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[dupe] China bars millions from travel for 'social credit' offenses (apnews.com)
55 points by metaphysics 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments



Previously (23 hours ago, 144 points, over 180 comments): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19281192


It's going to be interesting over the next 10 years to see the outcomes of these experiments in terms of long term behavior change in the population. It's a good time to be a social psychologist in China.


Unless you have something to say that contradicts party ideology. Then you might lose your ability to travel.


Eventually, these policies will eliminate their ability to innovate and advance.


That sounds like wishful thinking. The US certainly does soft punishment of dissidents and doesn't seem to hurt itself much on the innovation front. I mean, innovation is definitely lower than before, but still better than everyone else.


What do you mean by soft punishment? The United States is a great place to be a dissident. Dissident behavior is kind of expected, and historically, they’ve been iconified.


No, actually, other than something like the communist film writers of the 1950s (who obviously had a better publicity department than most), most American dissidents have been forgotten.

Soft punishment means you don't let them get jobs doing what they're good at. Like commie writers in the 50s.


It’s never an easy life to be a radical against the establishment. But, there’s plenty of tolerance for such behavior (especially if the behavior is non-violent). Even during 50s. McCarthyism was a knee jerk reaction to the Cold War. And, it was quickly rectified.

Our culture encourages thinking differently and speaking out - just consider our history of music, literature, film, comedy, political dissent, etc.


I dunno, sounds like happy talk to me. It's definitely part of the english speaking people's self conception that "thinking different and speaking out" is encouraged, but it really isn't any more than in any other society.

Consider the Comstocks, the people who were against US entry into WW-1, the "brown scare" which started the HUAC, people who are presently against various wars in the middle east (denounced as "racists" or "Russian sock puppets"), or various recent coups and attempts at such (ditto); these people were and are squashed fairly mercilessly by the establishment. The actual bounds of allowable discussion are narrow and strictly enforced. Hell, US persists in passing anti-BDS laws that are obviously and egregiously unconstitutional, and the British throw people in prison for saying things ... on FB.

It's a kinder, gentler system than used by the Chinese, but the end result isn't any different.


I’ll admit that I’m probably biased, and I haven’t had enough experience living outside of the US to have gained a different perspective.

But, now I’m curious. Which countries are currently and historically known for being tolerant and accepting of dissent? Honest question - I’ve been considering retirement lately, and I’m up for a new adventure.


If I had to rank them, I think Iceland is the most tolerant country. Assuming you know how to use the Icelandic-correct way to use Sauna and the Hot tub. Generally speaking I think smaller countries are better for this; dissent becomes a judgement on a personal level which is almost always more generous than on a societal level. In Iceland I heard many times, "I knew Bobby Fischer, he was a nice man." In America we still think of him as some kind of demon because ... I dunno, he said things I guess. Reality was he didn't bother anyone which is more than you can say for virtually any US politicians.

Personally I don't look at things this "what is most tolerant" way. You don't pick the country which is tolerant and accepting of dissent: this is a futile exercise. You pick the country which best fits your views.


This is definitely one of strengths of American culture. I had a long conversation with my grandfather about it a while back. He studied and worked in the US during the 40s and 50s. While I did my MS and worked there just a few years ago.

Both of us agreed that people aren't afraid to question things or think different. Whether it is to a prof or a boss or an authority figure. It's not just a lack of fear, but people are encouraged and expected to speak and respected when they do it.

The internet/consumerism and the media have taken those strengths to an extreme is what I feel is happening today. That hopefully will correct itself as you pointed out as with McCarthyism.


> good time to be a social psychologist in China

Are you sure about the good time?


This is a weird article. It mentions in passing that implementation of a nationwide system is only planned for 2020 without concrete details yet, but otherwise pretends as if the blacklists, the experimental credit scores and the internment camps in Xinjiang are all part of a single "social credit system".

But the government doesn't need to know someone's credit history to determine whether they are Uyghur, and forcing people to pay their outstanding fines before they can buy plane tickets doesn't need a complex score either. Those factors would probably influence the social credit score once it gets implemented, but so far they're really separate systems.

