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China blacklists millions from booking flights as 'social credit' introduced (independent.co.uk)
306 points by apatters on Nov 23, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 256 comments

> People are awarded credit points for activities such as undertaking volunteer work and giving blood donations while those who violate traffic laws and charge “under-the-table” fees are punished.

> Other infractions reportedly include smoking in non-smoking zones, buying too many video games and posting fake news online.

This reminds me a lot of that Black Mirror episode where everyone upvotes and downvotes each other in contribution to a social credit system that prevents a girl from traveling and being treated kindly by anyone

soon China will go straight to Larry Niven's The Jigsaw Man [1] where sentences for crimes include forced donation of all organs. this includes traffic offenses and the like.

On a different tact, the US is just as guilty of this with the over the top of punishment of those convicted of sex crimes where you can be publicly embarrassed by law enforcement after you served your time. Where you can be told where you can live and not live or even go. Considering the power it gives over one group of people it is not hard to see how it will expand to other crimes

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

holy smokes false equivalencies!

I had a shock when, the day after seeing that episode, I read a news item about China's proposed social credit system.

That black mirror system is p2p when China's system is centralized. I believe the black mirror system is worse.

The Black Mirror system reminded me more of Uber: drivers doing the utmost to ingratiate themselves to passengers for fear of losing their livelihood through a few bad scores.

I wonder how things would go if the score was private.

Also, what would be the consequences of knowing who upvoted you or downvoted you ? Now that I think about it, neither imgur or hn let you see that. Should we be entitled to that kind of data ?

Just curious - why do you think a centralized system would be superior to a decentralized system? That would allow the norm to be dictated by the central authority, and not through public consensus.

Sorry, there is a misunderstanding. It's the other way around. I believe the black mirror system is more efficient to establish social control and is more perverse because everyone is policing it, watching you and reporting you. It's the real nature of big brother (what I remember from the book): everyone is big brother in the end and there's no escape.

Our life would be worse in a black mirror system than in a Chinese system.

Both systems are fucked up though.

are you sure about that? with hive mind mentality both are essentially a single entity working against you.

One of the option is self-regulated, the other is not. That last one conjures up a single entity you can identify yourself against. You can antagonize it, fight it. The first one doesn't give you that anchor.

Punishing people based on public consensus is lynching.

"Fake News" i.e. anything that mentions Tibet, Tiannamen Square, selling Falung Gong organs for transplantation etc.

That episode is called "Nosedive" (season 3, episode 1).

IIRC that episode was actually based on sesame credit itself when it was first announced.

Well here in the US we have an actual credit system in place. And since basic necessities are often dependent on credit rating (employment; housing purchaes ; rentals; vehicle financing/lease) it’s pretty dystopian. Not to mention for nearly 20 years now we have had secret no fly lists (no due process to get on or off) and even secret kill lists (no due process), I think it’s just another way to skin the cat, and maybe we should look at our-dystopian-selves in light of outrage at our foreign friends.

Edit: I think here just as there the majority will have “good credit” and actually like having an nearly permenant underclass...so just as here, I don’t think there will be much incentive to change there either.

I can't believe people keep equating these two systems. While there are similarities, one is a financial rating and the other is a social rating. The credit system has a lot of issues but it just does what it says on the tin, measuring the same credit card metrics, and had been around for a while without much change. The social rating system seeps into every aspect of a person's life and had no limits for expansion. It's a tool ripe for abuse and political control.

Think of all the gamification bullshit we've dealt with, and realize that it's now going to be deployed on a massive scale to shape the behaviors, incentives, and punishments of the whole populace, wielded by a government known to persecute subsets of it.

And I'm sure it's going to be used for some good. There will be a lot of good results that's come of it, and that will be its selling point. But it undoubtedly will also be used to suppress specific ideas and people. It will be a massively effective too for that. Think of the coded racism used in the Southern Strategy in US politics as explained by Lee Atwater. By abstracting away everything and converting it to whatever statistics you want, you have total plausible deniability over any targeted oppression you want.

They shouldn't be equated exactly, but the difference is one of severity, not of kind. It's important to keep in mind that the western credit system has victims too, and is a tool for behavior control too, just not nearly to the same severity, but should be carefully tracked for fear of scaling up to the exact horror the Chinese one represents, if not worse.

I agree. It seems like many disagreements come down to matters of magnitude. It's easy to conflate things for being the same kind, when they are different in scale. It's an aspect of the all-too-common black-and-white binary argumentation that is much easier to digest.

> While there are similarities, one is a financial rating and the other is a social rating.

They are one and the same. The "financial" rating affects where you can live ( try getting an apartment or a mortgage ) and where you work.

Sure it isn't as draconian as the chinese version but it's pervades much of your life.

No. One rates your ability to take on debt by how you handled previous debts, the other involves rating your amount of freedom according to a fuzzy social score. Very different....

How is getting an apartment "taking on debt"?

Lease agreements typically entitle one to a property for a fixed period for financially agreed terms. It’s incredibly hard to evict a bad tenant. One’s past payment performance is a huge predictor for the future. An understanding of ones debt to income ratio is also useful in predicting their future ability to hold up their end of the lease.

It’s actually a completely reasonable use of credit report.

>One’s past payment performance is a huge predictor for the future.

And I’m sure China could easily argue prior social behavior is a huge predictor of future social behavior.

But the real problem in the US is you have an entire class of people who have no credit history (the poor), not bad credit history, but no credit history.

You aren’t wrong if I’m lending money I’d want to know debt to income ratio, but why does that matter to getting a job? If you have no credit history and can’t get a good job, how do you think that is going to effect your income and access to credit. Look at the studies of impact of credit history, it facilitates keeping poor people poor (limits social mobility).

To elaborate on your point a little further, because I think a lot of people truly don't understand this: having no credit is worse than having bad credit, so the argument that being conservative with your finances is all you need is blatantly wrong and tone-deaf. My first apartment cost me $500/mo. The deposit to turn on power was $100, $300, and $500 for good, bad, and no credit respectively. I had no credit, because I didn't think I was making enough money to take on a credit card payment. Thus, I ended up paying more than $1500 to move into a $500/mo apartment.

I made the fiscally responsible choice to not take on debt I could not afford, but I was punished more than if I had indebted myself. I got a credit card shortly after, and naturally spent years trying to keep up with the payments that I couldn't afford at the time. Anyone that cannot see the clear trap being laid here is doing so willfully.

Those deposits are just that, deposits - you get those back. They are in lieu of a credit report. The ability for utilities, property owners and other institutions to provide services and goods that people might choose not to pay for is in fact _enabled_ by the credit system. It’s not your God given right to access these services. The credit system enables many people to leverage their recorded credit history without putting up capital in the form of deposit. It’s actually a _social good_ that puts better liquidity into the system and provides access.

Also regarding building credit, don’t spend beyond your means and you’ll be OK. Many people use credit cards for perks and rewards and pay their bill off at the end of the month. No one is forcing you to spend beyond your means.

I'm not criticizing the existence of deposits, but increasing the size of deposits for high-risk customers is without a doubt a cash-grab on the poor. Deposits exist to protect the issuer of the property from a potential delinquency. When it comes to turning off someones power, the cost is fairly the same (and the cost of travel certainly doesn't increase by a fibonacci-esque rate).

Plus, I wasn't living beyond my means. Paying a power deposit equal to one month's rent is not within most peoples' means. I recently paid $50 to turn the power on in my $1400 apartment.

That aside, I'm also not sure you understand the circumstances if you think being "forced to spend beyond your means" isn't something that people in poverty regular have to go through. I'm at a place now where I can afford a credit line, but that's not the case for a lot of people. Those people shouldn't be punished from abstaining. A credit line is a commitment, no matter if you can make your payments or not

All-in-all, I think the credit system has a slew of good intentions going into it, but it has had a quite a few negative effects in regards to the poor and essential utilities. It's also used to drive where a lot of businesses set up shop (I work for one - thanks, Experian) - so the idea that this Chinese social credit system is far removed from our financial credit system just isn't true. It's not directly applied to social lives, but it's overall effects on a person's social life are abundantly clear. If anything, the financial credit system could end up being more sweeping and inter-generational, but that remains to be seen.

At any level of expenditure you can get a credit card (products targeted to people with no credit exist!) and pay it off like clockwork on a monthly basis. Which builds good credit. You could use it to spend $5 and still do this.

Actually in China you don’t need a credit check to get an apartment, you only need to pay 3 or 6 months in advance instead (I nean, you pay in 3-6 month chunks).

Likewise, there was no credit extended for things like power, you were expected to pre-charge your power instead.

Being a good and obedient communist isn’t a very good predictor of anything but itself.

You can argue about the side effects or extended uses of credit reporting all you like I suppose. The reality of the credit system in the US is not a government driven activity. The market has created a behavior incentive to pay your bills and that’s one most are happy to live with. By contrast I can chose to disagree with whatever social campaign the government wants to dream up yet still operate as a private citizen. I am free to disagree without harming my ability to rent, take a loan or board an airplane. In a government centralized behavioral rating system you are beholden to the arbitrary rules of a political bureaucracy. Today it’s stopping at traffic lights, tomorrow video games, the next day alcohol consumption, oh and you get extra points if you showed up to cheer for the political party in power...

>I can't believe people keep equating these two systems.

You want to work here? We are going to have to check your credit! Which system is it?

You’re born poor and apply for your first job, a nice government job with nice government benefits, but can’t get it because you don’t have any credit established. Hell youre poor, forget credit you can’t even open a bank account, go apply for a minimum wage job, then head to the check cashing/cash advance store. Look at social mobility in this country, pretty sure it’s the lowest of all first world economies, it’s pretty dystopian.

I'm a bit surprised that people in this thread don't seem to understand the parallels between social and economic status. It's not some grand revelation either - it's pretty much common knowledge. There's obviously a distinct difference between these two systems, but to say "China's social credit system has nothing in common with America's financial credit system" is pretty ignorant to how important having good credit is to being successful in America.

Yes they're related, but think of the differences:

US credit score = 35% payment history + 30% debt burden + 15% credit history + 10% credit types + 10% recent credit searches. Used for lending, and sometimes for leasing and employment.

Social credit system = a black box of metrics that can change at any time, relating to your speech, browsing history, political ideas, entertainment choices, shopping history, dating behavior, etc. Used to limit options in travel, education, dating, purchasing, internet speed, etc.

If the US credit system starts becoming more like the latter, then yes, that's cause for concern. But so far its problems are of a very different scale than a social credit system.

And I tried to acknowledge the difference in my original post, by saying it’s “just a different way to skin the cat.”

But that’s why I added the edit, because I had to acknowledge people in the US love the credit system like people in China will love the social credit system. That’s unfortunately probably the most important parallel the people welcome the systems.

I agree - so long as financial credit comes with perks, people are going to be apologists for its flaws. Now that I work in software, keeping good credit is a non-issue. However, when I was making less than $10k/yr, it was the bane of my existence.

> Hell youre poor, forget credit you can’t even open a bank account, go apply for a minimum wage job, then head to the check cashing/cash advance store.

How do you think bank accounts, minimum wage jobs, or check-cashing places work? Do you think they check your credit before you can access them? Some jobs do, sure, but not all, and you can absolutely deposit money or cash a check without having established credit.

Give me a break. You don’t need good credit for the vast majority of jobs.

I don’t think there is much equivalency here. The credit system is a pain, but it is also very simple to have good credit. Anyone, even someone with little money can have good credit. Even if you have medical debt you can maintain your credit rating. People may not know how to do it, but it isn’t too hard. The privacy aspects of it suck, but it just isn’t that dystopian and it’s usage is relatively narrow in society.

Secret no fly lists: impact a very small slice of the population. Try to find more than a few instances of legitimate travelers being blocked, which is something you can do with freedom of speech and freedom of press. I think less than 2000 are us citizens. The program in China is going to disenfranchise entire slices of their population and further limit their social mobility.

Secret kill lists are for terrorits. We don’t kill our own citizens. I’m an Enlightenment since everyone deserves due process, but in a defending our national interests sense, that can never be the case and never has been.

Our systems aren’t perfect, but every first world nation has some system to track your financial behavior and it impacts you negatively if you don’t make your payments. I just don’t see any strong relationship to the oppression in China and what happens in the US. Our systems aren’t perfect and your criticism has merit, but not as a comparison to China on this topic.

We have killed our own citizens. If they are abroad they have been hit without due process in drone strikes. (See Awlaki et al)

No love lost for the man, but labeling something OK because someone is said to be a “terrorist” (when that label has been applied without due process) is the equivalent of avoiding due process which must be afforded to all citizens.

When excepted under narrow circumstances for convenience, you are paving the way to generally ignoring due process.

The US does kill its citizens. There's a few terrorists who were US citizens when they were killed by drone strikes.


Uh, and the death penalty.

I'm not an advocate of the death penalty, but there's quite of bit of due process between an American citizen and the death penalty. Killing in the absence of due process, as with drone strikes on rogue US citizens, is significantly worse and is extremely problematic for the long-term.

That is a good point. I was thinking from a national security context. I know we have done it a few times, but I would like to believe those examples are isolated and extreme. Death penalty is another thing. It has so many problems with it and is a stain on our society in my opinion.

I'm sure you could also argue that it's easy to have a good score in China's system. Just be a good citizen.

> Secret kill lists are for terrorits. We don’t kill our own citizens. I’m an Enlightenment since everyone deserves due process, but in a defending our national interests sense, that can never be the case and never has been.

The parts of this that are comprehensible are either baseless or ill-informed assertions.

Argh, yeah. Phone typing. Try: In a post Enlightenment society, with everyone having certain unalienable rights, they deserve due process, but....

>Secret kill lists are for terrorits

Or so they say. In any case, it's a single country deciding, and that any some ad hoc committee, without a public due process, and targeting people residing on sovereign states.

And of course often killing 10-20 nearby people as well, up to 130 for a strike on a wedding:


Yes, there are examples like this. Collateral damage will happen in war. It is tragic and always will be, and I say that with all sincerity. National security has always been thus and always will be so until there is no such thing as a nation.

>Yes, there are examples like this. Collateral damage will happen in war.

There's no war declared, and this is just random people (as far as the UN is concerned) deciding and sending drones to kill other people -- and in any case, without any due process, official declaration of war, or anything of the sort, and in sovereign countries at that.

>National security has always been thus and always will be so until there is no such thing as a nation.

It's not "national security", it's just might. If national security was an excuse for such an act, then the nations those innocent bystanders died in the strike would be OK to send missions to kill those responsible as well, and why not, 20-100 "collateral damages" as well.

>It is tragic and always will be

Doesn't seem to be perceived that tragically. A few people dying in some mass shooting in some US city gets 100x the media coverage and public tears...

It looks more like "yeah, whatever, they're third worlders anyway".

There is collateral damage in china's war against its terrorists, and I'm sure they justify it the same. It's bullshit, when you are making up a foreverwar.

Terrorism kind of is a foreverwar. Restraint can be exercised. I am not afraid of terrorism and I won’t give up freedom to fight it, but, I am an outlier among liberals in how I view the application of violence. Let’s just say I disagree with Chomsky and pacifism. Until there is evidence we live in a better world than the one we have now. It’s also important to not lose sight of the scale of the violence in the world. The worst day in the battle of the Somme was 10 times bloodier than the entire Iraq war. We have the luxury of carefully scrutinizing much of what goes on in the world but news does not convey the decreasing scale of violence in our armed conflicts. They will slowly wind down. I won’t disagree at least some of what we are taking about are 1984esque war is peace propaganda, but there are also genuine bad actors in the world and they are only emboldened by a lack of action. I have a lot of concerns about violence in the world, and the US role in it, but I am not so cynical to reduce the war on terror to “bullshit”. Expansion of executive power under Bush is and was troubling. I have to believe that guys like Obama genuinely acted with high moral character and only made the choices they made because it was the obvious moral choice for our national interests. Maybe not, I admit you could be right and it could all be bullshit.

I believe the US still has capital punishment, which absolutely is killing your own citizens.

Not secret. And a stain on our society in my opinion.

> The credit system is a pain, but it is also very simple to have good credit.

When I first moved to the US it was not possible for me to have any (US) credit. I had good credit in Canada, but that was mostly by accident (I had a credit card that I rarely used -- I didn't really need one in university) and it turns out that Canadian credit doesn't translate into US credit.

> The credit system is a pain, but it is also very simple to have good credit.

If you’re rich.

Credit rating has nothing to do with how much money you have. I helped my sister who makes minimum wage move 100k medical debt off her credit record, establish a secured credit card, and taught her how to pay bills on time and negotiate with debt owners and creditors so she never gets any debt reported to credit agencies. All with her own very limited money. She moved her score from 400s to 700s over about 3 years. All credit rating shows is (1) you don’t take out more than you can afford and (2) you are willing to service the debts you have to the limits you can afford. Even with 700-800 credit if you don’t have much earning power you won’t get a big loan, but you will get good rates on what you can afford.

It's easy to have bad credit while being rich, and good credit while being poor. The question is how much reasonable debt do you take on and service according to the contract? And that has nothing to do with how rich or poor you are.

I know plenty of poor people with good credit scores. So you’re statement isn’t true at all.

But if you're not rich, "You're just Lazy".

Because everyone who isn't a millionaire, is just an embarrassed pre-millionaire.

> Secret no fly lists: impact a very small slice of the population. ... Secret kill lists are for terrorists

How can you know if they are secret? And it’s pretty cavalier to say “impact a small slice” — it’s a bit deal if you’re part of that small slice, fair or not.

They have published the size of the list periodically as well as the budget to maintain it. There are something like 40-60k names in it and only about 1000 “US persons”.

"We don’t kill our own citizens."

Never heard of the MOVE Row House bombing where Philadelphia police literally helicopter-bombed the place and killed 5 children? Waco Massacre where the FBI killed over 20 children?

Where have you been living? Under a rock?

>Secret kill lists are for terrorits. We don’t kill our own citizens.

What we do know is the Us has made multiple drone strikes targeting a US citizen and ultimately killed a US citizen.

Two you can’t know how many other citizens are on the kill list, that is the nature of secret kills lists.

Three we don’t even know the standard the government uses to label someone a terrorist (us citizen or not) for purposes of the kill list, because the US Supreme Court said we aren’t entitled to know.

And as to the credit...as I said the majority have good credit and love to think they earned that credit and like the permenant underclass of people who have bad credit can’t get jobs, housing, etc... Trust me the majority of people in China will have good social credit and say the same things as you...it’s easy to have good social credit, it’s not dystopian it’s helpful. History suggests people have a great love for societal hierarchies.

Except credit rating isn’t about hierarchy. It is two things (1) pay bills on time — service debt reliably (2) negotiate with creditors when you can’t. People get bad credit because they acquire debt and then fail to service it and think ignoring creditors is the way to go. You can still smoke cigarettes and buy all the video games you want. Just pay your bills.

>People get bad credit because they acquire debt and then fail to service it and think ignoring creditors is the way to go.

Or they are born poor and don’t have access to credit. Thus have limited access to jobs and housing. That continues to prevent them from establishing credit and keeps poor people poor. Also there are plenty of studies showing credit scores in fact are inheriently biased against minorities.

“Just Pay Your Bill”. Exactly as I said the majority loves it, and the majority in China will love it to and say “Just be a good citizen”.

Edit: I realized I’m talking about the dystopia of using credit to limit ones ability to get a job and housing, and you’re talking about ability to buy cigarettes and video games.

Credit ratings in the United States are not controlled by the government, and you have recourse if your rating is hit for no reason. Comparing the two systems together makes some sense as there are material impacts in both cases, but to say credit ratings are even close to this is to miss a pretty critical distinction.

As for no-fly: agreed that is a stain on our democracy.

>Credit ratings in the United States are not controlled by the government,

Yet they can prevent you from getting, or keeping, government jobs, prevent you from getting government contracts, prevent you from being able to purchase a home, prevent you from getting student loans...

They aren't as bad but they're still tools of control.

Agreed. The link between credit agencies and the state here comes when government uses this data for clearances - typically to determine whether you might be amenable to a bribe.

All that said: typically if you’re asking for money it doesn’t come for free. You are submitting to a control. The fact that these scores are used in other arenas that are not related to finance is odd, but using your financial history as an indicator of future payment seems rational whether scores existed or not.

Based on public court records.

>Based on public court records.

Which to this day aren't in some central database. Many states have counties where court records aren't even available online, that's a hell of a lot different than a centralized service that compiles, ranks and sells this information.

It's in a credit reporting agency's best interest to find every last scrap of financial information about you so they can sell it. They don't care so much about accuracy, they just care about growing that file so they have more to sell.

There's countless instances of people having their credit reports merged with others, containing erroneous information that pertains to a parent or child if they are Bob Smith I, Bob Smith II, Bob Smith III etc, then of course you are asked for your SSN for jobs/taxes/rental applications/in many cases it is on your driver's license which is handed over to numerous people for numerous reasons making it incredibly easy for someone to steal your identity and racking up debt, that they do not pay, on YOUR credit files which can take you years to get removed, all the while being on a centralized purchasable document that is intended to say how trustworthy you are as a person...

Handling ID Theft is certainly an area that could use improvement. It’s a total pain in the ass and the fact that we’re basically paying K&R insurance each month to hedge this risk is crazy.

>Credit ratings in the United States are not controlled by the government

So there's also no democratic control on them?

There is always the ability to control private enterprise when enough of a consensus is established. In this case, credit reporting is regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act which provides a number of guidelines as well as a dispute process, access to your report for free, etc. I would argue that is democratic control to an extent that the people’s representatives have chosen to regulate the industry to that extent, yes.

Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Since they're not controlled by the government then they are controlled by the market, as in, private companies. Not sure that's better, you could argue with a government controlled one you still have "some" rights and due process, with a private one there's not much you can do if they decide to give you a bad rating. I rather have none, to be honest.

First, you do have rights under existing regulation and in a court of law.

Second, I’m really not sure what the lending landscape looks like if you don’t have these ratings. (Not saying better or worse, just not sure) I guess if you want to go tell every lender your life story and get your own individual interest rate and negotiate it all yourself then feel free? Numbers tend to free up liquidity because it creates a relatively well understood framework that banks can hedge and lend on. This enables speed as well as more lending.

I’m not a huge fan of the consolidation of ratings agencies but I do like the speed and available credit these scores enable.

>First, you do have rights under existing regulation and in a court of law.

Sure you can take a credit reporting agency to court, if you can afford a lawyer.

You can take creditors to court, if you can afford a lawyer.

You can file bankruptcy, on some debts, if you can afford a lawyer. But that bankruptcy follows you, it will flat out prevent you from employment in certain industries, it will prevent you 99% of the time from any job that requires a security clearance for the rest of your life, it will severely hinder your ability to have credit in the future.

Sure, you can dispute incorrect things on your credit report... if you know how. Then of course, all a creditor has to do is, within a few months, say 'yes that information is correct' and the dispute rules in their favor.

Sure, if someone steals your identity and takes out some lines of credit you can attempt to undo that damage but it could take years (if ever) to fix your credit report while employers and would-be-creditors see you as someone that defaulted on debt, even though you had nothing to do with it, and treat you as someone irresponsible and unreliable.

All of this while the credit agencies are SELLING this report to anyone that wants it, effectively telling the buyers how allegedly trustworthy and responsible you are.

I’ve heard small claims court is quite effective for redress as well for some of these things.

I agree that disputes are not easy, but you are not being denied rights by the state if your credit is bad which is the key difference here vs China.

If you think we need more reform of credit reporting (I would not disagree) then please contact your representative - that’s going to be the way to better regulate the dispute process and provide more recourse for citizens.

The moment I saw the headline I just knew there’d be a “it’s just as bad over here” post in the thread somewhere. Thanks for not disappointing me. There are different ways to approach this though.

There’s “what China is doing is no big deal, we do it all as well so why are we hypocritically making a fuss?”.

Then there’s “this is appalling and should be condemned absolutely, but let’s be careful here because we’re already exposed to some problems like this ourselves”.

Well in general yes, these types of articles will have comments for, against and comparative in nature.

Not to burst your bubble, but I don’t think my comment is saying it’s just as bad here, only encouragement to do a comparative analysis of the two systems. Maybe one is worse/better in terms of scale but dystopian systems are dystopian systems notwithstanding the scale.

Anyway you are obviously entitled to your opinion about my comment, but help me understand how you came to the conclusion my comment is “it’s worse here?”

I read your comment the same way: lazy whataboutism to handwave human rights abuses because “we’re just as bad”. You literally said “it’s just another way to skin the cat”, and implied that we should figure our stuff out before criticism of China here.

Fortunately, people with influence don’t share your view, or our lack of perfection would keep us from ever calling out authoritarian regimes for their abuses, no matter how horrific.

Gassing millions of people? Eh, we killed some people in targeted drone strikes, who are we to judge?


>... or our lack of perfection would keep us from ever calling out authoritarian regimes for their abuses, no matter how horrific.

Sounds like the same lazy whataboutism...ignoring our own human rights abuses to highlight others? Seems like calling a comparative analysis a lazy whataboutism, while using a whataboutism arguement is intellectually dishonest.

But I think your point about gassing people is helpful here, because you are refernicing genocide. Wouldn’t you agree whether Sudan or the Holocaust, both are examples of genocide? That we don’t ignore Sudan simply because the scale isn’t the same, and it’s not whataboutism to discuss both in the context of genocide? I think the same applies to dystopian systems, you either are or aren’t, and scale is a different discussion or arguing better/worse is pretty silly at that point.

Bringing one up in the context of the other isn’t whataboutism or handwaiving forgiveness, now if I brought up our system to forgive China’s system, then I think that is fairly called a whataboutism argument. But I think it’s clear I’m calling them both dystopian systems, and didn’t even touch on one being better/worse than the other.

You’re making my point for me, by assuming that I’m “ignoring our own human rights abuses” because I called you out for bringing up our credit system to deflect from the discussion about China’s abuses. We’re not talking about the US, and these systems are extremely different even if we were.

>to deflect from the discussion about China’s abuses.

If that were true it would be whataboutism, but I didn’t do it to deflect China’s system. Many ways to skin a cat, inheriently means if I am decrying the US system as dystopian, I am doing the same with China’s (the opposite of deflection and whataboutism) while simultaneously acknowledging the difference in the mechanisms.

Again in the context of the Holocaust, if I mention modern genocides such as Sudan, it’s not inheriently a whataboutism, but a call to consider and compare modern instances of genocide. People can be outraged all they want when another example of genocide is mentioned while discussing the Holocaust, but to call Sudan not a genocide because the holocaust was at a scale orders of magnitude becomes the whataboutism arguement.

The real problem is your telling me “we are talking about China’s abuses”...no that’s what the article is talking about. Look at my very first comment, it’s in response to a top level comment comparing China’s credit system to a system from an episode of Black Mirror.

By the OP bringing up another dystopian system (from the Black Mirror episode) did the OP engage in whataboutism? No! OP offered a comparison, same as I did, both of which are helpful to discussion and interesting. What you are doing is trying to chill speech (eg don’t talk about other dystopian systems while we are chiding China’s dystopian system). And I’m not sure you know what the definition of whataboutism arguements.

The scale, scope and logical extent of these systems are not even comparable.

Yes, for one, one exists for decades, the other is just on paper atm...

No, the American system reaches and hurts more people, including Europeans and other Asians.

The credit system is there to show you can pay your debt. That's important to show that you can pay back a debt, or else why would anyone would let you have debt to them.

You don't need social credit system to prove that you can take a plane. We all can takes a plane, there's no special social skills to takes a plane. This is literally punitive.

Inherently Life already have some kind of social credit system that act like our credit system. That's called reputation, or having contacts, or in slang, street's cred. I can't make a call right now to many celebrities, yet someone with enough reputation, wouldn't have trouble getting in contact with some. In a more realistic context, someone that want to become lawyer NEEDS contacts to make it, that's just the way it is, theses contacts are way, like in our credit system, to prove that you know what you are doing and can do more.

Works does the same with experience.

People with bad credit can still get jobs and rent apartments. I rent to tenants with bad credit all the time. It’s just one factor. And I’m guessing that people who are otherwise qualified getting turned down for employment due to bad or no credit is a very rare thing.

Regardless, there’s a world of difference in me considering a rental application with bad credit and the government forbidding me to rent to someone, not because of their prior ability to handle credit responsibly, but because they didn’t follow the political wishes of the government in power. I seriously can’t understand how anyone can compare them with a straight face.

The credit system (and a lot of other things) in the US is a mess, I agree. Howecer, this rampant whataboutism that’s reflexively thrown out when discussing truly horrific human rights abuses against millions or even hundreds of millions is intellectually bankrupt. It makes me worry that too many of us no longer value our freedoms enough to protect them like we should.

how does your worthiness to repay a loan equate to a social eating system? your statements seem to say that those with a history of an inability to pay loans back should continue to get loans and screw the originator? also which jobs can you not get because of bad credit? i’ve personally never seen or heard of one

Horrific predicted tech enabled dystopia now in China. Where next? what if airlines taxis and hotels shared ratings, would the west be so different? I hate Uber Airbnb pestering me for a rating every trip and the fact that I am rated as well. I don’t know or care what my rating is, but my wife does, she was upset recently by an Airbnb landlord in Belgrade, she gave us a bad rating because we had not deep cleaned the place?? The apartment was awful and we had to leave at 5.OO am and the lift didn’t work, last thing on my mind was hovering, no hotel would expect such, but maybe in the future only perfect behaviour will allow one to travel.

>... no hotel would expect such ...

Sure, and you and your wife were perfectly free to book a hotel as opposed to an AirBnB (which is NOT a hotel).

Well, nonpersonhood is nothing new to China. Tenth of millions of people in China can't even get an ID because they don't have birth certificates, and without that you can't legally have a bank account, have a phone number, receive education, receive medical care, travel, own property, have family or even immigrate away from China.

And the West has nevertheless kept quiet for long 28 years.

You make it sound like something Chinese government purposefully did, when in fact, those people were simply never registered by their parents -- to avoid the fee for having a child above quota.

>The group was never officially registered on the country’s household registration record system, known as hukou, which is closely linked to a person’s legal identity. That means they didn’t officially exist—until recently. On Friday (March 24), China’s Ministry of Public Security, the government department in charge of hukou registrations, announced that they had helped register the 14 million.


That's not the case, aside from that, having ones papers taken was and is an almost mundane punishment used againts very ordinary people. There are way, way more such non-enpersonned people than just second children, children of single women, or children from marriages of other "non-persons."

It is just this time, with the social credit, the state has finally got balls to go after high class bourgeois from megacities, and lower end elites.

If you want to see non personhood, take a look at how falun gong are treated.

You should have also reported the apartment as being awful to AirBnB.

I thought Airbnb charges an extra for the final cleaning?

They do, however most of my recent Airbnbs rentals have started requesting (via attached info email and/or the info-book on premises) to wash the dishes, change/take off the bedding sheets and in a couple cases, to wipe specific areas down. It feels like renters are continually pushing the boundaries of what they can ask of guests/tenants.

How interesting, I just assumed everyone cleaned up after themselves. I always do the dishes and tidy any mess I may have left. I'll gladly remove the bedding if requested, that only takes a few seconds.

Perhaps it's a cultural thing.

Considering that Airbnb is generally competing with hotels, which expect nothing of their guests, I tend to approach Airbnb with a similar mentality in regards to cleanliness, granted some of my stays were truly amazing homes where I took extra care to clean up after myself. But I'm far from being a slob and I actually really like doing dishes. It's mostly a matter of principle - why should I pay a cleaning fee and have to clean? This can be particularly frustrating when staying only 1-2 nights where the cleaning fee can be as high as renting for just 1 night.

It depends. I was asked to hoover before leaving too, recently.

Wow, the top thing on my mind this morning was that the CIA was able to listen in on a phone call from the Saudi head of state.

Now this.

I have already been thinking about the possible necessity of a decentralized personas. If an employer wants to see my office persona, then I don't want those people to see my gaming persona. No reason to connect these things to a central identity.

Decentralized personas are natural in the entertainment world where you take on different characters. Authors might publish under a different name. Now even a Twitter bot with a crap AI can be a popular persona.

As negative as a turn of events as this is, it could be a positive in odd sort of way in which we might view hackers blowing open vulnerabilities. This software, like any can spread like FB - crawling across the globe and no extra cost to the goons running it. I wonder what my score in China might be even though I don't live there. Maybe next, Valenzuela. Now is the time to construct a defense - if even possible.

Valenzuela? Really?

I think GP was dumbfounded by the mis-spelling of Venezuela than actually asking for more information.

While China has a bad record in human rights, I suggest to apply a lot of source criticism what comes to "social credit system." Especially here in Hacker News comments where discussion is generally more intelligent.

Here is more in-depth and fact based article about the topic:


> "and the admitted student who was erroneously denied his place at a university due to his father’s failure to pay back a bank loan."

It seems like you can strike "erroneously" from that sentence, since the source it cites doesn't imply it was a mistake at all.

Collective punishment is worth criticizing.

As per usual, when implementing some Orwellian scheme, there will be a crowd that states there's nothing to worry about, and that people are over-reacting, and that it's really not so bad after all.

I wonder what the social credit score of Chinese dissidents will look like.

[0] https://www.businessinsider.com/china-social-credit-affects-...

Chinese cities literally use face recognition to publicly shame jaywalkers with their name on big screens:


Bad record on human rights doesn't exactly cover it when the full stupidity of that fathoms on you. Jaywalking in itself is a manufactured crime.

What facts in the original article does your article correct? Its main point is just that there isn't a single unified ranking, which the OP article doesn't seem to claim.

This argument is nothing new. Always some portion of the people who benefit from the system will support it no matter how evil it is. The condescending comment on Hacker News comments is not going to persuade simply because the premise that "self policing for the government might be good in some cases" is totally wrong.

They've already had parts of this in place for awhile. My aunt-in-law's friend has had difficulty traveling in China because she's mistakenly listed in the system as being some kind of Falun Gong leader through some kind of clerical error. She found out when she was on a bus going on vacation, and they pulled her off the bus once they scanned her national ID.

She has no appeal and no way to correct the mistake. None of the police or officials she's talked to have done anything. She's just stuck with it.

The way I understand this social credit system, it is trying to emulate at a scale of a one billion population the social control you had in a small XVIII century village. Basically what forces you to behave is not so much the law than the fear of contempt from your peers, which could impact every aspect of your life.

And I can't help thinking that while it may be efficient at forcing people to not behave like a jerk, it will also have the same effect than for a XVIII century village: a high degree of conformism, that supresses any evolution or innovation. It may be the desired effect by the current rulers, preventing any political challenge. But I think it will also lead to an inexorable decline of the Chinese society.

>forcing people to not behave like a jerk

It doesn't force people to not behave like a jerk, it could just as easily lead to a nation of jerks. It forces people to strictly act within a tiny zone at the center of the Overton window[0]. At scale, it means that natural ideological progress will significantly slow down.

Any ideas or actions outside the norm will be culled. It's a move to homogenise the masses and allow the party to more easily set the general direction of 'desired' behaviours. This is pretty clearly the goal first and foremost. Stopping people from being jerks is just the marketing label.

The set of measures used to determine social credit will change over the next two decades and will become an ever tighter definition of what the party wants its citizens to be. The current criteria are just the entrée that was determined to be palatable to the masses.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window

Ah, the cycles of Chinese dynasties, seem to be as eternal as the culture itself.

As a non-chinese 'westerner', to my understanding the important background to this culturally is that Chinese culture has been traditionally much more legalistic than western culture https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legalism_(Chinese_philosophy).

It has lots of nuances but the most important difference, if compared to western view of the justice system and the rights of state, is that the most important thing in a legalistic system is to punish those that break the law, and other considerations like individuals right to a fair proceeding and so on, are secondary.

I think this social credit system is the perfect manifestation of the legalistic frame of mind. The system is built so that those that step out of the line are punished.

Western humanistic philosophy is quite new when compared to how chinese state has been ruled for millenias. I'm not saying this to make any value propositions into one direction or the other - just that there is quite a lot of cultural background here that Europeans and anglosaxons might not be aware of.

I think this is a valid observation, and I hadn't made the link yet. Legalism has been used since the very first Chinese emperors to keep the population in check. It's a tool of oppression and arguably no place has a richer history of tools of oppression than China.

Xi must be thinking "hey, it worked for millennia, why stop now?"

Yet in practice, I’ve had the opposite experience.

In China, when you break some rule or law, the police are much more lenient and forgiving. First time offenders (of minor crimes) always just get warnings. Even if the law requires a fine or some punishment, most cops will let you go after a stern lecturing.

But in the US, once the bureaucracy kicks in, then you have to follow the letter of the law. There is very little compassion. It’s about punishment, not re-education.

Perhaps it’s different in Europe, but that’s my experience in China and the US.

This is obviously going to be an unpopular sentiment, but I am somewhat excited to observe the results, and I'm glad this is happening during my time on Earth.

Yes, it is a horrible thought, but in many ways inevitable: if the tech exists, it will be used for both good and evil. Better that other societies can see the outcome sooner rather than later.

I felt the same. If it was not for the many lives it will ruin it would be a very interesting experiment to watch. And ponder about the myriad of unintended consequences that will arise. Like the reported false positive of the model on a bus advert being repeatedly charged for jaywalking.


We already know.

This is just modern technology applied to things already experimented in history, two of them being: East Germany, until 1989. And USSR before its downfall.

> We will arrive at a moment of sufficent self-alienation where we can contemplate our own destruction [as a species] as in a static spectacle.

-- Walter Benjamin

So we're repeating the Nazis now, gladly, because that's easier than learning from those who made all that effort, saw and went through so much atrocities and suffering, to to learn from that, and to relay that to us, to impress the importance of it on us? I'm so not onboard with that.

> We don't know a perfected totalitarian power structure, because it would require the control of the whole planet. But we know enough about the the still preliminary experiments of total organization to realize that the very well possible perfection of this apparatus would get rid of human agency in the sense as we know it.

-- Hannah Arendt

You (like many) are kinda saying yes, it's unpopular and horrible, but "it would happen anyway". Notice how this is exactly the logic of totalitarianism, an abdication of personal responsibility. Saying "I won't fight it because it will happen anyway" is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

> [The method of infallible prediction] is foolproof only after the movements have seized power. Then all debate about the truth or falsity of a totalitarian dictator’s prediction is as weird as arguing with a potential murderer about whether his future victim is dead or alive – since by killing the person in question the murderer can promptly provide proof of the correctness of his statement. The only valid argument under such conditions is promptly to rescue the person whose death is predicted. Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it. The assertion that the Moscow subway is the only one in the world is a lie only so long as the Bolsheviks have not the power to destroy all the others. In other words, the method of infallible prediction, more than any other totalitarian propaganda device, betrays its ultimate goal of world conquest, since only in a world completely under his control could the totalitarian ruler possibly realize all his lies and make true all his prophecies.

-- Hannah Arendt, both quotes from "The Origins of Totalitarianism"

And by the time you find out there's nothing to be glad about because it's just a spiral of control and fear and anti-intellectualism, with abusers and sadists having free pick of the litter, that won't matter anymore. There will be no allies to defeat the Nazis from the outside this time. There might be no "after".

As for societies seeing "outcomes", as you observe "results" (these are people we're talking about here), keep in mind how much of what the Nazis did didn't go to plan. The death camps were supposed to be completely removed from the face of the Earth, just like many villages they razed. If Hitler hadn't started a war, or had limited it, the world still wouldn't know. It's not like we know everything that's going on in China, by a long, long shot. Just like we don't know about the Abu Ghraibs about which we never heard, and so on.

To play with fire to learn about fire, let's leave that in the early 20th century, I beg of you. We have books and other documentation.

Oh, so just downvoting, just censoring, just like killing people, is the "argument". Every click without a word proves my point without diminishing a word I said. Giving totalitarianism an inch, rationalizing obedience to it for just one minute, has these results. Quod erat demonstrandum.

I upvoted your original post as I think it's well written and adds value to the discussion. I downvoted your response to yourself because it adds nothing of value.

Same can be said for this post, I suppose, depending on perspective shrug


That is largely the perspective I have witnessed on here over 2 years. I might need to start logging all the instances that occur for a year so that it can be published in an obvious manner, as at this point it's just [citation needed].

EDIT: That said, maybe it's just a vocal minority, or maybe it's just a lack of thinking through more than one layer of consequences to actually see where any particular path leads.

It's a community of millions of visitors and countless thousands of commenters a month. It's free for anyone to join and comment.

Topics like this will always attract comments from people with strongly held positions from all perspectives. In my observation they generally balance each other out. If they didn't, the site couldn't really survive, as thoughtful people who value interesting discussions wouldn't stick around.

People who claim that there's a strong bias towards a particular point of view are likely subject to the hostile media effect [1].

Anyone can succumb to this, as it's natural for us to pay more attention to positions that we find threatening than to those we find benign.

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

China is approaching a nightmarish dystopian society, if it hasn't reached that already.

I'm glad I live in a country where I can spend however much money I feel like on video games without being targeted by an oppressive government.

You just have to love a country where you can be murdered by the government for selling marijuana, yet if you abstain from alcohol for religious reasons you are an enemy of the state and must be turned into authorities.

Authoritarianism of all forms must be opposed worldwide. Who is to say the West won't be subjugated to such systems a couple decades from now, if we don't stand up for freedoms with vigor?

I'm afraid that by the time people wake up to this, it will already be too late. Authoritarianism backed by high tech is a permanent nightmare come true. I hope I'm wrong, but it seems unstoppable - not enough people seem to really care. It's a weakness of human psychology, we are too caught up in the short-term, but in this case the long-term consequences will be terminal.

For those interested in getting a high level of how China's Social Credit System works, NPR's Planet Money did a good show on the topic last month.


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While I'm terrified by the system, I do remember watching a BBC (I think?) report on this. There was a young Chinese woman there, who felt safer.

This made me think - what would women - and women, not the young men (me being one) choose when given a choice of the social credit system or being able to walk around the city safe(r)?

Quite general question, yet I do believe they would choose the latter; and I wouldn't blame them.

"Feeling safer" has almost nothing to do with the Government watching you and it's almost entirely caused by the local social norms. Case in point and to partly answer your question: I have a woman colleague who has recently moved to London from Bucharest. She told me that while living in Bucharest she had no issue at all going back home alone at 2 or 3 in the morning, while in London she avoids going out all by herself after 8 PM, because she does not feel safe.

Doesn't matter that London is one of the most camera-surveilled cities in the "Western" world while Bucharest has almost no cameras, all it matters is that there are more people in London ready to physically and verbally harass a person walking on the street all by her/himself compared to a city like Bucharest. I have no idea on how one would change those social norms, I'm just saying that adding cameras hasn't solved the issue and will probably not solve it.

Oh, I agree with you m8. I'm terrified with the surveillance stuff. I'd exchange then my "safe(r)" with "more sense of "safety"" (double quote deliberate).

Side note, that colleague originates from Bucharest? Just wondering if it's the same with my wife who feels unsafe in Berlin while she feels safer in Krakow.

> Side note, that colleague originates from Bucharest?

Yeap, she has lived her entire life until this summer in Bucharest (she's approaching 30 now), and she hasn't grow up and live in the "posh" parts of town, so to speak.

> Just wondering if it's the same with my wife who feels unsafe in Berlin while she feels safer in Krakow.

It's funny because said colleague (and friend) has moved out to London for a Polish guy, I guess that's where the better-paid jobs are.

I'd chalk it up to the stress of moving. I used to live in US and then moved to Germany. It's normal.

> There was a young Chinese woman there, who felt safer.

Why wouldn't she?

If you've installed a nuclear bomb inside a person's home and tell that person the bomb will keep him safe, he will probably feel safer either. That is as long as you don't tell him about the fact that the detonator is controlled by a nasty monkey.

In China, you can only see the positive news about the system. Even when a journalist are trying to tell you the danger, on the surface the writing will eventually boil everything down to privacy protection, not the system.

So, don't be surprised.

Well, of course. It's the same as with reading any official communication from the Russian government ;)

I'm talking about the premise that may appeal to 50% of the citizens. We (as in being able-bodied men, we should take into considerations people with disabilities, weaker, older, frailer) might get outvoted.

The thing is, when you ask somebody for their opinion, the most important thing you'll get out of it is not about the opinion itself, instead, it's about how and why the opinion been formed.

And most people build their opinion based on the information they're exposed to, probably including that imaginary women you made up for the comment. That's why controlling information is every government's wet dream, not just China, not just Russian, and actually, not just government.

So, the real question is not about who you asking (young women or men), it's about what's the information that women or men has received. Does she or he received all the information needed in order to make rational choice, or the information is just one sided?

BTW, In China, young women already been able to walk around most the city safely, even at night. You may take that into account.

How do you know she was telling the truth? If she criticizes the system too much she'll lose credit and be blacklisted from booking flights etc.

It's usually the choice that society as a large is making: do we prefer Freedom or Safety? For example after 9/11 American exchanged a lot of freedom for more safety. It's a choice we all have to make.

Well they had no credit system before so it was awful to get any sort of loan or expect it to be paid back. Lots of chinese people are for this policy.

Did they ask someone with a negative rating whether they felt safer too?

One of the problems is that this is yet another system that can be corrupted. The rich will be able to buy themselves a high social credit rating, while the poor suffer.

And how is this different from any society?

Not very, admittedly. But this system is a huge step in the wrong direction.

You guys just don’t know CCP. All they want is to controll everyone, eliminate dissenters and make everyone scared. It has nothing to do with social credit. —— from a chinese citizen

They say that the system helps to punish for violating traffic laws or evading taxes. But why police and courts cannot deal with this? Maybe because the real purpose is something else?

Also, in some countries there are similar systems, where your rights might be restricted without court's judgement or right for appeal. For example, in Russia, if you are suspected to be an extremist, you won't be able to withdraw money from your bank account. In other countries there are no-fly lists or potential terrorists lists which restrict people's rights without being able to defend themselves.

Is the 50 cent party working overtime in these threads? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_Cent_Party

This may sound like a stupid question, but did the Chinese people vote for this? Was there a democratic process?

> This may sound like a stupid question, but did the Chinese people vote for this? Was there a democratic process?

Of course not.


Think about how great this will be in the US. Finally, we can tag people who think incorrectly. They can be given low scores. All those people in fly overstates can just remain there. Hopefully the thought of a 72 hour car ride to a civilized city will give them pause when promoting fake news like Bernie's plan for universal healthcare is bad. It will be a wonderful day for the country when we can correct their wrong-thoughts.

It's interesting that this seems so futuristic and dystopic yet in reading about the specifics it seems oddly reminiscent to social systems many centuries past. In particular it seems to effect similar results to what exile would have had at one time. But exile lost any meaning as the world become more globalized and connected -- where you physically are no longer really means anything. This system would enable the consequences of exile, but with national effect.

In a world with a perfectly impartial and objective government, I don't think this is a bad idea at all. The reason it's bad is because governments are made up of people, and people are corrupt. While it may initially be genuinely motivated by helping to improve society, over time it will devolve into a tool for special (and government) interests to incentivize actions that are to their benefit, and punish those against it -- regardless of the objective societal impact of those actions.

> similar results to what exile would have had at one time

Can people on the list leave the country?

Yes; China no longer has exit visas. You just might not be able to take the most comfortable form of transport.

The travel ban only seems to apply to domestic flights as far as I can tell.

A lot of people in here reference Black Mirror, but it also made me think of ST:VOYs Critical Care [1] (which has plot holes you can just as well drive through).

[1] http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Critical_Care_(episode)

It could be argued that the primary purpose of a government is to make things better for people (with deliberately broad/vague words used there). I'm not sure how this qualifies. There's certainly a lot of negative language in that article, and negative language has a habit of not making things better for people.

> It could be argued that the primary purpose of a government is to make things better for people

As I understand it, this notion only really came into vogue during the European Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries. For much of human history, government served as a way for monarchs, emperors, and the ruling elite to maintain -- and expand -- their hold on power, regardless of what was best for the governed. Indeed, we still see remnants of this in pretty much every government on the planet -- some just are less subtle than others. Arguably, we've spent the last 3 centuries trying to subvert this process and bend it toward, as you put it, making things "better" for all.

> I'm not sure how this qualifies

The idea is that social credit discourages behaviour which is bad for people (e.g. traffic violations and small-scale tax evasion) and that makes things better for people. I think it's easy to see how this could be effective, but the criticism is really about fairness (due-process). Proponents would probably argue that the consequences are relatively small compared to traditional criminal justice (going to jail; execution) so it doesn't matter, and the streamlining of justice outweighs the disadvantages.

Why do people still live there (apart from those who cannot move)?

Probably because the regime doesn't actively affect most people's lives much more than a regular government. It's just people who speak out or act out that get oppressed.

This is just me assuming, but is guess that China is OK for quiet, well behaved unquestioning citizens.

The social credit score goes way beyond speaking out. It touches all the minor infractions, speeding tickets, jaywalking, not paying your rent or other debt on time, etc.

This has only just been implemented though, so we've yet to see the reaction of the populace.

Parts of it are already in place. You can listen to this Planet Money episode #871 from last month where they interview a guy that has his mug displayed on a billboard and people hear a warning message when they call his phone, because he couldn't repay a loan.


Where should 1.4bn go? Can they severe family ties that easily? Do they speak another language? Do they have the money for it? And more importantly, do they care that much? I think there are a fair big number of reasons why one wouldn't want to leave their homeland.

Others ask themselves the same about the US, or Germany, or Russia. It's easy to paint a picture that makes one wonder why anyone would ever stay there. And the answer to why is revealed when you peek behind the canvas that portrays these horrible places.

Germany? It has the best reputation of all countries in the world right now (https://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/2017/11/22/germany-best-re...).

Yes, and I understand why - I love living there; but there's also (luckily not many) people who think the streets are filled with beating, raping illegal immigrants who were invited by politicians to live off welfare paid by the hard working citizen.

If we don't have first hand experiences, we rely on second hand information to get a picture of a situation. And depending on where we get the information from (i.e. which media we consume), it may deviate from reality, or suggest a situation that doesn't reflect reality because it focuses on few, individual aspects or events.

So every time I don't understand why people behave the way they do, I have to question my understanding of the situation before I can question the people's behavior.

Those lists are way to generic when thinking about where to live as in the end it's about your individual priorities. Germany has good things, but living here is definitely not for everyone.

Because not all societies enshrine individual freedom as their primary value. China has historically valued orderliness, collective well-being, and personal sacrifice. This sucks from a Western perspective, but it also means that a great many of the problems the West faces will never manifest in China.

There are very few absolute wrongs in the world and it's not clear that this would be one of them.

> orderliness, collective well-being, and personal sacrifice

I don't know, most Chinese people I've met are at least as selfish as the average Westerner, often more (and let's not even begin about the stereotypical "I don't care about anything" 60 year old Chinese tourist). I'm no expert, but while surely many Chinese rulers have emphasized these values, I'm not convinced that the population ever cared much about them.

They're a splendid list of values to drum up, though, if you're the one whose boot indefinitely stamps on your subordinates' collective faces.

I'm not sure how bringing up personal experiences and racial stereotypes contributes to any conversation, especially when it is about the entire population of China (1.4 billion), its culture, and its history.

I highly recommend reading about the mandate of heaven[0]. While not particularly relevant anymore, it is important context to the cultural attitudes of your average Chinese citizen.


> China has historically valued orderliness, collective well-being, and personal sacrifice. This sucks from a Western perspective, but it also means that a great many of the problems the West faces will never manifest in China.

Like what?

To be fair, there's often a significant contrast between the way someone behaves and the societal values they espouse. In some cases they almost seem to be anti-correlated.

Chinese value personal freedom and do enjoy quite a lot of it, actually. In fact, I'd say that Chinese society allows more individuality and freedom than e.g. Japanese society.

Definitely agree. Japan’s social and cultural norms are a lot more stifling than China’s. But both are more stifling than the America’s.


I am not defending anything. I find the trend of accusing others of defending something simply because they refuse to join the mob quite worrying.

I am just stating simple facts in a dispassionate way.

Considering the distorted way any country (and especially China) is represented in the media and in some comments I read here (including yours, which close to hysterical) the best advice is indeed to withhold strong opinions if you have no direct experience and knowledge.

I don't deny the drastic restrictions in force in China regarding Rights with a capital R, but again in practice they do enjoy as many practical rights as we do in daily life and Chinese society is in fact much less 'oppressive' than, say, Japan.

The way you keep track of my comments and your ad hominem attacks could be construed as bullying and harassment, by the way.

I don't really keep track of your comments, but your username and topic combination sounded familiar, so I checked to see if you were the same personn.

I think topical context with a commenter is relevant, just as my past remarks on China are. If someone wants to construe "refuse to reply to the content of arguments" (as opposed to replying on the basis of where someone lives) as bullying and harassment, so be it.

I don't deny that if you conform in China you have nothing to worry about. It's no warzone. But it is not a friendly country to those who are not conformists or are minorities, and may not toe the Party line.

As an example, the Uyghurs are a sizable group for whom are consistently oppressed by the government. This is not a distortion of any kind. We know about the intense surveillance (more intrusive than normal Chinese citizen surveillance), the "re-education camps", et cetera.

Direct experience can only serve to confirm or deny facts, it does not change them. It's also much harder for direct experience to be of any value without a free press to challenge government narratives.

Disclaimer: I'm Greek and I've left my country. I'm visiting home all the time and yes I still love my friends and family. I love the place and the lifestyle but I don't give a crap for the country.

Not sure you can compare the mess that Greece currently is with the prosperity of living in China (with the drawback of surrendering your privacy).

I have been to Greece and I have friends who live there, and I can say that living in Greece is normal. I am really not sure why would claim that living in Greece is significantly worse than living in China or any other western country.

Maybe it's good now but it certainly wasn't a great place to live during the crisis and OP left for a reason.

> it certainly wasn't a great place to live during the crisis

No, not really.

> I love the place and the lifestyle but I don't give a crap for the country

This kind of attitude is why some countries' economies and social systems turn to crap, ya know...

Is that really so bad if said country hasn't done anything for you? People are not born with the duty to support "their" country in any way possible even if said country has not supported them.

You've gotta look at things in perspective. When you live in China what you get is basically 0 crime, a very rapidly developing economy with huge potential for all sorts of entrepreneurship, extremely cheap cost of living with heavy subsidies for costs like utilities, and a generally pretty peaceful and pleasant place. Biggest practical problem is fake or knockoff everything from condoms to eggs. Yip fake eggs are really a thing. What you don't get is a place where it'd be a great idea to speak excessively harshly of pretty much anybody in public, or start trying to protest in ways that would disrupt the normal flow of life.

Generally I think it's a great idea to have a diverse and multi-polar world. I have no idea whether the Chinese system of government is a good idea or an idea that will lead to the implosion of their society. And really I can say the exact same of the current system of government in the United States. By having various nations trialing out radically different systems, we can hope to see which is ultimately more effective by measuring varying sorts of results over time - and then learn and improve from our successes and failures.

> I have no idea whether the Chinese system of government is a good idea or an idea that will lead to the implosion of their society.

So if it doesn't implode, that makes it a good idea?

China has gone from an undeveloped nation where people were literally starving to death by the tens of millions, to one of the most powerful and economically successful nations in the world. And they did this all in less than a single human lifetime. This trajectory of success is unlike anything we've seen anytime in human history excluding growth from military expansion. They're greatly outpacing the United States' rise from backwoods colonies to the most powerful nation in the world, and they've even exceeded reconstruction era Japan. If they can maintain even a fraction of their current momentum and trajectory, China is well on the path to becoming the most powerful nation in the world. And that role is implicitly accompanied by the privilege of being able to heavily influence the path of our entire world and, consequently, species.

So yes I think it's completely absurd to suggest they've achieved anything short of remarkable success with their system of development and governance. But the question is what will happen in the process of this success and whether the path they've taken is sustainable or not. Is their growth indeed on the current exponential it seems to be on? A sigmoid where this wildly exponential growth will start to level off, or perhaps even something like a bell curve where the rapid ascent will be met by a comparably rapid decline?

I am more hesitant to attribute this success to the success of their government system. After all, when the government exhibited more totalitarian control, tragedies like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution occurred, that killed a generation of progress and more. It was after Deng's restructuring and China's opening up of its markets that it saw unprecedented growth. But what I'm seeing right now is totalitarian elements being reintroduced into governance---thus I don't share your unbridled faith that there is something essentially right with China's current governance.

I'd debate the degree to which China opened its markets, but that's an aside -- I mostly agree with you in theory. But there's one nagging issue. Countless other developing nations that have done things such as open their markets and have had nowhere near the success to show for it that China has.

I think unforeseen consequences, both negative and positive, are a major part of how societies develop. We in general have nowhere near the foresight we like to image we do. And in particular, I'm more inclined to attribute China's success to their systems in large part because the only thing as large an outlier as their success is their governmental system. And the timing also fits quite well. If it's just e.g. open markets then it leaves you having to explain why China is thriving whereas most other developing nations following the WTO playbook have relatively little to show for it.

IMO China's success is quite belated. Much of the world was recovering from WWII with booming economies, and Asian economies especially saw rapid growth, hence the four Asian tigers as well. To the CCP's credit, they have managed to hold China together and given it stability when many have tried and failed for a century, and this I think is the greatest reason for China's success.

It's not possible to identify a unifying thread among countries that try to follow the WTO playbook that fail. Some fail because a totalitarian minority control a valuable natural resource. Some fail because of irreconcilable differences between nations (races) sharing the same political state. Still there are many other reasons.

> When you live in China what you get is basically 0 crime

This is far, far from the truth.

But closer to the truth than not.

How so?

They live a good life. The Chinese friends I have are not bothered by this and support their government, however crazy that may seem to us in the West.

Money and lifestyle.

Daily life is no different than in the West. Don't believe all that you see in the media.

Lots of western expats live in China because they have economic opportunities they don’t have access to in their home countries. Says something about the state of western world when so many young people go to China to climb the career ladder. Social mobility in western countries is almost non existent.

Ah the new FILTH aka Failed in London, Try Hong Kong

Most people on HN are software engineers. We are lucky that given our skills we can make it anywhere (some of the hackers around here are very brilliant and can basically live and work anywhere they fancy). But there’s a lot of professions outside of software bubble (more traditional jobs) that are not providing opportunities they once did and with AI and automation it’s going to get worse.

Well, the UK itself seems to be "Failing in London" these days. ;)

Well the compete omnishambles that the current generation of politicians seem to have created I would probably agree with you

And over here in my university in the UK half of the students are Chinese and most of the ones that I talked with plan to continue their studies and careers here and in the US. What you claim goes both ways.

It’s hard to enumerate but I meet tons of young professionals in Asia who studied in UK/Australia/US/Canada and came back for better jobs and prospects. It would be interesting to make some study to get some numbers on how many stay overseas and how many come back, and what are their careers like 10 years down the line.

I think the biggest problem with this is that citizens that want to speak out about the government will now be more easily blackballed. So now the government can more easily repress a revolution. I suspect this means that the Communist Party of China will most likely remain in power for a lot longer than their natural shelf-life. When this party makes mistakes and misjudgments, what would happen now? The people will not be able to over-throw or speak out. The people will just have to eat the costs and hope the party does not screw up too much. Basically, the Communist Party has removed one of its last checks to power, internal revolt.

Surely this is the main goal of such a system.

Last time I had read about this topic the focus was mostly on people who had defaulted on loans. One of the punishments was to have their face/name posted on a billboard publicly shaming them. I wonder if people still didn't pay back the loans, but did public service, if that would improve their score?

Neo-confucianism is now digitized.

Its sad technology is being used for evil. What are the suggestions to a programmer who fears his native country might adopt such systems. Are there any open source projects focused on combating such systems ?

Isn't this bad from an economic perspective? I thought the gov't wanted to encourage spending and increase the velocity of their money. This directly hinders that.

Indirectly it could increase spending as they are preventing people from leaving and spending their money overseas

It will be used to promote good spending: money spend on Chinese goods and services. De-promote bad spending: foreign goods.

I think I’d rather live under something like this than the opaque, private fico system.

What can I do as an engineer to alleviate this problem?

In this system, is it possible to have a negative balance?

That's relative, isn't it? Below average is effectively negative for most purposes. Contrary, the Root Mean Square of a sinusoid AC supply can't go negative, for example. Economy (or socio...) is maybe not that simple, but still based on a balance between giving and receiving. What's interesting then is the average of the slope: zero for AC pretty much by definition. While stability is important, growth is too, economically speaking, so the derivative would need to be normalized under an average, so we are back to square one.

That's to say, of course people can be on the decline.

I don't know the answer but if there is a floor at 0, that would mean at this point you have nothing to loose, so that could backfire. But you probably get incarcerated before you reach some threshold level.

HN has fault habdlers in place for accounts with karma going too far below zero. It was a hellban at -13 for my old account. I did keep writing for weeks before I noticed, the exercise of which was still rewarding in a way, and I still receive few answers now. Sometimes I suspect mods to the visibillity. I reinterpretted rangeban to mean banned beyond a certain range (as opposed to how it is commonly used: the ban of a whole range of possible identities).

Just imagine if the National Socialist party in Germany would have had this in the 1930-40s. They could have been even more “efficient” in taking out the various groups of people they found to be of “low social value”.

For everyone but those who believe in powerful centralized governments this is a nightmare scenario.

I'm disgusted by the comments in this thread that go "culture!", "tradition!", "philosophy!" to explain why this really isn't that much of a problem.

So because Chinese rulers have oppressed and mistreated their people for so long that their methods have become ingrained in the national psyche, it's somehow more OK?

George Orwell predicted that "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever". He thought he was making a dystopian prediction, a warning of sorts, but he could've just as easily called it a history lesson about China.

Sure, many other places, most places in fact, have horrible histories, with evil rulers vastly outnumbering the even somewhat good ones, but China is unique in that it's been all about oppressing and abusing the population as heavily as possible, without pause, ever since the first emperors gave the country its foreign name.

A non-stop tradition of oppression doesn't somehow make new oppression less bad.

NOTE: Nothing against the Chinese culture or people. I'm extremely fond of lots of Chinese things, not in the least Chinese humor for which I have a particularly soft spot. I love working with Chinese people, I love meeting Chinese people. It makes me sad that such a wonderful place and a wonderful culture can also have such a horrible tradition of oppression.

I want to leave a comment to fellow Chinese citizens reading this thread.

1. "Don't waste your time with explanations. People only hear what they want to hear."

2. Don't get triggered by downvotes. They are just virtual numbers. They won't change the reality and facts. In the future, you will be able to come back and laugh at them.

3. It is not worth your time to explain the facts to them. Eventually people will face the reality no matter how hard media paints it. Just give it some time for the world to sort itself out.

Edit: If you really want to comment, try your best to be civil and substantial. I know it is hard with all the emotions, but not impossible.

But please don't be too proud either.

China is a great country, you're a great people. As we all are. All humans. Qualities. Defaults. History.

You're not _that_ exceptional either.

We don't criticize China. Neither you.

We criticize the very idea of automation of social credit (thus of social relations, and individual freedom, and life), because our parents and grandparents had to experiment with it, and its consequences.

I guess you are referencing Nazi?

Without going into a history lesson, let me just point out that China fought against Germany in both WW1 and WW2. So our parents and grandparents do have some ideas of experiments and consequences.

> I guess you are referencing Nazi?

Nope. Not everything totalitarian that happened in Europe in the past century was about nazism. Far from that.

Historical context of a country matters a lot when judging the extent of a surveillance problem. Chinese are terrified of chaos and disorder, which has in the past has led to civil wars. For them the first priority is keeping the status quo.

Just take a look at the death toll of these wars: https://www.businessinsider.com/bloodiest-conflicts-in-chine...

25 Million casualties, and that's in the 17th century. Compare that to the absolute carnage of Syria, which has had less than half a million casualties.

Mores do change, people do evolve (I know that's not the PC term to use, but that's the reality of it), there's no reason to allow ourselves to allow the Government or any other Government-like entity to dictate our lives only because some centuries (or decades ago) there was a deadly civil war going on. Just think about the English and John Locke, who wrote his "Second Treatise of Government" just a few decades after the English king had been decapitated as the result of a civil war. Without people like Locke the world would have been a worst place now and we wouldn't probably have this conversation at all.

That's not a valid excuse for a totalitarian, unfair system.

Because these systems have all been torn down by some kind of civil war - there is no other way, because of the nature of power and the structures it uses.

> A non-stop tradition of oppression doesn't somehow make new oppression less bad.

The Chinese government abused and oppressed their people so hard for so long they accidentally lifted 740 million people out of abject, 3rd world poverty. But don't let that get in the way of a good rant.

I think you're missing the big picture. Just ask yourself these two questions: 1. How did they get into "abject, 3rd world poverty" in the first place? 2. Is their current policy direction closer to the era of Deng or that of Mao?

1. 100 years of being colonized by multiple countries. Then a World War followed by a Civil War.

2. Deng for sure.

> China is unique in that it's been all about oppressing and abusing the population as heavily as possible, without pause, ever since the first emperors gave the country its foreign name.

This is such complete nonsense. I think it's hilarious how totally and completely misguided about China that Westerners, and Americans in particular, actually are. It boggles the belief just how much complete nonsense is spouted here on reddit and in the Western press. This is the very essence of people being disconnected from reality and constructing a new reality in accordance with their ideology.

Reality check: go to China and actually talk to the Chinese themselves. Radical idea! Social credit is extremely popular in China [1]. The social credit system is also not new. Anybody who understands how Chinese society has always worked would understand that this is the application of new technology to ideas that are nearly three thousand years old.

Anyways resume your ideological freak-out.

[1] https://www.merics.org/en/blog/chinas-social-credit-systems-...

> "Citizens with access to benefits respond more favorably"

Of course they do. These sorts of systems always offer a sizable portion of the population benefits, that's how they gain popular support. This doesn't mean that they aren't terrible ideas.

You have to consider how a government affects the people who disapprove of the government, who are not part of a majority, who are not conformists.

Many people don't think this is worth doing. But the sentiment that only the conformist majority matters has led to unspeakable atrocities throughout history, and continues to even in the present day across the world.

Your criticism is very valid. But saying only the majority benefits is very different from claiming that the purpose is to oppress everyone, isn't it? That is what the gp was angered by and responding to.

> Social credit is extremely popular in China

Person: "I think a social credit system is bad for China."

Automated Bot: "100 social credit penalty for you!"

This is a brilliant equivocal take :p

> Social credit is extremely popular in China [1]. The social credit system is also not new.

Slavery was once popular in America, and as a system was not new. It was hugely beneficial to a segment of the population. Would you be pro slavery because of those arguments?


Praise for a totalitarian system is not acceptable, neither debatable. That's all. End of story.

We kind of learned about that in Europe, the hard way, several times in XXth century (Italy, Germany, Russia, Soviet era invaded countries, Spain); some of us still having forgotten sadly.

A social credit system that is used to expedite what is normally the responsibility of law, debate, judgement - and can then be used to impose arbitrarial rules from the state (don't be fooled about that) _is_ totalitarian per nature. It is even more that because it relies on automation.

Don't use exceptionalism or pride to defend or justify such a system.

This rhetorical maneuver, where you simply declare a system you don't understand to be totalitarian is no different from shouting Nazi at anything you don't agree with. Even a cursory analysis would show that the defining characteristic of totalitarianism, "absolute control over public and private life," doesn't apply to a system where people are completely free to travel anywhere whenever they want and the government invests hundreds of billions to encourage this free travel both within the country and abroad for its citizens.

It's not rhetorics. It's perspective.

* Power structures never favour the weak - it takes a democracy (distribution and separation of powers, education, free speech) to handle that, however imperfect it can be, it's the least imperfect we know as of today. And, there's no prospective new system at play anywhere today.

* Automation favours who controls the machine.

* The state controls the machine.

* No democracy, no control. Failing democracy, no control either.

* That's dangerous.

Free travel? By your own definition China has the defining characteristic of a totalitarian state:



I down voted not because I disagree but because your comment is a rant and doesn't offer any justification to your perspective. Hand waving and saying go talk to people doesn't prove your point, it makes you sound silly.

Sure. In a thread absolutely full of baseless rants my comment, which does provide an explanation and a link, was the one that jumped out you.

Though it is aways interesting to see people like you can rationalize your censorious actions. It's too bad HN doesn't require a text explanation for downvoting. It wouldn't decrease the hypocrisy but it would provide some further insight into the hypocrisy.

I also took the time to read the linked article and it isn't substantiating your claim. A few thousand people from an oppressive nation were surveyed about their support (or lack thereof) for a nation sponsored system. Why would anyone be surprised by the outcome of that study.

Furthermore, polls suggested Hillary Clinton was going to win the last election for US and who is the 45th president?

Beyond the obvious issues and extreme aims stated in the article, such a system is also a new, interesting take on the problem of 'crime and punishment' that might be food for thought.

US and China are not equivalent

Isn't it more like criminals or serious offenders can't fly? Will you allow a person who can possibly hijack the plane?

No, not necessarily.

As pointed out in another comment : "Other infractions reportedly include smoking in non-smoking zones, buying too many video games and posting fake news online."

The devil is always in the detail.

The "buying too many video games" line came from the gamification aspect of a social network owned by a private enterprise and has nothing to do with the government scheme. And even they have backpedaled from that claim:

"Hu Tao, Zhima Credit’s general manager, paints a different picture now. She says the app doesn’t monitor social media posts “nor does it attempt to measure qualitative characteristics like character, honesty, or moral value.” Zhima Credit is not a pilot for the social credit system and doesn’t share data with the government without users’ consent, she says."

from https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/04/03/life-inside-chinas-soci...

And the "posting fake news online" line actually refers to "spreading false information about terrorism" which quite a bit more serious.

I'd love to know why people downvoted me with no explanation.

I can't speak for other people, and I didn't downvote you. But it sounds deliberately dishonest to pretend this is anti-terrorism when it's based on trivial misdemeanors like smoking.

Once you've established that you're not pursuing the truth your words are only poison/noise that harms the group of us who are trying very hard to figure out what is true.

>No, not necessarily.

>As pointed out in another comment : "Other infractions reportedly include smoking in non-smoking zones ...

Well, last time someone lighted a cigarette on a plane ...


> Well, last time someone lighted a cigarette on a plane ...

There are also designated non-smoking zones that are not due to immediate (as opposed to long-term) safety concerns.

The references linked in the article specifically mentions smoking on trains and planes.

"Criminals or serious offenders" includes those whose crime was offending the government or other elites by merely saying something that they didn't like. Only a tiny subset of speech should be considered a crime, like yelling fire in a crowded theater.

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