• We Have Been Harmonized

  • Life in China's Surveillance State
  • By: Kai Strittmatter
  • Narrated by: Matthew Waterson
  • Length: 10 hrs and 30 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (205 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Named a Notable Work of Nonfiction of 2020 by the Washington Post

As heard on NPR's Fresh Air, We Have Been Harmonized, by award-winning correspondent Kai Strittmatter, offers a groundbreaking look, based on decades of research, at how China created the most terrifying surveillance state in history. 

China’s new drive for repression is being underpinned by unpre­cedented advances in technology: facial and voice recognition, GPS tracking, supercomputer databases, intercepted cell phone conver­sations, the monitoring of app use, and millions of high-resolution security cameras make it nearly impossible for a Chinese citizen to hide anything from authorities. Commercial transactions, including food deliveries and online purchases, are fed into vast databases, along with everything from biometric information to social media activities to methods of birth control. Cameras (so advanced that they can locate a single person within a stadium crowd of 60,000) scan for faces and walking patterns to track each individual’s move­ment. In some schools, children’s facial expressions are monitored to make sure they are paying attention at the right times. In a new Social Credit System, each citizen is given a score for good behavior; for those who rate poorly, punishments include being banned from flying or taking high-speed trains, exclusion from certain jobs, and preventing their children from attending better schools. And it gets worse: Advanced surveillance has led to the imprisonment of more than a million Chinese citizens in western China alone, many held in draconian “reeducation” camps.

This digital totalitarianism has been made possible not only with the help of Chinese private tech companies, but the complic­ity of Western governments and corporations eager to gain access to China’s huge market. And while governments debate trade wars and tariffs, the Chinese Communist Party and its local partners are aggressively stepping up their efforts to export their surveillance technology abroad - including to the United States. 

We Have Been Harmonized is a terrifying portrait of life under unprecedented government surveillance - and a dire warning about what could happen anywhere under the pretense of national security.

“Terrifying.... A warning call." (The Sunday Times, UK, a “Best Book of the Year so Far”)

©2019 Kai Strittmatter (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers

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Wonderful, but Cannot See Past Their Own Bias

First off, this is a fascinating book + listen. The narrator is engaging and presents the information with the gusto of a professor who is genuinely interested in the subject and keen on disseminating that information to his pupils in the classroom. Full marks on the presentation of the material.

What honestly holds this book back, is that the author cannot remove their bias towards the previous administration in the US while attempting to draw parallels between it and China that are both unsubstantiated (provides no anecdotes or footnotes to explain their comparisons). While I am not a supporter of that previous administration (or the last 3 for that matter), the author wants you to see both in the same light, that they are one-and-the-same, while completely ignoring the fact that the US Technocrats, owned, operated, and paid for by proponents and legislators of that administration's opposing party in America are doing the exact same things that he warns the CCP are doing in China.

If, as the book claims, the Autocrat's main goal is to not only force an individual/society to believe that black is white, and then tell the state WHY it is this way - then this is exactly what is going on in the US education system right now - with alternative facts, revised history, and unabashedly Marxist-Leninist works being presented as "approved curriculums." If Honk Kong's 2012 Student activism, driven by Scholarism and Joshua Wong, were to prevent a brainwashing National Education plan from being implemented - then those in the US doing the same should be applauded, where instead they're being vilified.

The author seems to be oblivious to this state of affairs.

This is an example of a common issue that the book fails to address - even when the author himself is clearly against the very same ideologies that are causing so much division and strife throughout the West at the current moment.

The book also goes in-depth for how badly the CCP covered up and restricted the knowledge of the Wuhan outbreak that lead to its rapid expansion past the Provence and onto the world stage, but stops short of condemning the CCP for these actions, and then correctly calling out the world for not exacting a penance upon the country for the role it played in causing such economic and humanitarian destruction. Which they should. The CCP allowed this to happen, and yet we now look to their "recovery" as something to marvel at.

Furthermore, the author goes in-depth on the ways in which the companies of China, backed by the CCP, brainwash and effectively "re-educate" the Chinese people via censorship, internet control, restriction of information, deletion and banning of accounts, and the now outright illegality of statements such as "I disagree." Yet the author cannot see the very real parallel that American Corporations are now doing the same, mostly along strict political and ideological lines. The algorithms used, the banning of "contentious individuals," the de-platforming of dissenters, etc. To say "I disagree" in the west is met with a mob mentality of very physical proportions, and is often met with either violence or social ostracization from friends and family - with affection and engagement only being earned after you have "addressed your blind spots," which, for those that understand the tactic employed here, is tantamount to a self-crit session. As an example, see the recent situation with a now-former member from the successful band Mumford & Sons.

