Rethinking the Orwellian Imaginary through Contemporary Chinese Fiction
Surveillance & Society
Although George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four ( 2003) and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World ( 2006) have long offered contrasting paradigms in surveillance theory, little attention has been paid to how race and cultural difference operate in their respective regimes. This oversight is surprising given race's centrality in surveillance theory and practice, and it is increasingly anachronistic in light of contemporary geopolitics and the rising power of non-Western states. By contrast,
... ates. By contrast, the best-selling and critically acclaimed novels The Fat Years (Koonchung 2013), The Three-Body Problem (Liu 20014), and Death of a Red Heroine (Xiaolong 2000) are all set in modern China and portray issues of surveillance technology, policy, implementation, and resistance previously associated with Western powers. Yet while these later novels' Chinese settings offer radically different scenarios than our previous touchstones of surveillance imagery, their global popularity also demonstrates their vast resonance and accessibility. Indeed, in strong reaffirmation of Orwell's and Huxley's ongoing value—and the value of literature to surveillance theory more generally—these recent China-set novels collapse the Orwell and Huxley dichotomy to offer surprising glimpses into the more culturally diversified twenty-first century global surveillance society.