-How their state apparatus functions
-How the Chinese state apparatus functions
-How much they are effortlessly surveilled by computers and how those aggregates are collated
In fact, I could go as far as saying nearly everyone in the world could fit into this category, but I will allow an extremely loose definition of “unaware” here to make sure that I’m not just trying to broadly define, like, 7.4 billion people. In essence, even a cursory understanding of these three categories instantly places you outside of the vast majority of people who have completely disconnected or haven’t bothered to learn these things. An important point I want to make here is that by no means does having this information make you superior; a hog led to slaughter with the anxiety of knowing it is about to be killed is likely just as, if not more terrified, than a hog being led down a corridor that stinks of death. We are all the hogs—if you are reading this in the English language (the only language I am fully capable of writing this in) you are overwhelmingly likely to be a hog as well. We are consumers, we eat, we are ignorant, chewing mouths taught to digest and regurgitate opinions about our consumption—like bile overflowing from a decadent meal of fois gras—and we have the nerve to ask how much we could maybe get so someone else could eat that bile? Maybe that bile is worth something?
The problem with swimming in an endless sea of vomit is that you very, very quickly lose the shorelines. The reality of the world is that China and America are two completely interdependent superpowers—but when you live in this other horrible Waterworld of Shit, the predominant refrain from young and old media is, for the large part, hysterical depictions of China doing exactly the same thing the West has done for years, but being more obvious about it because they don’t have to disguise it.
As a caveat, I am a Canadian, it’s Little America in almost every way—we love doing historic and ongoing genocides at home and abroad, we are an imperialist, extractionist country arm-in-arm with apartheid Israel and selling massive weapons of death to homicidal Saudi maniacs at the same time. The point being, this is par for the course as a Western nation, the deal signed by the “winners” of rapid industrialization who climbed up the mountain of skulls the fastest (the details of which were worked out with a few global wars) essentially assured that, from now on, there was one global hegemonic way of ruling, but you had to be chill about it, okay? It became clearer after the 80s and 90s, after financialization, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, after the credit-debit traps that destroyed much of the Global South economically and caused them to become defacto ruled over by the IMF— every major Western country functions identically to the prototyped and now fully-assembled neo-fascist American cliché. To live in any of these places is to live in the exact heartland of this winking ignorance of the cruelty you see at home and abroad on a nightmarishly frequent basis, and therefore, makes you almost entirely credulous participant in handwringing about the world beyond this cultural totality instead, because your horrors are already justified.
Additionally, the conceptual idea of freedom is so obnoxiously malleable that it can be changed to fit any argument—a lot of the time, this conceptual freedom is basically “the freedom to choose what I consume and how I consume it” and ends there. Freedom, somehow, doesn’t mean complete control of your life even in the libertarian sense—in a ruthless world of social ‘non-aggressors’ with extremely strong property rights, eventually the property is used as the chess-piece to preclude the social aspect of ‘aggression’ while also completely violating the ‘freedom’ or ‘rights’ or whatever of the so-called individual. Freedom, in a “socialist” sense, I suppose means freedom to be emancipated from exploitation; but in the minds of people who are easily able to pass the mental football of 'freedom', socialism is the overreach of the state so as to prevent freedom because it precludes individualism and meaningless competition. Benny Johnson standing in shorts and flip flops gawking at a Cuban supermarket shelf with hundreds of homogenously branded products. If the state is involved, freedom to consume on the ultimate terms of the individual doesn’t happen; of course, it’s also nonsense to say that after a half-century of aggressive American sanctions, a tiny island country’s restaurant wholesaler not having a variety of brands is the ‘everyday’ in a socialist state—it’s all just a confused mash of competing ideologies derailing and slamming themselves together in the world of culture—but this is how easy it is to completely bullshit to yourself and others about what life beyond the bubbles of present-day capitalist monoculture is, and why it’s way, way easier to just disconnect and say “fuck this” and become one of the millions of people to whom the world simply occurs.
