Explore ANU College of Asia & Pacific research activities

Big brother and big bucks. Surveillance with Chinese characteristics

Public Seminar


Dr Børge Bakken


Lecture Theatre 2, Hedley Bull Centre (130), corner of Garran Road and Liversidge Street, ANU


Thursday, 20 June, 2013 - 12:30 to 13:30

In this presentation, Dr Børge Bakken will focus on the rapidly growing “social management” sector in China – here exemplified in particular by the CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) surveillance camera craze observed over the last years. The power to snoop is addictive everywhere, but he will try to explain what drives this craze in today’s China, and the answer lies as much in Adam Smith as it lies in George Orwell or Mao Zedong.
There are vast capital gains in the industry, and we might talk about a Chinese surveillance industry driven by harsh capitalist market rationality. With Nils Christie’s famous book title “Crime-control as industry” (about the American prison state) as a model, we see “social management as industry” in China today. We might also see the surveillance craze driven by an equally harsh administrative rationality based on cadre incentive systems and strict performance criteria. The whole bureaucracy have to pay heed to the performance of so-called weiwen (维稳) – or the task of  “maintaining stability”. Such criteria are also linked to a system of economic sanctions for cadres. In combination we see an explosion of what Børge terms the Chinese “surveillance state”, and a special form of “State surveillance capitalism” with clear links to Western surveillance businesses and models. It certainly represents surveillance with Chinese characteristics.
Dr Børge Bakken is Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology and Director of the Masters ofSocial Sciences programme in criminology at the University of Hong Kong. He is the author of books like: "Migration in China" (NIAS press, 1999), "The Exemplary Society" (Oxford University Press, 2000), and "Crime, Punishment and Policing in China" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). He has written extensively on crime, punishment, and social problems in China. Dr Bakken has taught and done research at Harvard, the Australian National University, Beijing Normal University, University of Oslo, the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and Ludwig Maximillian University, Munich.

Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team