Surveillance, Stability, and How Everything is Terrible

UPDATE: It’s a burden being right all the time. According to this official government release (via the New York Times), the purpose of the cameras being added in Beijing has nothing to do with safety:

“The goal, the [Beijing government] Web site ((Seriously, New York Times? You’re too cool for AP Style?)) stated, is to “directly and effectively monitor” the content of performances on behalf of various government agencies.”


Amidst the kerfuffle about another Global Times piece from the Beijing Metro section, you’d think more people would be watching their pages from day to day. But since they aren’t, it falls to me to share this really depressing news with you:

The culture industry is the latest to fall under the authorities’ watchful eyes, quite literally, with the debut of yet another surveillance project Wednesday.

The capital is planning to inject 5.57 million yuan ($847,754) to establish a massive remote surveillance system covering all the capital’s entertainment venues, according to the Municipal Bureau of Culture Wednesday.

The bureau is seeking bids this month for a system combining audio and video monitoring and emergency services coordination.

When complete, the bureau will be able to use the system to “directly and effectively monitor” all performances in cinemas, theaters, music clubs and even arcades, store and manage all video materials and share the information they obtain with other government departments as needed, according to the bidding document.

Apparently, the authorities have finally figured out that people are committing thoughtcrime in private and are taking the first steps towards putting a stop to it, which is to put cameras and microphones anywhere people might congregate (that doesn’t already have cameras and microphones).

Actually, no one will clarify the purpose of this surveillance, but I imagine that when the government gets its PR game together, this will be presented as a safety measure. How that would work, I don’t know ((What I mean by “I don’t know” is “It wouldn’t.”)), but that’s not the point. Regardless of what the stated or even intended purpose of this system is, putting surveillance systems inside cultural centers is creepy. And it gets even creepier:

This project is the third surveillance plan announced recently by the city. On Tuesday, State authorities proposed a nationwide database to gather information on the assets, income and families of all individuals in order to curb corruption. And last week, the Municipal Science and Technology Commission announced that China Mobile’s Beijing branch plans to track cell-phone users’ positions to study transportation patterns and in turn combat traffic jams.

So, when you’re in public, cameras and phones track your precise location. When you’re at a bar, nightclub, movie theater, or concert, cameras are watching you. Not a problem, if you trust your privacy, safety, and freedoms to China Mobile and the stability-maintenance arm of the PSB. However, I think many people — myself included — don’t trust them.

But is this really a big deal?

“I think mass surveillance helps deter anti-social behaviors,” Tian Yangang, a Beijing lawyer told the Global Times, adding that one need not worry too much about privacy in a public place like a theater.

Does surveillance help deter anti-social behaviors? Because there are plenty of cameras around Beijing, but people still spit, curse, and push people out of the way when getting on to buses and subways. It probably does deter actual crime, but how often are serious crimes committed in movie theaters or at concerts? Often enough to warrant legally-mandated, government-monitored video and audio 24-hour surveillance?

A theater is not a public place, it is a privately-owned establishment. And I for one have no doubt whatsoever that this initiative is about rooting out and putting a stop to bands, artists, and filmmakers who get away with politically edgy material by performing it in private clubs.

Now, add that development to the recent GFW upgrade that has blocked several VPN services (I know for a fact Freedur and Witopia have been targeted, albeit without total success) and Gmail ((I’m not sure what exactly they’ve done to Gmail. It works sometime, but it’s so slow and unreliable as to make it essentially unusable most of the time.)), the recent beatings and detentions of numerous foreign reporters, the recent declaration that China will under no circumstances do anything that might challenge the Party’s death-grip on power, etc.

I asked way back in December if things were getting worse. It seems pretty clear they are. And for those of you this-is-what-Chinese-people-want advocates, here’s some food for thought. This story was originally reported by the VOA, but its statistics come from a poll conducted by, which is a Chinese government-owned portal):

In a poll of 1,350 netizens, only 6% reported they were “happy”. Only 36% felt their lives had improved over the last five years. Additionally, according to a Gallup poll conducted from 2005-2009, China ranked 125th out of 155 countries in terms of whose people said they were the happiest (Denmark was the happiest country, apparently, with 82% of its people reporting happiness).

