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We Have Been Harmonized: Book summary and reviews of We Have Been Harmonized by Kai Strittmatter

We Have Been Harmonized

Life in China's Surveillance State

by Kai Strittmatter

We Have Been Harmonized by Kai Strittmatter X
We Have Been Harmonized by Kai Strittmatter
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About this book

Book Summary

Hailed as a masterwork of reporting and analysis, and based on decades of research within China, We Have Been Harmonized, by award-winning correspondent Kai Strittmatter, offers a groundbreaking look at how the inter­net and high tech have allowed China to create the largest and most effective surveillance state in history.

China's new drive for repression is being underpinned by unpre­cedented advances in technology: facial and voice recognition, GPS tracking, supercomputer databases, intercepted cell phone conver­sations, the monitoring of app use, and millions of high-resolution security cameras make it nearly impossible for a Chinese citizen to hide anything from authorities. Commercial transactions, including food deliveries and online purchases, are fed into vast databases, along with everything from biometric information to social media activities to methods of birth control. Cameras (so advanced that they can locate a single person within a stadium crowd of 60,000) scan for faces and walking patterns to track each individual's move­ment. In some schools, children's facial expressions are monitored to make sure they are paying attention at the right times. In a new Social Credit System, each citizen is given a score for good behavior; for those who rate poorly, punishments include being banned from flying or taking high-speed trains, exclusion from certain jobs, and preventing their children from attending better schools. And it gets worse: advanced surveillance has led to the imprisonment of more than a million Chinese citizens in western China alone, many held in draconian "reeducation" camps.

This digital totalitarianism has been made possible not only with the help of Chinese private tech companies, but the complic­ity of Western governments and corporations eager to gain access to China's huge market. And while governments debate trade wars and tariffs, the Chinese Communist Party and its local partners are aggressively stepping up their efforts to export their surveillance technology abroad—including to the United States.

We Have Been Harmonized is a terrifying portrait of life under unprecedented government surveillance—and a dire warning about what could happen anywhere under the pretense of national security.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A highly relevant, frequently revelatory book...Strittmatter's accessible yet hard-hitting narrative will find an audience with policymakers and general readers alike. A frightening, vital wake-up call: The West ignores the rise of an Orwellian China at its peril." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Drawing on a wealth of experience in China, Strittmatter stuffs the book with telling details and incisive analysis. Even veteran China watchers will be impressed and enlightened." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Terrifying...This chilling book reveals just how far China has already gone in monitoring and controlling its citizens digitally...China is attempting a shift unprecedented in global politics. It wants to combine the powers of a strong authoritarian regime with cutting-edge technology to create the most sophisticated surveillance state in history. Kai Strittmatter's deeply researched and compellingly argued book makes the case that this is significant not just for China but for the world...A warning call." - Rana Mitter, Sunday Times (UK)

"A remarkable book...The most accessible and best-informed account we have had to date of China's transition from what scholars such as Rebecca MacKinnon used to call 'networked authoritarianism' to what is now a form of networked totalitarianism...The more one reads, the more pressing one conclusion becomes: almost everything we thought we knew about contemporary China is wrong. And this has happened because the lenses through which we viewed this emerging superpower were distorted by arrogance, naivety, complacency, commercial greed and wishful thinking." - The Observer (UK)

"Kai Strittmatter was for many years the Beijing correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and his excellent We Have Been Harmonised is an eye-opening account." - John Lanchester, London Review of Books (UK)

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Author Information

Kai Strittmatter

Kai Strittmatter was for more than a decade the China correspondent for Germany's national newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Fluent in Mandarin, he has studied China for more than 30 years, including extensive stints in Xi'an and Taipei. He is now a fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin.

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