Naomi Klein points out that while repression in China is nothing new, Police State 2.0 has nothing to do with Communist ideological purity and everything to do with creating “the ultimate consumer cocoon for Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cell phones, McDonald’s happy meals, Tsingtao beer, and UPS delivery—to name just a few of the official Olympic sponsors. But the hottest new market of all is the surveillance itself ... an entirely for-profit affair that is the latest frontier for the global Disaster Capitalism Complex.”
The Beijing Olympics are themselves the perfect expression of this hybrid system. Through extraordinary feats of authoritarian governing, the Chinese state has built stunning new stadiums, highways and railways—all in record time. It has razed whole neighborhoods, lined the streets with trees and flowers and, thanks to an “anti-spitting” campaign, cleaned the sidewalks of saliva. The Communist Party of China even tried to turn the muddy skies blue by ordering heavy industry to cease production for a month—a sort of government-mandated general strike.
As for those Chinese citizens who might go off-message during the games—Tibetan activists, human right campaigners, malcontent bloggers—hundreds have been thrown in jail in recent months. Anyone still harboring protest plans will no doubt be caught on one of Beijing’s 300,000 surveillance cameras and promptly nabbed by a security officer; there are reportedly 100,000 of them on Olympics duty.
The goal of all this central planning and spying is not to celebrate the glories of Communism, regardless of what China’s governing party calls itself. It is to create the ultimate consumer cocoon for Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cell phones, McDonald’s happy meals, Tsingtao beer, and UPS delivery—to name just a few of the official Olympic sponsors. But the hottest new market of all is the surveillance itself. Unlike the police states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, China has built a Police State 2.0, an entirely for-profit affair that is the latest frontier for the global Disaster Capitalism Complex.
Chinese corporations financed by U.S. hedge funds, as well as some of American’s most powerful corporations—Cisco, General Electric, Honeywell, Google—have been working hand in glove with the Chinese government to make this moment possible: networking the closed circuit cameras that peer from every other lamp pole, building the “Great Firewall” that allows for remote internet monitoring, and designing those self-censoring search engines.