Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
China’s experiment in ranking and monitoring citizens has started (foreignpolicy.com)
140 points by italophil on April 7, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 175 comments

I understand the inclination to do this - I think it's natural to want to live in a meritocracy. But I just can't image this not backfiring.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Perhaps that is a good thing. There is no argument more convincing than a demonstration. So I'd rather observe this scheme's first failure in China than elsewhere. The rest of the world can learn a lasting lesson in what not to do.

And if it succeeds, then I'd be glad to be wrong.

This is not an empirical issue. Without knowing any of the outcomes, we can already say that a government clocking your every move and giving you a rating based on how favorable the government finds your behavior, all without your consent, is an utterly obscene moral evil.

Generally when people have to use the word “obscene” it’s because they can’t make an argument in moral grounds. See: obscenity laws.

But I’d like to here your argument on why this is immoral.

Maybe it is a question of needing to experience what happens though.

Most people are of the "wait and see" and "you gotta do what you gotta do to survive" mentality. So they "wait" and let events unfold, and survivors in those cascade of events are idealized as morally good.

This experiment has been tried before. The main difference being this Cultural Revolution will be digitized, and the informants will be databases, not your neighbors.

What if it succeeds for the wrong people?

I would prefer it not be first tried in a country with such a large population...

Funny trivia: the word "meritocracy" is the invention of a British sociologist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Young,_Baron_Young_of_...

In his book "The Rise of the Meritocracy" (1958) he describes a dystopia where everything in a society is decided by using "merit" (intelligence + effort).

For all of those whom use "meritocracy" with a positive connotation, it should be a compulsory read. It's also short and very fun.

You’re putting up a straw man. I could write a dystopian book about any ideology. A good meritocracy would deal with these issues because a dystopian meritocracy would likely hamper innovation and the emergence of new standards and areas of merit.

It's not a straw man though? Meritocracy, the word itself, was invented to describe a fictional dystopian society.

Well, it's kinda fun that the very word of meritocracy was invented as a dystopian word, but now it got a positive connotation. That's not a straw man: it's a fun fact.

> I think it's natural to want to live in a meritocracy.

That's a bold statement.

Who defines the goals ? The one(s) who can attain them ?

Like school! And college! The folks that work there, are the ones that did well there.

Not kidding. Its this circular 'meritocracy' argument that makes for insular, inbred organizations with few creative ideas.

> Not kidding. Its this circular 'meritocracy' argument that makes for insular, inbred organizations with few creative ideas.

Just thinking out loud here but what's the alternative? Random allocation of goods/power or random promotion of individuals/companies based on nothing?

At least in a meritocracy advancement of an individual/organization is based on some performance measurement - we can of course argue about different performance measures and sets of tasks - but we have some means of guiding society in a normative way.

You could actually design your organization to find the best fit for each member of the team. Hire based on differing skills and approach, instead of dismissing them as "not a cultural fit".

When the 'norm' is defined as 'just like the rest of us' is when you get into trouble.

You would prefer college admissions be based on a blind lottery system? That seems like a great way to destroy an education system. Would degrees then be allocated randomly to people who may or may not have studied? Maybe you’re being sarcastic.

That's missing the point. Its the staff/teaching that has become insular. The students enter with lots of creativity and individual ideas. They get graded and norm'd to death, step into line or fail, and spit out.

So far historically (as long time back as we can see) - by FAR the most effective and fair method for defining those things has been the Free Market Economy. (With addition of a few regulations to prevent fraud and corruption.) It's not perfect. But what is?

But isn't free market's main goal basically the accumulation of wealth and the tokens of the economic system it's being applied to ? edit: disregard that, the aim of free market is to provide an environment where all players play with same rules Regardless of the actual products or services it delivers. Although I am a proponent of some aspects of the free market I don't agree the goals should emerge from it.

To me, this high level news and the political system in China is terrifying because of the implications that they limit freedom. However, I rarely great about civil unrest in China. Is that because it's hard to get independent journalists to go there? Or, is the economic boom the greater good to most Chinese? Or something else?

It’s a mix of factors.

There are protests and issues bubbling up all the time - hundreds or thousands of actions in any given year. It’s a big country with a lot of issues, so that’s not unexpected.

But the one thing the CCP is undoubtably world class at is ensuring protests or issues don’t ever gather momentum and start spreading.

So, a lot of the police apparatus, media and online censorship is geared up to this end.

Potential instigators of unrest (lawyers, independent/foreign journalists, activists) are routinely harassed and locked up, or put under immense pressure.

TV and traditional media outlets are tightly controlled and will receive directives about what they can and can’t report on. They self-censor and will not promote news or issues that are outright critical of the government. Often negative news is shown, but it is massaged and spun to show the CCP proactively dealing with a problem, rather than causing a problem or being incompetent.

Burgeoning online trending topics are regularly blanket censored if they are critical of the government and gaining traction fast.

Also, remember that these things are bad, but daily life in China is still daily life. Most people will never really experience massive injustice or rights abuses, just as most Americans will not be shot in a school shooting. It doesn’t mean the injustices aren’t happening and/or bad.

And finally, yes. The last 30 years of economic prosperity mean that most people are pretty happy with their life in China, or at the very least they just want to focus on making money, getting rich, and avoiding problems.

> I think it's natural to want to live in a meritocracy

It’s fallacious to think that meritocracy is a function of ONLY the present.

Nothing is a function of only the present. Your point has no meaning.

