In this week’s edition of “Isn’t it Ironic?”, we have the grand opening of the Shanghai International Exhibition on Public Security and Safety coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. With loud techno music bumping, models strutting around, and hundreds of policeman comparing thousands of different security cameras hung up on walls, the show made it quite clear that the watchdog business in China is a-boomin’.
James Areddy of the Wall Street Journal summed up the trade show by saying how it “provided a reminder of how Chinese authorities appear unwaveringly determined to nip in the bud every disturbance with seemingly unchecked spending on the tools of state security.”
Step right up, don’t be shy! If it hangs on a wall and can spy on citizens, the trade show’s got it: Cameras with night vision, cameras with distance capabilities, cameras that can read license plates on moving cars, even cameras that “can simultaneously view a whole nighttime landscape, such as a port, while also zeroing in 15 kilometers away on the faces of people aboard ships.”
Here’s how the numbers break down: 100,000,000 – the approximate amount of surveillance cameras installed in China; 15% – the approximate rate of annual growth in China’s surveillance industry; 100,000,000,000 – the amount of RMB that the government has spent on nationwide surveillance systems; 17,000 – the number of security cameras installed in Xinjiang capital Urumqi last year alone.
The relationship between China’s watchdogs and citizens is, as one would expect, a little rocky: The construction of 60 surveillance cameras on one Shanghai road last year led to Big Brother taking them down after totally getting cyber bullied all over Weibo.Despite David’s minor win in Shanghai over Goliath, however, the truth remains that ridiculous amounts of government spending have ensured the health and longevity of China’s watchdogs.
By Alex Stevens