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China bans 23M from buying travel tickets as part of 'social credit' system (theguardian.com)
150 points by EastToWest 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 187 comments



>The report said authorities collected more than 14m data points of “untrustworthy conduct” last year, including scams, unpaid loans, false advertising and occupying reserved seats on a train.

That all sounded reasonable until the last one. Textbook "Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking".

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ArsonMurderAndJa...


To be fair, getting punished to be unable to take trains for misbehaving on trains. If the seats are packed in a car and some douche is sitting in your seat and won't get up, and you're stuck standing for a few hours, I think you'd want some justice.

That being said, a fine is probably a punishment that would make much more sense. More revenue for the government too.


When this has happened to me, I've never had anyone outright refuse to move. I have also found myself accidentally in other people's reserved seats, and have moved when politely asked. I imagine that in the event of a refusal to move, you'd take it to the conductor, who I assume has the power to fine, forcibly move, or eject people (backed by the power of the police). You certainly wouldn't suck it up and stand for hours.

Just seems like something a civil society can deal with quite easily without resorting to black marks on people's "permanent record" (which in this case seems to be functioning as a kind of parallel judicial system).


> Just seems like something a civil society can deal with quite easily without resorting to black marks on people's "permanent record" (which in this case seems to be functioning as a kind of parallel judicial system).

Exactly. I never had issues that could not have been easily resolved. Most people where I live is very careful about not being a douche, despite not having to fear that the Government will punish them.


First, refusing to leave the reserved seat has happened, and more than once in China. Secondly, the punishment is not by the government, but by the train company.

When videos of people refusing to leave reserved seats went viral on the web, most people wanted them to be punished by not being able to take trains, at least for some period of time. So the punishment is actually a populist opinion, rather than designated by the government. The government didn't want to step in before the people's outcry.

So it's not a conspiracy of the government to "tame" the people. Perhaps you can say the people were "silly" to summon such rules unto themselves. Just like how the American people voted Trump onto the throne.


> First, refusing to leave the reserved seat has happened, and more than once in China

I am not saying it did not happen in China. I was talking about my country. I cannot remember anyone not giving me my reserved seat, nor have I ever heard of such a thing happening here to anyone, where "here" is not China. This is my experience, and I believe we are sharing experiences.

> Secondly, the punishment is not by the government, but by the train company.

Train companies are owned by the state, but private businesses also have to have a CCP committee and respond to the instructions of the party, so either directly or indirectly, yes, it is coming from the Government, the government that developed the Social Credit System.

> When videos of people refusing to leave reserved seats went viral on the web, most people wanted them to be punished by not being able to take trains, at least for some period of time. So the punishment is actually a populist opinion, rather than designated by the government. The government didn't want to step in before the people's outcry.

Are you talking about Chinese people? Because this certainly does not hold true for the people in my country. Even if it does, it is not indicative of anything. People say all sorts of crap over the Internet that they do not mean, do not do or say in real life. Take a look at the comment section of videos where someone is handling an animal improperly due to sheer ignorance. Most of the commentators will say they want to kill that person in the video and so on and so on.

Anyway, the point is that my country has very different values or culture. China goes so much further with the human search engine, where they will post images of people publicly and people will go out of their way to identify them, hunt them down, etc. It is not about public shaming anymore like it is the case here.

https://youtu.be/hWwehE88XjI


> without resorting to black marks on people's "permanent record"

I think the whole point of this system is to "encourage" good behavior and to punish "bad" behavior, while the definition of bad can be a very broad one, so people start to change behavior.

I'm not even sure if I would count this to a parallel judicial system or just "controlling the masses".


China doesn't have an independent judicial system. Chinese courts are just another means for the CCP to control the masses.


Yes a no-fly list that you can't do anything about is fascist and totalitarian. We in the free countries, ah never mind.


You're right, the no-fly list is extra-judicial and a violation of civil liberties, unconstitutional even. But let's not engage in a false equivalence here - the no-fly list has maybe 100,000 people on it[1], of which supposedly fewer than 1000 are American citizens, added over the course of nearly two decades. The Chinese list has 23 million of their own citizens, added over the course of a single year.

[1] recent sources are hard to find, and the list apparently grows rather fast - I'm going off https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jun/20/fbi-no-fly-...


> has maybe 100,000 people on it, of which supposedly fewer than 1000 are American citizens

Your mindset is part of the problem. It's not about "them" or "us", about "American" or "Chinese", it's about the list itself and using systems like that.

China just seems to be more ruthless about using things like this, but in the end, there are enough more or less totalitarian systems which would love to have lists and procedures like this.


The poster you’re replying to is saying that the no-fly list is bad, but that there are degrees of bad - the scales he exposes speak for themselves. It’s almost like you didn’t answer to their point at all.


Grandparent's argument is that scales are irrelevant when talking about human rights.

Similar positions have in the past been held e.g. by the German supreme court: In a landmark ruling, it barred authorities from shooting down planes with terrorists. The department of defense argued that shooting down a plane that is headed e.g. towards a stadium would save many more people compared to the number of civilians killed. The court dismissed that opinion, arguging that killing civilians is just something you ought not do.

I think it's the same here: When you deny even just one person a fair trail, you're setting a dangerous precedent that can and will be expanded upon.


Even one person on the list that hasn't been found guilty of a crime is too many.


Fighting whataboutism with whataboutism, interesting approach.


We have to look at the system as a whole. US No Fly lists have been repeatedly challenged successfully in court, so at least people have a remedy. This is 23 million people who have no legal recourse.


Being challenged in court which literally costs thousands of dollars, takes a significant amount of time and only in a small number of cases effects a single individual, is not a real remedy.


The criteria and methodologies used have been litigated and also been changed due to political pressure, public pressure and in response to criticisms from within government such as the Government Accountability Office.

The Chinese system has already applied draconian restrictions to about 2% of the Chinese population. The no fly lists affect roughly four ten thousandths of a percent of the US citizenry. These are not equivalent.


Ah, but we can do something about it. We have something in America called "due process" so gather enough people around and force the FBI to fix their woefully inadequate form. The ACLU is doing just that in the mean time.

"But why was it instituted in the first place?" Good question. People do things they aren't suppose to do in the first place all the time! But we can do something about it.


> To be fair, getting punished to be unable to take trains for misbehaving on trains. If the seats are packed in a car and some douche is sitting in your seat and won't get up, and you're stuck standing for a few hours, I think you'd want some justice.

Yes, but it would be up to him for that to decide (to have that person punished), not someone else on his behalf. Which I believe is very important.


I kind of agree with a harsh, strict punishment for the "crime" like this in country where train travel is abundant and often very crowded. There are many people who would be willing to pay the fine on top of the price of the standing ticket (the sitting ones are sometimes very very, very hard to get), while not being able to use trains again would definitely stop people from having an attitude of "I have money and you cannot do anything to me"


In Germany this is solved in a different way. Many punishment don't have a fixed price, but use Tagessatz as a base which is an equivalent of the daily income for the person. In the end, everyone is hurt the same, regardless of the income.

There was a famous case few years ago that one famous football player paid half a million euro fee for driving without a license.

I guess introducing similar system would be more fair than going to this drastic measure like not allowing to ride a train forever and ever more.


I agree but for that to work you would have to first ensure that everyone is reporting their income accurately. I believe that right now there is still a lot of grey zone and until that phase is sorted, the Tagessatz wouldn't work. That's why the temporary solution of banning people makes sense to me.


Isn't a mayor part of not reporting income to make sure officials don't take a closer look into your case? Having a judge see you don't have income while living a lavish live is probably the last they want...


In Belgium, People who can't sit may go sit in first class. ( Train)


They don't necessarily ban you from trains outright but ban you from the comfortable trains (the article mentions high-speed trains).

A lot of these punishments seem targeted at the middle class and business people by forcing them to go down a peg or two if they don't abide by the rules. It's making them lose face, which is something very important in China.


Not high-speed trains, more like first class seats in the trains. Most of the people in the list refused to pay back debts, even though they got enough assets. If the people are actually too poor to pay, they should not be able to afford the first class seats anyway. That's the logic behind the rules.


just give you some context:

All bullet trains sell some tickets without seats. The price is the same as normal seat ticket but only for busy time like holiday season. Most time trains are not fully loaded so usually there are no dispute for seat being occupied.