> paved with good intentions.

lol you're giving xi jingping the dictator too much credit. it's a means to monitor and silence his critics, and to prevent protests/uprisings.

this is just cultural revolution 2.0. from hitler 2.0.

I agree, I think people are delusional.

Let’s watch the uninamous vote to indefinitely extend his term - Xi asks “Is anyone against me?”

Scroll down to watch the video in the article:


This reminds of Christopher Hitchen’s account of Saddam Hussein. Terrifying.

I haven’t been paying much attention, but I just read this report on the event: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/world/2017/... and noted this:

> However, Susan Shirk, the head of the 21st Century China Centre at the University of California, San Diego, disputed the portrayal of Xi as an almighty Mao-like figure.

> “He’s ruling differently, for sure, and people are intimidated by him because of the anti-corruption campaign.” But Shirk said she was reserving judgment on whether Xi was attempting “a real dictatorial play” until the new line-up of China’s top ruling council, the politburo standing committee, was announced on Wednesday.

> If that committee included at least one of three possible successors – Hu Chunhua, Chen Min’er or Zhang Qingwei – that would signal Xi’s intention to step down in 2022, she said. If no clear successor emerged, however, it would fuel fears that Xi was “going for broke, all-out to be a dictator” and planned to remain in power indefinitely.

I looked and none of those individuals were appointed to the standing committee of the politburo. Two of them are on the regular politburo (Min’er and Chunhua), but Shirk referenced the standing committee specifically. So by her measure this is a dictatorial path.

The Hitler comparison is too much, even for an anti-China troll.

Hi Hitler troll

Young Chinese activist missing after sharing plan to wear ‘Xitler’ t-shirt in public


Can you be more specific about these ways you imagine it backfiring?

Brooker tackled this kind of thing in Black Mirror, and while his vision of it was pretty bleak, it actually seemed a lot more open to social mobility than our current system in which inequality is becoming more deeply entrenched.

Presumably there's no way to live off your parents 'social credit' trust fund.

The Black Mirror version of this system would be deeply affected by attractiveness, for example, which would be one possible failing, but there's no indication that the Chinese version is as susceptible to that.

Social mobility at the cost of honest expression of personal beliefs, though. Essentially, lack of personal freedom through rigorous self-censorship.

In that episode, Nosedive, the higher up you got, the more "fake" it got. The lower you got, the more "real". Culminating with the archteypical "likeable truck lady".

Loss of freedom, no matter if through oppression or through more insiduous means like reverse psychology, is a very heavy price to pay.

>Presumably there's no way to live off your parents 'social credit' trust fund.

LOL. Doesn't matter what the system is - the people with power will always find a way around it. USSR - check, China - check.

The big issue is that our society faces massive challenges wrt. population growth, climate change, environmental stress, technical change and population crashes over the next two centuries. To make it through these it will need a lot of its members to do a lot of creating and experimenting. The complete loss of privacy will chill these efforts and prevent the rapid adaptions that I believe are necessary.

>Can you be more specific about these ways you imagine it backfiring?

>[credit can be awarded for] doing exemplary business

Some examples of exemplary businessmen who are justly rewarded under our wonderful system are Mr Trump, Mr Zuckerburg, and the Kochs, who have been awarded outstanding sums of social credit from their efforts in reputable, important businesses.

>allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step

Horatio Alger has had trouble moving beyond his job at the local Zhongwen-Mart. He isn't able to attend university, or even take public transport to get there, if he were. Due to several traffic fines, a minor drug conviction, and a bad credit score, he has never escaped poverty.

Mr Trump has been the subject of numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, and Mr Obama admitted to drug use--the same substance as Horatio Alger; but since neither convicted, their social credit remains extremely high.

Government is not the solution to every problem.

They can apply this same system to outsiders too as long as they can buy or gather the data.

They could then use this inside of countries other than China, where they own increasing numbers of business interests including employers.

So this will start affecting behaviors even of non-Chinese people as people anticipate their behavior getting put into the system at some date in the future. Even if the system isn’t in place here yet.

It’s like a preview version of the immortal dictator Elon Musk talks about in the new “Do You Trust This Computer” movie.

Good point. At some point WeChat, Weibo, et al will want to expand outside of China, and they could apply this system to everyone who uses those platforms.

Just imagine, your social media profile on WeChat, your messages on Weibo, your searches on Baidu, your images on Meipai could all feed into your score. Maybe Momo could display and sort dating matches by their score so you don't end up with someone who's undesirable.

Sounds terrible.

Your sarcasm aside, the problem is the definition of "undesirable" is controlled by a central authority which regards criticism and association with other free thinking people to be undesirable behaviors.

There was no sarcasm in my post. All of those companies really do intend to compete internationally one day. They might have some difficulty in the US, but there are plenty of countries that would be open to using their services. And theres no reason they cant apply social scores to their international users.

Edit: was it the part about momo that makes you think sarcasm? It wasnt.. if the chinese are ok with this scoring and see it as useful (or its important because it limits your career path, for example), I can see private companies building it into their apps to extend it... using it for dating, apartments, loans, etc. There's no reason a tool like this would be limited to government only uses if the people approve.

> Yang, who asked that her real name not be used, ... has no privacy-related concerns. “I trust the government,” she says. “Who else can you trust if not them?”

Irony obviously not her strong point.

Chinese get irony and are smart about being subversive under cover, this was probably intentional.

Sounds like in part, it is trying to replace the lost moral compass of Chinese society. But centralising moral authority was always a bad idea.

