“The Eyes and Ears of the Authoritarian Regime: Mass Reporting in China” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2020.1813790) is a new article at JCA by Jue Jiang of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute, School of Law, New York University.
It is widely acknowledged that official surveillance and control over Chinese citizens have been intensifying since President Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012. What is alarming is the authorities’ vigorous promotion of a variety of channels for ordinary people watching and informing on each other in daily life. In recent years, the regime has systematically institutionalised mass reporting. The Chinese authorities intend to cultivate an atmosphere of fear in society and fuel distrust among citizens which may turn citizens into an apparatus facilitating authoritarian control and turn society into a suppressing Panopticon. This article examines this mass reporting institution in combatting illegal activities, including in official “counter-terrorism” and “anti-mafia” campaigns and on university campuses. Drawing upon case studies and publicly available reports, this article focuses on how mass reporting operates, to what extent it meets (or fails) official goals and, more importantly, in what ways this institution interacts with other official surveillance mechanisms. Despite this effort, it is argued that the destruction of communal trust may, in the long run, erode the public’s trust in the regime and weaken the authoritarian rule.