People respond well to things that make them feel safer, regardless of whether they're actually safer, so privacy-invading surveillance technology is marketed as a something that does just that. The actual reason why governments want it, in order to keep the people in check, isn't good PR.
In the case of China, they've had decades of government PR telling the people to be fearful, and at the same time selling them the thing that means they can stop being fearful. It's not surprising the people like it.
So as privacy advocates, what do we say if we see a highly intrusive surveillance system that does make people actually safer?
It's entirely possible that a highly intrusive surveillance system could well be extremely effective in combatting crime - and I mean the "universally-agreed" crimes, not political crimes - as well as providing spying capabilities to keep the population in check. Now I don't know what impact Social Credit has on crime rates, but it's not self-evidently a stupid idea in that regard.
Privacy is just one pillar of freedom, albeit a load-bearing one. Freedom will crumble if we strike down this pillar and as a society - or even as Western hemisphere - we have to evaluate if safety from (state-defined) crime ends up being worth near-zero privacy.
If I were to judge by some interviews I recently saw on "extra3", a comedic German television format , I increasingly fear that democracy, freedom and liberalism are doomed. Context: People at a meat convention (yes...) were asked about their opinions on climate change and animal farming.
Boomer-aged visitors and young visitors alike not only showed complete lack of understanding of ANY issue associated with large-scale animal husbandry. But they turned questions on their head and answered in a sort of stupid and ignorant way I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams. One example: "What do you think about animal suffering in mass animal husbandry?"
Answer, paraphrased, completely serious in tone: "Nothing, the humans here at this convention are also visiting in masses and obviously nobody suffers. They are all enjoying themselves, look around."
A question about CO2-impact of animal farming brought another response forward, that had me baffled: "There is no problem here, we have been eating meat for thousands of years and now suddenly it's supposed to be wrong. The climate didn't change over the millennia either!"
Obviously in a tribal village in the past you know who lived in the hut next door and it was like a big family who trusted each other (food was shared, mothers would take care of each others' kids). Maybe it's related to the Dunbar number?
That’s not to say I agree with, or want to normalize, the Chinese government’s actions, though.
In the end, the solution is a high level of culture in a society. A level of culture that would mean crime is naturally low (it seems to differ a lot between cultures) and that enables trust in institutions designed to control the powers that can use force, e.g. law enforcement and secret services.
China started this national wide 诚信 campaign in 2001, during which time the Chinese society is utter chaos and China promptly joined the WTO. China entered its economic boom, but the ultimate outcome is the social credit system.
Highly recommended CCC talk here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18773303
P.S. I think since western kept bitching about the IP theft problem so much, companies should use the social credit system as a targeted weapon to punish cheaters. It works.
You use to hear it all the time about people in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and Singapore too. Back in the day (for Singapore that's as close as the 70s), they were seedy ports, with anything goes rules, prostitution, gambling, counterfeiting, drugs, and so on. Look for old books on those places.
Those things gradually changed as those 3 places became richer and more important for trade (and Taiwan was an early "China", getting outsourced industrial production from the West).
Note that all three places are much smaller than China, don't have 600+ strong rural population still struggling to get by/to middle class by any means, and some of them had a "Delaware/Switzerland" role in the region, with multiple interests vested in that working well (which is how the law sausage gets made to benefit corporations, the rule of law is held, and the countries get "high marks" for "economic freedom": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_economic_... ).
Because cheating is a cultural rather than ethnical thing.
There are ethnical Chinese people in those regions you listed, but sure mainland China sailed a totally different cultural course over the last 70 years.
In mainland china, cheating mostly happen because of over competition. If you don't cheat, others will and will crush you in business or academic competition. Cheaters go home for chicken dinner while non-cheaters goes to jail.
Also I've met a lot of mainland Chinese people who recently immigrated to the us and can say that they don't seem like unscrupulous people at a significantly greater rate than the general population.
My grandfather used to say that he left the Soviet Union because he didn't want to live in a country where you have to cheat in order to have a good life.
Taiwan was "civilized" by 50 years of Japanese occupation that wasn't brutal or repressive as Korea. Though I think Taiwan was more of a backwater island nation when the Japanese came. Likewise for Hong Kong with Britain. Taiwan and Hong Kong sort of organically grew into and internalized the modern legal and business structures laid down by the occupiers. China is having to do what Lee Kuan Yew did, which was transform an unruly, anarchic, but otherwise sophisticated culture into one that obeys and values modern legal, rules-based norms.
Also, China is a huge country with many cultures. Closer to Beijing the culture was historically more legalist and authoritarian. The southern coastal trading cultures were more anarchic. And I think that's still very much the same today, except because of industrialization and nationalization there's conflict where historically there was a natural symbiosis and passivity regarding the respective roles.