Confusing legal enforcement with morality is the root of a lot of the ethical rot we see in many places.

I recently re-read 1984 by Orwell and it's frightening how much of the fiction is becoming reality in places like China.

Absolute power lying with one leader interminably has never worked well with results in ranging from subversion of new or different ideas, civil war, assassinations, mass killings, world war...

We in "the west" or whatnot need to watch out for the corporate equivalents of this, including credit scores, particularly coming from the financial sectors.

There's just a lot of opportunities these days, with all the data floating around and our increasing ability to calculate probabilities of arbitrary things about people from large enough datasets.

One side of this is disadvantage. Credit scores are an attempt to rank people by probability of default. A modern version of a credit scores would be even more black box. There are serious problems of fairness with this. You can probably calculate some usable credit score based on where you were born and to who.

Another side of such scores is the punitive side. This will affect your credit score, so stay inline. Essentially it's a lightweight proprietary justice system.

Insurance generally works in a similar way. Rental markets can too, and agents will aggregate blacklists which can then be used punitively. Policing is now using a lot more statistical techniques. Employers would probably like a commercial version of the systems police use.

Treating people as statistical objects in this way... Its dehumanising, it's discriminatory and it isn't rule of law.

Is it dehumanizing when I decline a ride with an Uber driver that has 3 stars?

Not necessarily, but such things can be.

Say I have a FB-based profiling system that will calculate the star rating alternative. It works slightly better than uber's current rating system. Ie, it's a better measure of how much you will like the driver. It also works before the driver takes his first fare. In fact, uber's minimum star rating policy can be used as a hiring/sign-up filter.

Would you consider such a thing dehumanising? Its essentially how insurance works, and is increasingly becoming a viable business MO.

Reputation systems increase our ability to trust people, products, and systems in general. It seems like our logical concern should be whether or not such systems are accurate.

The flip side of all this is that betrayal of trust is also dehumanizing. When you pay to get an Uber ride and you're taken to the wrong place or ripped off, that's dehumanizing. When you loan someone money and they don't pay you back, that's dehumanizing. When you send someone a product from an E-Bay auction and their payment turned out to be a scam, that's dehumanizing.

There's an interesting video from Extra Credits about this. It's based on early announcements and repeats some of the popular points, but it addresses the gamification and social pressure side of the issue which I haven't seen discussed that much elsewhere. I recommend watching: https://youtu.be/lHcTKWiZ8sI

Any word on weather foreigners will be ranked too? What about Chinese living abroad? I have lots of Chinese coworkers who sometimes get stuck in China when their visas get checked. I wonder if this will cause that to happen more often - I imagine that living abroad isn’t good for your score.

I’m for enlightened meritocracy, but I highly doubt that a centralized government initiative is going to get the score right on a multi-variate analysis (and will probably miss some important variables). This sounds quite chilling. It’ll only be a matter of time before this extends beyond China’s boarders to citizens in other countries. Will China limit your right to travel or do business by putting pressure on smaller governments?

This feels like a modern day version of the PRC system where each residential block had a concierge (spy) who would spy on and denounce residents, and a group discussion session about behavior. Sorry, it’s been so many years that I can’t remember what this was called

Neighborhood Watch?

I don’t remember the English term for it nor could I speak Chinese at the time. I read about it in the 80s. I believe it was supposed to be a regular and mandatory communal activity and persisted after the rest of the cultural revolution petered out. Drat, failing memory

I think I saw this Black Mirror episode.

I think I experienced it on HN and Reddit ;)

I would add that the difference is that in Black Mirror, it was other people that are giving you up/down-votes. Here, it's the government.

I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse.

Isn't money a form of ranking in our society in this style?

If money were doled out exclusively by the government, perhaps.

Of course the Citizen's Office for this incredibly modern community still uses Windows XP (and Windows 7).

Didn't Xi Jinping watch the Simpsons episode where they installed cameras all over Springfield?

it's harder and harder to live in china now.

Please elaborate?

Let the games begin!

> The West has social credit scoring: money

??? as opposed to China which has no money??

China's credit system is paired with dictatorship, censorship, disappearance, and killing. Nowhere near the similarities with West

Young Chinese activist missing after sharing plan to wear ‘Xitler’ t-shirt in public


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16780676 and marked it off-topic.

China is not a dictatorship. It is a single party representative government system that does not directly elect as many officials as the US does. However even in the US most officials are not directly elected (including the president) and people are still limited to two parties. Consider the last US election, Donald Trump lost the popular direct election, but was still elected by president by the Electoral college (a separate body chosen by the 2 dominant political parties for electing the president).

Guantanamo bay is not run by the Chinese. While they generally do not imprison US citizens, they definitely do not give a shit about human rights for other people.

China is a dictatorship. Don't delude yourself.

It's a one-party regime, and that has its downsides, but it's not the same as a dictatorship. Just because it's not as Democractic as the US does not make it a dictatorship.

There are many strong criticisms of the electoral college. It being "a separate body chosen by the 2 dominant political parties for electing the president" is not one of them, because everyone chosen by the parties is almost guaranteed to vote as they are supposed to. The outcome is known and isn't pulled out of thin air, and has a direct relation to how people voted.

The US election system is dominated by two parties. And the two parties do not have purely Democractic processes as they are not considered part of the government.

For example there are super delegates which are fundamentally undemocractic. There are also "winner take all" caucuses which has a tendency to support and overrepresent the majority.

