Kai Strittmatter’s new book “The Rediscovery of Dictatorship” describes China as a pioneer of a new digital totalitarianism:
“This new China is not supposed to be a huge, ascetic and disciplined barracks court, as it was with Mao, but rather an externally colorful mix of George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s ‘The Brave New World’, where man becomes commercial and gets pleasure and thus results in supervision of its own accord. The vast majority of subjects are always aware of the knowledge of the instruments of the dread of power as a possibility, it is the background radiation in the universe of this party. (…) “Xi Jinping creates a China that dates back to the 1950s, with a Leninism, with repression as strong as it has been since the days of Mao Zedong. With a censorship and propaganda that really draws on old methods as it did then. With one leg he goes back to the 50s, but with the other leg he goes far into the future and goes to places that other autocrats and dictators may have dreamed of, but where there was no human being yet.”
Rongchen is the first pilot city for the euphemistic called social bonus system, and by 2020, other pilot cities are to be merged. So the whole thing still seems to be in the testing and experimentation phase. So the question is: How long will it take for the infrastructure for and the social bonus system to be established nationwide throughout China? How long is the window of potential resistance until it is implemented. Whereby it may only need another generation, which has internalized it psychically and thus socialized, it takes as a matter of course and knows nothing else, certainly no private liberties. So far, the deal was between the CPC and the population: The Communist Party of China, as a collective development dictatorship party , is raising prosperity and affluence, leaving small private freedoms to citizens as they remain apolitical and politically reticent. Now, this consensus is called into question by Trump’s economic war, the transition from a collective one-party dictaorship to a one-man rule for an indefinite period, as well as the social bonus system.
Another question is therefore: Won´t there be any resistance or even opposition to the social bonus system and the transformation of the People’s Republic of China from a one-party rule to a one-man rule? Even in the CCP, there are Xi critics. Some Communist Party members also fear that China may have some sot of imperial overstretch and a kind of Great Leap Forward by the New Silk Road. Many Chinese also know their current small but private freedoms and it probably takes a generation that no longer knows them, but keeps the social bonus system for the normal state and internalizes it so that it wants to be an active point optimizer.
And does not the bonus system also have systemic contradictions? What happens if respondents disagree with their assessment and sanction and think their social bonus point assessmentis unfair? Is there a complaint office at all, or would a complaint be scored negative again? Can not resistance be alsbe the result of such a bonus system? Is Rongchen just the soft initial variant to expand the system? Is it simply tacitly established or is the CCP trying to make its citizens propagandistically palatable portraying the controll system as favourable advantage, e.g. crime prevention?
Western companies are also complaining that the bonus system should also be extended to commercial enterprises. One fears discrimination and control by the CP China. However, this concerns might not only be the concrn of western companies, but a cybernetically controlled economy could be introduced here, perhaps also with planned economic elements, which wants to make the Chinese economy crisis-proof? The use of computers existed before the USA under the Socialist President of Chile Salvador Allende, who sought to realize the planning of the economy by means of a central computer, which tried to the 400 largest nationalized enterprises by cybernetics. Rudi Dutschke spoke in discussions also for planned economy by means of supercomputers? To what extent does the CPC have a similar idea of cybernetic regulation of the economy?
The Communist Party of China has a monopoly on media and information, as well as by the social bonus system a control and sanction monopoly. Nevertheless, everything depends on computers and digitized systems, which can be disturbed by hacker attacks and paralyzed. Does not this high level of networking give potential oppositional hacker groups and foreign states the opportunity to create the basis for a colour revolution through cyberattacks? As long as the CP China has a monopoly on media and social media, and a sanction monopoly by the social bonus system , nothing will change. As long as there is not a well-organized opposition hacker army or support by Western hackers or Western cyberwarriors of the US-Cybercommand, NSA, etc. there will be no breakthrough in propaganda and the exile dissidents and the opposition in China will be limited to their debates in far remote, foreign countries which will never reach the Chinese masses.
Interesting that young people at our town are now discussing Tic Toc. Tic Toc is the Chinese Instagram which became very popular in China and Western countries due to its innovative performance and that you could have contact with Chinese young people. Of course, it was subject to Chinese censorship and you couldn´t talk about politics or sensitive issues. However, an influencer for cosmetic products was sending Tic Toc information about Chinese concentration camps against the Uigurs. It took the Chinese censorship agency 1 week to discover it. Now the discussion among unpolitical young people in the West and China is if the CP China will reduce the contacts with young Chinese people or even suppress it totally. These are the discussions of young digital natives and not of analog foreigners.
And, what was the reason that the CP China agreed to Xi Jinping’s one-man rule and the model of digital totalitarianism and social bonus system? China was on the road to success with the WTO admission in 2001 and the 2008 Olympics. Kai Strittmatter claims that despite these foreign policy highlights, there was a deep discontent in and protests of the population that had alarmed the Chinese Communist Party and led it to take this step. But it is also possible that in addition to prevention and social control, there is also a tendency to centralize domestically, as China is expanding strongly to the outside world via the New Silk Road and the inner concentration of power is accompanied by this external expansion, because it is hoped that through total internal control a stable basis for the external expansion would be given.
Especially since this control concentration is indeed not limited to the bonus system, but is also in the reduction of the Politburo from 9 to 7 members, the transformation of the previous one-party dictatorship to a one-man dictatorship with a lifelong rule. Kai Strittmatter’s book is not only a book on China, but a warning that China is only the model of a digital Totalitarism that other authoritarian leaders in the West could follow. In response, he or President Steinmeier suggest to digitalize democracy or to democratize digitization. But more detail on what that means in concrete terms and how this should be done does have the two both neither.