There were a couple of incidents video uploaded on to Chinese social media that some bullet train travellers sat on the seat belong to others who purchased seat tickets. In both cases the owners of the seats asked the train attendants to arbitrate.However train attendants are all females with no law enforcement authority. Both bullies (one male, the other female in separate incidents) finally ended up with no consequences at the time. The videos got viral and caused public outrage. Under the pressure, the train company announced the the punishment of half year ban . That means within 6 months these 2 people have to travel with bus services like greyhound, or maybe with unpopular normal green trains like those in US and Canada. (I don't believe US and Canada have bullet trains)

I'm sure there are many such incidents happened in busy time but those 2 were captured by smart phone then uploaded to social media. Then the identities of bullies were discovered by those who recognized them and spread to public along with all other information which cause much more trouble than half year ban of bullet train. Where were the policemen? Bullet train don't have police. Victims have to wait to next station if they really want police involved. Nobody bother to waste time for those small civil dispute. Only thing they want to do is put the video on internet.

That's why there's a ban on not following the rule that yield the seats belonging to others


The last one almost certainly refers to "forcibly occupying reserved seats" instead of doing it accidentally.

For example, this incident, https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d514d7a457a4e79457a6333566d54/...


That's a strange incident... the man had a reserved seat. He appears to have been so drunk he couldn't move. Why did the woman not just sit in his seat? Was it the principle? The vitriol of the Weibo comments, if they are genuine, suggest that some very important social contract was broken. But it just doesn't seem like a very big deal to me, especially since it appears that there were guards available to move him and they (sensibly in my view) chose not to.


I just watched the video. I think not a single person who watches the video would believe he was drunk. His answer was loud and clear. And the exchange between him and the conductor showed he's an utter douche. He specifically said he wasn't drunk, didn't drink.

It is a big deal because people in China are fed up with such behaviours. Yes the woman would be able to use his seat but why should people give in to such behaviour?

Generally police in China avoid using force. There have been videos that police were attacked by drunks / speeding drivers. Some people think police in China are far too soft.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo2ntymVTVw


Perhaps, but according to CBS, jaywalking is itself on the list of offenses. As is "buying too many video games".

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/chinas-social-credit-system-kee...


Like most articles on social credit, it is mistaking a bunch of separate things as a single unified system.

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

"The public blacklist has been incorporated by another incarnation of the social credit system — Zhima Credit, a service of the mobile payment provider Alipay. China has a huge mobile payment market, with transactions totaling $5.5 trillion in 2016, compared with $112 billion in the United States. Alipay, owned by Ant Financial, and WeChat Pay dominate the still-growing Chinese market.

Zhima Credit is an optional service embedded in Alipay that calculates users’ personal credit based on data such as spending history, friends on Alipay’s social network, and other types of consumer behavior. Zhima Credit’s technology director controversially told the Chinese magazine Caixin in 2015 that buying diapers, for example, would be considered “responsible” behavior, while playing video games for hours could be counted against you.

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."


"More minor violations include using expired tickets, smoking on a train or not walking a dog on a leash."

Now imagine the power of cops in such a state. They can destroy your life with little effort, espacially since restrictions of your life will probably snowball into more offences. E.G: how do you pay your taxe if you can't move to get a job ?

I don't doubt corruption is part of the program, but nobody is going to take down a cop at the risk of having 10 of his friends following every one of your step for the next month.


Police in China are way too soft so this is not necessarily a bad thing. They get bullied by civilians all the time.


There were one or two high profile cases in which the occupiers refused to give way and their behaviour flaunted the rules badly. The conductor or police didn't take action. I'm not sure if they didn't have the power or simply didn't want to use force. Videos were posted online and became viral.

Anyway, this is the background information for the last one.

IIRC the travel ban doesn't last forever. It expires after some time or after you have taken remedy. But I haven't checked.


Is restricting a persons ability to travel due to their inability to pay back a loan really reasonable? Isn't it one short step removed from debtor's prison?

That's before we get into the whole lack of due process..


> Is restricting a persons ability to travel due to their inability to pay back a loan really reasonable?

Yeah it's weird because I think the one about reserved seat is more reasonable than the others ones. It's bad, but at least it's related to your capacity to take the train. Just like it's reasonable for someone with unpaid loan to be unable to takes more loans.

It's when you bring unrelated things than it become punishment instead.


What about people with flabby hands and irritating laughs?


It is probabbly a populist kinda appeal.

"Those freeloaders don't know how to behave and they ruin it for the rest of us so I'm going to make them pay!"


To a less egregious extent this is happening even in western democracies. For example people are losing access to payment processing functionality for essentially thought-crimes. Of course, it's a bit different because it's private sector, but the end result is the same for the individual.


I think that a more accurate western comparison would the the 'No Fly List'. We had this for years, but instead of using 'social credit', we used 'security'.

I'm not defending either, each one is largely arbitrary.


As people have pointed out to me repeatedly, there's generally a world of difference between the government (with the monopoly on violence) deciding you can / cannot do an activity and individual businesses or consumers deciding not to form a relationship of mutual trust and profit.

Indeed, in the situations where the difference really is too minimal (such as there being no alternatives to do business with in a town because of rampant racism), we pass laws (such as the Civil Rights Act) to compel private actors to cease to bar business based on signal that has been deemed invalid.


The difference can get very thin and yet no law gets passes though.

For instance there is a no-banking list in most countries: you won’t be able to use any banking service in that country if a single bank puts you on it. That’s usually a default of payment of a cheque, but it’s not limited to, and banks can trigger conditions where the customer will hit a provable offense.

In that instance the private entities coordinate to enforce a ban on an individual and no law will pass against that.

I’d assume the same would happen for insurances, where there must be a ban on people commiting insurance fraud, and I’d assume it’s not limited to only provable offenses, or charges can be just provoked.

Passing a law against these practices requires buy-in from the public and people not just assuming “they have done something very wrong on paper, why should we care ?”


The US recently did pass a law banning one type of this practice in insurance companies (though not for behavior purposes; due to the US's general disdain for punishing a person for that which they have no control over, they made it illegal to deny health insurance for a wide swath of preexisting conditions).


In the US, you can lose your driver's license for failing to pay fines. This is much more restrictive, since you basically need a car to get anywhere in the US.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/more-than...


I know for a fact you can still buy Amtrak tickets via cash. I also knew some airlines wouldn't accept cash anymore—but do none accept cash? Would those prepaid Visa gift card thingies work? I didn't realize the situation was that dire.


It is loosely related but: let us not forget that we only buy access to games, movies, music, books, and so on. It can be revoked at any time for arbitrary reasons. I would say that the majority of us are too dependent on them. What would happen if Steam, Netflix, Amazon, Spotify etc. revoked your access? How dependent are you on their good-will? Mind you, there have been occasions where your account was deleted because you said something somewhere else that they did not like. I do not know how common is, but it did happen, one too many times.

I prefer having my own, DRM-free local copies.


I am always confused by these "what-about" posts. Are you saying western democracies are the shining examples of equality so if they enact something bad, everyone should follow ? Or that China given a free pass because western democracies do it? Or that this is not a big deal because everyone does it?


> For example people are losing access to payment processing functionality for essentially thought-crimes

Can you be more specific? I have an hard time figuring out what you are talking about here. Are you talking about like losing access to Patreon?


Perhaps they are referring more generally to payment processors refusing to work with companies that provide services related to things like pornography? Technically legal, but ostensibly morally distasteful?


*for being fascists who are pushing an ideology that leads directly to genocide, but okay.


I don't think that's true. There are many cases of this happening where the person could not be called a fascist at all. (Look at the case of Sargon for instance). If you asked the Chinese government, i'd bet they feel 100% justified that the people on their blacklist are subversive and dangerous too.


A price of freedom and tolerance is that you must share it with people you don't like.

And you must remain vigilant that they do not undermine your freedom.


"Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them."

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


Even less known is that the author of the paradox advocated tolerance and only to use violence when it is clear that discussion is impossible.

> I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.


Do let me know when PayPal starts beating up customers as part of their offboarding process, and I will probably object to such behavior.

It's fairly clear that the various hate groups SPLC tracks "are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument".


PayPal drains linked bank accounts and locks funds. ;)

http://www.paypalsucks.com/


Let's not mix up two entirely unrelated things just because they're both done by PayPal.


People will, of course, disagree on where the threshold is where violence becomes acceptable. They'll also disagree that it's "violence" to refuse to enter into a business relationship with someone.


Indeed, what constitutes violence isn't a universally shared understanding.


> And you must remain vigilant that they do not undermine your freedom.

By, for example, refusing to give economic support or a privately-owned platform of speech or press inches to fascists who are pushing an ideology that leads directly to genocide.

Inherent in the freedom of the press is the freedom to control what the press you own publishes, and inherent in the right to peaceably assemble is the right to refrain from assembling with those you do not choose to support (be that assembly one of common protest or simple commerce).