Read and watch the video in this article please:


There's alot of international people posting on hacker news, and alot of them have anti-US bias. They wish China would be the one that takes over US as the superpower of the world. for those people I have a comment

You like posting political views on the internet right? Imagine China is the sole superpower of the world that defeated the democracies of the world. You would be ranked, censored, monitored, caught, jailed, tortured, and killed.

> They wish China would be the one that takes over US as the superpower of the world.

I have literally never seen this.

You should travel to China and see it for yourself. Americans are so incredibly naive. I’m not saying you’re American but you definitely should get out more.

He is not talking about China but about people on HN who allegedly want this. I don't see how traveling to China helps, you need to travel to this website that you are already on to prove or disprove the claim :-)

Meeting the naive expats there is a very eye opening experience.

Well yes, that too.

I have been to China three times, for a total of about a year spent there thank you very much.

I come from an English spring country but have spent extensive time in various other countries where I have family. Thanks for being a total dick whilst knowing nothing about me.

That being irrelevant though I suggest you re-read the post I was replying to. And then the honourable thing to do would be apologise to me.

>I have literally never seen this.

I was responding to this part. I apologize that my comment was poorly worded and I'll admit slightly obnoxious.

Still I am surprised that you never noticed, during your visits to China, the degree to which they wish China would be the one that takes over US as the superpower of the world. When I have been there it has never been hidden, but then I tend to get down into the culture rather than remaining at the expat bars. Again I'm not saying YOU stay at expat bars... like I wasn't saying YOU are American... but just responding to what you actually wrote about what someone else actually wrote.

> Still I am surprised that you never noticed, during your visits to China... (snip)

I’ve made exactly zero comment on what I’ve observed anywhere but HN. Please for the love of god stop assuming what I’ve seen/haven’t seen unless I say it.

That said, yes I’ve noticed people in China are favourable to a world with Chinese hegemony as a superpower. That’s not surprising is it? I’ve noticed in America there is a favourable sentiment in general to the status quo - American superpower hegemony.

Thank you for your apology and I do accept it. It is difficult sometimes on the internet and in real life to make sure you’re responding to what the person said/means and not what you imagine them to mean. We can all try to better understand others rather than talk at them.

Point (well, points) taken. Thanks for the clarification, which I admit I should have been able to read from your original parent's wording.

I have been to China and it did not allay my fears about a CCP-centric world one bit.

Also I'm an American and I don't appreciate your pseudo-racist condescension.

I definitely didn't mean it in the sense of allaying fears. I meant if anything it should heighten fears, for those who have more than a surface experience.

Not sure where race is coming into it for you. American is not a race. Chinese is more a culture, than a race, if you look at the diversity of China outside of just Han. ??? Maybe we should just leave that one alone, it may have been a misunderstanding.

Same. Seems like trolling.

I see China envy online a lot, especially given our recent political disfunction as people look at the superficial stability of China and want that for their own societies.

China is emphatically not stable. The PRC was started in 1949. The US civil war ended in 1865. Revolution is a living memory for some in China and that does a great deal to help the population think that suppression at all costs is reasonable. While the US was having its civil war, China was suffering through the tail end of [1]. Historically (in the modern era), China may best be seen as a very violent place.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Xiuquan

(Edit: I didn't notice the word superficial at first, it may have been inserted later as a correction.)

They said "superficial stability". The point is that it looks nice and stable if you don't look too closely.

I do think a lot of people wish US was not the superpower of the world, but I don't think many people wish China to take over. But they probably will.

Don't have anything against USA, but a world with a single superpower is prone to bullying and abuse by the said superpower. Many of us just want a peaceful world, and if that needs to be multipolar, so be it

A unipolar world tends to be more peaceful than a multipolar one simply because there isn't much opportunity for conflict.

Peaceful, not necessarily fair or free.

>A unipolar world tends to be more peaceful than a multipolar one simply because there isn't much opportunity for conflict.

This statement ignores the mass murder it takes to become the number one power

I guess they meant peace as the opposite of war?

Right. The one who participates in and wins the most wars or murders the most people becomes the superpower.

>Right. The one who participates in and wins the most wars or murders the most people becomes the superpower.

If merely winning the most wars and murdering the most people automatically made one a superpower, then the United States would not have become a superpower, because they did not win the most wars, nor did they murder the most people, at the end of World War 2, when they gained superpower status.

You're trying so hard to be cynical here that you're abandoning rationality. I'm no fan of American military hegemony, or superpowers in general, but you make the US sound like a Mongol Khanate which is just absurd. The world is more complex than "whomever stands on the biggest pile of heads wins."

>States would not have become a superpower, because they did not win the most wars, nor did they murder the most people, at the end of World War 2, when they gained superpower status.

The US suffered less casualties than all the other major powers (USSR, China, Germany, Poland, Japan, France, Italy, UK) in WW2 and their infrastructure was not destroyed. So kill/death ratio and net destruction are quite indicative of the outcome.

Which country would you guess has committed the most large scale invasions and longest lasting wars since world war 2?

>you make the US sound like a Mongol Khanate which is just absurd

That is indeed an absurd strawman. Did the Mongols not achieve their super power status because of how successful they were at mass murder?

>The US suffered less casualties than all the other major powers (USSR, China, Germany, Poland, Japan, France, Italy, UK) in WW2 and their infrastructure was not destroyed. So kill/death ratio and net destruction are quite indicative of the outcome.

