Josh Chin and Liza Lin, "Surveillance State: Inside China's Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control" (St. Martin's Press, 2022)


As we build the AI-powered digital economy, how far do we want to go? Surveillance State: Inside China's Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control (St. Martin's Press, 2022) explores how China’s Communist Party is harnessing new technologies in an effort to achieve an unprecedented level of social control. The authors outline the most brutal and extreme applications of these technologies to the Uighur people of western China. They contrast this with the relatively benign-seeming applications to traffic control, crime, and public order in the prosperous Han Chinese heartland, where a little loss of privacy can feel like a small price to pay.

They also make clear that these developments are not isolated to China. They show how America faces similar tradeoffs between using the benefits these tools can bring for crime fighting and other goals, against the risks of losing privacy and potentially making our criminal justice system even less fair. They examine the role of US companies in selling crucial elements of the technology package to Chinese firms and government agencies and challenge their defense that they had no way of knowing how or where these technologies would be used. And they examine China’s export of surveillance technologies to other countries around the world.

This book is essential reading for anyone thinking about how the digitization of the economy and our lives can benefit us or be turned against us.

Authors Josh Chin and Liza Lin are award-winning journalists with the Wall Street Journal. The book grows out of years of reporting on these developments within China, as well as an extensive investigation into the roots of these trends and their connections around the world.

Host Peter Lorentzen is the Chair of the Economics Department at the University of San Francisco, where he leads a new Master's program in Applied Economics focused on the digital economy. His research focus is the political economy of governance in China.

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Peter Lorentzen

Peter Lorentzen is economics professor at the University of San Francisco. He heads USF's Applied Economics Master's program, which focuses on the digital economy. His research is mainly on China's political economy.

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