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The Social Credit System in China [video] (ccc.de)
195 points by DyslexicAtheist 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 139 comments



A lot of the comments here seem to be based on speculation, not the actual content of the video. A few key points:

* There is no one system (which is why the title is "The" Social Credit System, the scare quotes are there on purpose!), but ~70 local experiments, with the talk focusing on three of these (~19:45)

* Alibaba's Sesame/Zhima system is not government-accredited (~26:00) and has a lot of shopping/loyalty card features (pay with Alipay, earn points!)

* The current systems have many crippling flaws, like rich people being trivially able to buy their way to good scores to paper over their sins (~35:00)

* Some type of nationwide system is likely to be rolled out nationally at some point, but the details are still very fuzzy (~49:00)


Living in China and lived in the US. In general the credit systems in China aren't much different from those of the US.

* There is no one system (which is why the title is "The" Social Credit System, the scare quotes are there on purpose!), but ~70 local experiments, with the talk focusing on three of these (~19:45)

There isn't a central one. To be fair many credit systems exist for a while, for example financial credits from banks, traffic violation credit from DOT, airplane/train black-list, Dang'an system (rongcheng), etc. All of them aren't much different from their western counterparts, with one exception (Dang'an).

* Alibaba's Sesame/Zhima system is not government-accredited (~26:00) and has a lot of shopping/loyalty card features (pay with Alipay, earn points!)

Worked in Alibaba before and can confirm. Not government-accredited and not much different from a financial credit score, though much more commercial institutes are adapting it. For example, you don't need to pay deposit when opening a bike sharing account if you sesame score is above a threshold.

* The current systems have many crippling flaws, like rich people being trivially able to buy their way to good scores to paper over their sins (~35:00)

Not true for the majority but there's one exception. You can pay others to 'deduct' your traffic violation points. However it's not exactly buying way to good scores. Let me explain. In China violation is caught on traffic camera 99% of the time, while in the US most tickets are issued by a police officer. Thus the violation is issued on the vehicle since there's no way to identify who's the driver from camera footage. So people literally can claim someone else is driving the vehicle and points will be deducted from their account. Everyone has 12 points, refreshed every year. Most time that's enough to cover minor incidents.

* Some type of nationwide system is likely to be rolled out nationally at some point, but the details are still very fuzzy (~49:00)

There's proposal but I think it's both stupid and infeasible to design such a score. And various credit scores are already implemented and functioning, there's no need to get a new one.


There is a central one actually, 失信人名单[1], maintained by the judicial branch. Other credit scores can be used as evidence on a court.

Recently ZTE lost a case and its legal representative was on that list. If you are doing business in China, make sure checkout that list first. You can search for both corporations and citizens. Actually personally I think if Chinese stole so many IPs, western companies should embrace the system to fight dishonest Chinese companies.

But it's certainly not Zhima/sesame credit.

[1]: http://zxgk.court.gov.cn/shixin/


Thanks. Didn't know this.

Looks like breach of contract is the main reason to get on that list and most listed personals are legal representative of a company.


Off topic, but that www.court.gov.cn is awesome.

After dug it a bit deeper, I found wenshu.court.gov.cn which seems to contain all the judgment papers across all the courts in a searchable manner. Cool!


There is a system called "The" Social Credit System"(社会信用体系). But the word 'social' is not about social network, it is about socialism. Lots of PRC's departments and laws are named with social but none of the have anything to do with the social network.

I think it should be translated as 'The National Credit System'


Rich people buying their way to good scores is probably a feature, not a big.


Not saying that I approve of that...


It's strange to me that the social credit system in China seems to rarely be discussed alongside credit scores in the United States, an already existing, massively opaque, punitive system that keeps people in cycles of debt and poverty.


Are they equitable? There is some resemblance, but it's different enough.

Let's put it this way, despite the ills of the US Credit Bureaux, I would want the Chinese Social Credit system much less. Even with no credit, one can still get on a train, it does not affect what schools you can put your kids in, or penalize my spot in a gov't queue.


Credit score absolutely affects what neighborhoods you can buy or rent in (so public schools) and whether you can afford private school. It’s obviously not a 1:1 comparison or “this one is better than the other,” but when like Bill Kristol is floating the idea of regime change in China in response to news about the social credit system, I think it’s important to do some reflecting on our own oppressive systems.


It's not a direct comparison. I think it's a bit of a stretch. Of course, not having money means you can't afford housing in a good school district, but if you happen to be poor or have bad credit but live in a good district (or borrow a relatives address) you can still put that kid in the district school. Basically, it's not a direct result. The most obvious difference is my _knowing_ someone with a bad score does not lower my score by loose association.

Kristol is a war hawk, like many of the other conservative in name Neo-Cons. Glad their influence is now on the wane. What China is doing is not good, in many cases, but it's their problem and they can sort them out like they did in '49 and '66-'67.

Somewhat more comparable is the German Schufa system --but it's till not the same.


It’s not direct, but the result can be the same (and it’s not just about being poor, it’s about a low credit score meaning you get shitty loan terms or a landlord isn’t willing to rent to you). I won’t defend the social credit system, but I do think there are enough parallels with credit scores that it’s worth mentioning in the interest of getting some justice in that area.


credit score is purely financial. It "purely" indicates how likely you're going to default on your loans.

