Market Stalinism

by tristero

Heebies, meet Jeebies.

Just in case you thought Digby's post on Main Core was too, too outlandish to be true, some weird paranoid fantasy from a Pynchon novel... read Naomi Klein's mind-boggling article in Rolling Stone on Chinese security tech. Hoo boy. To make a long story short, but you really MUST read the long story, China is perfecting what Klein calls Market Stalinism, wedding a turbo-charged capitalist culture with the psychotic obsession for total control of a totalitarian state. So you get chilling little scenes like this:
What is most disconcerting about China's surveillance state is how familiar it all feels. When I check into the Sheraton in Shenzhen, for instance, it looks like any other high-end hotel chain — only the lobby is a little more modern and the cheerful clerk doesn't just check my passport but takes a scan of it.

"Are you making a copy?" I ask.

"No, no," he responds helpfully. "We're just sending a copy to the police."
And Klein goes on:
A few months earlier, in Davos, Switzerland, the CEO of China Mobile bragged to a crowd of communications executives that "we not only know who you are, we also know where you are." Asked about customer privacy, he replied that his company only gives "this kind of data to government authorities"
And now you know why the liberal blogosphere will never let the issue of American telcoms immunity go. Ever.

There has been an explosion of security technologies - in some Chinese, cities there are three government surveillance cameras per block. Enter the U.S. While technically banned from providing the Chinese government with any help in spying, surveillance, and repression, companies like the little known L-1 Identity Solutions have, according to Klein, provided "sdks" (software developer kits) to at least one Chinese company at bargain basement rates. That company is participating in a contest to see which technology can identify a face from a photographic database of over 10 million people. In order to win the contract, the longest search time for a match must be on the order of 1 second or less.

With this much obsession with tech you can imagine how much money is involved. Actually, you probably can't. The "homeland security" business is, Klein says, larger than the film and music industry combined, "an estimated $200 billion." A business that large and lucrative is looking for ever larger and lucrative markets. Not only within China.
In Shenzhen one night, I have dinner with a U.S. business consultant named Stephen Herrington. Before he started lecturing at Chinese business schools, teaching students concepts like brand management, Herrington was a military-intelligence officer, ascending to the rank of lieutenant colonel. What he is seeing in the Pearl River Delta, he tells me, is scaring the hell out of him — and not for what it means to China.

"I can guarantee you that there are people in the Bush administration who are studying the use of surveillance technologies being developed here and have at least skeletal plans to implement them at home," he says. "We can already see it in New York with CCTV cameras. Once you have the cameras in place, you have the infrastructure for a powerful tracking system. I'm worried about what this will mean if the U.S. government goes totalitarian and starts employing these technologies more than they are already. I'm worried about the threat this poses to American democracy."

Herrington pauses. "George W. Bush," he adds, "would do what they are doing here in a heartbeat if he could."
Some of us might argue with the tense of Herrington's characterization of the US goverment and of Bush's activities. Nevertheless, welcome to globalization, Bush-style.

LIke I said, read Klein's article, and note especially how the recent riots in Tibet have served as a perfect test case for the new technology of repression. Total Information Awareness has never sounded so close to reality. And you know something, people? That's not a good thing.