China has dramatically increased its domestic surveillance by investing heavily in new technology.
The effort is promoted as a means to beef up national security. But it also accurately reflects the hunger of President Xi jinping to consolidate his power and is a significant move toward a more authoritarian regime.
This might prove effective but we are reluctant do this in the United States. The opposition to a “1984” scenario of Big Brother infringing on our civil rights still is too great.
There is no greater recent evidence of such reluctance than the failure of local and national law enforcement to stop Nikolas Cruz from massacring 17 persons at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida February 14. Police and FBI surveillance has indicated that Cruz was potentially dangerous. But no action was taken.
Subsequent calls for increased surveillance following this tragedy will be countered by civil libertarians such as the ACLU who fear uncontrolled secret use of China-like technology by American law enforcement.
We in the United States value our constitutional rights and are willing to sacrifice shooting victims in order to prevent unconstitutional intrusion into and surveillance of our daily lives.
China’s President Xi obviously has no such concerns. But then again China is no democracy.
The question is how is America to balance the constitutional rights of individual citizens with the equal right of persons to be safe in public places?
Democratic republics struggle to find an answer. Totalitarian states do not.
China under President Xi is prepared to sacrifice individual freedoms to increase state security. We in the United States are not. At least not yet.