Katarina Baer & Kalle Koponen: The Greatest Leap Forward

China uses the latest technology to monitor the lives, actions and thoughts of its citizens ever more closely.

Author: Katarina Baer
Photographer: Kalle Koponen
Finnish original: Kiinan suurin harppaus. Päämääränä maailman valvoitun kansa.
Publisher: Teos, 2020
Genre: non-fiction
Number of pages: 208 pp.
Reading material: Finnish original, English sample
English synopsis
Rights sold: Hungary, HVG Publishing

The Chinese leadership keeps watch on its citizens with advanced, intimidatingly effective surveillance technology. Combined with the dictatorship’s ability to rapidly mobilise vast operations in the streets and cities, this means near-total surveillance is already possible.

The Greatest Leap Forward is a book by journalist Katarina Baer and photographer Kalle Koponen that describes the massive operations and increasingly total systems China has created to control and manipulate its citizens, and how it manages to keep 1.4 billion people inside its own bubble, unable to access the internet freely.

The authors follow the lives of three Shanghai residents during the corona spring of 2020: Julia, in her last year at school, together with her family; Xu, a barber, and Chunheng, a tourism entrepreneur. All of them are firm supporters of the Chinese Communist Party. Through their stories, the book tries find out why so many Chinese people, despite the repressive measures, are happy with the leadership of their country.

One of the most troubling questions raised in the book is what will happen if the use of Chinese surveillance systems becomes more widespread. The combination of robust surveillance technology and the use of digital big data collected from people would upset the balance of power between dictatorships and democracies and threaten the very foundations of personal privacy.

Also available:
They Were Nazis (2016)

About the authors:
Katarina Baer
Kalle Koponen