Mass surveillance in China is a widespread practice throughout the country.

Spending estimates

In 2017, China's spending on domestic security was estimated to be $197 billion, excluding spending on "security-related urban management and surveillance technology initiatives."[1]

In 2010, domestic security expenditure exceeded spending on external defense for the first time. By 2016, domestic security spending surpassed external defense by 13 percent.[1]

Current affairs

In January 2014, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television announced that real names would be required of users who wished to upload videos to Chinese web sites. The agency explained that the requirement was meant to "prevent vulgar content, base art forms, exaggerated violence and sexual content in Internet video having a negative effect on society."[2]

As part of a broader surveillance push, the Chinese government encouraged the use of various mobile phone apps. Local regulators launched mobile apps for "national security" purposes and to allow citizens to report violations, "which is a way for residents to conduct social supervision," according to a commentary in the Global Times.[3][4]

The government is also developing a Social Credit System that rates the trustworthiness of its citizens by analyzing their social behaviors and collecting fiscal and government data.[5][6] Participation in the system will be mandatory by 2020.[6][7]


In Tibet, users of mobile phones and the Internet must identify themselves by name. In June 2013, the government reported that the programme had reached full realisation. An official said that "the real-name registration is conducive to protecting citizens' personal information and curbing the spread of detrimental information". More than 100 Tibetans had self-immolated for political reasons.[8]

In December 2013, the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology asked China Telecom, a major landline and mobile telephone company, to put a real name registration scheme into effect and to "regulate the dissemination of objectionable information over the network" in 2014.[9]

The government of China has installed over 20 million surveillance cameras across the country.[10][11][12] According to official statistics in 2012, more than 660 of the mainland's 676 cities use surveillance systems. In the Guangdong province alone, 1.1 million cameras had been installed in 2012, with plans to increase the number to 2 million by 2015 at a predicted cost of 12.3 billion yuan.[13] By 2020, the Chinese government expects to integrate private and public cameras, leveraging the country's tech industry's expertise in facial recognition technology to build a nation-wide surveillance network.[14]

Officials said that in the four years up to 2012, 100,000 crimes had been solved with the aid of the cameras. However, a critic said that "one of the most important purposes of such a smart surveillance system is to crack down on social unrest triggered by petitioners and dissidents".[13] In 2013, it was reported that the government saw the severe atmospheric pollution in Chinese cities as a security threat, because the CCTV cameras were being rendered useless.[15]

In 2011, the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission proposed a mobile phone tracking programme, to be called the Information Platform of Realtime Citizen Movement, which was ostensibly intended to ease traffic flow on the city's streets.[16]

Since at least 2017, Chinese police have forced Uyghurs in Xinjiang to install the Jingwang Weishi app on their phones, allowing for remote monitoring of the phone's contents.[17][18]

See also


  1. ^ a b "China's Domestic Security Spending: An Analysis of Available Data - Jamestown". Jamestown. Retrieved 2018-03-19. 
  2. ^ China orders real name register for online video uploads, Reuters, 2014-01-21, archived from the original on 2014-01-21 
  3. ^ Times, Global. "Reporting apps allow Chinese to take part in national governance: experts - Global Times". www.globaltimes.cn. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  4. ^ Page, Jeremy; Dou, Eva (2017-12-29). "In Sign of Resistance, Chinese Balk at Using Apps to Snitch on Neighbors". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  5. ^ Botsman, Rachel. "Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens". Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  6. ^ a b Hatton, Celia (2015-10-26). "China sets up huge 'social credit' system". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  7. ^ Botsman, Rachel. "Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens". Retrieved 2018-03-19. 
  8. ^ Patranobis, Sutirtho (2013-06-19), "China completes mass surveillance scheme in Tibet", Hindustan Times, archived from the original on 2014-01-30 
  9. ^ China Telecom Corporation Limited. "China Telecom 2014 Annual Work Conference Highlights" (Press release). Investor Relations Asia Pacific. Archived from the original on 2014-01-31. [...] Mr. Shang made four requests for the work in 2014: [...] To bolster network information security by diligently implementing the telephone customer real name registration system and protecting the privacy of customer personal information while coordinating with relevant authorities to regulate the dissemination of objectionable information over the network to ensure a secure and reliable network environment. 
  10. ^ "In China, Beware: A Camera May Be Watching You". NPR. 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2014-01-31. 
  11. ^ "Big Brother in China is watching, with 30 million surveillance cameras". News.msn.com. Retrieved 2014-01-31. 
  12. ^ "Caucus Brief: China's Incoming Leader Pledges Not to Bargain on Disputed Territory - Congressman J. Randy Forbes". Forbes.house.gov. Archived from the original on 2014-01-31. Retrieved 2014-01-31. 
  13. ^ a b Tam, Fiona (2012-06-15), 2m spy cameras in Guangdong by 2015, South China Morning Post, archived from the original on 2014-01-30 
  14. ^ Deyner, Simon (January 7, 2018). "China bets on facial recognition in big drive for total surveillance". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-01-13. 
  15. ^ John Hall (2013-11-06). "China's CCTV culture suffers as record high pollution and smog levels render country's 20 million surveillance cameras effectively useless - Asia - World". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-01-31. 
  16. ^ Lewis, Leo (2011-03-04). "China mobile phone tracking system attacked as 'Big Brother' surveillance". The Australian. Archived from the original on 2014-06-19. 
  17. ^ Cox, Joseph (April 9, 2018). "Chinese Government Forces Residents To Install Surveillance App With Awful Security". Vice Media. 
  18. ^ Rajagopalan, Megha; Yang, William (April 9, 2018). "China Is Forcing People To Download An App That Tells Them To Delete "Dangerous" Photos". BuzzFeed News. 

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