You're moving the goalposts now. Your earlier comment claimed the method for becoming a superpower was to "participate in the most wars and murder the most people." The number of casualties or infrastructure damage relative to the rest of the world shouldn't matter, as that implies a degree of complexity in the nature of superpowers that your prior rationale doesn't allow for.

>Which country would you guess has committed the most large scale invasions and longest lasting wars since world war 2?

You obviously want me to say the US, and you're hedging your bets with the weasel terms "large scale" and "longest lasting" and I really don't care enough about this to go look it up, so fine... the US. But since the US was already a superpower after World War 2, that's not really germane to the US's rise to superpower status.

>Did the Mongols not achieve their super power status because of how successful they were at mass murder?

Maybe, but the point is that the US didn't achieve superpower status through success at mass murder, and that they're not like the Mongols.

>Your earlier comment claimed the method for becoming a superpower was to "participate in the most wars and murder the most people." The number of casualties or infrastructure damage relative to the rest of the world shouldn't matter

Please re-read what I actually said. You've blatantly misquoted me. A keyword which you conveniently ignored is wins.

>You're hedging your bets with the weasel terms "large scale" and "longest lasting"

Is scalability not a prerequisite to becoming a global scale superpower?

>the point is that the US didn't achieve superpower status through success at mass murder

Are you honestly implying the US' success at mass murder is unrelated to their becoming a superpower?

Your analysis entirely leaves out the most important factor which is: who are the “poles”?

China is an authoritarian, control-freak one-party-superstate that jails and kills political opposition. Will the world be more “peaceful” if there’s a multipolar collection of those?

I suspect some people are guessing that a multipolar world will be less interventionist (since the great powers might block each other from interfering too much) and therefore adventures like the Iraq war are less likely to happen again. This might arguably make the world more peaceful, though it might allow civil wars to continue for longer.

No idea if it's true or will work out that way, but it's one hypothesis I think is out there.

Sure, the downside of China's rise is that authoritarian states have more legitimacy, but it's not like the western powers did much about those states back when they were the hegemons, so I'm not sure if the argument carries much weight either.

But that's not what happened during the cold war. The US and Soviet Union both fought over allies, influenced affairs in other countries, engaged in proxy wars, etc

You say "block intervention"... how does that work? That sounds like a proxy war to me... like the korean war, or vietnam, or afghanistan in the 80s. It's not peace, it's just bloodier.

The world is more peaceful today without the Soviet Unions fight for influence.

China is less imperialistic and appears to mess less with other country affairs. China never gave support for a dictatorship in my country. USA also jailed and persecuted the Black Panthers and had the macarthism. Their 2 political parties which are able to win elections sometimes appears to be very similar, at least about their foreign policy which impacts the world.

Lol. Tell that to Nepal and Taiwan.

> China is less imperialistic and appears to mess less with other country affairs

China threatens Taiwan INVASION to 'unify state' with FORCE if US Navy arrive


Chinese Police Are Demanding Personal Information From Uighurs in France


China demands immediate halt to THAAD missile system now ‘operational’ in South Korea


The amount of "bullying and abuse" by the US is grossly overstated.

I think many people, especially in large and proud nations, don't like the idea of being a second class power to the United States. That's certainly what motivates Putin and Xi Jinping. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be the best, of course. I welcome competition.

Unfortunately though this frustration with not being the lone superpower drives people to focus solely on what the US is perceived to have done wrong while ignoring the tremendous amount of good the US has done and continues to do for the global international order. Therefore people develop a very skewed and biased understanding of the world.

Multipolarity means warfare and carnage on a scale much greater than anything we've seen in the period of global peace and stability we've seen since the US has been the superpower.

> The amount of "bullying and abuse" by the US is grossly overstated.

How so? I don't think so. AFAICS - and I lived in the US for a decade and would do so again, I have no beef with the country, just saying what I think I see/know - the US has always been an expansionist and later empire-seeking country at least for significant (i.e. with enough influence) parts of the powerful.

It's hard to prove or disprove your 2nd paragraph claim since we cannot have the experiment. I think that while you can certainly (as always) find plenty of examples in support the opposing side won't have any difficulties either. Overall the statement is way too fuzzy and broad to be either attackable or supportable.

> Multipolarity means warfare and carnage on a scale much greater than anything we've seen

Sounds like a vote for a global dictatorship to me.

> the US has always been an expansionist and later empire-seeking country at least for significant (i.e. with enough influence) parts of the powerful.

That’s not true at all, at least not in historical context. The US is the most powerful country in the world never to build an actual empire. It’s conquests are limited to part of Mexico, and some pacific islands. It’s predecessor, Great Britain, colonized India, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, and turned China into a vassal state. The would-be challenger Germany occupied France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, etc.

The US is interventionist—it intervenes in the political affairs of other countries to perpetuate the status quo. That’s very different from being expansionist or Empire-seeking. Take Iraq for example. The US toppled the government. But did it colonize the country? Annex the oil fields? Turn the oil over to domestic oil companies like Exxon? No. (Most of the development rights went to BP, a British company!) The US spent far more on Iraq then it got out of the country. That’s not how an Empire operates.

Yes, the US does seem to be keen on transferring tax dollars to private entities.

It's a fallacy to think of global affairs as a competition for some funny vague rank or doing good or bad, and of figures that represent power as tragedies characters that aim certain things and act in accordance with their stereotypes. It's a game of economics. Rest is rhetoric.

I'm not sure why:

> tremendous amount of good the US has done

Has any effect on:

> The amount of "bullying and abuse" by the US is grossly overstated.