But the first is an unscientific poll, to be sure, and the second one was probably conducted by wily foreigners bent on using their science to promote anti-China forces! Well, here are some hard numbers for you:

Even though China has a large GDP, this is simply due to the fact that it has a large population. On a per-capita basis, the country ranks 99th out of 183 nations. It is no surprise, therefore, that wages are low.

But salaries in China aren’t just low, they are abnormally low. Typically, a country’s minimum annual wage is 58% of its per capita GDP; in China it is 25% of per capita GDP, good enough for 158th place out of the aforementioned 183 nations.

The gap between the GDP and minimum wage rankings – 99 versus 158 – is perhaps the most telling statistic. For the majority of countries, there is a close correlation between the two rankings; the disparity in China’s case points to grossly inequitable income distribution.

This is borne out by the Gini coefficient numbers, a widely accepted measure of economic disparity. China’s coefficient is 0.47 on a range of 0 (perfectly equal) to 1.0 (perfectly inequal), putting it 83rd out of 134 countries measured.
According to Gini, China’s level of income inequality is higher than in almost every industrialized country in the world.

Past studies have blamed the income disparity on the rural-urban divide, the development divide between coastal and interior regions, and even foreign purchases of Chinese products. These factors may be responsible to some degree, but so too is the government.


Recent studies have shown that:

• Wages of civil servants are abnormally high. The average salary of a civil servant in China is six times the minimum wage, compared to a global average of two times.

• Management level salaries in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are abnormally high. The average SOE manager in China makes 98 times the minimum wage, compared with a global average of five times.

• Within the state sector itself, wage disparity is abnormally high. An SOE banker on average earns 3,000% more than his counterpart at a construction company, compared with a global average disparity of 70%.
The pressure is compounded by costs of necessary items being abnormally high relative to wages.

• The UN recommends that it should be possible for an average worker to purchase a home with three to six years of annual income. In Beijing, it is estimated that the average worker would have to toil for 74 years just to buy a place in a suburban multi-story condo block, unfinished, unfurnished and without any amenities.

• The cost of electricity is a good index of the basic utility costs for urban residents. The average cost of 1,000 kilowatt-hours as a proportion of the average monthly wage in the US, South Korea and Japan is 2.67%, 3.19% and 8.19% respectively. In China, by comparison, it is 30.68%.

• The US Department of Agriculture estimates that the average Chinese family spends 28% of its total monthly income on food. While this compares favorably with other developing countries, the number is far higher than America’s 6.1%. Food prices remain the key driver of inflation in China, rising 10.3% year-on-year in January as the newly revised consumer price index rose 4.9%. The figure is well above the traditional central government target of 3%, and even above its revised target of 4% for 2011. This makes wage growth an even more pressing social issue.

So yeah. What was that about how stability makes everyone rich and happy?

0 thoughts on “Surveillance, Stability, and How Everything is Terrible”

  1. Right on. In the four years I’ve lived in China this is the first time I’ve actually been scared. It seems a lot of foreign stereotypes of China as an Orwellian police state I would have laughed at a year ago are becoming closer to the truth.


  2. I think Chinese people are unhappy more due to the fact that they are poor than due to any government repression.

    Stability might not make you rich and happy, but one can make the argument that it is a necessary condition before a government can enact economic and social reforms (that might cause pain in the short-term) that will enable the masses to get rich quicker.


  3. First, a project which cost 5.57 million yuan cannot be massive at all. If the intention is to store the data and pass it around as described then it’s even more difficult. The most challenging thing about these kind of tools is that until better face recognition technology is developed you would need to hire people to go through videos manually in order to process that data. So all in all the whole police state/big brother thing to watch everyone’s movement is a pipe dream really, even if some in the Chinese government want to implement.

    The “real depressing” news about Chinese being unhappy is not surprising. For the most part Asian nations are full of “unhappy” people. I read one gallup poll which asks people around the world whether they are “thriving”, “struggling”, or “suffering”. (

    It’s easy to say that happiness correlates to income but clearly that is not the case for Asian nations. For example, you figure that Japan with its higher income, lower crime rates, freedom of the press, democracy, hot pr0n, and all other things which attracts millions of weeaboos, that it would be full of happy citizens. But according to Gallop less than 20% of Japanese feel they are “thriving” (compared to China’s 9%, India’s 10%, US’ 57%, and Finland’s 75%). That’s even less than Myanmar (16%), which according to many is a hellish place ruled by a brutal dictatorship. A separate gallop report ( suggests that happiness correlates to personal income, health, and friendship, but that doesn’t explain the reasons why Asians are unhappy in general even when they have these things. My personal feeling is that Asians are unhappy in general because the population density and the burden which comes with high level competitiveness which everyone has to deal with through their lives.