Sure, that's something you could do. I'm wary because I believe that such behaviour tends to cut both ways, in the long run.

I'm old enough to remember, and remain disgusted by, that LGBT organizations struggled to import goods or coordinate with financial institutions.

Perhaps the act of suppressing wrong think is indeed cutting both ways, now. Conservatives are reaping what they sewed.


This is my perception. And ultimately, if a group is so isolated that their situation becomes actually indistinguishable from oppression or occupation, we have law for that; The Civil Rights Act was passed in part because letting the market decide doesn't work when an entire town or state is racist.

But society has a vested interest in people being judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin or their gender. Society has no vested interest in bolstering the strength of people who should be judged on the content of their character.

Avoid the error of logic that conflates the tool with the use of the tool. Societal censure and giving people no more than what the law says we must give them is a completely appropriate response to the bigot, the fascist, and the misogynist.


But to have our freedoms we must tolerate sharing them with those we don't like.

For instance, if right wing populism gains ground will the use of economic pressure turn upon progressive groups, without legal recourse?

The tools of oppression aren't necessarily bound by ideology, after all.


Of course; it already has. And this is expected, but the solution is not, I think, to try and take the tools out of the hands of the citizens at this time.

America is in the middle of a cultural revolution, not unlike the Civil Rights era of the '60s. It's a fight of ideas and opprobrium, and both sides will definitely use the economic, political, and speech tools at their disposal to win it. As both sides have for years; advocacy, call for censure, political and financial support of this or that cause or politician---none of this is new. What is modestly new is the frequency and "heat" of the battle, because too many obvious injustices have gone unpunished (I think to the perception of both sides of the political spectrum, broadly speaking).

I'm not in favor of any kind of removal of these powers from the people's hands at this time, though. There's a reason we protect public speech and economic censure in general: because if you force people's hands by taking those tools away, they reach for the next most convenient tool.

And America, thanks to the Second Amendment, has a lot of guns.


America has been undergoing continuous cultural revolution since the first settlers set shore. I'm with Utah Phillips on this: decades are just convenient rhetorical devices to coerce us to forget our past. The Civil Rights struggle never ended!

Canada has a lot of guns, as well, and far less gun crime and strong regulation in their acquisition and use. Most of the illegal and prohibited firearms are smuggled in from the USA. It would be neat if our southern neighbours could stop the flow of illegal firearms into our country...

Thanks for the pleasant conversation. :)


More like having an idea that doesn't perfectly align with what the very vocal radical minority believes in.

Actual fascists and what people call fascists online are worlds apart.


And in communist countries its for being bourgeois imperialists who are pushing an ideology that directly leads to oppression of the working class.

Unless one basically says ”But the difference is that our ideology is actually correct and theirs is wrong”. That leads to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with that kind of oppression in itself, but only if the targets are the wrong targets.


I have a new idea for the Chinese government!

"Xinjiang* - Beijing ticket - Price: ¥1200 + 150 Social Credits".

"<blink>BEST DEAL!</blink> Beijing - Xinjiang ticket - Price: ¥400. And EARN 20 Social Credits!"

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/02/opinion/uighur-muslims-ch...


If I understand the article, it's not that 23 million are permanently banned.

These seem to be temporary bans, and they either expire or you have to do some act to regain your trusted status?


Being added to the black list makes it harder to do almost everything (including making money), which then means it is very hard to get off the black list. Because of that, I'm not a fan of this system.

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/10/26/661163105/epis...


Thanks. I'll listen to it after work.

It's hard to find first hand info on this, rather than tons of internet people assuming it's the Black Mirror episode come to life.


This Vice video shows what it's like:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkw15LkZ_Kw

It's a Black Mirror kind of nightmare. Imagine spending your life sweeping sidewalks with a forced smile on your face hoping one of the government's informants will notice and write it in their book so that someday you'll be allowed to buy a ticket to see your family.



Pretty sure you just overflowed the count of people drawing that comparison.


Just another example of how recent pop culture has the ability to program people to expect a certain narrative outcome given certain narrative preconditions. It's why advertising works: "Buy this soap, you'll get women." Similarly, "I watched this show and this thing they are doing produces this outcome, the show said so."


I'm pretty convinced the episode was inspired on the first news referencing the chineses plan.


I have a feeling that China is in the process of creating a huge unintended consequence...

China has a middle class of roughly 450 million people. [0] My guess is that most of those blocked are people from the middle class. (Why bother blocking access to someone who can't afford it anyway?)

If that assumption is anywhere near correct (and it could be wrong), then roughly 5% of the middle class were blocked from significant economic activity.

If this continues, and grows (I'm thinking of that episode of The Orville, where people had social credit scores on their name-tag [1]), then they could easily be blocking 10% or more of their middle class.

This has to have negative economic consequences that impact the GDP of the country at some point. An ironic outcome is that it could cause people to become overly concerned about debt, and stop consuming. If that happened at a large scale, China would face innumerable problems.

[0] - https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/01/chinas-middle-class-is-... [1] - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6845666/


23M times, not 23M peole, the title is misleading


Good catch - that's potentially a significant difference!


China looks like modern country with deeply hidden Soviet Union ideals and Lenin books under pillow.

"We've come to wish you a Very Happy Thursday," said Pooh©


Paypal is doing this now, in partnership with the SPLC.


While comparing Paypal banning a few people to China is hyperbole, you're not entirely wrong. With Facebook/Google in the role of data gathering, I think insurance and credit companies will slowly move us towards a distributed version of social credit. Where doing something "bad" can affect your credit score and insurance premiums eventually making your life impossible if you do enough "bad" things.


Who will define "bad"? In China, "bad" means opposing government corruption.

> When [reporter] Liu Hu recently tried to book a flight, he was told he was banned from flying because he was on the list of untrustworthy people. Liu is a journalist who was ordered by a court to apologize for a series of tweets he wrote and was then told his apology was insincere.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/china-social-credit-system-surv...

> Liu had posted information about embezzlement by a local official, Ma Zhengqi, on his personal page on the Weibo social network because he knew that censorship would prevent its publication in the newspaper.

https://rsf.org/en/hero/liu-hu


> Who will define "bad"?

That's why I put it in quotes. "Bad" in this case depends on what a company thinks makes you high-risk or otherwise undesirable as a customer.

In the case of health insurance, it may be when Google or Facebook classifying you as having a sedentary lifestyle. In the case of banks it may be if you take too many trips to Vegas. In the case of the NSA, it may be posting negative things about the current administration. Because it's distributed among many actors, it will be like the existing credit score system - mostly opaque and unaccountable. Good luck convincing an insurance company that Google misclassified your behaviour.


Their system is easier to execute, definitely more difficult to pull off in bipartisan US with public and private sectors.


It depends. If you have more political power than the person you are reporting, then you will be fine.


The difference to me is that in China, you can lose social credit by "spreading rumors online," and we all know what that's code for.

More generally, there's a big difference between "we won't let you do X because we don't trust you" versus "we won't let you do X because we have moral objections to something you've done." China's social credit system takes the latter into account.

Edit: Frankly, I'm getting pretty tired of this "the US is no better" discussion every time there's a news story about China's social credit system. The US has some major problems, but conflating the two is a false equivalence. When CNN reporters are banned from flying because the president thinks they're "fake news", we can have this discussion again.


It gets a little muddy (there's definitely a train of thought that goes "We don't trust you because we have moral objections so something you've done," witness the boycott of Gillette for their toxic masculinity ad, or of Chik-fil-a for their support of "conversion therapy"), but to a first approximation I agree with your take.


There is a separate conversation to be had around how quick some people are to "blacklist" individuals and organizations they think did something objectionable. But at least in that case, it's a bunch of individuals voting with their wallets and/or time, as opposed to a central authority.

Put another way, there's a reason free speech (as it's defined in the US) applies to the government and not private entities.


Without wanting to unnecessarily stoke the hyperbole, I'm struck that the Facebook/Google beast is a level more powerful because the effects of its "scoring" are implicit and emergent, rather than China's being explicit and contrived. I assume the Chinese system could be dismantled relatively quickly without overturning the fabric of their society. Facebook/Google on the other hand is so engrained in the nature of Western society I find it difficult to imagine how we transition away from them.

China's system is hand-cranked and top-down. The Facebook/Google system has a life of its own that pervades the very foundations of its host.


I think the nature of the entities are very different.

Facebook/Google/Paypal provide a new vector of boycotting/vigilantism. People with ideologies sufficiently unpopular with the mainstream get targeted for boycotts, which can spread to the rest of their financial and social network. This effect is impossible to separate from society because its an expression of something that's always been part of human society -- shaming and shunning.

