In 2015, a national policy document issued by nine different Party and government bureaucracies called for “public safety video-surveillance construction, networking, and applications” across China. The policy described such surveillance systems as not only a way to combat crime, but also an important mechanism for enhancing “social management” and “safeguarding national security and social stability.” “Given the growing openness of society, the increasing convenience and speed of transportation infrastructure, and the widespread adoption of various emerging communication technologies,” as numerous government documents and media reports put it, using identical language, “people with all kinds of interests can cross jurisdictions to band together, stir up trouble, and assemble illegally. This presents a serious challenge to preventing, perceiving, and predicting vicious crimes and mass incidents.”
To combat these dangers, China’s National Development and Reform Commission embarked on a project called “Xueliang Gongcheng,” or “Project Sharp Eyes” (evoking Mao Zedong’s aphorism that celebrated people who spied on one another). Building on and supplementing Project Skynet, Safe Cities, and other previous surveillance campaigns, China’s government aims to extend video surveillance coverage to 100 percent of China’s “key public spaces” by the end of this year.
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