Edited to add: a lot of people here are hung up on the idea that if your friends have a low score, you'll be pulled down with them and end up unable to buy a plane ticket. But to include someone on the travel blacklist, a judge needs to order it. That judge is still required to do the Party's bidding, so don't expect a fair trial; but it's not like there's an automatic system doling out travel bans for minor violations.


They're planning on rolling out the system nation-wide in 2020 and making it obligatory, and nobody knows how exactly that system will look like.

However, there's over a dozen of local projects already in place, whose participation is voluntary (Honest Shanghai[0] is one of them). Offer a couple of gift cards and cheaper rental cars and there's your test group.

It is a commonly-accepted opinion in China that if you commit a crime in a city X, you shouldn't be able to go to city Y and repeat the same crime. Limiting the movement of "criminals" is how you achieve that goal. There are other techniques as well, like naming-and-shaming "offenders" on public billboards in their neighborhoods.

[0] Some screenshots and a bit of details available here: https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1554/new-app-rates-shanghai-c...


With the offer of rewards I can see a similar scheme becoming popular in Western countries too. I expect it would have a large overlap in users with Facebook.

It is possible to argue that we already have an informal social enforcement scheme, with people having lost jobs and being doxxed because of saying the wrong thing on social media.


Honestly I hate how dystopian and alien Western publications make China’s social credit system when our actual credit system (Equifax/Experian/Transunion) bars millions of people from getting a cell phone, renting apartments, even getting a job (why is it even legal or useful for an employer to check your credit?!).

Point is, preventing people from access to communication, housing, and employment because of nonexistent or bad credit is much more dystopian than not being able to buy a plane ticket.


There's a world of difference between "this person has a track record of not paying their bills, so exercise caution before lending" and "this person was observed reading subversive literature, so don't let him leave the country".

I agree that pre-employment credit checks seem unhelpful for most lines of work (but consider: do you think a bank should be happy to employ a sysadmin with massive gambling debts?), but I have my doubts that every employer does them as you imply.


More importantly, citizens of USA can sue the government and challenge the ban in court. If it gets escalated to Supreme Court, it has major lasting impact forever and cannot be appealed by Legislative or Executive branches.

Try doing that in China.

This argument of credit system of USA vs China’s social credit system is put forth ad-nauseam and it shows a completely negligence and understanding of both, Chinese and American systems of law and order.


You can still buy a phone with cash or prepay. the only jobs I have ever seen restricted by your credit history are those with access to cash or government jobs requiring a security clearance; worked for a rent-a-cop company and our government positioned guards were in some cases off the job for most misdemeanors.

Renting, wholly up to the renter but most rely on the deposit and no violent criminal history. Some rentals now even maintain the utilities which actually makes it easier for those with poor credit to move in. The deposits required if you have shorted a public utility can be severe when starting new service.

Now with regards to this I have to ask, why should someone renting a home not be allowed to question the renters ability or willingness to pay the rent?

Now, China's system would basically be the equivalent in the US of losing your driving license on top of the ability to travel through most public venues requiring and id, all done at the behest of the government and not individuals. That is is pure dystopian/1984 style oppression. Hell, that is, here, wear a yellow star type stuff and needs to be stomped out


From my understanding, China’s system is actually similar, just that the media makes it more dystopian.

These are for wealthy debtors that refuse to pay. And they are only barred from the high speed rail and not regular trains.

The idea is to force them to pay fines that they can easily pay, but refuse too. Once paid, their credit score can start building up again.


In fact, it’s much worse than what media portrays. Chinese media has no spine and there is no such thing as free press in China. What you hear from outside media is a small glimpse of a rising dystopian one party system.

See the following article for a detailed analysis of the credit score system and its ramifications: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/08/business/china-surveillan...


Managing risk is important for business owners. It is extremely expensive to remove a tenant who stops paying. For a small landlord, it can be devastating. Also, for an employer that has a significant investment of capital in physical inventory, intellectual property, public reputation, etc., a poor hire can destroy a business. What does China have to lose by preventing someone from flying? It sounds like it is used for social engineering and stemming political dissent, which is creepy.


