Jialing Zhang’s feature film, Total Trust, is a dystopian sci-fi tale…oops, I’m sorry. Total Trust is an actual true-life documentary about the surveillance state that the country of China has become and outlines how the government has terrorized the lives of activists and dissenters who once believed they had rights.
Broken into two parts, Total Trust first goes into detail on how the Chinese government has built and almost completed a massive surveillance system to monitor its citizens. In almost every city, a massive series of cameras are set up on a grid-based system, where every street, public square, and building makes it virtually impossible to avoid being seen and tracked. The Chinese call the world’s most extensive video surveillance system…Skynet.
The cameras are equipped to identify each citizen through facial recognition, voice, and biometric software, so even masks are ineffective. The software can also pick up on your emotional state to alert authorities if you appear stressed or anxious. Also, at a tech convention, this software can be transferred to special goggles for law enforcement to identify suspicious and/or blacklisted people instantly. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“The Chinese call the world’s most extensive video surveillance system…Skynet.”
Technology is only part of the “solution,” as everyday citizens are encouraged and rewarded for reporting potential trouble from their friends, families, and neighbors. A Social Credit System where your behaviors are monitored and scored, and a grade is assigned from AA to D. To raise your score, you must do things that are favorable to the government, such as volunteering to feed the elderly. Grades are lowered for breaking simple laws or speaking out against the government. The higher the grade, the more perks you receive, like travel, conveniences, and a college education. The lower it goes, the harder your life becomes. There are over 200 ways to raise your score and over 2000 ways to lower it.
COVID brought an entirely new set of problems for its people and opportunities for the government to control its people. You had to show you were COVID-free to leave your home and enter any establishment. Sure, tests were a good indicator, and results were sent to a centralized database. But then the government started restricting your ability to move around by altering the results based on your associations.
"…Is it just me, or do we really want this kind of society?"