A social "credit score" system is a way to control the behaviour of people in a society - by those who deem the control necessary for "the greater good".

They are different classes of things - a financial credit score can be improved if your finances improve (by luck or by hardwork). A social credit score can't be improved unless you change your person/beliefs.


"Purely financial" things can also be political and discriminatory.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redlining


it's not purely financial. If you're a tenant and you get in a non-financial dispute with your landlord, for instance, your credit score can be affected easily.


> in a non-financial dispute with your landlord, for instance, your credit score can be affected easily

How?


eviction


only if you refuse to pay the rent.


Virtually every state lets landlords evict you for no reason at all.


I don’t know enough about the social credit stuff to refute your characterization of it, but a financial credit score very much follows you even if you somehow end up with more money. Point is, a credit score often closes avenues by which you could get more money, hence the cyclical and punitive nature of it.

The scare quotes of “the greater good” you used for the social credit system can equally be used to characterize credit scores as a way to control people’s financial and employment and living prospects in the interest of the “greater good” of financial markets. I think the idea that markets and the finance sector setting credit scores that have far reaching impacts on people’s lives is somehow categorically different than the state implementing a social credit system that might have similar outcomes isn’t correct. So we should talk about them in similar terms.


Isn't this basically the same sort of "whataboutism" that we decry elsewhere?


I’m not sure who “we” is or what varieties of “whataboutism” “we’ve” universally decried, so I don’t know how to reply to this.


For schools, getting on the Shixin list (the only national "list" there is), you are barred from sending your kids to private school. So if you live in a good district with a good school (your example for bad credit in USA), your kid can still go there! (被执行人为自然人的,被采取限制消费措施后,不得有以下高消费及非生活和工作必需的消费行为:...(七)子女就读高收费私立学校) For transportation, nothing bars you from taking the train/plane/boat, you're just not allowed to buy anything in first or second class (so probably just economy for planes, and the most normal seats on trains). Can you point me to anything that says you can't take trains at all? From the Shixin list, it says "被执行人为自然人的,被采取限制消费措施后,不得有以下高消费及非生活和工作必需的消费行为:(一)乘坐交通工具时,选择飞机、列车软卧、轮船二等以上舱位", and "(九)乘坐G字头动车组列车全部座位、其他动车组列车一等以上座位等其他非生活和工作必需的消费行为" (Can't take the G trains aka the high speed rail or any slight-lower-speed train's first class).

[0] http://zxgk.court.gov.cn/shixin/


Employers in most states will look at your credit score to make hiring decisions.


Not to mention that it interjects itself as a social ranking system for private employeers.


And access to health care is strongly linked with employment.


Does a low credit score prevent you from using public transport? (This may not seem like a big deal to you, but in China, personal car ownership is nowhere as common, and public transport is the only way to get around for many people.)


No, here in the US, we have the no-fly list for that.

Once you're there, good luck getting your name off it.


> Does a low credit score prevent you from using public transport?

chinese credit score does not prevent you from using public transport, but only the "luxury" ones, e.g. High speed rail and planes. However you can take normal trains and buses.

Yes, HSR and planes are considered "luxury".

credit scores were introduced mainly to combat loan dispute cases in China, which is a growing problem because the economy is slowing down, lots of bad investment and missed paybacks.


High speed rail cannot be considered a luxury in a country which only has high speed rail.


Are you serious? Normal trains like the Z-class in China has higher speed than US's Amtrak


A low credit score might mean you can’t rent more desirable apartments or buy more expensive homes that are well-served by public transit, so yes, it could prevent you from using public transit if you can’t live somewhere where it’s a feasible option for you.


Not extending credit to a person vs not allowing you to spend your existing money is not really comparable. Credit scores are not "massively opaque". Your bank should report it monthly to you and you can see it rise and fall based on your number lines of credit lines (loans, mortgage, car, credit cards, etc) and whether or not you're in repayment.

It's not punitive. If you have too many lines of credit out and you can't pay them, why should a company extend credit? For charity?

Cycle of debt and poverty statement makes no sense. Credit scores do not do that. People can easily repair credit scores by beginning to repay their existing loans. They don't even have to be paid off, just in repayment.

Your ideas regarding credit score and "social credit" as comparable similar systems is false. I don't think you're an American at all now that I think about it.


The formula for calculating FICO credit scores isn't public, the processes for correcting errors on credit reports are not responsive, and lenders use questionable algorithms that affect things like your credit limit.

https://qz.com/1079490/the-equifax-breach-is-proof-its-time-... http://blogs.reuters.com/reuters-wealth/2011/05/23/why-are-c... https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?refe... https://publicintegrity.org/business/unregulated-fico-has-ke...

Going into debt for an education that is sold as a ticket to higher wages and then being punished in employment and housing for debt you took on and were unable to repay is punitive. It's not just about getting further lines of credit, it's about being able to land a job or find a place to live. Oh and I forgot to even mention debt related to medical expenses. That's a huge issue in the US...

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/11/12/debt-weighs-... https://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/11/crushing_deb...

Weird to jump to the conclusion that I'm not American, but whatever.