Preventing people from buying a plane ticket sounds worse IMO. At least some argument could be made to support preventing people with bad credit from buying on that credit. Preventing people from leaving is scary.

I do agree that there’s almost no justification for credit score being used to determine employment.


Every time I see one of these "but actually America is the real dystopia" comments I remind myself that in the USA the government won't kidnap you to secretly execute you and harvest your organs.


Because as a lender I don't want to give someone money to buy xyz when they have a history of not making their payments. I don't think this analogy works.


Still I think part of the problem is that you can't opt out. If I wanted opt out and you tried to look me up and it said no info. Well that means you as a lender then choose to not lend the money or just assume highest risk or limit risk by loaning only smaller amount.

People should be able to opt out.


What you're describing as an opt-out is really a gag order to prevent businesses from disclosing your misdeeds. Why should you be able to prevent others from saying true things about you?


Not arguing either way, but to answer

>Why should you be able to prevent others from saying true things about you?

The obvious reason is privacy. Misdeed is subjective and the aggressive broadcasting of supposed misdeeds can be a conformist beating stick. Literal truth is a low standard for determining whether something should be said. Personally, I think Buddha's heuristic is pretty useful:

When determining whether you should say something,

Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it honest? Does it improve upon the silence?


It's not even close to being the same.

Your US credit score is an assessment of your risk to potential lenders based on different factors. The alternative is that only rich people get credit, because they most likely will pay it back...which used to be the case 30+ years ago.

Every person I know with terrible credit has access to all of the things you mentioned.

China's system is based on things like your friends and your opinions of the government and is just a way to control the people.

It's also mandated by the government. Last I checked, Equifax can't put me in jail for a bad credit score.

Totally different and scary.


On my first long trip to the US in 2001 I couldn't buy a simcard because I didn't have a credit history. A prepaid plan btw.

"How do I get a credit history if I just landed?"

"Well here's a free credit card application. We'll give you a credit card immediately. Run around the mall and buy some stuff."

Which I had to do.

Weird country.


> couldn't buy a simcard because I didn't have a credit history. A prepaid plan btw.

Maybe this was a 2001 thing, but you definitely do not need a credit check for prepaid plans. Maybe you were also financing your phone?

>"Well here's a free credit card application. We'll give you a credit card immediately. Run around the mall and buy some stuff."

This sounds suspect as well. I've seen in store applications, but they never give out cards to use on the spot. Also, I highly doubt that they would give a credit card to a non-resident with no credit history.


This is not how America operates and I don’t believe your story.

Credit Cards cannot be obtained immediately. Getting an application - yes, getting a Credit Card - no.

Also, there is never been a requirement for credit history to obtain a prepaid SIM card. I’m 100% sure that you’re mistaking with a postpaid SIM card.


I think you may have been scammed or taken advantage of by an individual and is not a good experience for judging how the US works.

Prepaid sims (and entire phones) could be bought in cash back in 2001.

Also credit history is not in real time, so any purchases made while running around the mall would not be reflected that day for credit application purchases.


I walked into a T-Mobile store with my Mexican visitor and he bought a Sim card instantly first day off the plane


"U.S. Vice President Mike Pence criticized it in October as 'an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life.'"

Americans forget we have our own "social credit" system, and I'm not convinced China's is any worse than ours. Want to sign up for TSA Pre-check? Certify you're not a convicted felon, otherwise you're ineligible.

Want to coach little league? Background check. Rent an apartment? Background check. Get a job? Background check.

Want to vote? Depending on the state, you can be imprisoned if you've been convicted of something (i.e. low social credit score).

And, finally, if you're a defendant, if the other side wants to dig out every little secret they can find and trot it out before the judge, jury, and/or public, expect a ding to your social credit for every matter they bring up, in terms of the outcome you receive.

Before we point out the sawdust in China's eye, we should acknowledge the plank in our own.