If the author disagrees with Mao's approach and the very doctrine by which the CCP operates, they should be at the front lines against these things happening in the West. Yet the author does not address these issues nor the very real parallels.

The author is so blinded by their dislike and distrust of the previous administration of the US, that they have allowed that bias to infect the very real facts and truth being presented within.

Particularly where the Corporatocracy in the US has begun to not only sway public opinion and re-educate the masses in order to only vote and cast their "allegiance" to a single particular party, but they fund that party openly. The "free press," is no longer free, and has not been for decades here in America. Whether it's Fox News or CNN + 9 other major news outlets that are funded by Corporations with deep ties to a single political party and its candidates. America is going the way of the CCP, and this book should be the wake-up call to that very fact - instead, it doubles down on divisive rhetoric while presenting a haunting expose on the fall of civil liberties and democratic institutions.

It is on these points that the work here falls short, which is a shame, especially as I sit here wrapping up this expose while wearing a "Free Hong Kong" shirt.

34 people found this helpful

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I tried to enjoy this book...

I purchased this book hoping to learn more about how the Chinese government conducts its mass-surveillance of its citizens, and how it is attempting to expand those capabilities worldwide. I tried to enjoy the work, but I couldn't get past the constant references to how Donald Trump operated in the US (not that they weren't justified). Point is, if I wanted to read about how poor a job Trump did, I'll visit Salon or Vox or the Atlantic. You don't need to burn a credit on those sites. It's well written, but I just couldn't enjoy it.

20 people found this helpful

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A must listen on China

I’ve read about thirty China related books on audible and this is one of my favorites. A must listen. Connecting to George Orwell is a nice touch. Modern day description of 1984 come to life.

4 people found this helpful

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Outstanding Book!!!

This is a well written and preformed audio book about a country that most Westerners have no clue about. If you want to understand Communist China and the way technology and money are changing the way WE think then this is a great way to spend a credit.
Terrific book regardless of your political affiliation.

3 people found this helpful

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The most important book about China today

This is a detailed well reschedule inside look at China in 2020 which gives a clear answer why Hong Kong is going through a rapid change well before 2047. This is how Hong Kong is being Harmonized.
An absolute must read for anyone having anything to do with China in this Mao 2.0 period.

2 people found this helpful

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Chilling

The authors points about the CCPs self-aggrandized form of orientalism - “China and the Chinese are so terribly unique that this dictatorial form of govern is perfect for us” - was interesting. I’ve actually heard that line and forms of that logic spouted by non Chinese acquaintances. In an age of rising nationalism, this book acts as an examination not only of China and the current Chinese government, but also of the effects of nationalist thinking as a lens of viewing the world. Perhaps the most heart breaking portion of the work focuses on the anomie and “symbolic loss” many Chinese people live with, where all social structures and institutions not immediately affiliated with the Party are seen as having no value. Previously, my mind had naturally associated consumerism with capitalist systems. I can now see how unbridled consumerism and the form nationalism touted by the CCP literally encourage people to attempt to purchase their personhood.

Yes: there are negative critiques of former president Trump, but the fact that those comments are major sticking points for some American readers PROVES the validity of some of the points in the book; nationalism has as much to do with people as it does governments.

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Great book

a sincere warning of what's coming our way in the West. Highly recommended read for those awake

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This should be taught in High School Social Studies!

There are a few books that peel back the veil of what China is doing. On the surface it seems very morally sound but unfortunately their long-term plans do not align with what has made the United States so great. Their success in appealing to Westerners as well as dividing us even to the point of meddling in our politics. They’ve been teaching in our schools for decades. We need to start teaching in our own schools so we can prepare appropriately for this threat.

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Democracy NOW!

An illuminating dissection of the Authoritarian CCP’s grip on its people, the technology and methodology used to surprising effectiveness, and how it is infecting the minds and nations that fall into its enticing economic trap.

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Needed Better Editing

If you know much about online censorship and surveillance in China, nothing here will be a revelation. There's not much original research or reporting. The book could also be shorter. as the last 2 hours are repetitive and more or less amount to an extended op-ed by the author on what's wrong with China and the world.