The Corner


China’s Growing Domestic-Security Spending

Special-force police officers take part in a security oath-taking rally in Neijiang, China, September 27, 2017. (Stringer/Reuters)

Violence of all kind is a contagion. Media attention for those who commit school shootings can beget more school shootings. One act of terrorism can inspire another. The question is how to stop the disease from spreading, and whereas the United States seems to have settled into endless debates about various restrictions on gun ownership, China has opted for something different: mass domestic surveillance.

According to a new report in the Wall Street Journal, the Xi Jinping government has just massively increased sending for domestic security, the budget for which now surpasses that for national defense by 20 percent. Much of the spending goes to Xinjiang and Tibet, where Beijing fears uprisings from local minority populations. In Xinjiang, the Journal reports, domestic-security spending in 2017 was over $9 billion, an increase of more than 90 percent over the previous year. That money went to weaving “a web of surveillance, with checkpoints, high-definition cameras, facial scanners and street patrols” and technology used to “identify ‘unsafe’ members of the region’s Uighur population.” Across China, meanwhile, the government is “experimenting with cutting-edge tracking tools, tapping social-media accounts to punish politically incorrect speech and, in some places, trying to get residents to inform on each other using smartphone apps.”

Has China’s expanding surveillance state proven effective at reducing violence? Although China says that the threat of terrorism is still serious, it claims that the number of violent attacks involving terrorists fell in 2016. Such attacks are rarely covered in the Chinese media, and when they do happen, they tend to involve knives rather than guns and so cause less damage. Yet there are signs that Chinese civilians are growing resentful of mass surveillance, which might force the government to take a different tack.

Freedom isn’t free. But neither is repression and state control.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular

PC Culture

When PC Comes Back to Bite You

Political correctness run amok is a popular topic on the right these days. Indeed, the conservative bookshelf is chock full of best-sellers devoted to the topic. Subject matters vary. One may focus on the hypocrisy of campus speech codes, another on the revisionist attempt to indict our founding fathers, yet ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Charles Krauthammer, R.I.P.

It’s not often that the loss of an opinion writer can be said to be a loss for the country, but that is true of Charles Krauthammer, the Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist who died yesterday. In a fractured media environment where almost no one commands universal respect, where crudity of expression and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Time Stands by Misleading Cover Photo

Time magazine on Friday defended its decision to feature a photo of a crying toddler who was never separated from her mother on the cover of its July issue detailing family separations at the border. “The June 12 photograph of the 2-year-old Honduran girl became the most visible symbol of the ongoing ... Read More