The Chinese system is top down, and designed to maintain the Communist Party's hold on power. Every aspect of the system is dictated from the top, so of course it could easily be dismantled or changed.


I don't think they are all the same. Anyone can live fine without Facebook. Being banned from Google services would be very inconvenient, but being banned from the credit card consortium would be a life-changing blow. Chase Sapphire has stepped into the arena in this regard, canceling credit for users with unsavory political beliefs.


> I don't think they are all the same. Anyone can live fine without Facebook. Being banned from Google services would be very inconvenient...

You're not thinking big enough. Already, even details like mobile location information is leaking into the hands of bounty hunters[1], which means such information is probably easily available to less controversial operations like insurance companies. Wait until a "background check" for housing means asking Facebook if you've ever expressed an interest in smoking.

[1] https://www.engadget.com/2019/01/08/companies-resell-us-carr...


PayPal is preventing people from buying travel tickets?


Predictably, the "I shouldn't have to bake a cake for a gay wedding" folks are very incensed by PayPal's "I shouldn't have to host a bank account for a homophobic organization".


The same First Amendment that protects that baker also protects the rest of us from being forced to say things we don't believe, which is why the Supreme Court ruled in the cakeshop's favor.

What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man's laws, not God's — and if you cut them down, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.


That's not true - the decision was not on any sort of free speech basis.

https://www.scotusblog.com/2018/06/opinion-analysis-court-ru...

> The opinion seemed to leave open the possibility that, in a future case, a service provider’s sincere religious beliefs might have to yield to the state’s interest in protecting the rights of same-sex couples, and the majority did not rule at all on one of the central arguments in the case – whether compelling Phillips to bake a cake for a same-sex couple would violate his right to freedom of speech.


The First Amendment protects both freedom of speech and religion. But even if you insist on limiting the argument to free speech:

> Justice Clarence Thomas wrote separately, in an opinion joined by Gorsuch, to address an issue that the court did not decide: whether an order mandating that Phillips bake cakes for same-sex weddings violates his right to free speech. In Thomas’ view, Phillips’ creation of custom wedding cakes is exactly the kind of “expressive” conduct protected by the First Amendment. Requiring Phillips to make such cakes for same-sex marriage, even when it will convey a message that “he believes his faith forbids,” violates his First Amendment rights.


You'll find that two of nine justices writing a concurring opinion doesn't constitute anywhere near a majority.


And you'll find, if you read my first comment more carefully, that I said "First Amendment", not free speech. The 1st protects both free speech and freedom of religion. Both are about being able to practice and express our own beliefs without the government forcing us to do otherwise.


As various anti-discrimination laws have survived SCOTUS challenges, it's pretty clear it's not quite so simple as just the First Amendment here.

Per the majority opinion:

> But even if those objections are protected, Kennedy explained, the Supreme Court’s precedents make clear that in some cases the right to the free exercise of religion is not absolute and can instead be limited by neutral laws that apply to everyone.


The majority opinion in this case was based on Colorado's failure to respect freedom of religion. They also acknowledged the free speech argument, without ruling on it either way, while the concurring opinion was about free speech. Both are about the 1st.


No, the majority opinion in this case was based on Colorado's active animus towards the bake shop's religious beliefs during their proceedings, during which they compared his beliefs to defending slavery or the Holocaust.

It's entirely possible a more neutral proceeding would've been upheld. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/06/0...

> There is no majority that would have found for the baker absent the discriminatory comments by the commission; in fact, Kennedy strongly hints he might have gone the other way had the commissioners maintained their neutrality. By the same token, there were only two justices who would side against someone discriminating against gay customers no matter the specifics of the case.


That's just speculation. Until the Court rules differently on another case, we don't know under what circumstances they would rule that infringement on 1st Amendment rights was justified.


It's fairly well-founded speculation. Per the opinion itself:

> The State’s interest could have been weighed against Phillips’ sincere religious objections in a way consistent with the requisite religious neutrality that must be strictly observed. But the official expressions of hostility to religion in some of the commissioners’ comments were inconsistent with that re-quirement, and the Commission’s disparate consideration of Phillips’case compared to the cases of the other bakers suggests the same.

Kennedy, Roberts, Breyer, Alito, Kagan and Gorsuch joined this wording. Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented on the grounds that they'd have ruled for Colorado.

We've got plenty of evidence that religious freedom is not absolute when it comes to discrimination. You can't refuse to employ black people or Jews because your religious beliefs forbid it, for example.


To justify your interpretation, you'd have to explain why the SC hasn't followed up that ruling with another ruling that establishes their standard for weighing those competing interests in such a way that the 1st amendment concerns are overcome.

Such speculation was possible in June of 2018, but hard to defend now.


Multiple reasons.

First, cases take a long time to wind through this process. SCOTUS picks cases for the next year, they take months to decide and write up, and all this requires a test case to have reached them in the first place.

The justices may also not yet feel comfortable enough that they know exactly where the dividing line is to take on a test case, either.

Not much moves quickly in the court system. Not having a follow-up a case in the very next term isn't indicative of much.


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Well it's not like it's a new tendency.

We just changed "they look like a bad sort", to "they look like a bad sort, to the algorithm".


Perhaps, but I wouldn't call it...apocalyptic.


Comparing the SPLC, a legitimate anti-racist organization, with the Chinese Communist Party is absolutely ridiculous.


Many say the SPLC has lost its credibility of late.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-southern-poverty...


I'd recommend against using weasel-words like "many" if you're going to dump as your source the author of "Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack."

If what you're trying to say is "The American political right wing has grown to distrust the SPLC," I'd agree, but I'd note it's the same right wing that couldn't seem to find its voice to condemn a political rally where participants shouted "Jews will not replace us" and "Blood and soil," a rally that resulted in the death of one counter-protester due to vehicular homicide.

Given the evidence I see, sadly, it's not the SPLC I'm leaning towards distrusting.


Is there any rights/liberties special interest organization that hasn't been turned into political crap? The ACLU and NRA are basically the DNC and RNC at this point.


The moment you put Maajid Nawaz and Hirsi Ali on a list titled “anti Islamic extremists”, next to Pamela Gellar and Spencer, you have lost all credibility.

Thankfully Maajid sued them for millions and won.

Edit: it should say “settled for millions” instead of “won”. My bad.


Stop spreading misinformation. Maajid didn't win.


The irony of saying "stop spreading misinformation" on a blatantly false post.

> The Southern Poverty Law Center, the venerable civil-rights organization, has issued a formal apology to British political activist Maajid Nawaz and will make a $3.4 million payment over his inclusion in a 2016 list of “anti-Muslim extremists.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/06/maajid-...


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It was an extremely one-sided settlement that indicated the SPLC knew they'd lose badly in court.

If I got an apology and millions of dollars from someone, I'd count that as a win. That doesn't take genius-level intellect to read between the lines.


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Again and again with the name calling. Do you have anything useful to add to the discussion or are you just using social media as an outlet for your emotions?


i called them "useful idiots" because that's what they are. if that term offends you, i can use a different one, but you'll have to provide it because i don't know of any synonyms.


In the last 35 minutes you've posted 6 insults in 4 comments.

> dumpfest, cryptofascists, 9000 IQ brain geniuses, genius, useful idiots, fascist

And 0 useful information or rational arguments.


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If you have only contempt for facts and reason and you prefer to use propaganda to mislead others into doing what you want, how are you not a fascist yourself?


do you think marketing executives are fascists because they use propaganda to mislead others into doing what they want? do you think the US and ROK are fascists for sending counter-propaganda into DPRK and blasting kpop across the border?

which highlights another point: if you're actually this ignorant and incapable of thinking rationally yourself, what exactly is the point of pretending to have a rational discussion? it's all theater.


Look, I'm largely on your side with regards to the SPLC - I think they're a valuable organization and that the Right's attacks on them are largely in bad faith.

That said, you're not doing them any favors here. Just stop.


Initially I took you seriously. Which is why I updated my comment.

But now I see you don’t have good intentions.


There may have been a settlement, but it's quite clear he was the winner in it. The SPLC president made a video apology and they paid millions to him. (Rightly so, in this case; it was a clear fuckup.)


I dunno, here's the generally slightly left leaning washington post allowing publication of an OP-ed entitled "The Southern Poverty Law Center has lost all credibility":

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-southern-poverty...

agreed, not the CP of china, but some of the facts detailed in that article, even if selectively curated to prove a point, seem a bit egregious and wacky..


That is an opinion piece by someone described in Wikipedia as

> Marc Alexander Thiessen (born January 13, 1967) is an American author, columnist, and political commentator. He writes for The Washington Post newspaper. He served as a speechwriter for United States President George W. Bush (2004–09) and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (2001–06).