However, in again, very vague terms, China did two things to upend this age-old Imperialist Winners pact, they rapidly industrialized from a fully feudal, agrarian nation to a modern economic superpower in 50 years, and then took a seat at the winner’s table. China built a staircase of human bodies ultimately equivalent to the West in the grand scheme of things, but they did it in a timescale never before seen on the face of the earth. To argue the ethics of modernization is another trap—it’s meaningless; we live in a world of cheap life and easy death. Arguing numbers and ratios is a pointless attempt to influence someone else who is utterly convinced there is a moral superiority to the way a certain country slaughtered its way to modernity that is completely opposite to your own. 9/11 is remembered with a severe reverence by almost every major public figure as COVID-19 kills the equivalent of a 9/11 every single day to the elderly and infirm for nearly an entire calendar year now—that’s the absurdity of buying into the macabre game of morally weighing the justifiability of mass death. How China operated then is irrelevant to what China is now—the world’s largest market capitalist country, purporting to be in the “first stage of Socialism”—with an ostensibly strong social cohesion which has now become the endless global seller to the perfect buyer.
I don’t want to be some fucking Orientalist weirdo who either writes off China’s social dynamic as either inscrutable or completely obvious to me; someone who does not read or speak Chinese, know a lot of Chinese people on an intimate level, or ever set foot even within a couple thousands of kilometres from China, but what is obvious is that the level of influence the state has on the cultural and social spheres of life in modern China is horrifying to Westerners precisely because it operates on an upfront level. In a way, it’s also predominantly because of the ideal of “political dominance” from the CPC; but oddly, the idea that the Democrats and Republicans (or Liberals, Conservatives, NDP; fill in your major bourgeois political parties here) and all the little tiny offshoot parties are simply factions of a larger fascistic, capitalist vanguard party is not entertained because those factional fights have cultural differences. This extends to every level, these cultural hang-ups and fights crawling feebly out from the social battery acid of neoliberalism easily disguises the hypocrisy of shrieking about surveillance or genocide or human rights abuses. It’s also equally as disingenuous to pretend that China doesn’t also detain and attempt to reshape cultural minorities because of the state’s obsessive need to maintain social cohesion and uniformity; but to mention this isn’t to give any of these state actors a ‘get out of crimes against humanity free’ card, it’s a pragmatic reality of people’s lives in different organizations of state power as it intersects with the social under completely unique historical material circumstances.
In America, you are surveilled constantly, but only occasionally is this information “allowed” to be viewed by the relevant authorities. This is the entire barrier and difference between what we perceive as a completely free, individualistic state, and something called a “communist police state” in common parlance. Social Credit which impacts train ticket availability for people who get caught smoking in the bathroom and plane ticket availability for people who rip off their employees among other obviously many other things are directly comparable to American institutions which function identically, but operate just enough in an obfuscated way so as to make them seem like completely different things. A Social Credit score is different from a Credit Score because one is adherence to a social system, and the other is adherence to wage-earning and the financial system! Never mind that the financial system directly intersects with every single facet of my social life in almost every way! China surveils its citizens with facial recognition technology. That certainly doesn’t happen in the West! Except when people find out it does, but luckily, it’s just plucky ol’ corporations exploiting and tracking you instead of a bureaucrat.
In my mind, there is no fundamental difference now to being a citizen in any of these countries besides how utterly fucked you are when the rug gets pulled out from under you. Culture is the behemoth separating the new world of the next century, but these cultures are completely meaningless expressions that constantly change at an ever-evolving rate and do extraordinarily little in terms of elevating humanity. Being dirt poor in urban America is likely a hell worse than being an average peasant in modern China, but that was absolutely not true even 30 years ago. The timescales and changes soon will happen rapidly and probably peacefully, unless Sleepy Joe or the legions of devils in the wings of the Great Satan’s brigade are bold enough to pop off the doomsday clock before they finally die a normal death from being geriatric. But the coming ‘Chinese century’ or whatever other rhetoric that gets thrown around is simply picking a fight with time tested old Red Scare boogeymen. They’re blowing the dust off the Looney Tunes tapes and playing the classics. The average person doesn’t know who or what the fuck Falun Gong is, or what their beef with the CPC is, but you’ll get the Epoch Times delivered right to your door whether you like it or not. Every major news outlet credulously repeats that there are millions of Uyghurs being ground into bonemeal round-the-clock and nobody is doing anything to stop it. It all just seems like patently ridiculous theatre; and a boring, rehash of a show we've already seen plenty enough at that, by people who are begging to die in a hypothetically cataclysmic military confrontation, but it’s the straight-faced belief of even the most serious Western politicians! Maddening. We are terrified of our own shadow growing large in the sunset of the empire.