This may be the most ironic story of the year. We often discuss two outstanding characteristics of modern China: expanding pollution and shrinking civil liberties. Now, the two have collided where Chinese officials are struggling with the loss of surveillance from its thousands of surveillance cameras spying on citizens. Pollution is now making it difficult to maintain such surveillance due to the permanent shroud of particulates and pollutants. Thus, while Chinese lives are being shortened, their government may have given them a slight respite from monitoring. Of course, it is hard to use free speech when you are gasping for breath. A recent report details how pollution in one Chinese city is being attributed as the cause of lung cancer in an eight-year-old boy.
South China Morning Post says that the government has dispatched teams of scientists to come up with a fix. Not to solve pollution mind you. To find surveillance systems that can operate in the toxic soup of Chinese cities. This may include infrared cameras. However, it turns out that the Chinese pollution is even defeating infrared cameras of China’s security services. One official stated “Our preliminary research shows that the smog particles are quite different from the small water droplets of fog in terms of optical properties” so that infrared can see through smoke but not Chinese particulates. What a shame.