    The issue about income equality is also well known and IMO can be the catalyst for true instability in China. The Chinese government clearly sees the danger here. Wenjinbao’s recent state address stressed on lowering the income gap between the rural and urban areas as well as between the rich and the poor. Of course, much of this along with talks of fighting corruption are lip services to buy time. However, given that China is a one party state there is no one else to blame but the Chinese government. The existing government’s self-interest therefore is align with the majority people’s interests. On the long run, I think China will become a democracy simply because it’s the easiest way for the current government to stay in power while giving themselves excuses to blame someone else (the trick here to share some, but not too much power).


  4. Does anyone have the actual text of the RFP? The GT artocle merely refereced, a homepage with no detail.

    My experience is these type of story on China are usualy veceral, over simplification of facts. For example, years ago when Beijing and Shanghai government (not national, local municipal action, just like this one) installed camera around city centers, people cried “Orwellian State”.

    Turned out, the similar camera systems were installed in Paris and London already.


  5. Boy, so much negativity in a single article! While I would disagree about installing cameras on private areas like a bar and movie theater, I don’t see what is the problem about installing camera’s in pubic streets.

    I think happiness has an ambiguous different meaning from country to country. Maybe many Chinese are overworked while earning little money. I think many Chinese see earning alot of money as a path of happiness. If I remember correctly the gini index is probably higher in the US.

    The guy who made up the number for average Chinese family spends on food and electricity is completely skewed. I don’t know how the person calculate this, but the price of electricity and food is cheaper in China than in the US. It also doesn’t take into account that poor people simply can’t afford expensive food like meat or will be using alot of electricity. I do agree that the Chinese government should be building more public housing for the poor but even in places like Hong Kong where 52% of the population live in public housing, it didn’t resolve these social and economic problems mentioned above.


  6. @pug_ster

    “I don’t see what is the problem about installing camera’s in pubic streets.”

    Sir, I would kindly ask you that point your cameras away from my pubic street, lest you intend to give me the wrong impression, my good sir.


  7. Noticed the GT article downplayed details like “emergency coordination”, “public areas” and amplified others like “monitor performaces”. This is the typical MO for our media’s “official narrative”.

    Let’s see what the RFP really said. I am still under the impression this is another one of those “neraly all demolition in China are illegal” bit.


  8. While my post is in moderation, I think people should take a look at the gallop’s wellbeing survey if they haven’t do so already:

    There is no doubt that people in China are less happ, compared to a lot of people of other nations. However so are rest of the Asia. While China only has 9% people who feel they are “thriving”, 77% people who are “strugging”, and 14% who are “suffering”, Japan’s figures are 19%, 69%, and 12% respectively. Japan has just about everything which people would complain about China for, including human rights, democracy, higher income, social stability, pr0n, etc, but people are not all that happy there. Brazil on the other hand, with its far higher GINI coefficient, actually produces the happiest citizens (top 15 in the world) with 58% people thinking they are thriving, 40% think they are struggling, and only 2% struggling.

    If you put these studies together as Custer has done, the only thing you can conclude is that Asians are a lot less happy in general regardless of political and social-economic status.


  9. Based on cites in the the GT article, I tried to look up produrement requests by Beijing culture bureau with the follwing keywords “北京市 文化”:

    There appear to be no RFP after 11/09/2010, and the lastest RFP was phase 2 of it’s office system upgrade:

    (internal document flow, information transmission, daily operation, human resource management, other individual and unit office automation)


  10. Here is another poll from PEW research on China’s attitudes. It’s from 2008 but I don’t think the data would change too much even today.

    Though they portray things a bit differently, I don’t think the more rosy polls necessarily contradict the more negative sounding ones. When putting them together though you can make some really weird conclusions.