There is a speck of truth to what you say but I think you are conflating things. There is a difference between keeping convicted pedophiles away from children and suspecting terrorists off airplanes and the other checks you list. A lot of the things you cite aren't even government checks but financial risk assessments of businesses.

Having a friend that tweets anti-government thoughts shouldn't mean you can't take the train. Drinking alcohol shouldn't prohibit you from applying for a government job. Playing too much video games shouldn't mean you can't leave leave your town. A lot of the information about this system and its rollout is hard to get accurate facts about since everyone on both sides is most interested in sensationalism. I've never seen any information about if you can ever improve your social score. Even people who commit crimes have the about to do their time and work to start over. People need 2nd chances.


I'm not arguing for or against this - however I'd feel significantly more comfortable and at ease for the safety of China's citizens of such programs if there wasn't also their layer of censorship.

Re: Downvotes - I'm really curious how you're all comprehending what I said as a negative? Do you think the censorship isn't a worse component of China's systems? Or are you projecting and think I'm saying more than that? I'm sure I'll be downvoted further because of how uncivil having a system of downvotes actually is - lazy and doesn't allow or promote civil conversation, just promotes someone being able to get a dopamine reward by clicking a down arrow instead of digging deep into understanding their feelings and putting them into language, developing critical thinking, and if the impulse isn't strong enough then you just won't comment - perhaps better off for everyone if you haven't put enough thought into it yourself - or maybe you'll even share a perspective or reasoning or point out that my wording wasn't as accurate as I meant.


I am not sure I could ever advocate the restriction of the right of movement on "unsocial behavior/associations". That generally only happens to people on parole who have committed actual crimes. Censorship just makes this even worse...

So I don't see how you can be so neutral on this. Honestly, a lot things from what I have read this evaluates should never be in the purview of any government.


I didn't say I'm neutral - I simply said I'm not arguing for against it with the statement to follow; I didn't want to put a weight one way or the other of my thoughts/feelings relating to the "social credit" system, in part because I'm not familiar enough with it.

Also, wasn't me who downvoted you.


Okay how would you feel if your score went down because someone you knew was "sketchy" (may just be the beliefs) to this system. Like this has made people cut ties with other people.


It's not good. That's what natural trust networks are meant for, and developing your own skill to protecting yourself, your family, the circle of people for whom you bring or consider within your circle - of whom you associate with hopefully without external pressure, although it certainly happens because of bias or vested interests.

It shows a lack of integrity of the individual, and is a slippery and dangerous slope as Hitler and and the SS would want or require you to report your neighbours, etc - and it sounds like this is all without due process. If the Chinese people knew this literature, this history: I don't know if they do know, or what version they know, or if they know the similarities between what China is doing and what Nazi Germany did - which is where the grave concern for the system/layer of censorship is what I pointed out.

I do have compassion and understand that if merely associating with someone with a "low social credit" brings your own credit score down, that based on if people do indeed know and are quiet about not talking negatively about government, then they may be doing so to protect themselves. They won't however know then if they distance themselves from these people what happens to them, if they are taken off in trains to "rehabilitation camps" for "rehabilitation" or murder.


> restriction of the right of movement on "unsocial behavior/associations"

denying someone's access to tax funded public transport (airports/train stations in this case) as a result of his/her refusal to pay tax is now considered as "restriction of the right of movement"?


The score takes more into account than just taxes. Plus usually tax problems in the US only become criminal if you refuse to rectify them.

Also while it is china we are talking about, the bulk of those are plane ticket, and the some of it probably privatized with government over site. Not exactly public funded. caveat being I don't entirely know how this structured in china and could entirely be publicly funded.

Like this is government literally saying you can't purchase the means to travel. I am not sure how that is not interfering with freedom of movement.

if it was you can't use public funded plains and trains that might be little different.

Still a lot the things this score considers should never be in the purview of any government.


> Like this is government literally saying you can't purchase the means to travel. I am not sure how that is not interfering with freedom of movement.

No, they never stop you from walking/riding a bicycle/driving your own car/hiring a taxi/swim across the ocean.


Generally, buying a plane ticket is the same category as a taxi.

This also like saying can't buy/rent a car/bike.




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