One of the things that limited my first stay in China to one academic year was the intrusiveness of surveillance. In 1981, gatekeepers monitored who entered our neighborhood and who socialized with us. At one point our visitors were required to sign in at the front door to our apartment building. The surveillance had a chilling effect. Our social lives dwindled to nothing for awhile, or we spoke furtively after class to students, agreeing to meet at a neutral location blocks away from campus.
In the last three decades, China has become economically more like us: capitalist, wealthy, consumerist. And we have become more like them: especially since September 11, 2001, government surveillance, usually through monitoring of phone records and emails, has been employed to enhance our “security.” But what’s old is new again.
A recent Splinter News article details the Trump Administration’s Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) hotline, with a stated mission to “provide proactive, timely, adequate, and professional services to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens.” However, the line is used to rat on neighbors and even family members by nosy folks with grievances to settle. Read the full article here:
Cold War Americans feared that China and its oppressive regime threatened the American way of life. And in China back in 1981, Gauss’s and my movements and contacts were closely watched, often because authorities didn’t want their society “polluted” by Western culture. Everyone’s fears have come true; we are now much more alike than we could have imagined.