The "driving point system" is very ubiquitous in China. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_system_(driving) It is also very common in the states and other countries. Funny thing is, in China, offenders can "buy" points from other people so that they still can drive. I wonder if that would work for this "social credit system" as well at some point...


In the social credit system you can indeed show up to government-run booths and pay to have your points changed, the government says the cash goes to charity.


indulgences turned out to be very unpopular on the other side of eurasia


In that case, it would just be fines for violating their "code of conduct," a revenue stream for the government... nothing really changed. Bad&&poor people get poorer, might become less bad. Bad&&rich people might be "badder" because they can afford it. So, ended up with a society with really rich villains and docile peasants?


Isn't this largely how society plays out already, albeit less explicitly? From what little I know of our legal system (I'm in the US), it isn't too hard to buy yourself a great lawyer and get out of significant legal trouble.


For comparison, Finland apparently scales driving penalty fines proportionally according to your income: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/03/finland...


Same in Denmark, at least for DUI. You'll get roughly 10 x BAC x monthly salary (post tax). A local footballer famously got hit hard by this, with a fine of DKK 842K (~ USD 130K).


Can confirm. Typical fine for 21-29 kph speeding is 20% of your monthly income, and for 30-60 kph speeding, 40% of your monthly income.


Wow, ouch. Are the punishments for lesser speeding more affordable?


Is that post or pre taxed income?


Post.


> offenders can "buy" points from other people so that they still can drive

It's illegal, some local official already been prisonized for doing that[0]. So the argument is no longer true.

If the "social credit point" will become a reality, then I don't think it can be traded in a lawful fashion as well, as allowing it will discredit the system.

Might be a good way to destroy the system by rending it useless now that I think about it.

[0] https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=zh-CN&tl=en&u=http...


To make it even more evil you could award points back to people that report fellow offenders. With some sort of video proof or tools to measure speeders, record jaywalkers, red lights, etc.


> Funny thing is, in China, offenders can "buy" points from other people so that they still can drive.

Sounds like a Sybil attack.


Vice did a pretty interesting mini-doc about it a couple of weeks ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkw15LkZ_Kw


This is very one sided. Only shows the opinions of people that support the system even though vast majority do not. Seems like Vice is doing propaganda for China's Orwellian/Black Mirroresque system


A rejection by comparison to dystopian fiction is like saying "welfare is turning us into Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged" or "capitalism is ending up like Rapture in Bioshock". A lotta slippery slopes and ideology.


I'd say the vast majority of people in China do support the system.


That's chilling - especially the support by the guy who got dinged for it. If he didn't support it how would he be able to say so?

This is very much like building a Panopticon.


The fun part will be extending it to track and apply to foreigners, even outside of China.

It's a very small thing to make people second-guess a critical blog post or Reddit comment about China in case they ever want to visit or do business with a company that has any Chinese presence.


> The fun part will be extending it to track and apply to foreigners, even outside of China.

> It's a very small thing to make people second-guess a critical blog post or Reddit comment about China in case they ever want to visit or do business with a company that has any Chinese presence.

That would be difficult to extend to activity in non-cooperative regimes. China has been working to de-anonymize internet access by making phone numbers traceable to national ID numbers, network connections/IP addresses traceable to phone numbers [1], and forum posts traceable to IP addresses.

I think it's unlikely that they'd be able to automatically trace a pseudonymous post on reddit made by an American in the US to a particular US passport number to factor reddit posts into a social credit score at a large scale.

However, they might be able to do it for public posts on a real-name policy site like Facebook. With facial recognition and a real name, they could probably reliably match an account to a passport to sanction posts they dislike. They'd probably be fine with any false positives due to fake accounts, etc.

[1] e.g. to connect to airport wifi, the landing page asks for your (local) cell number, and texts you a code for access.


Most people reuse usernames.


That kinda misses the point. Pseudo-anonymous accounts can be doxxed based on personal idiosyncrasies (like username reuse), but not at scale (yet).


Foreigners generally don’t appear at all in Chinese credit systems, to the point that we can’t get credit cards on our own even if we have a lots of money in the bank and a continuing direct deposit.

I really shouldn’t be using my real name on HN, however.


I think it goes deeper than even criticism vs. suppressing criticism. That is, that it's less about what ideas people fall in line with, but that they aren't making them on their own and with each other, and that they get used to that.

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

https://gking.harvard.edu/publications/how-Censorship-China-...

> Our results offer rigorous support for the recent hypothesis that criticisms of the state, its leaders, and their policies are published, whereas posts about real-world events with collective action potential are censored.

https://gking.harvard.edu/publications/randomized-experiment...

> The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.

-- Noam Chomsky

> Within the affluent democracy, the affluent discussion prevails, and within the established framework, it is tolerant to a large extent. All points of view can be heard: the Communist and the Fascist, the Left and the Right, the white and the Negro, the crusaders for armament and for disarmament. Moreover, in endlessly dragging debates over the media, the stupid opinion is treated with the same respect as the intelligent one, the misinformed may talk as long as the informed, and propaganda rides along with education, truth with falsehood. This pure toleration of sense and nonsense is justified by the democratic argument that nobody, neither group nor individual, is in possession of the truth and capable of defining what is right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, all contesting opinions must be submitted to 'the people' for its deliberation and choice. But I have already suggested that the democratic argument implies a necessary condition, namely, that the people must be capable of deliberating and choosing on the basis of knowledge, that they must have access to authentic information, and that, on this. basis, their evaluation must be the result of autonomous thought.

-- Herbert Marcuse, "Repressive Tolerance" (1965)

Individual capable of critical thought and coherent mental models is kind of the pre-requisite for whatever groups do or fail to do. It's a chicken-and-egg thing, in a way, because such invididuals depend on society to be given the tools for that, or to at least not be suppressed when they build them from scratch. But a group made up of individuals who can't hold their own individual ground, will not fare better by multiplying that in the group, and giving individuals even less reason to think things through. The end results is people who can "support" this or that, but cannot act. They can choose, but not make. They can join, but not face.

I don't think that is an accident or a mistake, and people who are saying something like "1984 wasn't a manual" are sadly mistaken, because it is also a manual, it cannot help but be. Just like knowledge of medicine, knowing how to heal a person, is also knowledge on how to harm them. The trouble is when the abuse of insights overcomes the use of them.


Every year the US State Department publishes a report on human rights in China: https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/277317.pdf

and every year the Chinese government publishes a report on how terrible the United States is in regards to human rights:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-04/24/c_137133826.htm

It's interesting to see the very different perspective of both agencies. Both countries have significant problems.


What’s your take of China’s reports on the US, compared to vice versa?


As much as I like the idea of a social credit score, their implementation is absurdly naive. Not to mention centralized and authoritarian.

Do they really think they can manually craft a fair and balanced system, when they arbitrarily decide that jaywalking costs a person 10 points?

They use the same unidimensional score affected by jaywalking to assess a person's ability to pay debt? What could possibly go wrong.

They should keep collecting data about people, but they should rethink the way they attribute scores. Ideally, a person's score should be calculated based on the values and preferences of the perceiver. The score of Donald Trump, for example, could differ significantly depending on who you ask.


It does not need to be fair or balanced to accomplish their primary goal.

They do not need to care about edge cases - a citizen unfairly falling through the cracks is just as unimportant as any other citizen, so the gestalt effect matters more.


I gave a talk on multi dimensional subjective cryptocurrency modeled on the peer to peer web of trust. Might be of interest to you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2ENERyV7xA


This can only be a means for the Chinese Communist Party to exert more authoritarian control over it's population. Depending on the actual implementation, I'd compare this to East Germany except in this case, the social credit system replaces the Stasi and their network of informers. If there is no way to opt out of such a system then freedom of thought and action are potentially gone. My question is, how do they justify such a system when the only apparent threat is to the Chinese Communist Party's waning influence and control in this information age.


I asked a Chinese national friend of mine. He said that the system sounded good, because it would decrease the rate of crime.

When I brought up privacy concerns, social concerns, etc, he looked at me like I was talking Swahili. I tried bringing up the Stasi, and he didn't know what I was talking about. 1984, had never read it. Secret police... they apparently only go after bad people.

The sorts of things you're talking about are genuinely not on the radar of the average person over there. It would require education they specifically and intentionally don't have. (And, if I were to guess, are encouraged never to learn)


> I asked a Chinese national friend of mine. He said that the system sounded good, because it would decrease the rate of crime.

The only time I've ever gotten an objective opinion about China from a national was when they became a citizen of another country, had no remaining family there and no intent to return.

> The sorts of things you're talking about are genuinely not on the radar of the average person over there. It would require education they specifically and intentionally don't have.

This is a bit...presumptive, at the least.

Why would you assume ignorance just because people living within reach of the long arm of a Stasi-equivalent refuse to say anything but positive things about the current regime?

They may not have access to science fiction or accurate domestic history books but that doesn't mean they can't see what's going on.


> The only time I've ever gotten an objective opinion about China from a national was when they became a citizen of another country, had no remaining family there and no intent to return.

That's a little over the top. Chinese people can be open and objective with non-Chinese if you get to know them well. The tricky thing is that if you don't know them well and frame things in an in-group vs. out-group way and seem to criticize their "Chinese" in-group as an outsider, they might feel the need to defend their in-group (China and it's government) whether they believe it or not.

>> The sorts of things you're talking about are genuinely not on the radar of the average person over there. It would require education they specifically and intentionally don't have.

> This is a bit...presumptive, at the least.

They can see what's going on, but they're going to have a different perspective and different sensitivities. E.g. being less attuned to privacy-based skepticism, but more attuned to corruption-based skepticism.


> The only time I've ever gotten an objective opinion about China from a national was when they became a citizen of another country, had no remaining family there and no intent to return.

This appears to be the key. Which of course, takes a generation or two, because its rare that someone leaves and absolutely everyone in the family tree comes at the same time as well.

And of course by that time, the person in question no longer has experience with China.


I mean, having an organized credit system does seem to be necessary as a fraud/crime prevention measure. Fraud's a problem there. And it's not like our credit system is perfect.. a lot of people would rather have the government run it than some weirdo unaccountable oligopoly.

I feel like whenever Chinese stories come up, people gloss over the US equivalent because they're desensitized to it, while then getting OUTRAGED about those evil Chinese.


This isn't just a way of combating fraud. This is a way of attempting to impart social moores into their populace, that are missing because it is an authoritarian state. There are plenty of ways of combating fraud that do not require 24/7 surveillance and social credit.

The US' system is far from perfect, but this is a strawman. And the problem with the Chinese system isn't that its government run and centralized, there can be centralized credit systems that work well, hypothetically. The problem is with the nature of the program itself, and the obviousness of its intent, despite the stated purpose.


What's obvious specifically about their intent? Did you watch the talk?

Would most Chinese agree with you, or is it only 'obvious' to people who've never set foot in the country?


>I tried bringing up the Stasi, and he didn't know what I was talking about. 1984, had never read it. Secret police... they apparently only go after bad people.

And why would they? Why should it be obvious that a (presumably young) Chinese person has read the fiction of a British author who fought a civil war in Spain and wrote a book about his personal feud with Stalinism? Are you well versed in Chinese literature, what does the average American know about the politics of China in the last 100 years?

Instead of repeating this decades old Western meme of thinking that our lessons are universal, maybe accept that it genuinely might not be relevant to them, that we don't need to educate them on Orwell and privacy the way we're not educated on Confucianism?

My personal experience in China is that most people perceive the social credit system (and similar sanctions) as a good way to restore every day trust in a rapidly developing country that is plagued by corrupt and slow courts.

China is not America or Western Europe. The state plays a different role in organising social life and people have different expectations of it. Let's debate it on this basis instead of bringing up our highschool reading curriculum.


Yeh they are banned. Why would the CCP not band all those books. It paints them in a bad light.


Is 1984 banned in China (or any of these "all those books" you mention)? A very cool cafe/bookstore I liked when I used to live in Shanghai was the 1984 Bookstore/Cafe in Shanghai [0]

[0]http://www.smartshanghai.com/venue/6931/1984_Book_Store

Just did a cursory search and 1984 (and other Orwell books) are all on sale on the big Chinese ecommerce sites and translated into Chinese. For example here on TMall (Alibaba) [1] - the "dystopian trilogy" I linked here is a box set of 1984, A Brave New World, and We (by Zamyatin).

[1]https://detail.tmall.com/item.htm?spm=a220m.1000858.1000725....


The average mainland Chinese person who attended their public school system will simply not be aware of a great many historical events, such as:

The Stasi

Romanians lynching Ceaușescu

Tiennamen Square (they'll know it exists as an innocent landmark in the capital, not the history of what happened there)

1984 and the whole genre of dystopian police-state literature


Chinese here. I dont wanna argue about other misinformation this thread have presented so far but just one thing: Access to the book 1984. jd.com is like amazon equivalent in mainland China (amazon.cn has less traffic there)

Searching 1984 returns: http://search.jd.com/Search?keyword=1984&enc=utf-8&wq=1984&p...

the first item has 93k reviews. On taobao (by alibaba) the search results are: https://www.taobao.com/list/product/1984%E5%A5%A5%E5%A8%81%E...

I dont know where you get the idea that average mainland Chinese person who attended their public school system (we dont really have a private school system yet, for better or worse) are not aware of those things.


>> Access to the book 1984. jd.com is like amazon equivalent in mainland China (amazon.cn has less traffic there)

> I dont know where you get the idea that average mainland Chinese person who attended their public school system...are not aware of those things.

I just asked my Chinese friend, and they haven't heard of 1984 and report that they mainly read textbooks in high school or college. They didn't read novels because they weren't tested on that material.

I would guess that mainland Chinese people are less aware of dystopian, anti-authoritarian novels like 1984 than Americans, even if they are available, if only because those books are commonly part of US high-school curriculums and not Chinese curriculums.


True, 1984 is not included in any Chinese textbook. Chinese education system is not the best. We have literature related classes from primary school to high school but they don't include many western works (well translation is one factor I can see). And the way teachers teach them is very very test orientated. We have a big test after highschool called Gaokao which is almost the only factor to decide which college you can go to. Many ppl spend their entire highschool prep for that one test. (There are schools specialized for students retaking this test after they failed the first time, and it takes 1 year to retake.)

During college there's no mandatory literature courses anymore but I was exposed to many western work during that time in my spare time. One reason was I was trying hard to learn English. But I can see many people dont have the incentives to read those even if those works are famous even in China. Many STEM college students in China start to prep for studying overseas once they step into college and all they care is GPA + a good Toefl/GRE score (and there are faster ways of getting good scores for those other than reading literature).

I dare to say many of those STEM students become the friends and coworkers you guys have in US today and they probably haven't "wasted" much time on pondering issues outside of STEM fields or getting their own lives to a better place.

Edit: not appearing in literature textbooks doesn't mean it's not famous or popular in mainland China. Haruki Murakami is also a very popular author whose work is not included in textbooks. He has a book called 1Q84 which was very popular and many Chinese got interested in 1984 because of it.


> I would guess that mainland Chinese people are less aware of dystopian

Chinese people does not like reading in general. Extremely few are aware of how gov works, what's the difference between party and state, and what democracy is.

However it not like the Party are actively censor George Orwell's books, it's just so insignificant. In 2016, the chinese Ministry of Education published list of recommended books for middle & high school libraries.

http://ncct.moe.edu.cn/uploadfile/2016/0518/2016051802153430...

You can search for "9787547121290", which is the ISBN for Animal Farm by George Orwell.


You might be surprised to learn that they don't know Star Wars either, or Dallas, or Moby Dick.

I met many visiting students, e.g. from India or Bangladesh, who do not know Star Wars, which was kind of a reality check for me, for how deep in a bubble we live.


Yea talk about a bubble: how many Americans know the romance of the three kingdoms or the monkey king? At this point people are just talking past each other, instead of trying to see the cultural factors of another person.


Small language note, "public school" is an ambiguous term when used internationally like this.

For whatever reason in the US, Canada (and probably some other countries) "public school" means "free government run school". Meanwhile in the UK (and wikipedia tells me India and Australia) "public school" means "non government school you have to pay to go to".

I'm guessing that you mean the American version of "public school"?


In the UK we use "state school" to mean "free government run school" - does that translate across the Atlantic?


'State school' is used to refer to state (as in United States) funded university or college. This may not be common across all regions though. Private schools for pre-university students are not that common in my area, which I assume has something to do with the specificity of the term here.

Note: I think I was less than clear. In my area 'state school' is a way to refer to university or college that is primarily or entirely paid for by state government.


Hey yes. Most Chinese schools and universities are government run and funded majorly by the government. There are a small number of private funded schools (especially English only international schools which are really really expensive) and not many people attend those.


As someone who went to Chinese schools, the hierarchy (at least in my city) was:

Kindergarten, Elementary, and Middle school: private schools were better, or perceived as better. People actively vet their schools if they can, my parents went to 3-4 schools before deciding to send me to one. There used to be a test to get into Middle schools (7-9th grade), but they abolished it, so now parents try to "donate" their way in if they can or somehow pass the interview process. Some public schools were good, but some perception was you could not control for quality, so if you can pay a tuition then you should find a school and pay it.

For high schools (10-12th grade), the public schools reigned king. This is (I think) because you have to take a test to get into. Some private schools are good, but the very very best (multiple kids get into Peiking/TsingHua/Ivy League etc) highs schools are all public and purely meritocratic in terms of getting in.

There are international schools, but those are only open to foreign nationals.


It's completely non-ambiguous what the parent meant by public school because they contrasted it with private schools.


> The average mainland Chinese person who attended their public school system will simply not be aware of a great many historical events, such as:

> Tiennamen Square (they'll know it exists as an innocent landmark in the capital, not the history of what happened there)

False. I was born in China in the early 80s and I witnessed the 1989 riots during Tiananmen Square on TV (I was in kindergarten). Average mainland Chinese people knows more than you think they do. Albeit, a lot of them would have very different idea of the same historical events.


Yeah, I mean, that I expected.

What I wasn't expecting, and still cannot wrap my head around, is how thoroughly ingrained the cultural avoidance is to learning about anything in that intellectual space. I would have expected that upon hearing about such a program, both the thoughts "This might be good" and "This might be bad" would occur to a person, and both be potentially investigated, even if only quietly and internally.

But instead, it seems as if any intellectual space that could be considered even slightly controversial is often avoided by reflex, far before you get the chance to have the "this might be good or this might be bad" thought.

I was going to give an anonymized example of the above, but out of respect for the person have chosen not to do so in such a public forum.


As long as China keeps growing and people's standard of living increases I don't think people will care. The system will face its true test once they have a major economic crisis and people will have doubts about the system. Until then most people will happily go along.


It's to be expected that they'll know less about european history and correspondingly more about chinese history. And everyone knows what happened in Tiananmen square. It's living memory.

We could flip it around and talk about how ignorant westerners are of Chinese history..


...flip it around and talk about how ignorant westerners are of their own history.

However, researching, blogging, or talking about such lesser known dark/embarrassing events will not get you or your family barred from travel, public schools, and such.


Well, that's a matter of opinion. How many stories about deplatforming have we had lately?

"But those people are legitimately awful!" you say, and I agree with you, yet.. maybe other cultures have other norms? Maybe we should learn a little Chinese history before we presume to dicatate what their norms should be.

The linked video is pretty good for imparting context on this issue, I'd recommend watching it.


The average mainland Chinese person may also have legitimately nothing to fear from a social credit system. I'm not defending it, but as long as the system does not escalate (which is probably not a given, despite all the slippery slope arguments), the average apolitical person might not even have to care.

I guess the combination of social credit system and censorship makes things particularly insidious, because if you are unjustly affected then you can't appeal publicly. But at the same time, enough people will get good social credit scores that a majority of the population might support the system still.


The idea of a social credit score is fantastic. I too believe it would decrease the rate of crime (although that's only a small part of its potential benefits). You don't need to be uneducated or Chinese to see it.

The problem is the way the system is implemented. It's centralized and managed by an authoritarian government. There's no way they can craft a fair and balanced system this way, whether they have good intentions or not.

I think it's a good idea to make people understand the risk of centralized systems (especially when it's for something as important as this), but we shouldn't scare people away from great ideas such as social credit systems.


It's an absolutely terrifying idea with little benefits and some of the scariest drawbacks imaginable.

