IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 76

expansion of surveillance and facilitates the creation of
new types of technologies and regimes. However, as new
global actors seek to deploy their own advanced digitized systems, attention must be focused on the unique
socio-cultural background against which both overt and
covert forms of surveillance are being formulated.
Until recently, surveillance studies have privileged
analysis of surveillance practices in Western countries,
leaving inquiry into the development of such practices in
non-Western contexts critically underexplored [1]-[2]. The
surveillance field remains heavily influenced by the work
of scholars such as Bentham [3], Foucault [4], Orwell [5],
Deleuze and Guattari [6], and Beck [7], whose reflections
on surveillance remain embedded within a broader scrutiny of an historical and cultural milieu unique to the
development of Western states. Critical insights into the
evolving role of surveillance within industrialized society
continue to be gleaned from the discoveries of these and
other scholars [8]-[12]. However, such assessments are
incomplete without an appraisal of the different sociocultural contexts in which such surveillance practices are
now interpreted and adapted.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have also had a lasting
effect on global interpretations of security and the idea
that surveillance can prevent terrorism. This assessment has led to a significant expansion in the "surveillance industrial complex" as corporations endeavor to
sell surveillance solutions to an expanding number of
perceived security needs [13]. An alternate view of the
above is that both democratic and authoritarian governments have long used "enemies within," "moral panics,"
and external threats to maintain and extend their grip
on power [14]. From this perspective, terrorism has
come to embody the latest scapegoat for the state to
exert control over the lives of everyday people and
assert its authority. Less researched in this regard is
how non-Western states have come to adopt a terror
and risk lexicon to justify spending, development, and
implementation of advanced surveillance technologies.
China is an aspiring global power fundamentally motivated by selective historical memories [15] and is now
seeking to secure its interests against the backdrop of a
fading liberal order. The country's ascension to global
prominence has coincided with unprecedented technological advancements, and the onset of what Executive
Chairman of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab
has labeled the "Fourth Industrial Revolution." Schwab
[16] contends that the coming technological revolution is
more significant, and its ramifications more profound,
than in any prior period of human history. This shift is
presented as provoking more upheaval than the previous
industrial revolutions because of the speed at which
developments take place, the simultaneous nature of radical change across fields, and the transformation of

76

entire systems. Such developments have fundamentally
informed the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) approach
towards securing its interests in the Digital Age. Ethnic
minorities are increasingly pressured to assimilate to China's dominant Han culture, and through the enactment
of enhanced surveillance systems and policing, face persecution if they refuse to subscribe to the strict parameters for religious and cultural expression closely
monitored by the central government. Meanwhile the creation of a statewide digital identity and rating system
under the auspices of "a culture of honesty and integrity"
, Chengxin wenhua) provides a glimpse of how
(
China's security concerns are meshing with its embrace,
adaptation, and creation of technology in line with values
derived from traditional Chinese culture.

Justification for China's Police State in Xinjiang:
Borrowed Pages from the West's War on Terror
The Chinese government has used this critical juncture
in history to extend the bounds of its control and to
silence dissenting voices in its outer territory of Xinjiang
Autonomous Prefecture, one of five autonomous regions
allocated for national minorities. Xinjiang accounts for
one sixth of Chinese territory, and borders eight states. A
multiethnic province, Xinjiang has remained the site of
discontent and ethnonationalist conflict since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 [17]-[19].
According to the Statistical Bureau of Xinjiang Uyghur
Autonomous Region [20], in 2010 ethnic minorities comprised sixty percent of Xinjiang's total population. Significant cultural, linguistic, and religious differences in the
region have ensured that separatism from China has
been, and remains, a contentious issue for members of
the dominant Uyghur ethnic group [18]-[19].
Separatism, however, is perceived as intolerable by
the Chinese state. Historical grievances, resource security, and the need to maintain territorial unity and a geopolitical buffer with Russia and central Asian states
motivate the government's desire to exert control over
its western province [17]. A more recent factor compelling the CCP's heavy-handed approach in the region is
the threat of disruption to President Xi Jinping's ambitious grand infrastructure project, the "Belt and Road"
with Xinjiang positioned to connect China to Central
Asia through a series of infrastructure projects and railways. As part of the initiative, the territory has been
classified by the Chinese government as a "core region"
, Hexin qu) and a "central hub for travel within
(
, Yao ou jiaotong
Asia and Europe" (
shuniu zhongxin) [21]. With the emergence of the "global war on terror" rhetoric in the last two decades, the
notion of Uyghur resistance has meshed with fears of
"Islamic extremism" and the Chinese government has
adopted a terror lexicon to justify the intensification of

IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

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IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019

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