This Chinese dangan is fundamentally different from anything in the West, not only because this Chinese system covers all urban citizens, but because the file is kept by the employer. The dangan affects job opportunities and promotions. Prospective employers are expected to examine an applicant's dangan before making a hiring decision. There is no Freedom of Information Act to allow the individual to look at what is in his own file. The dangan is part of the web of social control that makes sure the Communist Party remains in power.
As the New York Times commented, it is a remarkable achievement for a poor developing country to be able to maintain hundreds of millions of secret files on its population. This is one way we can say that China is a totalitarian regime rather than an ordinary dictatorship. Most Chinese live all their lives with the dangan hanging over them to intimidate them into obeying what the Communist Party considers politically correct behavior.
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