You decrease crime rate by improving quality of life, by providing good education and healthcare to all citizens. You don't do it by building a surveillance state that reward citizens for supporting the authoritarian government's views (e.g. by spreading the propaganda like you're doing now), while punishing citizens who engage in behaviour that the government doesn't like (e.g. talking about the tiananmen square massacre, concentration camps, organ harvesting, etc.).


Do you see a way to make a fair decentralized social credit score? The rules on which participants are scored should be agreed upon. The system should be tamper-proof. A court is needed too.


I slightly disagree. It's not solely about control. It's also about transforming a low trust society into a higher trust society like say Japan. The model society for Chinese leaders in the modern era has always been Singapore. Singapore is sterile, orderly, and unlike mainland China there's a rule of law.

Surprisingly, I'm conflicted with the idea of the social credit system. On the one hand, I don't like intrusive all seeing Big Bro systems. On the other, I really hate low trust societies with a passion, and I would love to see China evolve into a higher trust, if not high trust society. It would be nice to be able to conduct more everyday transactions over there with less paranoia.


Agreed. Also very interesting the fact that they are preventing people from buying airline or train tickets, and a person is forced to take the bus for example.


It seems the second something on hacker News is related to a topic that can be interpreted as negative to the CCP, the downvoting begins.

None of this is criticizing China and Chinese culture, only the authoritarianism of the communist party.


Just like in 'Black Mirror'.


The Chinese are formalizing it and adding the system to places that haven't been too political in the past, but the west has its own unwritten social credit system and if you don't figure it out and kowtow to it then you're secretly penalized.

e.g. Cross an insecure manager or exec in your company by saying something that's true and better for the company, you'll get dingined without knowing it. Focus solely on learning at school and not enough on figuring out the game too, there again you're going against the system.


You’re comparing a) word of mouth that might spread across parts of a company, maybe a little further, impacting you when you apply for a job, to b) a nationwide, government-run system that will be involved in a wide variety of life situations. A) and b) are of wildly different scope, formality, import.


If you’re black for example, you’re treated like you have a low score, yet you can’t do anything about it.


Really? This doesn't stand up as a comparison. In so far as there are shitty unwarranted consequences for unwanted actions in the west it is similar, but that is human nature (and possibly even wider than that).

The difference is that china is implementing a centralised, state controlled system. Which will elevate the minor tyranny of some obnoxious policy in some organisation to an unchecked and magnified universal tyranny. This is precisely why we need checks, balances and distribution of power, because the elite minority cannot be trusted.


On the good end of the policy they're trying to correct "human nature", so the western approach is basically c'est la vie humans are terrible. I don't agree with the Chinese system either, but I don't see a good look in the mirror being a bad thing here either as that there are very real world consequences in the west penalizing doing the right thing.


>Cross an insecure manager or exec in your company by saying something that's true and better for the company, you'll get dingined without knowing it.

This is a bad example. This is an at-will (in most cases) relationship with your employer. The social credit system is a relationship with the government, and the services it provides.

Because the two are different, the social credit system should not be dinged because of whistleblowing a private company / badmouthing a manager. It would make sense if you are working for the government, however.


As a completely unverified anecdote perhaps related to the Social Credit System (and more so the amount of information being collected and distributed in China), my SO recently told me about her Dad's attempt to order pizza. It went something like:

SO Dad: Hi, I'd like to get a large supreme pizza

Pizza Op: Hello, SO Dad. I can help you with your order. Is the food being delivered to 123 Main St?

SO Dad: Yes.

Pizza Op: And can I call you at 123-4567 when the food is delivered?

SO Dad: Yes.

Pizza Op: Ok. I see that you are reported to have high cholesterol. Can I perhaps interest you in a vegetarian pizza?

SO Dad: Okay. That's fine.

Pizza Op: And I see that you have a family of 5 people. Should I add another pizza to the order?

SO Dad: Sure.

Pizza Op: Alright, that will be $30. Will you be using the payment information we have on file?

SO Dad: Yes, please.

Pizza Op: One moment ... Sir, the payment information we have is not working.

SO Dad: I can't see why that is. I drive a nice car. Can you try again?

Pizza Op: I tried again and it did not work. I see you are 100m away from our store. Can you just come down and pay in cash?

SO Dad: Ok. I can do that.

Pizza Op: Great! The pizza will be ready in 20 minutes. Please pick it up then. Good bye.

Again, this is unverified and I don't know if she embellished parts of the story, but the idea that a pizza clerk can pull up your location, family information, and brief health record so easily is shocking. I suppose customers talking to clerks at restaurants they frequent will be able to glean some of this information over time, but the impression I got was that this was a "first time" order and the clerk was able to just look all of this up.


This is an old video meme talking about a dystopian future in America

I think it was used on Alex Jones sites as a counterpoint to Obama care, when it was merely a campaign promise in 2008

Its an OOLLD video

It had pictures of some clerk checking your information in some Windows ME interface


Indeed. I am an idiot. My mistake. She was simply telling me about a video her dad had watched and clearly I don't listen well.


Can anybody please offer any primary sources to back up these claims?


Its an old meme against obamacare when it was merely a campaign promise

Ive seen this video on youtube back in like 2008


Just clarified with my SO. I am an idiot. This is the case. Sorry, all.


OP wrote clearly that this is anecdotal data.