  11. @ lolz: I’m not even sure myself what gets post in moderation sometimes. Links (more than 1) and sometimes Chinese text are a factor, but there are factors beyond that…who knows the mysteries of akismet’s spam algorithm?

    @ Charles Liu: Yeah, because the global times is such a bastion of liberal, anti-China thinking…I’m sure they just made the story up…you do realize the GT is state-owned, and edited by the same nutcase who runs 环球时报, right? No offense to your newfound form of argumentation-by-web-search, but once again, I’m going to go with the pros on this one.

    That said, I know a bunch of people who work at GT BJ Metro. I don’t happen to know this author, but I can get in touch with friends and maybe find out their source if you’d like.


  12. @ lolz: You make a good point, both about the cost and about the polls. Although my understanding was that that was just the cost of implementing the system, not to run it. Security cameras with mics aren’t that expensive to begin with, and I assume the government has a line on where to buy them at bulk discounts. When you figure there are around 2,000 of these venues in the city, 5.57 mil RMB is actually a pretty reasonable price to purchase and install the hardware. Monitoring it costs a lot more, yes, but I don’t think that’s meant to be part of that figure.

    @ pug_ster: I don’t know. Obviously it depends on where you live, but even with food and electricity being so cheap here, they still make up a decent percentage of the average person’s monthly salary, which is somewhere between 1000-2000 RMB, I think. I know personally, my fiancee and I spend 400-600 per month on food (not counting restaurants or any western food that I make) just buying from the farmers market these days — the prices for some things have gone way up. Obviously, that’s a bit skewed because we live in a fairly well-to-do area of Beijing, but still, I don’t think the food numbers are completely off.

    @ Charles Liu:

    Noticed the GT article downplayed details like “emergency coordination”, “public areas” and amplified others like “monitor performaces”. This is the typical MO for our media’s “official narrative”.

    Oooh, now I see what happened here. You didn’t read carefully enough, so you’re just trying to shove this into your pre-constructed “Western media” compaint framework. Bad news though, bud. The Global Times is owned by the Chinese government. It’s about as far from the Western media as you can get without leaving earth entirely.

    This must be embarrassing for you! 🙂


  13. Wow, thank you for opening my eyes. So if the internet goes down, can everyone just agree to print this stuff out and slip it under all their neighbors’ doors in the middle of the night?


  14. @Charles Custer, I’m glad to stand corrected, especially when it breaks the “mouth piece” generalization about chinese media.

    I remain skeptical; Chinese media is not without sensationalism either.


  15. @Charles Custer, “has nothing to do with safety”

    Really, did you actually read the PDF you cited? Item 20 “演出场所监控系统” (performance venue remote monitor system” is listed under section 3 “公共安全” (public SAFETY). This is then followed up with requirement to monitor venue seating capacity (场所上座人数).

    Also, read item 20, first thing it mentioned is the platform will be based on existing cable system (基于已有的歌华有
    线电视). Later in the section it mentions value-add (增值服务的能力.) Sound like they are talking about monitoring in terms of rebroadcast.

    All these facts speak against your assertion this is some evil government plot purely for censorship.


  16. And the NYT translation is off to force their point, if it’s based on the PDF. Here’s the only mentioning of other government agencies in section 20:

    “providing services to other related agencies thru shared information resource platform”

    It does not say monitoring content of performances for other government agencies.


  17. Here’s a December 2010 news report that further contradicts NYT’s assertion that extending the cable system for content monitoring in Beijing is for censorship.

    This article talks about expanding online rebroadcasting, consistent with what’s mentioned in item 20 of the RFP:

    文化部:未来五年将发展文艺演出院线 覆盖主要城市演出场所
    Cultural Bureau: Develope Artistic Performance Network To Cover Performance Venues In Major Cities

    develop artistic performance beyond the venues in major cities, support nation-wide on-line cultural ticketing

    develop modern culture market system, expand cultural consumption, effetive foundation for market mechanism

    strenghten creativity, create competitive cultural brands. Lower cost, faciliate transmission network, expand broadcast area; provide reasonably priced, rich cultural product and services

    [monitor] illegal business practice, strengthen IP protection, healthy cultural maket, safeguard honest, fair, orderly competitive market process

    Any of this sounds like censorship?


  18. Intentional distortion of the data.

    Stability itself does make people happy. You’d rather have chaos?

    Many people are unhappy because they overwork, they are poor and they feel frustrated by the widening income gap. For most people, it has little to do with the lack of a multi-party democracy. Young people are especially capable of venting their frustration online. The Chinese blogosphere is as vibrant as the American one, despite the self-censorship by website/BBS monitors.

    The biggest mistake you made is you forgot how big China is. It’s not just your average country; it’s a continent with 1/5 of humanity. The U.S. spent the past 100 years developing its economy without much turmoil.

    China has only had 30 years, with a population 4 times as much. This mind-numbingly fast transition is bound to leave people feeling dis-oriented and lost.

    The only comparable country is India, and do you mind telling us how happy the Indians are?


  19. @ChasL “@Zusya, the same camera are also installed in London and Paris, Washington DC.”

    Why, do you mean to tell me, that no matter where I go on the globe, always will I find a camera trained on my pubic street!?

    I say, this is an outrage of the highest order! I, I, I am flabbergasted! I am most incensed! Never has there been such a forthright fondling of mankind’s most basic human privacies! This is despicable! Deplorable! Inhumane, I say!

    Surely, my good ChasL, you will join me in my rancor? Such fine gentlepeoples as are ourselves mustn’t stand for such chicanery!


  20. @zusya

    Well, fella, Google “street survillance camera ##” and plug in #any major city# around the world (London has 10000 closed circuit camera, Paris tripled its cameras in 09, DC installed 5000+ in 08, yours truley got a camera ticket around Christmas in Seattle.)

    IMHO it’s just a modern reality, and China’s street cams ain’t all that different.


  21. @ChasL

    Yeegads, you’re right! These inexorably cheeky surveillance cameras, dastardly hellbent on endlessly snapping away at our pubic streets, are as ubiquitous as the air we breathe! And it’s just as likely that the technology behind them is all the same! no matter how polluted the air happens to be! The fiends!

    Though this begs the question, my good sir, what of the people and powers that wield them? What of them, I say!

    ChasL, chap, I ask of you: Who Watches The Watchmen?

    Who, I say!


  22. @ keisaat: My point is that the “stability” argument is a red herring, a way of making people feel like expressing their dissatisfaction will make things worse. I wouldn’t rather have chaos, but there is a middle ground between the violently oppressive authoritarianism that exists now and civil war.

    China wouldn’t fall into chaos if people were allowed to speak their minds tomorrow. But that kind of a system WOULD fuck over many of the people in power now who abuse the current system for money, gaining face, or just because they can. “Stability preservation” is a blanket term that’s used for lots of stuff that has nothing to do with the actual stability of the current system. What it’s really there to protect is the people in that system who want to be sure they aren’t replaced, embarrassed, or held accountable for anything bad that might happen.

    @ Charles Liu: That quote is from the Beijing government website, not the PDF (I think).

    Anyway, we’ll see what happens. I find it extremely hard to believe that anyone would go to this much trouble to monitor seating capacity, or that that’s really the goal of this project (for example, why would they need an audio feed for that?).

    But anyway, they’re implementing it, so we’ll see how it’s enforced. I’m not sure why you’d doubt it was for censorship, though, it’s not like the government is ever shy about that, and they currently censor art in almost every form it exists in except for live performance…


  23. @ Charles custer: Rebroadcast requires audio feed. I believe the Cultural Bureau quotes I translated from the December report cited above is clear.

    As someone else pointed out 5.75M RMB isn’t a lot, and given China’s inflation, is it really meant to buy thousands of cameras down to every KTV room AND a city wide back end to connect them all AND 24×7 survillance, storage of information (how long are the footages kept?)

    This story is a lot more nuanced than this “censorsip/survillance” official narrative you and NYT would like us to believe, and I’ve provided citations to the effect.


  24. ChasL:

    I cannot deny that the New York Times makes a bit of a jump to link “directly and effectively monitor” “content of performances” on behalf of “various government agencies,” and leaves out the unsexy stuff about seating capacity, and Custer overstates the case in saying that the document says it has “nothing to do with safety.”

    But you have been
    Also, you mention the vague bit about “value added services”: …又可以拥有统一对公共文化信息管理和增值服务的能力 but somehow left out the beginning of the sentence:

    “The municipal department of culture will both have the ability to monitor the content of performances at all cultural entertainment venues.”

    As for your other link, it is not entirely clear to me that they are talking about the same system, since the link you provides talks about “main cities” while the document being discussed is only about the Beijing government.

    This document is basically pretty damn vague. Hyping it as being nothing but a sinister Big Brother system is going too far, but you have to be pretty charitable in your interpretation of “monitoring” and “management” to assume that all of this is entirely benign. Now, it’s true that the document is about technical requirements without giving lots of details about the intended use, but if rebroadcast capabilities were such a major focus of this system, you would think that would be directly mentioned in the document. I think you’re reaching if you want to view 信息资源共享平台 as being about rebroadcasting.

    You also mention 基于已有的歌华有
    线电视… but leave out …高速网络. I don’t know about network technology or this company, but to me this reads as them using their existing network infrastructure, not that they’re going to partner with these guys to rebroadcast content necessarily. Could be wrong.


  25. I wouldn’t rather have chaos, but there is a middle ground between the violently oppressive authoritarianism that exists now and civil war.

    Then you should attack just that. Making general swipes at “stability” will only undermine your argument. It’s just another variation of the straw man.

    And it’s fun to see other more important points about the real cause of the unhappiness of the Chinese people were conveniently ignored and still no data on how happy the Indians are.

    Yeah yeah you were not obligated to provide Indian statistics, but that exactly proves the point.


  26. Very nice summary and info. Expect the climate to get progressively worse in China as the nation’s economic growth model continues to paint itself into a corner. Inflation and unemployment are two sides of the same problem and policy makers will have to choose one. Expect increased security, censorship, repression, racism, etc in order to deflect blame and control the people. So long as the CCP controls the master narrative in Chinese society no major changes will be made and the situation will continue to deteriorate. For how long is anybody’s guess.

    I for one have had enough. I’m a foreigner who has made his home in Shanghai for 2 years, but I am very happy to be moving myself and my Chinese wife to another Asian city next month. I prefer to watch the coming shitstorm from afar.


  27. Surveillance is one thing, and of course it’s awkward. But you are too one sided on statistics.

    You could take the same economic statistics and apply to the democracy India. Almost all digits would be worse. Same would apply to China 30 years ago.

    How ever you twist and turn the numbers, there is no way to deny that the CCP has done a good job with raising people’s living standards through economical development.


  28. I have never thought India was a fair comparison, which is why I never include those kind of statistics. They’re both big, asian countries that are developing. But the culture, history, society, etc. are totally different. I think it’s ridiculous to look at India and say “That’s what China would be if it was democratic” or to look at China and say “That’s what India would be if it was ‘Communist'”.

    It’s a convenient simplification for those who want to make an argument against multi-party democracy, but personally I think the differences between the two countries are too vast to make those kind of statistical comparisons particularly meaningful. That’s just my opinion, but it’s my blog, so don’t expect to see a lot of China vs. India stuff here.


  29. I do not intend to compare China with India, I just think you are doing yourself a big unfavor when relating to economical statistics for proving Chinese people “are not happy”. The raisins you take out of the cake would not serve you well in a wider perspective.

    Moreover, I think your comparison electricity/GDP between China and fully developed economies as Korea, Taiwan, and the US are wider of the mark than any comparison China/India.

    What you write is true, but being so unbalanced could cost credibility and confidence points.


  30. I think LOLZ made a good point here:

    “My personal feeling is that Asians are unhappy in general because the population density and the burden which comes with high level competitiveness which everyone has to deal with through their lives.”

    Winners and losers and the end result:

    “Statistics released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009 showed that over 100 million people {are} affected by mental illness, with 16 million listed as severely ill, in China”.

    The Lancet came up with a figure of 173 million, but you need to subscribe to see how they came up with that figure.

    However, before the FQ get all exercised, I suspect most Western countries also have similar proportional figures for transitory mental illness, but for different reasons.


  31. Jojje: The comparisons and statistics you’re talking about are from the China Economic Review. I didn’t write them; that’s why that whole section is block-quoted.


