Why you should care
Turns out adulthood doesn’t have to be a death knell.
Operating the world’s largest dictatorship takes a lot of boring bureaucracy, sure. But maintaining a tight-fisted grip on freedom of expression requires a lot more creativity than you might think. You’re probably picturing spy-cam operators, people in headphones monitoring a katrillion bugs. Maybe. But we’re thinking more along the lines of porn judges and paid protesters.
While most of China’s 39 million public servants are paper pushing and rubber-stamping, some are watching porn. The daily drill of these censors reads like every teenager’s dream job: watching 700 porn movies a week (from beginning to end). Pornography is illegal in China, which means someone needs to judge it.
But it’s not all sexy flicks. Sometimes helping the country also requires playing video games. The Chinese government employs labor camp prisoners to make money for the state by “gold farming,” which means building up credits in games such like World of Warcraft that can then be sold to other gamers.
If those prisoners are executed, they are likely to end up in the hands of yet another government employee: an organ harvester. China has a severe organ shortage because it’s traditionally improper to mutilate a dead body, so prisoners’ remains fill the gap in the market.
In 2012, about
of organs transplanted in China came from prisoners, but officials say the program is on its way out and will soon be completely replaced by a volunteer system.
What’s not shrinking any time soon is the regime’s propaganda apparatus. “Whatever the government says needs to be held as the truth. And it takes a lot of authority and effort to make that happen,” says Steve Tsang, Head of School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham.
That’s the Internet police’s job. While hackers attack foreign sites, the country employs 2 million people to monitor the Internet habits of its 1.36 billion people. Their job is to hamper any criticism of the government and to ensure damaging information is not leaked and no protests are organized online. They’re labeled “public opinion analysts.”
Another crucial tool of social control is the “50-Cent Party,” a legion of trolls on payroll whose job is to guide the conversation online by posting favorable comments about the Communist Party and neutralizing any genuinely critical conversation online. According to Harvard researchers, China employs an estimated 300,000 of them and they get paid about 50 cents per comment, hence the nickname. Still, maybe these jobs are not so unique. “All countries have their PR people,” says Reza Hasmath, lecturer in Chinese Politics at Oxford University, “China is just less artful about their branding.”
For patriots wanting to help the Communist Party but who hate desk jobs, there’s always the option of becoming a paid protester. During the recent Hong Kong pro-democracy rallies, organizers and assistants accused the government of paying demonstrators. Undercover local journalists reported some marchers had been paid between $26 and $104 for turning up at pro-China assemblies.
Sometimes though, the best way to silence objectors is to send them abroad. Each year, some of the country’s most dangerous minds are forced to go on state-mandated vacations and they need to be chaperoned. Granted, being flown to tropical luxury resorts might be hell for hardcore dissidents, but it’s surely fun for the police escorting them. It’s a pity that’s one job you’ll never find on Craigslist.