From China Digital Space
“The People Have Sharp Eyes” (“群众的眼睛是雪亮的.”)
This Communist Party slogan was heavily used during the Cultural Revolution, an era in which citizens were incentivized to spy on and even falsely accuse family and neighbors of being disloyal to authority. More than 50 years after that tumultuous era began, the slogan has been reincarnated in an ambitious and highly invasive surveillance program called Sharp Eyes (雪亮工程), one of the newer additions to China’s increasingly omnipresent surveillance state. This rural-focused initiative marries cutting-edge technology with Mao-era, crowd-sourced efforts by encouraging residents to surveil public video feeds and report suspicious incidents using their TVs and mobile devices.
We aim to shed light on this surveillance program in particular because it has been overshadowed by other programs such as the social credit system and the use of facial recognition to shame rule-breakers. In addition, by extending surveillance into rural areas, the program demonstrates how expansive Beijing’s aims are: to create a truly omnipresent surveillance state.
Sharp Eyes Map
CDT's Sharper Eyes series
- Part 1: Surveilling the Surveillers
- Part 2: Sharp Eyes Project Map
- Part 3: From Shandong to Xinjiang
- Facial Recognition Is Running Amok in China. The People Are Pushing Back, by Shen Lu at Vice
- Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras, by Paul Mozur, New York Times.
- Digital Authoritarianism, China, and COVID, by Lydia Khalil, Lowy Institute
- State of Surveillance, from ChinaFile
- China Public Video Surveillance Guide: From Skynet to Sharp Eyes, from IPVM
- China's 'sharp eyes' offer chance to take surveillance industry global, from Nikkei Asian Review
- What’s behind China’s ‘Sharp Eyes’, from Il Manifesto
- China’s Sharp Eyes surveillance system puts the security focus on public shaming, from the South China Morning Post
- Inside China’s surveillance state, from the Financial Times