  32. I know they are. But if you read your own post, you are referring to the statistics as “food for thought” on why thing is getting worse and why Chinese people do not feel happy.

    China Economic Review is using the statistics to show why it would be more expensive for foreign companies to run business in China. In my opinion, your approach is not correct.


  33. @ Jojje: I disagree entirely. It’s very obvious that these issues ARE causing a lot of negative feeling towards the government. That may not be the context the C.E.R. had them in, but it’s another perfectly acceptable way to understand them. Everyone, from my fiancee to my friends to the netizens on Weibo and other sites who I spent hours every day following for work, is complaining about low salaries and rising food, housing, ___ prices (where ____ is whatever bill they had to pay most recently).

    @ ChasL: That story and survey is from before the Olympics. Things have change very very significantly since then. Trust me, I lived here during the Olympics, and I live here now. The atmosphere, mood, and attitude about government is VERY different, from everything I’ve seen online and from everything I see in my day to day experiences.


  34. Of course a majority people would always be unhappy and want to have more, this is the case in all the world’s developed economies as well. Even in my native Scandinavia people are complaining about their financial situation.

    It’s obvious as you say that the stats are causing a lot of negative feelings against the government here – as is many policies in my home country.

    People will never be entirely happy with their government, but compared to may other developing countries, China’s economical performance has been outstanding. Your take on and use of the statistics is a bit one-sided, to say the least.

    As Nietzsche said, stare at the monster long enough, and you’ll be one yourself..


  35. Interesting post. Bear in mind that while the 5.57m budget is pretty pathetic, the government clearly and regularly lies about its budgeting. Who knows what they’re actually going to spend, this could just be a way of saying to the public: “yeah, but we told you so, and its not even that bad”. On the other hand, perhaps they’re telling the truth and the operation will be pretty much inept.

    I’m quite confused anyway. Surveillance on persons of interest is already legal (and presumably locations of interest), and general public surveillance of entertainment venues would cost too much, not to mention it seems practically absurd. So what are they actually talking about here? Have I missed something?

    In any case, I can hardly think of a better way to infuriate the average Chinese any more. I really think much of China’s censorship measures are a case of 因噎废食 - overreaction to the point of self harm.

    If the CCP is so distrustful of their own citizens maybe they should elect another populace…


  36. Custer, are you an anarchist? Anarchy will never make anyone happy. Somalia is a prime example. While I agree there is a limit to surveillance, stability is a foundation to other needs such as happiness.

    State authorities proposed a nationwide database to gather information on the assets, income and families of all individuals in order to curb corruption.

    Perhaps this is related to taxes. I do believe most tax agencies have access to such information. With an ever growing middle class, China’s government will need to find ways to pay for publicly demanded services such as universal health care. As for padding the wallets of a few, that is to be expected. After all, we are talking about politicians.

    Does surveillance help deter anti-social behaviors?

    Only if there is enforcement. Given China’s population size, trying to issue a ticket to someone publicly spitting is going to involve a full deployment of the army and more. The economics of such a plan prevents it from occurring. The cheapest and fastest way to prevent anti-social behaviour is to teach it in schools. Solely relying on parents is not enough.

    What was that about how stability makes everyone rich and happy?

    Money doesn’t like to be shot at or blown up. Businesses requires stability in order to flourish (excluding the Arms Industry). However, I do agree that money doesn’t always equate to happiness.

    @Eric Fish: China is trying to catch up to their Western counterparts. Please tell me that you’re not in China to escape the Orwellian environment of developed nations. If so, may I suggest Somalia for your next home? At least you get to live a life of a pirate.


  37. I question your statistics. For one, US per capita GDP is $47,400. The national minimum wage is $7.25/hour. So let’s do the math. Based on a 40 hour week the minimum annual wage in the US is $15,080. So minimum annual wage in the US as a percentage of per capita GDP is 31.8% not the 58% you say is average (“Typically, a country’s minimum annual wage is 58% of its per capita GDP; in China it is 25% of per capita.”) This is not far off the 25% you state for China. As regards the so-called “happiness” index that is very subjective. Another internationally recognized survey by Pew states that 89% of the Chinese people are satisfied with their government and think the country is heading in the right direction. So it seems that the naysayers have no more credibility than the cheerleaders.


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