to increase suspicion about any contact with foreigners, even in areas where cultural exchange had historically flourished. Some academics have stopped meeting people from other countries, and venues across China have canceled performances by foreign musicians.

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Although Beijing insists that China remains open to foreign engagement and investment, mixed signals remain. The authorities searched or interrogated American consulting and consulting companies, accusing them of trying to obtain state secrets through Chinese experts. Even sharing a name with a foreign organization could lead to surveillance, as demonstrated by the cancellation of the TEDx conference in Guangzhou..

Despite the doubts and fears raised by some Chinese citizens, officials appear undeterred. They say those who have not engaged in illegal activities have no reason to fear.

This nationwide surveillance campaign, reminiscent of previous campaigns in Chinese history, highlights the paranoia and fear that the Chinese regime experiences of its own population under the guise of protecting national security.

While China faces internal and external challenges, it remains to be seen how this campaign will shape the country’s future and its relationship with the global community.

Freddie Dawson

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