Maybe the question should be, why do you hear a lot more about it. Because China is 100 times the population of those other places? And, well, there seems a trend at least on HN lately, in stories from US papers/journals, and in the US media generally I assume (don't know, I'm not there) to favour 'China bad' stories, over 'China good' or '(Other country) bad'. It's pretty tedious, and seems to have started not long ago. It has that nauseating feeling of that regular US media obsession on the next country they'll invade/bomb. Demonization, subhumanization, whatever you want to call it.
Why though ?
Apart from looking similar they are quite different culturally from mainland China. A lot of which stems from the fact that they were former British colonies and have always taken inspiration from the West.
Now, Taiwan and Hongkong are China. But China that continued on more traditional values. The communist regime has worked hard to change the fabric of society (like it did in e.g. Russia) and that has had negative consequences on culture and manners, and brought distrust in most institutions.
It is also down to the legal and regulatory environment. Just look for stories from Europe and the Us in the 19th century and you'll find many, many stories like you could hear from China today. And those stories from China today are what happens in many countries around the world outside of the Western 'bubble'.
Sure, one (sentient individual) should never be forced to share ideas (or anything for that matter, unless one chooses to deny others that right), but to battle that with government granted monopolies... hmm, idk... I feel like we should be a bit more open-minded.
That is a question most don't ask. They assume the laws they have and the way they go about such laws are what fits every culture -- and every people at every circumstances.
And they don't just believe that those laws would be good for those people: they also believe that they can readily and without problems adopt them too, as if it's just a matter of will.
Truth is, those laws are not some universal constants, but a result of both inheriting the Greco-Roman culture and Roman legal conceptions, and 2 millennia of iterating on them (and of course Europe itself was divided into islands of elites and peasant chaos up to the times of Hugo and Dickens, and the US of course had the "wild west" frontiers where the rule of law wasn't exactly what is today).
Why should they risk their future/life fighting for something they don't believe they have the ability to change? It's like asking, why weren't the Germans resisting Hitler's government? It's easier said than done, heck, I even feel worried about posting these comments even though I don't live in China anymore and have no intention of ever going back.
Why do people think a system that is corrupt can just maintain this pristine system within one that is not?
In a regime wherein such tools are used to control and oppressed, this will clearly be another one of those tools.
I'd say on the contrary, when anyone could snitch on you, you'd lose your trust in society. The social credit system might have the exact opposite effect than intended.
However, it didn’t make much mention about how this system can and has been abused to punish dissidents (e.g. feminists) and how citizens with low social credit can redeem themselves. From other articles about cases I’ve read the rules seem to be quite opaque and somewhat subjective to whims of the enforcers.
This is for similar reason that you can't remove a dictator and install a democracy from scratch in its place. If the culture/mindset to support a democracy is not there, in the hearts of individuals, it won't work. Proven numerous times already in recent history.
Take Singapore which is mostly Chinese and the authoritarian model applies like in China (of course in different degrees but direction wise they are more authoritarian than most western countries).
It also doesn’t mean it shouldn’t bother me if the government I live under were to introduce a similar system.
It's also known by psychologists that a fear gets strengthened whenever an individual purposefully avoids the fear-generating situation (e.g. a public place), and it progressively gets weakened when you routinely expose yourself to the fearful situation.
So, regarding mistrust between individuals and using credit scores to try and "solve" this...
I expect that dystopic technological surveillance "solutions" such as Chinese social credit scores will actually over time weaken trust between individuals in the same way that purposefully avoiding public places increases someone's agoraphobia.
If you are a generally mistrustful person, then you're not going to start trusting people more due to social credit scores.
Trust is an act of faith, and faith is necessary when you don't actually know.
Imagine someone who is not registered for most social credit systems (perhaps because they're privacy conscious) comes to ask you for help or wants to do business with you. Is a social credit system going to make other people more trusting of that person? Of course not, it's going to make them more distrustful of that person.
Also, as someone has already mentioned, by letting people snitch on one another, credit score systems will foster even more distrust between people.
It reminds me of the Stasi in Eastern Germany, where neighbors and even spouses would report one another's activities to the secret police.
These systems foster further distrust, instead of trust.
As humans we need to overcome negative, fearful emotions like distrust by learning to judge character and to have courage and compassion, not by trying to outsource all our emotional and cognitive responsibilities to "apps".
The 20th century was full of social horrors, including China (e.g. Mao's famine in which 10s of millions of people starved to death due to forced collectivisation of farms). I get the feeling that the 21st century will have its fair share, and schemes such social credit scores will play their part in bringing them about.
Both systems are dystopian big brother to some, yet utopian to many others.