If I cure a 1000 people and kill 1, in still an evil killer. It's not like some kind of game system where karma is a single number. You can help some people and be abusive to others, and those will never balance out unless there's a strict cause-effect relation between them.

What about a non-polar world?

(This is a quirky and rough post written late at night during a break from coding, so be forewarned...)

For example Europe used to be what we'd call multipolar, but today with the EU (sadly minus Britain for now at least) it's non-polar. OK, Germany is the biggest and most powerful, France after, but they aren't hegemonic and they must abide by the rules of the wider EU.

The US-led post WWII international order has probably been the closest thing yet to a global non-polar situation, so it's sad to see the US turning way from its own creation. To me, there should be more international harmonization and rule-making, which of course can only happen at the expense of some loss of national solidarity (the cost of any treaty) but which also can confer global rights and privileges.

I'd hope to see the world develop to become more like one huge EU. Just as countries wish to join the EU, they would hopefully wish to join the World Union. To do that they'd have to meet standards, and those standards would provide beacons, giving direction and purpose to countries that still had a long distance to travel.

So it couldn't be just like the EU all of a sudden of course. For example you can't just have a global Schengen Area for total free movement, you'd crash the system and get too much backlash, but you could start with, say, freedom of movement within some areas. So, imagine all OECD countries as one free movement area. I'd be so psyched! Wouldn't you? You could live in many places, your freedom would be massively expanded. And because OECD countries have similar levels of wealth, disruption would seem unlikely. Then you could expand from there however it were possible to other countries, but a larger total area would be better at absorbing immigrants because there would be more places for individuals or groups to discover niches they could fill.

(As an aside, I find it hard to understand how people who call themselves libertarians can be against freedom of movement. Likewise, people believing in "universal human rights of man" but only if you happen to be a citizen of their country. It seems almost like, say, a Christian telling you they'd only extend forgiveness and agape love to people from their own family, circle, or region, but sadly this is also common. I'm writing this from Seoul, by which I mean to argue that today we are all neighbors. Hello, neighbors^^)

Anyway, if we want a non-polar world, things like the WTO and UN, instead of being disparaged for their flaws, should be improved and expanded. To gain greater access to the global market, or areas within it, the World Union could stipulate that human dignity be maintained (even continuously improved), that rights of individuals be protected, and even that democracy, perhaps with local characteristics, be the system of government for those who wished to join. Perhaps China could keep its bureaucratic meritocracy ideas and still join, but not without approval from the country's citizens.

Advantages of joining could include things like open markets, common issuance of bonds, common protection against catastrophes, some kind of common currency mechanism with room for monetary policy to be either joined or governed by shared rules and principles, so that things like devaluations or interest rate settings could reflect local conditions but also jive / be in harmony with global economic trends. There could be levels of membership. Partial members. Pathways toward membership.

We already have a global culture and plenty of important, even existential global problems. It seems like the time is nigh for a global harmonization, maybe a World Union, or "World Commons".

That word "nigh" is interesting because it's chunked together so often with the apocalyptic phrase, "The end is nigh," the "end" being the Christian Day of Judgement from the Book of Revelations. The Book of Revelations, which just barely made it into the Bible at the Council of Nicea, has sadly become an enemy of global cooperation in many religious Christian people's eyes. This may have in part to do with the kinds of views in the runaway best-seller Left Behind series of Apocalypse and Damnation-porn fiction (the books are an evangelical Christian orgy of shadenfreude -- just watch the damned sinners get theirs hahaha), with a metaphysical conspiracy theory about the United Nations being a source for Satan's control of the world.

I'm not religious, but it saddens me that the Christian faith, which began as something hoping to be universal and seeing us all as God's creations and each with the Holy Ghost within us, so each of us as holy and sacred, how that beautiful faith can (yet again) be twisted toward parochial and even nationalistic ends, even without many of the people responsible realizing what they are doing. Why have we come here to metaphysical conspiracy theories? Because the United States, from where so much progress has come in so many ways, but also where the Left Behind books were such hits, remains the indispensable country when it comes to global union and harmonization. China, not so much.

Ugh, what a trainwreck of a flamewar. All: please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html, which asks you not to feed egregious comments by replying. All you do, when you do that, is add to the damage and spread the flames.

We've banned this account for using HN for political and national battle, flamewars, and personal attacks. That's a rather striking amount of vandalism, just as it would be if you had the opposite opinions. Indeed, the people who vandalize HN this way have more in common with their extreme enemies than they do with anyone else.

Is it anti-US or rather just not pro-US?

Arguably the biggest problem that Western democracy faces is apathy. So I think many of us take the opportunity to ride the wave of ire that China's policies illicit and attempt to funnel it into self-reflection. The West is an unaccounted bully on the global stage, the list of atrocities it has committed is both difficult to comprehend and stomach.

This does not at all placate China. Unchecked power in any context is bad news. Both the Chinese and Western populace are complicit. We are all heading for a tragically sobering wake up call.

If the only way for the Western psyche to understand its own pathology is by projection onto others, then so be it.

chinese 'patriots' and/or chinese psyops must be active on HN just as they're active on other online forums; that's probably what you're seeing.

Can you support your claims in the first paragraph?

Don't think he/she can.

pavs literally just posted the evidence below

I’m European. I can be fined and/or incarcerated if what I say on the internet is arbitrarily deemed as “hate speech”. You don’t need to live in China to be censored.