> (...) His one book is a defense of the Torture Memos and "enhanced interrogation methods" used by the CIA under the George W. Bush administration.

Take that as you will.


> Take that as you will.

you mean like, by prefacing with a big disclaimer like:

"here's the generally slightly left leaning washington post allowing publication of an OP-ed entitled"

if it were that far out there, they wouldn't publish it.


I feel this will make sheep. I'm not sure a population of sheep is good for a nation.


> I feel this will make sheep

That is entirely the intended outcome.


Free travel restricted to four-star citizens and up.


Just to be clear, free as in freedom, not beer.


It seems our institutions for societal problem solving have not changed much since the 19th century. We have prisons, the courts, and money, glorious money: the universal and only solution to all problems.

China seems to be rearranging the rules and making things not only about money, but also behavior.

They deal with their ethnic violence problems through reeducation camps instead of war (e.g Chechnya) or simply giving up and trying to contain the problem( e.g "no go zones").

They deal with their infrastructure problems by largely ignoring all legal opposition including property rights to development.

They deal with the boom bust cycle by printing money and strictly controlling bank behavior and severely punishing bad actors.

Now they are using social credit to control bad behavior without prisons.

It's like they are trying to invent the next level of society, while our system thrives on growing and making industries out of its irresolvabe conflicts.


None of these things are new things. They're things the west largely has evolved past.

"reeducation camps" are not an alternative to war. They're slow burn racial suppression and replacement, and used to enforce subservience through fear and torture. Populations have been erasing rival populations over territory, ideology and resources since the beginning of time. Since the holocaust, the west has at least begun attempting to move in a new direction.

"ignoring all legal opposition to ... development" is not a new take on government infrastructure programs, its a return to the medieval period where a Lord didn't have to consider the needs of the peasants when deciding how to use and develop their land. Even serfdom granted the masses more rights than this.

"with boom bust cycle by printing money" - This is just financial and political regulation. The west values boom / bust, if only because cyclical creation and destruction creates opportunities for those with enough resources to play, and so long as the 'bust' isn't so large as to destabilize the system. China values strict stability for a large number of political and social reasons. And 'severely punishing bad actors' has very little to do with regulating the economy, and very, very much to do with ensuring the stability and status quo (of the hierarchy) of the one party system.

"using social credit to control bad behavior without prisons" - Does it matter if you have prisons, if you have turned your entire country into a prison? The purpose of the social credit system is not to control bad behavior, it is to control behavior.

"it's like they are trying to invent the next level of society, while our system thrives on growing and making industries out of its irresolvabe conflicts" - They are trying to create a different society, though it is hardly a "new" or "next level" one. They are recreating the same type of dynastic society they have had for thousands of years, in a modern setting.

As for us, our system thrives on the assumption that cyclical war/peace, famine/growth, boom/bust creates opportunity for those who survive to innovate the society. Our downsides are that when we entire long periods of peace, growth, and stability we tend to become overly lax and allow our most major economic actors to attempt to warp the system to lock in their dominant positions. If that then settles into a stagnant, stable or regressive economic period where such opportunity is increasingly unavailable, large segments of the population will desire to ditch the system entirely and desire radical change, usually to a strong-man system, such as the one once found in Germany, or currently found in China.


If you look at the history of China and the Taiping rebellion[1] 20 - 30 million died over essentially a religious extremism driven civil war. If China can stop religious uprising with minimal damage to society and death, isn't that an improvement, or are big civil wars somehow more fair?

In all things they take a pragmatic cost/benefit approach instead of solely thinking about dictums handed down from ancient books as the religious extremists do. The key question is: what is to stop all this from working?

In the 20s, Hayek and Von Mises wrote "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth"[2] and gave a great criticism of Socialism that eventually predicted its collapse. Mainly that planning without prices would be extremely inefficient. There really isn't a good argument that doesn't rely on natural rights to explain why China's system won't work from a utilitarian perspective, only ones that pull on the heart strings.

For example, I often argue with Nazis on racist boards in order to talk them out of their false beliefs in the master race theories of the Nazis and how those false theories directly led to their downfall. The Nazis thought they could take over the world because they were a superior race and exterminating certain classes of people would solve all their problems. They really believed that. Those theories though were wrong, not only in a moral sense, but in a practical sense too. They invaded Russia in the winter thinking it would be easy and also did a lot of other really stupid tactical errors because they got high on their own supply. Many Jewish scientists immigrated and helped develop key technologies that gave the west massive advantages in the war, etc.

Point being, you have to not just rely on emotional arguments if you really want to deeply understand the forces underlying and changing history instead of focusing on what makes one feel morally justified. Feeling morally justified is good, but a lot of people who end up participating in their own failure to achieve their goals feel morally justified, but what they are doing is not working.

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

[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_Calculation_in_the_So...


I wrote you a very long response, I will have to split it into 2 separate posts.

Post 1/2 :

I appreciate the response to my comment that you've made here, and the links provided to sources, though they weren't necessary in this case : )

To respond to your post, I think we need to break it down into its constituent parts. I think you made 5 smaller points, each of which I would like to refute, and one larger, overall point, which I would like to address.

With no intention of reducing or summarizing the substance of your post above, I will refer to your points as 1-5, with each rephrased as the following:

1) If a society has a history of mass death and suffering, but the society organizes itself in a such a way as to reduce the chance of mass death and suffering in the future, does that not justify whichever way the society chooses to so organize itself? Or more simply: Is the evil of mass death and warfare not sufficiently morally awful to justify all attempts to prevent such strife?

2) What makes us think the Chinese model will not work?

3) Societal organization is not the same as an engineering blueprint. Societal organization induces certain behaviors among its people, who then influence their government, which then influences its people. This cycle is a resonance point, a catch-22, that means even similar societies with small differences can have larger social and cultural differences which may themselves be very good or bad. These second order effects are just as important as the initial on-paper social organization of the society itself, but they also tend to be unpredictable.

4) Moral philosophy is nice, but ultimately what really matters in this world is not whether things work on paper, but whether things work in reality. A thing that works in reality, is many times more important and more meaningful than something that seems better, but hasn't been proven. Particularly in topics as complex as politics, where point #3 comes into play very strongly, and the stakes are so high (as mentioned in point #1)

5) You then impugned my character. But I believe this was mostly unintended and a result of your wording as you attempted to explain point #4. You also lightly imply that change is not possible, but the result of the narrative of history, which may be true on the macro sense, but is not what we are discussing here today, and does not impact your ability to decide your thoughts after having this conversation.

So ignoring that last point, I understand your argument to be:

China's model works. With so many people in the country, small changes can result in mass death and suffering, but the Chinese model keeps the Chinese people safe. We may not like the Chinese model, but we have no reason to believe it will not work. In fact, it appears to be working. And any change we introduce is likely to have 2nd and 3rd order effects which we cannot predict, but which, because they are unpredictable, potentially reintroduce the possibility of political fracture, and suffering back into the Chinese system. So don't fix what isn't broken. Moral justifications and ideological musings are important, but more important, is keeping 1 billion people alive and happy and not risking their lives on unproven reform.

------------------------

My responses below will be to each of your points one at a time. Starting with your #1 above, and continuing in order:

1) This argument only validates that some form of governance is _needed_ and that that form of governance is only acceptable if it can keep the people within it safe and provide decent lives. It is not a sufficient argument to promote one form of government over another. All governments keep their people safe from uprisings and civil war! That is one of the primary purposes of governments!

If your objective is to keep people safe, then, we must ask whether the current structure of government is the best method of doing so. While I agree that, particularly so soon after China's bloody most recent civil war there is, and should, be significant resistance to major political overhaul in China itself... fundamentally the question still stands: of the types of government available, is the current form of government the best at, or even good at, keeping its people safe? If the answer is no, then some form of movement from the current type of government to a better version, even if in the form of small, incremental reform, I would argue is warranted. The exact degree of reform the populace should or would be willing to risk and experience will vary, but whether or not the populace should attempt such a thing is not.

If this seems like a counter-intuitive, or overly naive viewpoint, I would argue two separate things. 1) all governments are constantly changing. The current Chinese model is currently under reformation. The question is not whether a government and society should change, but whether it is doing so in a positive direction, and the speed at which the change is occurring. If you are unwilling to consider the ways in which other governments may do a better job than your own, then you will also be unable to see the ways in which your own system will need to be improved in order to solve the problems your country faces.

I would also point out, that you specifically point out two major problems that are facing the Chinese government currently, namely religious extremism, and the potential for civil war. But my counter, is that both of those things are only the main threats to stability in china... BECAUSE of the type of government that it has. Similarly to what you mentioned in your point #3, different forms of government have different forms of weakness. Historically, systems close to the Chinese system have a GREATER chance of exacerbating religious fundamentalism and violent revolt than most other governmental types, or said another way, if China was not an authoritarian government these particular threats would not be threats that need worrying about. As such, if your desire is to keep people safe, and prevent a future Taiping rebellion, then your goal should be to move China _away_ from an authoritarian model, not further towards it. In short: increasing the possibility of non-violent reform decreases the possibility of mass violence, radicalism, and extremism.


Post 2/2

2) Nothing suggests to me that the Chinese model will not work. Similarly, I disagree with you that Nazi ideology does not work. Yes, Nazi leadership in the 20th century ultimately lost, and they did so in no small part due to their own hubris, but I think you are sorely mistaken if you believe that this means that Nazi ideology is not a workable political model. There have been many, many nations and empires built upon the concepts that a certain class or race of people were superior, and that the rich deserved to rule the nation, among the other aspects of fascist ideology. Given a different time, country, or leadership, there could still be a Nazi government alive and well in Europe today. In fact, I would point to the fact that there is such a large international Nazi movement alive and well today, despite such gigantic attempts to constrain it, as a good indication that it is a workable and viable political movement.

It is also, however, simply NOT a world I would want to live in. The fall of the Nazis did not prove that one race was or was not stronger or "better" than another. It partially proved that the world wanted to live in a world that did not have to contend with such a competition between governments, peoples and races. It was a fundamentally moral question about what type of world we want to live in. I do not want to live in a world where Nazi ideology is the dominant ideology, and would give my life to prevent it. But this is not because I do not think Nazi ideology is a workable form of government, or that Nazi ideology would not keep its chosen people safe. It is because I fundamentally do not want to live in that world, and do not believe that that is a world humanity, or at least myself, needs to accept.

I feel similarly about post-Leninist, or post-Maoist one party rule as I do living under a monarch, or living under a dictator, a theocracy, or a fascist government. It is not that these systems do not work. It is that I do not believe these governments to be ideal or good types of governance, for either moral or quality-of-life reasons for the people thus ruled.

3) I agree with your point #3. However, you then use this as a reason to argue against change and reform. But as I stated earlier, all governments are always in a state of change and reform, so this is an invalid step of logic.

But there's a more insidious aspect to this argument, that I'm not sure you considered. Your argument here takes as an assumption that no matter what the effects are of political/organizational change and reform are, that the people involved are powerless to either correct the mistakes, or decide for themselves.

In short, it implies that the people within a country have no capability of determining their own lives. That people are purely a product of their environment, and thus must be shaped by a greater force or person with power in order to improve.

Ironically, historically, systems organized in this way almost always result in the people making the decisions being the people who are the most isolated, pampered, richest, and farthest removed from the effects of their decisions in the society. That in turn does usually mean that the country is unable to course-correct when negative reforms are made, due to the simple fact that those making the decisions are too far removed from the results of their decisions to intelligently know when to course correct.

But if we throw out that underlying assumption to begin with, and assume that people do have the ability to comprehend what is good and bad in their own lives, to at least some degree, then the fear of second order effects you are mentioning is severely mitigated, and possibly ceases to exist outright.

Allow me to put this another way: reform and change always occurs within a country. If that reform and change is not recognized by a country's organization, then it will happen informally and quietly in the hands of individuals with power, likely for their own benefit at the expense of the rest, and likely without recourse or the ability to correct mistakes. If, however, the country has a political process by which to reform itself, then that means that there is also, by definition, a way for some people in the country to undo reforms that do not work out.

In other words, you do not need to worry about reform leading to the death and misery of the people. Those that have the power to reform, by definition, will have the power to undo reform that is seen as negative. What you need to worry about, are allowing the wrong people to have this power in an unaccountable way, or organizing your society in a manner where such reform is impossible and the only possibility is eventual revolution and bloodshed. Ironically, both of these things become substantially more likely the more and more authoritarian a country is.

4) I believe I also addressed this in the previous point.

So to summarize:

5) Yes, the Chinese model likely works. With so many people in China, stability is greatly needed, and that is important, because the stakes are so unfathomably high. But a belief that the current Chinese model is the only model that could work for China is wrong. Indeed, a counter argument could be easily made (as it could be for almost all governments) that the majority of major problems China currently faces is the result of its current political structure, not solved or benefited by it. The only way to address those problems, is through academic study and comparison to other political systems so that one might identify how Chinese governance must be reformed in order to solve those problems. But the belief that change is not warranted and is unsafe both ignores the fact that change is always occurring, and dooms the country to its current path. And since its current path is one of increasing authoritarianism, the natural result of your argument, is, ironically, that the Chinese people, and the world, are less safe from the fears you mentioned at the beginning of your post as a result, not better.

Or to put it another way: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety, and will soon have Neither."


Great writeup. Save it for now. Will think about your points later because a little bit long.

HNers are most rational netizens as I know. However quite lot of us still believe misinformation about China unintentionally spread by Western journalists and some travellers with their simplified misinterpretation upon a huge complex topic. Sometimes those who look intelligent behave like superstitious cult believer that there’s no way to have discord discussion. Your input is valuable. Maybe not always have correct source of information. For example you believe Chinese are less informed about individual liberty because they haven’t read books from George Orwell. On the contrarily some Chinese who still promote George Orwell’s books and open society meme are considered by other fellow Chinese as simple minded blind followers of old idea with their beliefs can not be bayersianly updated on new facts. Both groups are still very small educated portion of whole population that’s why you don’t know them. Most people are not aware of both groups but only care about daily life like all other societies over the world.

Anyway thank you for your idea.


I would very much love to learn about the educated viewpoints you mentioned here. What are the new facts that make people feel like Orwell is outdated?

I definitely do not have great sources of information for life inside China. I am just a developer that has grown interested in china since the 'trade wars' started. But I would like to learn more. My hope was if I could foster discussion here, and I might learn more along the way.

Do you have any suggestions for better sources?


It's difficult to express "educated" view (What I said was views of small portion of educated people) in a short paragraph. But what I would give a brief abstract description with some sacrifice of accuracy:

Some correct ideas with the tree scope could be totally wrong when observed from the forest scope but here's no way a tree can understand forest (Maybe it can if the tree have learnt Godel theorem. Just kidding). The great idea of open society might have different out comes on different areas of forest based on nature conditions . If the democracy /open society can be pin pointed to be the root cause of sever consequence like millions of life lost, then democracy would be averted. It's not against concept of open society/individual liberty but rather choose less evil. That’s why a lot of Chinese who know Owell still support the totalitarian regime.

BTW, I didn't mean Owell's thoughts is outdate itself but the people within China still promote Owell's work usually built their belief about democracy have outdate understanding about China and democracy. Some of groups (more specific, those who originated from democracy movement that triggered 1989 crackdown by government. Now most of them are overseas Chinese dissidents ) even have consistent integrity problems. (Why Chinese democracy activists have extremely high percentage of liar caused my curiosity that wasted a lot of time but that's beyond the topic).

As to new facts that lead some Chinese think twice about democracy, there are many: The simplest other new facts include failure practise of democracy in different areas like middle east, east Europa, and very important one which west media won't report: the government election experiments in village (The totalitarian regimen did tried to follow the great universal value promoted by western leaders instead of keep them in power, do you believe it), Taiwan's democracy (I'm not saying that the democracy failed but a lot of observation of what happened during all the process that can draw some conclusion that could be extrapolated). There new facts even get some new explanation about many old facts.

The sources of information is quite spread among many WeChat groups, moments etc. So it's difficult to get single source so it's not practical to really collect comprehensive understanding of big picture of Chinese society with so many segmented small pockets. However there are a couple of good source you can have a peek. Here's a famous rational nationalist community. http://www.m4.cn

(There are many more irrationally nationalist within China in terms of population. I personally don't support nationalist weather rational or irrational) The sponsor of the community include a VC who has a famous TED talk which might also helpful https://www.ted.com/talks/eric_x_li_a_tale_of_two_political_...

Other source in general about China, there are many online but stay away any main stream media instead looking for alternative source for balance. Like moon of Alabama(not many about China but quite accurate for those related about China) , global security. Quora is a good place that there are many educated normal Chinese is there. a couple of recent piece on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-XDxCb92X4&t=3s for domestic

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIvC_Kdvc4E for international Look at comment section. That’s more interesting than video


Thank you very much of the links. I will go through them all over the course of this coming week. Thank you : )

> very important one which west media won't report: the government election experiments in village (The totalitarian regimen did tried to follow the great universal value promoted by western leaders instead of keep them in power, do you believe it)

I would LOVE to read about this. Is there any place where I could do so? This would be extremely interesting to read.

My initial reaction, however, is that this wouldn't be possible to succeed? Democracies do not work if people believe that they might be punished at some point in the future for submitting a wrong answer, and when democracies are created for the first time they have a tendency to react directly against whatever the status quo was right before they were created... like a person testing out their strength for the first time. Most democracies don't ever get past this stage, before more powerful nearby nations destroy or undermine the democracy out of fear. See as an example, a history of the middle east.

> new facts include failure practice of democracy in different areas like middle east, east Europa

These are all regions where democracy was specifically undermined by rival powers in the interest of ensuring that they serve as client states. You could have added most of South and Central America to this list as well. The United States regularly undermines democracies in oil producing countries, and Russia regularly undermines or invades democracies in Eastern Europe as a defense against NATO. Neither region has much hope for democratization, outside powers do not allow it.

The only democratically aspiring nation who's democratic attempts haven't been undermined and destroyed by outside powers since the Arab Spring, that I am aware of, in the Middle East, is Kurdistan, strictly because they proved themselves so valuable to America's anti-ISIS efforts. But here you have an example of an extremely democratic society, that is thriving, despite being in the middle east, and despite the fact that it is currently facing completely genocide from Turkey, abandonment by Trump, and massive foreign power attempts to destabalize.

> Taiwan's democracy (I'm not saying that the democracy failed

What is wrong with Taiwan's democracy? I know almost nothing about the island

> If the democracy /open society can be pin pointed to be the root cause of sever consequence like millions of life lost, then democracy would be averted. It's not against concept of open society/individual liberty but rather choose less evil. That’s why a lot of Chinese who know Orwell still support the totalitarian regime.

I agree with the original premise, IE: if you can prove that democracy will result in millions of deaths, then you shouldn't be a democracy. But I don't understand how you went from that sentence to the last one. The last democracies I am aware of that resulted in deaths of the sort you are talking about are all pre-holocaust, the progroms of Europe. But this has been a solved problem since Immanuel Kant, and is why democracies are always created with constitutions.

> Why Chinese democracy activists have extremely high percentage of liar caused my curiosity that wasted a lot of time but that's beyond the topic

I am curious about this, if you would be willing to speak more? In the United States, we call this phenomenon COINTELPRO.


Great writeup indeed.

> reform and change always occurs within a country. If that reform and change is not recognized by a country's organization, then it will happen informally and quietly in the hands of individuals with power, likely for their own benefit at the expense of the rest[..]. If, however, the country has a political process by which to reform itself, then that means that there is also, by definition, a way for some people in the country to undo reforms that do not work out.

Doesn't this kind of imply not leaving change to natural processes. Like... market forces. Does that mean a social credit system deployed by a government is better than one by a conglomerate of companies, because there is an official way of recourse? I guess in the end it always falls back to prevent power from centralizing as best as possible.


Yes, programs developed by governments do tend to be much more responsive to the needs of the people than programs developed by a small conglomerate of companies.

This is exactly because governments tend to be responsive to the people they rule (how much so depends on the type of government), while private businesses are in no way obligated to listen to anyone other than themselves.

So yes, if I had to choose between a social credit system created by a government, and a social credit system created by Google, I would absolutely want the government version. At least there's a chance that the governmental version will be audited by other people, or have a way that people treated unfairly can complain. The google version will likely just punish me if they ever notice me using a product from a company that isn't google, and there will be no way for me to get my score fixed if google doesn't want to do so.

But these aren't really two very different options. A small group of CEOs, vs a small group of government officials are still two very small groups of very powerful, rich people, who are designing a system to judge the lives of people completely unlike their own. It is an extreme amount of power given to a small group of people with very little accountability, huge potential for corruption, and who will have very limited understanding of the impact their decisions will make on everyone else.

> I guess in the end it always falls back to prevent power from centralizing as best as possible.

Yeah, this is really the answer, right here.

Why does the choice need to be designed by a small group of CEOs, or a small group of government officials at all?

Why not let the people themselves decide what behaviors are good and bad? Do we really think people don't know the difference between what behaviors they like and do not like in their community? Do we really think people are unaware of the good things and problems in their own lives and towns?

Why not publish the rules for everyone to see? And let everyone see for themselves what they did that resulted in positive and negative scores? Wouldn't that be more effective to encourage people to live better lives?

Why not go even further? Why not federalize the entire program, and let people decide on what should be considered good and bad, and how strongly for each, on a local level by the people who will be impacted themselves? Let each town and city decide? And require each town and city to set up a court of some sort, where people who feel they have been treated unfairly can complain and potentially get their score changed?

If you did something like that, people would be more likely to use the program (as opposed to trying to outsmart or game the program) because they would understand it, and they would feel ownership of it. It would be more likely to reflect the realities of life. I guarantee you the reward / punishment levels would be very different than what a CEO or government official would think of isolated in their ivory tower, and as a result it would likely be much more effective for the people involved. But most importantly, a system like this would ensure that a mean CEO or government official wasn't putting rules in the app that were unfair or hurt good people. It would ensure that a CEO couldn't put in a rule that punished people for using other products, and would stop a government official from adding a rule that punished anyone caught reading a news story that reported on the government official stealing from the public, as examples.

To be clear, I am not saying that the above questions are definitively correct answers. The social credit system is a very specific example, and is a very complex topic, and we are discussing it in very basic terms. Furthermore I am absolutely not an expert in China, or the program, at all. But the general concepts we've talked about here are good rules of thumb that do generally hold true for all social and governmental programs. Its basic power dynamics. So I hope this answered your question, and explained the general concept a bit better : )


I suggest you read up on Chinese "solutions" to unrest in Xinjiang. I doubt things like having security checkpoints every 300 meters are viable in non-totalitarian countries.


All the "solutions" you listed are broken and don't work, it's not because it's different that it's better.

Current system might be flawed but China's is even worse.


Whoa, hang on there, let's look at it from the other side.

China chooses band-aid problems over fixing what are extremely complex socio-economic, ethnic dynamics that arose out of a swim-or-drown capitalist system that doesn't offer the usual safety nets found in Western democracies, such as enforcement of regulations and law and more importantly lobbying or "legalized and public bribes".

But the main difference between the West and China is human rights. Note that the West is not exactly innocent here, the concept took a long time to mature. I do have hope for countries like South Korea, which appear to be headed in the right direction.

It's amazing how a simple, fundamental differences about how a human being should be treated between these two cultures can produce such drastically different outcomes.

They can ignore human rights because they can't afford not to.

They can ignore infrastructure problems since they don't care about human rights and no consequences for ignoring legal opposition, because why would you care about the oppositions whining about human rights when there are no consequences?

They can't keep printing money forever because of inflation, no country is immune, this is just the laws of physics. They can do it now because they simply don't care about what happens to the Chinese citizens in the future, and they certainly don't care about their children's children.

China is going backwards, instead of democracy, they chose authoritarianism, well because of Winnie the Pooh decided he would be the new Mao.

Democracy is a long and arduous path, but it is ultimately what a lot of Western countries have gone through, and some new democracies like South Korea are currently going through.

Looking at China today is like looking at America in the 1800s and early to mid 1900s, when the industrial revolution started happening, and they didn't give a shit about letting women and kids work in dangerous factory conditions. They also imported a bunch of humans like commodities....they interned Japanese Americans like Uhigurs...horrible horrible shit

If it were not for the Founding Fathers of the US constitution, and the subsequent descendants iron will to uphold that constitution it wouldn't be where it is today....but I fear that this will not always be the case, and the US can easily snap into authoritarianism....just watch Vice and Unitary executive theory....it's so easy to make up new legal jargon to centralize power to a single individual.


You can clear your name by doing "good deeds" and restore your government-approved reputation, allowing you to ride trains and you know, be human


Good Deeds? Basically unpaid labor?


Is it much different than having to do community service for a misdemeanor? I would think disorderly conduct or public drunkenness are similar to some of these social credit deductions.

*I do not agree with social credit just attempting to draw comparisons to the US.


There are little community watch ladies who walk around communities of about ~20,000 people and keep tabs on exceptionally good or kind hearted deeds. Example, man loses wallet and the janitor returns it with no money removed. He gets points for returning it and his face on the neighborhood praise wall. Then the guy who got his wallet back makes a banner celebrating the janitor and his photo is also featured on the praise wall. Another man's identity was mistakenly affected by a point deduction and he spent months doing simple small good deeds to earn his right to ride (buy a ticket for) the high speed trains again. Any native Chinese person interviewed about it must necessarily praise the system due to their regime, so I wish all the "interviews" would halt.


