Sunday, June 27, 2010

When the gulag meets capitalism with Chinese characteristics

In the Kafkaesque world of Chinese political repression, two words stand out as epitomizing continuity and adaptation in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) reliance on incarceration to ensure its survival: lao (勞, labor) and gai (改, reform). Drawing from the Maoist philosophy that work for the betterment of the nation will purify one’s thoughts, the laogai, or “reform through labor,” is a system by which “antisocial” elements are removed from society and “reformed.” Not only are convicts and dissidents detained and “reformed,” but as Laogai: The Machinery of Repression in China shows, the state profits handsomely from the unpaid labor that takes places in those camps.

My book review, published today in the Taipei Times, is available here (pdf) and here (html).

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