That's bad, but you have bad and worse. For example in the US the TSA does things the police (and nobody, really,) should never be able to, and they do it without warrants: but that alone does not mean that the US is an authoritarian police state (even though it is more of one than it could be). Likewise, there's a difference between corporate influence in government and outright, socially accepted direct bribery.

This applies to every country, they could all be better or worse: but some of them are currently worse than others.

Having to be scanned to get on a plane seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to have to do. I fly often and I'm glad the TSA exists and does what it does. I don't feel like my liberty is being taken away in the slightest.

> Having to be scanned to get on a plane seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to have to do.

Even if that scan does little or nothing to actually improve your safety [1]? If I'm going to have my privacy taken away, I want something better in return for it than security theater and wasted taxes.

[1] http://abcnews.go.com/US/tsa-fails-tests-latest-undercover-o...

>I'm glad the TSA exists and does what it does. I don't feel like my liberty is being taken away in the slightest.

If you truly believe that, would you be opposed to TSA style x-ray machines, genital pat downs, and strip searches any time you were to go to school, work, get on a bus, etc?

Well that would be an inconvenience because I and many others go to work and ride public transport every day. Which is why we don't see TSA checkpoints everywhere; it would be too inconvenient.

People fly infrequently though, and also have a very strong desire to feel safe when flying, so they are for the most part fine with TSA checkpoints. TSA checkpoints are implemented to make people feel safe.

See, it's a balance.

TSA checkpoints have accelerated to being in subways, etc.

Ratchets only tighten.

>Well that would be an inconvenience

So in other words, restricting your liberty or freedom of movement?

Many chinese citizens feel the same way about the "social credit system".

Do you believe the censorship in Europe is the same as in China? I guess more generally do you believe China taking over would not make things worse?

China is simply further down the same exact line, for lack of better phrasing.

That's a pretty weak comparison to China's totalitarian system of censorship and monitoring.

The Police of London actively scan and monitor social networks looking for “hate speech” so they can pursue legal action. What’s the difference between that and what China does?

The difference is that you can criticize the government and not be thrown in jail. You have a lot more autonomy in your opinions on how you are governed. You can have his conversation at all!

> Contrary to previous understandings, posts with negative, even vitriolic, criticism of [China], its leaders, and its policies are not more likely to be censored. Instead, we show that the censorship program is aimed at curtailing collective action by silencing comments that represent, reinforce, or spur social mobilization, regardless of content.


Okay, so we can even have the conversation about broad social implications, compare/contrast, what we can do about it, etc. is a drastic difference.

Shouldn't hate speech should be punished?

Offending someone shouldn't be illegal. Period.

Directly inciting actual physical violence, you might have an argument for.

But words and ideas must remain free to maintain any semblance of a free society.

As other commenters have said: who decides?

The problem with that is, who defines what “hate” is?

London deemed hate wpeech punishable, China determines certain speech (that it deems bad for society as well) punishable. No difference except for a difference in perspective.

No. Not because of the usual slippery slope reasons, but because denying someone their freedom for mere words is abhorrent.

I'm European. I'm glad there's an attempt to protect vulnerable groups.

"The Holocaust" isn't a vulnerable group.

I’m sure the Chinese are also glad there’s an attempt to maintain order and avoid social unrest. ;-)

It's funny, hate speech laws are unconstitutional and could not be passed in the US but such laws are commonplace in Europe. Yet people like to mock the US for saying it's the land of the free.

No guns for you either, Comrade.

Please stop spreading FUDs, given the option I think most people would prefer China over USA's policy of bombing the shit out of your country to install democracy or rather pro-American democracy.

...and no consciousness of the irony in being able to post that criticism openly.

China has an absolutely appalling social justice history, including every war they've been involved in, their internal intolerance, and their record-breaking incompetence at even feeding their own people.


I might have missed your satire but Chinese people and the Chinese government are two very different concepts. It is wrong to use one too judge the other.

How much time does China left? 10? 20? 40 years? before becoming utterly uncompetitive?

Yes, you can see them growing weaker every day can't you, as they fall further and further behind the US.

I meant they will get stuck with whatever paradigm works for them right now. So they might have some nice decade, then hit a plateau, then decline, like always when they followed their "safe philosophy" in the past (look at e.g. Qing dynasty).

So basically, same as any other country.

So basically they want to take the private credit system and make it public and accountable. What’s wrong with this, exactly?

The presence of a credit system to begin with, with puts people in the mercy of corporation (private) or the bureaucracy (public neither in China nor in most of the world, perhaps with the exception of Switzerland, means "directly controlled by the people").

Public services, especially those run by China, don't exactly have a stellar record of being uncorrupt and accountable. What if the system is abused to shut down a competitor on the surreptitious "donation" of another company? What if being LGBT or the wrong religion is made demerit-worthy?

It would bother me a lot less if it were private and governed private services only. There's more accountability in the sense that, there will always be services available that don't require the credit system, and there will be multiple competing bureaus ala the current credit system.

The private system, even as bad as it is now, has to reasonably correlate with credit risk to some degree, otherwise companies wouldn't use it (or would use the competitor). A single, gov-enforced system has no limits like that. If they want to give you fewer points because you're not aligned enough with the party line, you get fewer points, and you're more marginalised now. There are no big customers to say "don't want to use this, it doesn't provide me any benefits", because those companies want to be able to continue operating. (Before anyone mentions it: Yes, I know that at the moment only well defined and documented cases are counted. It's not like China would change the rules to, for example, lower the score for liking Falun Gong or other ideas, right?...)