Deeds deemed good by the CCP.


Sensationalization aside, imagine, everyday, you have to interact with hundreds of people and have a million strangers passing in front of you. If you've taken BART or VTA in Bay Area, imagine the amount of people is 100 times bigger. Your chance of running into an a*hole is super high, what would you do about it?


Through influence and money China can impose social credit on foreigners or businesses. You did talk shit about CCP or China ? You can say adieu to your license or ability to do joint ventures in China.


Dude.. People are literally paying the government money (tax) to have them brainwashed.

Society in 2019 sure as hell is fun..


Please don't post unsubstantive comments like this in tinderbox threads. We don't learn anything and just get riled up.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


OK ok... Sorry.


Well. I live in authoritarian country (which I'm not proud of). I do pay taxes. I know there's a lot of brainwashing in mass media (which I don't listen to). Corruption is everywhere. Any opposition activity is suppressed by government hard enough. You need some balls to organize an event (most likely organizer will end up in prison for at least a few weeks afterwards). Even though I don't really want to relocate at this point (might sound crazy, and I'm already not sure for how long I won't change my mind).

So. What are my options, so it won't be as hell is fun?


I'm sorry. That sounds terrible. I think many are too quick to just say "move somewhere else!" without thinking through all the economic, social, familial, cultural, and legal ties that bind us to a place. Not to mention the fact that societies generally only improve because of the efforts of the population who determines they should stay and fight rather than flee. But I can't blame anyone for taking either of those paths, or even just keeping their head down and trying to muddle along. No easy answers.


Whoever is governing has always had the opportunity to influence others, because whatever media of the time reports in some way about what is happening at the governing levels of society.

This is not a 2019 problem.


While I agree, I think it's getting worst globally. Canada, for example, now has a $600 million budget item dedicated to "helping the media".

There is no amount of process, bureaucracy, or impartiality that makes me think this doesn't change how journalists report about the government, even if it's unconscious.


The scale, ease, speed and reach of the tools for media manipulation in 2019 is very scary compared to those in the past. And it is only going to get worse. Russia is said to have spent very little money in meddling with other countries' elections using the media, for a fantastic ROI. This wasn't possible in the past.


Yes. Streamlining communication doesn't always bring benefits. We need to sort something out that works when everything is instant.


That's some next level dystopian stuff there.


For those interested in what can happen, I'd recommend watching Psycho-Pass [0], which revolves entirely around a civilization with citizen score. Good stuff happens (nobody locks their homes anymore), but potential criminals are taken out with no form of judgement whatsoever (à la Minority Report).

Edit: and also, shorter and not any less scary, that one episode of Black Mirror [1]

[0] https://myanimelist.net/anime/13601/psycho-pass

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nosedive_(Black_Mirror)


There was a similar theme in an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation [1]. They visited what appeared to be a utopian planet with everyone dressed in skimpy outfits, landscape was beautiful, people were super friendly. The ships chief medical officers son Wesley tripped over a small fence around a garden after convincing other teenagers to play catch and guards showed up to euthanize him for breaking the rules.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice_(Star_Trek:_The_Next_G...


Forgot to add the link to the scene [2]

[2] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfqa596xxbc


Great show in general, but it might not be a good start for someone who is not familiar with anime.


I'm curious how this is worse then what the United States does, for example. Nearly all the "crimes" listed here can be punished with jail in the U.S., which is obviously way worse, and far more violent.


"Social credit offences range from [...] to spreading false information" - this is what it's really about. Force citizens to spread government propaganda and make it impossible to challenge those in power.


The United States also maintains a secret list of persons banned from air travel.

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


Is it a crime to use VPN and encrypt internet traffic in the US? Is it a crime to criticize the political party in power?


> Is it a crime to criticize the political party in power?

In most of the western united states, you can be ostracized for supporting the current federal govt.


You think your peers not respecting your political stance is the same as the government putting you in prison for criticizing them?


I don't think this is such a bad idea in principle, but I disagree with a lot of these rules. I've tried to find a few examples from various articles and see if I agree or disagree with them.

Note: [𝗫] means that I agree with the rule.

----------------

[] Spending too long playing video games (or watching too much TV)

I don't know how long is "too long", but I wouldn't criticize anyone for playing in the evenings after work, or longer on the weekends. And what if someone is or unable to work, or financially independent? The government shouldn't be telling people how to spend their time.

[] Wasting money on frivolous purchases

This is a very strange thing to measure and judge.

[] Posting on social media

This is bizarre.

[𝗫] Trying to ride a train with no ticket

[𝗫] Loitering in front of boarding gates

[𝗫] Smoking in no-smoking areas.

[] People who refused military service

Forced conscription is an awful idea and should be banned by the UN. (I found this [1].)

[𝗫] "Pet owners get points deducted if the dog is walked without a leash..."

[] "... or causes public disturbances"

I don't know about that. Don't penalize someone because their dog starts barking at something.

[𝗫] Some crimes, like fraud and embezzlement, would also have a big effect on social credit.

[𝗫] Not paying individual taxes or fines.

[𝗫 in a western country, but not in China] - Spreading false information

I wouldn't trust the Chinese government to enforce this. Maybe in Canada, US, UK, Aus, NZ.

Taking drugs: 𝗫 for all Class A drugs, but not for marijuana, ecstacy, LSD, mushrooms, etc.

----------------

I'm assuming that the following criteria exist, although I didn't find anything online:

[] Using a VPN to get past the Great Firewall

I truly don't understand why China feels the need for censorship and blocking websites with the Great Firewall. It just doesn't make any sense to me. It's not like the rest of the world has fallen into anarchy because we can say whatever we want.

[𝗫] Downloading pirated movies, music, games, and software

I'm thinking about this from a western point of view, where we have access to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Google Play, iTunes, etc. There's no valid reason to torrent things anymore. People should be able to afford to rent movies or TV shows instead of pirating them.

[] Organizing a pro-democracy rally / protesting communism

It's just strange that people get in trouble for this, and I presume that they lose a lot of their social credit points.

[] Practicing Islam, Christianity, Falun Gong

I think this is the far more dystopian side of China, and far more terrible than the social credit system.

[] Referring to Xi Jinping as Winnie the Pooh

It just doesn't seem like such a big deal. Same for the Erdogan / Gollum picture. These people just need to lighten up and take a joke. (But I understand it's a different culture.)

[] Taking big risks to start a new company

I still can't believe that entrepreneurship was illegal in the Soviet Union. I would like to learn more about the history of entrepreneurship in China, but I believe it's very accepted now, especially in cities like Shenzhen. I included this because I feel like everyone would be expected to go to university, get a good job, and have a peaceful life, and you might lose some social credit if you veer off that path. That's definitely not a world I want to live in.

[] Relationship problems, divorce, infidelity

Should have nothing to do with the government.

----------------

Anyway, I think the social credit system could work in a better country with better laws. My main problem with China is the terrible human rights violations, lack of free speech, censorship, and no freedom of religion.

[1] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/RuleOfLaw/Pages/Conscientiou...


There will always be something you disagree with in granular 'social credit' system like this. We already have the justice system to disincentive bad behavior. All of the things you agreed with already have some sort of punishment in many places.

cat199 25 days ago [flagged]

robotpeople's republic of china


We've asked you before to please stop trolling. We eventually ban accounts, so could you please review the guidelines and stop?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


get that this was not a good post. apologies. will be more cognizant of guidelines, which i was not before.

that said, not a troller or a troll account.

is there any metaprocess here for reviewing flags and/or flagging a bad flag?

(which, to be clear, i'm not saying this is, and infact, the contrary)

4+ pages of comment review doesn't show me any 'ask before', and I'd hate to get mis-banned by being too irritable in an actually better/on topic/etc post.. (which, to be clear this isn't)


[flagged]


> Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


The US already has the infamous Terrorist Watch List and No Fly List. George W. Bush created that 20 years ago.

There are differences like the watch list is only 2m while the china travel ban is 23m, and the purpose differ quite a bit, but for an individual on either list it is supposedly hard to get out of or know why you got put there in the first place.


There’s a population difference though that brings this factor down a bit.


Note that China is 5 times more populated, so this comparison is not entirely fair.


trump? really?

pretty sure polarizing and biased shutdown of opposing opinions is prevalent on all sides, and mizz pelosi does control the house these days..


You’re really gonna go with “both sides are bad”, huh?


sure am. prove me wrong.

also, you presume there are only 2 sides, when in fact this is not a 1 dimensional topic. however, duopoly polarizes debate, which is my point.




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