If such a system was widespread, others would have reported about it. Alas, it was a hoax.


Wow, that's great. I wish we had such great service here.


I'm probably the only person I know who believes that privacy is unsustainable and overrated, and that a social credit system is unavoidable and massively underrated.

I have never understood people's obsession with privacy, Orwell's 1984, etc. It always seemed motivated by selfishness and irrational fear.

For the longest time, I've been wondering what was wrong with me. Why don't other people share my preference for transparency and efficiency? Why is everyone trying to make things more difficult for people around them?

Then I discovered China. It seemed like WeChat and Sesame Credit were what I had been looking for all these years. How come don't we have these things in the west? Why are we so conservative and technophobe?

I quickly realized that WeChat and Sesame Credit were poor (centralized, authoritarian) implementations of great visions. It is now overwhelmingly clear to me that we need a decentralized version of WeChat and Sesame Credit. This would be the greatest innovation since the invention of the Internet.

Yet, I can't seem to find anyone willing or capable to appreciate these ideas. What am I missing?


It fills me with existential dread to know that there are smart people out there who don't see this as an atrocity waiting to happen. I'll go ahead and guess that you've never suffered at the hands of a capricious authority figure.

Maybe think of privacy like closet space? You might not need what you have right now, but you wouldn't want to share it with the world either, would you?


I think the biggest problem people have isn't the lack of privacy in the systems today, but the asymmetric use of/access to the information. Our reliance upon centralized hubs for exchanging information gives more power to those who control those centralized hubs, compared to say if all the information collected by all those hubs were to be made immediately available to all for free. Decentralized hubs will spread the power out to more actors besides gov/the rich/hackers.


But privacy is a very arbitrary and usually differs from culture to culture.


The desire for privacy is universally shared by people across all countries. Sadly not everyone understands how technology works and how online privacy violations affect them, their loved ones and strangers.

Not to mention when you're stuck living in a shithole then fighting for privacy might not be your biggest concern (especially when doing so is likely to put you in great danger).


The experience of nazism, an industrialized killing system made possible by huge databases.



And a compliant populace.


> What am I missing?

First hand experience with corruption?


> What am I missing?

I hesitate to make too many assumptions as to what you’re missing, but perhaps you aren’t distinguishing between government actors and private matters?

For example, we generally believe those who wield power over the citizenry should be as transparent as possible—this is the only way we (the citizenry) can make informed decisions about those leaders. If we don’t know what the leaders are actually doing, we are literally incapable of making informed decisions.

We also generally believe the opposite is true for the citizenry, that we should have as much privacy as possible. We believe this because it is far easier for a totalitarian regime to set roots if it knows everything about the citizenry.

The most powerful should be held accountable to an informed citizenry. This is one of the ways we try to maintain balance and prevent abuses by that power.


As the technology develop, tracking for everything will be inevitable, I rather have transparency for everyone (including the government), seems to be more pragmatic this way. Besides, keeping thing private has its cost too.


I don't like governments. I'm torn between geolibertarianism and anarchism. I don't like the authoritarian Chinese government, especially when it comes to censorship and free speech.

I want more transparency for everyone. I want citizens to know more about the government (if one must exist). Some people call it sousveillance, as opposed to surveillance.

Our efforts to hide from the government ultimately hinders our progress as a society. Wouldn't it be better to reduce the government and/or make it more transparent?


> Our efforts to hide from the government ultimately hinders our progress as a society. Wouldn't it be better to reduce the government and/or make it more transparent?

Do you not recognize the false dichotomy in your words? Why not do all three?


> How come don't we have these things in the west? Why are we so conservative and technophobe?

Because of basic concepts like fundamental human rights, privacy, and other things guaranteed by documents like the US constitution, bill of rights, various constitutional amendments, and other documents such as Canada's charter of rights and freedoms. If your comment is not entirely satire, I'm appalled that I even needed to type this reply.


I know at least two other people in my immediate circle who believe in the inevitability of ubiquitous tracking. For my part, I want to make sure it gets built right.

I've also lived in very corrupt societies etc. This can be done right. I'm sure of it. I guess we'll see in the next ten years or so.


I totally understand what your saying so I will explain some objections to this idea.

Information asymmetry is power. Usually the less powerful use this asymmetry to their advantage. Would you play poker with an opponent that could see your hand?

Second and more cultural is that western societies do not trust governments. This has nothing to do with the atrocities of the 20th century but actually the objection to the old monarchys. America was basically created out of this objection to government.


are you familiar with the concept of a panopticon? When you are being watched/tracked to think you are - then your behavior changes - this is generally not wanted as far as a positive sum game is concerned.


I am choosing to read this as great satire. The alternative is terrifying.


Terrifying, indeed. I'm guessing all the "great" dictators of history had similarly grandiose, hubristic visions disconnected from the reality of human nature. I wonder if there's a biological component, e.g. how some sociopaths have dysfunctional parts of the brain. Add P.T. Barnum's axiom, and it's easy to see how murderous, authoritarian empires rise.


> I have never understood people's obsession with privacy

Do you want the government, your employer, family to know what porn you watch and how often?


Human nature and its propensity to misuse great ideas.

See also: communism, nuclear physics, and cryptography.




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