I'm not sure if irony is the correct word here, but I do find it funny how the "unpopular" comments in this thread have been faded to gray.

I was just thinking about the increasingly heavy self-censorship we live under in the West after reading all of these fear mongering comments. Irony is very appropriate.

Commentary on China's social credit system so often fails to note the many parallels in western societies.

* The West has social credit scoring: money. A key principle of market economies is that accruing money is the just reward for contributing to society. Your bank account is your social credit score - yet we all know that many people get rich without rendering a useful service to society.

* Intelligence agencies keep security risk scores for every citizen. Just like China's policy decisions, there is almost no democratic oversight over how security services assign these scores.

* Credit ratings profoundly influence your life, for example, where you live depends on your ability on the mortgage a bank will offer you. These scores have almost no democratic oversight, just like China's policy decisions.

China is being radically transparent with its social credit system when compared with the West's unacknowledged or under-scrutinised scoring systems.

Each of these bullet points is either false or meaningless, which is frustrating because I sort of want to agree with your main point, but I just can't when it's phrased like this.

China obviously utilizes currency and a (very) limited free market. There has never been an alignment between wealth and social value, nor should there be. Yes, wealth creates inequality in the United States (in particular) and other more free-market oriented countries. Some of those countries (particularly Scandinavian ones) have taken great pains to see that actual suffering due to wealth inequality is minimized. The United States is culturally behind in this regard, but equating wealth with an explicit citizenship score is absurd.

Intelligence agencies do not keep security risk scores for every citizen (what country are you talking about, anyway?). I would wager at 10:1 odds that I don't have a profile at the FBI, CIA, or NSA in the United States (to be concrete). Even if they did (they don't) there are no legal uses of such a score, and any attempt to institutionalize something like that would have people rioting in the streets (literally). If I wanted to discover whether or not I had a "score" I would file a FOIA claim for each of those institutions.

Credit ratings are heavily regulated in the United States. Not as well as they could be, but see the Fair Credit Reporting Act from 1970 for a start. Credit reporting agencies are required to be transparent about the sources of their decisions, and hopefully we'll continue to make the system more predictable and humane. The uses of credit ratings are generally limited to situations where having a history of default is important information to a lender or renter. The colleges you applied to didn't, and won't, use your credit score.

Please try to communicate using specifics.

"China obviously utilizes currency" - I didn't mean to imply that China doesn't have money, obviously it does, and it functions as a social scoring system there too.

"do not keep security risk scores" - As other commenters point out, intelligence agencies use methods like cotraveller analysis and social network analysis which do seem to imply scoring all citizens. I guess they have an interpretation of the law which allows this.

You should FOIA the NSA and then we can find out for sure.

"Credit ratings are heavily regulated in the United States." - Credit ratings in the UK are notoriously opaque, if you believe a mistake has been made there is very little you can do. I don't know about the US.

Man, people hate this comment!

So what are you saying here?

I mean China has money and bank accounts too. Money's not western or capitalist. It has existed for many thousands of years.

Are you saying that this social credit system is not a notable invention, that it doesn't mean anything? This isn't news.

Maybe you're saying that criticism is hypocritical, throwing the first stone from a glass house...?

Hypocrisy is almost always easy to claim, because everything is hypocritical in some sense. ISIS? Who doesn't claim god's on their side. Who doesn't kill people in war? Using chemical weapons? Why does it matter how you kill people. Dictator? Europe's not a perfect democracy either, dont'yaknow.

Ie, unless we have a perfect, consistent system, shut up.

China is a part of the world, a big part. Their great firewall has become a normative thing, and it's affecting the world. Now this. It affects us. We have a right to criticize.

I agree. Not that the systems are precisely equivalent, of course, but that the devil we're used to is more invisible to us.

This is like saying, freedom is slavery.

You're missing a glaringly obvious difference. In the west, your credit isn't used by the government to influence your political affiliation so directly.

I remember hearing that if you are applying for a government job with a security clearance, then your finances and credit-worthiness is factor.

I'm referring to the Chinese government's ability to use this social credit system as a way to suppress those who would speak against the government.

Although this new scheme has the potential for punishing dissidents, I oddly don't find it too bothersome. Five years ago this idea would have seriously creeped me out. What has changed? To some degree I feel numbed and desensitized by my own government (USA) with TSA searching laptops and social media at borders, near total special interest control of "news" media, and the general feeling that now more than in the past the rich and powerful can just about get away with whatever they want.

EDIT: sorry, I didn’t express myself very well: I don’t approve of the proposed system in China, but given what is happening in the USA I don;t feel like criticizing other countries.

If you consider being born into a well-connected Han family with close ties to the CCP 'a meritocracy'

China's problem with bribing officials like police officers and doctors just to get nominal service is so bad that Xi is making a display of curbing it, but I'm not sure their society and political system is structured in a way that can really prevent it. Nobody is accountable to the public outside of the party's inner hierarchy.

And the way they've described this system: it will ban citizens who 'violate norms' from using high speed rail, traveling by air, and renting apartments in the major cities.

If you think the rich and powerful won't pay someone to mark up their score, I have bad news for you. This is not a solution to that.

The article says you can earn points by donating to charity. So there is at least one provision for the rich to buy a better score.

I agree. I'd rather have a public system (albeit it might be flawed) than have private companies (facebook, google?) and the likes of TSA and CIA working, possibly together, doing pretty much the same thing

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact