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WeChat and the Surveillance State (bbc.com)
401 points by Markoff 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 255 comments

I was explaining what it's like to live in China to someone and it's like explaining a dystopian cyberpunk novel, but with a level of surrealism and just plain absurdity. A Gibson novel filtered through some Philip K. Dick. You have a gigantic surveillance state with unprecedented reach and control...banning people from referencing a cartoon bear. You have a society with an extremely sophisticated cashless economy——beggars will take WeChat Pay——yet no clean water and horrible pollution.

Maybe it's because in reality cashless is easy compared to clean water and no pollution for masses?

Cashless is also not desired by Americans, many of whom like cash. Stores are fine with taking it (no transaction fees after all), there are zero privacy concerns, and counterfeiting is not really a problem.

Cash doesn't have direct transaction costs, but:

- it needs to be manually reconciled at the start/end of each shift

- staff can steal it

- robbers can steal it

- it takes time to count out change (and to ensure you have enough small bills and coins)

- it takes time to deposit it at the bank

- it costs money to deposit it at the bank (even if Walmart is ok accepting cash for an iPad, I'm guessing Apple requires Walmart to pay by bank transfer)

I'm not sure about the US situation but, the last time I checked, UK banks charged 0.3%-0.5% for accepting a cash deposit from a business customer.

Yes, cash can be stolen, but cards are much more dangerous to your privacy: bank knows where you go and what you buy, it can sell this information to anyone (of course, with hashing your phone number with military-grade algorithm to protect your personal data), shops know who you are and can exchange information about your purchases along with model of your face taken by the camera at the register, MAC address of your phone's WiFi module and car plate number (of course hashed with military-grade algorithm to protect your privacy).

Also, in some countries it is very easy to lock person's bank account even without a trial, for example if person is suspected in financing terrorist or extremist organisation.

Also new cards have RFID chip in it and it can be used for example to get information about people going through the doors.

'Some countries' meaning Russia

Square recently released an infographic that supports this:


(I work for square but wasn’t involved with this project)

Never understood that. Living in the UK for example you never have to cary bills. Light wallet, so much more practical, I hate places that only accept cash.

What if every store accepted both cash and cards?

I'd be fine with this as long as you don't have to pay a fee if you're not paying cash (which is often a thing for small shops).

Unfortunately this is not the world we're living in :) it's often both cash and cards OR just cash. Berlin is a really good example of that, you always need cash on you which tricks the many tourists who come from countries were cash is not really a thing anymore.

The credit card companies make the merchant pay a fee for using credit cards - so it's not the shop's fault. That's another reason why cash is alive in America.

The bigger reason is to avoid taxes. If it’s paid with card, taxes have to be paid, and with cash, the merchant can make an extra 30%+ by not declaring it.

Cashless means lack of tracking. Naturally, a surveillance state wants a non-cash society.

I met a guy who said he lived in Shenzhen a while, and said that J-walking would get you an automatic deduction from your wechat pay account, assuming you were in front of a camera.

Let me turn that around for you. Would you like it if people who turned or changed lanes without indicating were reliably and automatically fined? Because I sure would.

The law is the law. If it's a good law, then its efficient, universal, automatic enforcement should be a good thing. If not - then it's the law that needs to be changed. You're complaining about the enforcement - but what you actually don't like is the law itself.

Hell, maybe efficient and automatic enforcement will force us to confront bad laws, rather than relying on discretion at the enforcement stage to water them down tolerably. Better they not be on the books at all.

No I would not like that automatic fine. In theory okay, but in reality it's foolish to separate enforcement from what is being enforced. Moxie explained this well. In short, good luck changing that law.


There is a position between yours and sho's.

Sure, if every federal crime were enforced through automatic fines, this could be a mess due to the complexity of the law.

But what's your objection to a fine for changing lanes without indicating?

I had no objection to that fine. I had an objection to the an automatic mechanism to do it, or to perfectly enforce any law, no matter how trivial, Simply because these kinds of things don't happen in a vacuum; the mechanisms built toward these ends will not be limited to being used toward that one end. For example maybe there's cameras everywhere to enforce this law. But then there's cameras everywhere. I highly recommend that article I linked if you have not read.

Edit 1: I realized what you meant with your question so disregard the first sentence. Edit 2: Also, it's worth stating that it follows that these concerns are completely independent of the complexity of the law.

What if someone were to devise a mechanism to detect and prosecute people changing lanes without indicating, with the following properties?

- perfect accuracy (no FP; no FN)

- automated enforcement via a fine, without knowing the identity of the perpetrator (just assume it's possible; I know it's hard)

- no potential for the device or underlying technology to be used or repurposed for any other form of surveillance or enforcement

Would such a system (and automated enforcement) be OK?

> Would such a system (and automated enforcement) be OK?

Yes. But as you pointed out, `automated enforcement via a fine, without knowing the identity of the perpetrator` is hard.

And as others have pointed out, Point 1 and Point 3 are also difficult to accomplish.

Question for you is, are you okay for the government to roll out a mechanism to detect and prosecute people changing lanes without giving you any guarantee of respecting the 3 points you mentioned above?

If your answer is no, you are not okay with it, then we are all on the same side.

If your answer is yes, then you should read the article above by moxie (very interesting article)

We mostly agree.

I'd be happy to compromise a bit on point 1. I could accept a high (20%) false negative rate. If the fine were small enough then I'd be OK with a small number of false positives (as long as they're randomly distributed, not hammering one person who happens to live near a faulty camera).

I wouldn't want to compromise on point 2 or 3, particularly for this example (catching impolite drivers).

But what if the example were about a highly accurate system for detecting kidnappers or people traffickers or something? It seems harder for me to argue against enforcement on the grounds of privacy or slippery slope.

> what if the example were about a highly accurate system for detecting kidnappers or people traffickers or something?

That is always the argument for total surveillance state. In Singapore, crime rates are close to 0, but to be effective it means no privacy and everybody is monitored. I'm not okay with this.

What about unique circumstances? Say a child or an animal ran out in the road and you changed lanes to avoid them but didn't have time to signal. Or any one of a hundred of these unique but not uncommon situations.

Would there be a mechanism in place to remove your fines and points? Would that system be automated? Would it be susceptible to lying? How long would it take to get the record corrected? Would the effort cost more than the fine?

Just from a technical/automated point of view, removing the moral and societal aspects, the real world is currently just way to complex and ambiguous to automate things like this.

With perfect enforcement, the fine could be small enough (e.g. $2) to be insignificant for most of us (maybe I need to swerve around an animal once per year) but significant enough to deter persistent offenders (who would rack up $20 in fines per journey).

what about someone making $50 / day? Lets imagine you are making just enough to get by and now government wants to roll out an automatic way to take money from your account for minor infractions. How unhappy would you be?

Also on a side note: "...the fine could be small enough (e.g. $2) to be insignificant for most of us..." -> I once said something like that to someone and he pointed out that statements like that was very hurtful to hear, especially coming from someone who does not understand his financial struggles.

No. It would only be ok if we rework the whole idea of law, base it not in tradition, but perfect rationality and objectiveness. Consider this: i change lanes at 2 a.m. on an empty road. There's no objective need to signal. I get fined for not signalling. I do 50 in a 30 zone (because there's a school nearby) at the same time. I get fined even though there's no objective reason for it. And these are simple examples, if we get to complex cases of, let's say, self defense, it opens up a major can of worms.

In your first example, you could just change your behaviour to signal even when you think no one is around (as I do).

Your second example (speeding) doesn't incur a fine because in this hypothetical example the automated enforcement is only used for signalling violations.

For your third example (self defence), maybe you are forced to change lanes without signalling. How often? Once per year? What if the fine were $2, and people like you had to pay it once per year, but people who persistently refuse to signal end up paying 1000s of $2 fines per year?

Seems like a reasonable trade-off.

In the first example, the idea is that the primary function of blinkers is to convey information. The law makes it mandatory to transmit that information with presumption that the information will be processed by human beings you are sharing the road with. If there are no humans around, the transmission of this information is meaningless and therefore should not be mandatory. If the road is used by autonomous vehicles which transmit information about their paths via radiowaves, signalling could be obsolete as well. The most important part in law is the underlying idea of the social agreement which is being enforced by it and reasonabless of the law (and enforcement).

My point is that by automating fine dispensaries, you are subversing the underlying idea itself (automatron can't know what or why is it enforcing) and reasonability.

Maybe, but I expect such a thing is unrealistic enough to not really be worth spending energy discussing. In the same way that exploring "what if state actors were totally benevolent and always would be" wouldn't really be fruitful. I'm not even an anti-government person or whatever; it's just realpolitik.

I totally agree with the article you linked? Bad, overreaching laws, discretionally enforced, are a very bad thing and open the door to huge abuses of power?

You sound like you think you're arguing with me but I agree!

I doubt GP is complaining about the law itself. The question is always more about humans, systems, corruption, and power. Omnipresent surveillance is incredibly powerful, frighteningly so. And we all know human systems are corrupted over time. The question is, can an all powerful corrupt human system be overturned?

I'd like it if cars would take less space, and would give the right of way to pedestrians jay walking anywhere. Fuck cars.

Oh come on. Pollution is highly localised. Yeah, there's a few bad cities but it's a big place and 99% of it is fine. And no clean water, really? That will be news to the billion plus inhabitants who haven't realised they're dead yet from lack of clean water, sixth sense style.

Nit picking aside - that surveillance state is maybe 5 years ahead of the west. I'm continually amazed that western governments have allowed strongly encrypted private communications to become a thing, even an expectation - this is totally unprecedented and a radical upset to the balance of power between the state and its citizens. I expect it's only a matter of time before strong end to end encryption is totally banned in the west, too.

How many native Chinese do you know who drink tap water? Almost all I know either drink bottled water or only hot, boiled tap water.

As for pollution, only 84 out of 338 cities reached the national standard for air quality [1]. That's not exactly "a few bad cities". The government has been working on improving it, but they still have a long way to go.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollution_in_China#Air_polluti...

> Almost all I know either drink bottled water or only hot, boiled tap water

100% of them drink boiled tap water. But isn't this proving my point? Not like it's poisoned with heavy metals?

As for pollution, of course they have a long way to go, but the dystopian picture you paint is hardly fair. It's not perfect but you make it sound like Blade Runner 2049. It's not. I live in Bangkok right now and it is WAY worse than Shenzhen or Shanghai. But I never hear Thailand invoked in one of these "pollution hell" threads.

Look, what you said isn't technically incorrect but your level of hyperbole irked me. I always come across as defending China or something in these threads but I'm not really, I just want it to be fact based. China is not THAT bad. Yes, I know a lot of Chinese people, and they express no pressing desire to leave. It is very far from the worst place on earth to live.

> 100% of them drink boiled tap water. But isn't this proving my point?

No, it's exactly disproving your point, or at least strong evidence against it. To be explicit: if 100% drink boiled tapwater then 100% feel pollution is present which strongly suggests pollution isn't localised.

As for introducting heavy metals, you're trying to fudge the issue: pollution may include, but is not limited to, heavy metals.

> I always come across as defending China or something

I take your point and will accept you're arguing in good faith, but a sloppy post like this simply undermines yourself.

We drink boiled water just because we like it warm. It's part of the culture. It's also one of the reasons why there are few epidemics when natural disaster strikes.

The tap water quality varies from place to place, but it's generally good enough, granted it is not as good as the first world countries such as the US or Japan or much of the Europe, but after all we are still a third world country.

We are a surveillance state and it's worth discussing and condemning in every aspect, but talking about tapped water just dilutes the topic.

Well put. It's true a lot of the negative stuff here isn't technically incorrect, but the hyperbole certainly has a distorting effect on the conversation. Clearly, discovering negative aspects about China serves some kind of convenient narrative. I suspect it's something to do with China's growing power, which is threatening to the hegemony the so-called West has exploited for the last few centuries. Reading between the lines the story is something like, "yeah China is growing but it's not real because pollution, human rights, surveillance, etc - anybody could grow like that if they took shortcuts like them". Which I suppose ultimately is a subconscious projection of the guilt the West feels about the shortcuts it took.

> It's true a lot of the negative stuff here isn't technically incorrect

Then it's correct, yes?

> China serves some kind of convenient narrative

I have to agree. If china were an economically unimportant tiddler or have lotsa oil, the west wouldn't care nearly as much.

> the so-called West has exploited for the last few centuries

And china had a pretty repressive feudal government for a very long time. That is, the pyramid's peak freely and often brutally exploited the pyramid's broad base. For a very long time. And Uighurs - like to comment on them? Perhaps you'd like to list some chinese atrocities here?

Seriously, list some.

I'm aware and not proud of the opium wars. That shit should be taught in school, as well as the way brits treated the irish, the welsh, the scottish... Not as a guilt thing but as a way of saying, let this not happen again.

> 100% of them drink boiled tap water. But isn't this proving my point? Not like it's poisoned with heavy metals?

Clearly not 100%. Not a huge fan of these random percentages haha. And we don't know if the tap water isn't poisoned with heavy metals. The effects aren't immediate so it's not like locals would necessarily notice. There's at least one source that claims they are indeed poisoned with heavy metals [0]

> As for pollution, of course they have a long way to go, but the dystopian picture you paint is hardly fair. It's not perfect but you make it sound like Blade Runner 2049. It's not. I live in Bangkok right now and it is WAY worse than Shenzhen or Shanghai. But I never hear Thailand invoked in one of these "pollution hell" threads.

I dunno man, Shanghai on a bad day is pretty comparable to Blade Runner. When I go to China, I get a headache, my mouth tastes metallic and I definitely have a reduced lung capacity. Also, I was actually impressed by Bangkok's lack of pollution. Maybe I caught it at a lucky time, but the air was very refreshing compared to Wenzhou. Even right now, the air forecast is decent [1] compared to Wenzhou [2] or Shanghai [3].

China is definitely not the worst place to live, but it's dramatically different from most western countries. In most western countries, you can talk about Winnie the Pooh without getting banned, while enjoying a nice refreshing glass of tap water :D.

[0] https://www.purelivingchina.com/blog/what-pollutants-are-chi... [1] https://aqicn.org/city/bangkok/ [2] https://aqicn.org/city/wenzhou/ [3] https://aqicn.org/city/shanghai/

> Clearly not 100%. Not a huge fan of these random percentages haha

Well, frankly, most Chinese I know will boil their water regardless of where they live. They do it in Australia and Singapore as well. Cultural norm?

I guess I'm not invested enough in the argument to dig up actual water pollution statistics but I'd be pretty surprised if Shanghai water was actually toxic.

> Shanghai on a bad day is pretty comparable to Blade Runner

I guess I've missed those days. I know Beijing can be hellish but most of my China experience is down south. I've never been to Wenzhou but I know Shenzhen very well and I can categorically tell you that air pollution in Bangkok is worse.

But look. The whole point of my comments has been to not generalise local data points to a whole country. As other commenters have mentioned, you can't drink the tap water in Flint, Michigan either - and that's in the so-called richest country on earth. LA smog is awful too. But that's just those places. The USA is huge. So is China.

As for Winne the Pooh - that's ridiculous. I read a good quote the other day: "the nation that is afraid of humiliation will soon humiliate itself" and I agree 100%. I'm not trying to defend China. I'm just trying to defend fact.

Your “few bad cities” also contain 24.5/40.0 million (Shanghai), 22.5 million (Beijing), 19.8/44.3 million (Guangzhou), 15.5/16 million (Tianjin), 15.4/25.2 million (Chongqing), 14.7 and 18 million (Chengdu), 12.4 million (Shenzhen), 10.7/19.8 million (Wuhan) and 10.0/21.1 million (Hangzhou).¹ China is 58% urbanised.² Most of the land area of China is not as polluted as Shanghai, that is true; but disproportionately many people live in those areas—which is unsurprising, because pollution is often due to high population density. (Pollution per capita is of coursed generally reduced by density, but that is another matter.)

1. see the Wikipedia page for largest cities in China

2. Yiping XIAO, Yan SONG and Xiaodong WU, “How Far Has China’s Urbanization Gone?”, in: Sustainability 10.8 (Aug. 2018), p. 2593, DOI: 10.3390/su10082953

> there's a few bad cities but it's a big place and 99% of it is fine


>That will be news to the billion plus inhabitants who haven't realised they're dead yet from lack of clean water, sixth sense style

People in places like Flint aren't dead either.

They've organised alternate supplies - as have any Chinese who don't trust the local water. As you would expect.

I'm glad you mentioned Flint though. I assume most Americans here know about Flint's issues - but they realise the USA is a big place and that's only one town. Well, China's a big place too. Yeah, it can improve, a lot. But this godforsaken hellscape that people seem to imagine all the time is just not real.

Strongly encrypted private communications are already effectively banned in Australia.


That sounds like San Francisco. I don't recognize Boston in that.

It's hilarious to me how many people from San Francisco think America revolves around their overpriced 47 square mile peninsula.

Just recently I noticed that non-Californians on HN now know what it feels like to read English-language internets while not being from the US.

I absolutely hate WeChat (not necessarily just for the reasons in the article, but many other technical reasons) but I'm forced to use it because all of my friends and my entire social life happens on it. And I live in the Bay Area. If I don't use it I would basically be locking myself up in a prison where I would never see my friends.

Even the majority of my friends who work at Facebook and Google use WeChat to organize social events. Hell, I've visited friends at Facebook's HQ and had to tell them by WeChat that I'm downstairs in the lobby.

I personally totally get why this happens, and the network effect is so strong that my first instinct to contact my friends is via WeChat as well. I too organize social events on WeChat, because I know my friends don't really check anything else, so in the process, I too am guilty of propagating this network effect.

I still hate the app though. I just don't hate it enough to want to ditch my social life.

I love wechat.

sticker: gifs and emojis all shares the same sticker format. It has natively features for taking, editing and converting photos and videos directly into stickers. Generally, i find memes work a lot better in wechat.

reliability: voice and video calling is buttery smooth. I've taken wechat calls internationally between china, taiwan, us, canada, australia and france. The service is always great even in some rural areas.

consistency: it works on almost all phones of all price ranges. Maybe it's because lower tier phones are of chinese brands and they have closer collaboration with wechat. The point is that wechat works the same on a $100 dollar phone as it does the iphone.

convenience: this one is domestic to china. wechat has mini programs, which are basically web services that make native app obsolete. For example, there is an wechat version of airBNB and it works exactly like the native app. Wechat handles all of the authentication and transaction. There is no need to register for anything!


Personal attacks will get you banned here. Also, could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments?



Personal attacks aren't ok on HN and we ban accounts that do that. If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and take the spirit of the site to heart when posting here, we'd be grateful.

TBF. This is because you only hang out with asian people. I live in the bay too and I don't know many people using wechat :|

Mostly, not only, but in any case I'm not disputing that. I'm just expressing that despite the fact that I use WeChat a lot, and need to use WeChat a lot, I still don't actually like the thing. I just like my friends enough that I will grudgingly use WeChat because "everyone" (in my circle) does.

I feel that someone who really respects their privacy should not hang out with friends who don't respect their own privacy. Because inevitably, their friends will post enough material to compromise the privacy of everyone in the circle.

A year after I stopped using Facebook actively, all of my friends have stopped hanging out with me. It's just me, my family, and my coworkers.

wechat is a chinese application. asian people != chinese.

I hang out with "asian people" all the time, but I use kakaotalk because I'm actually hanging out with Koreans. Or I use line with my Japanese friends.

I only use WeChat with my Alibaba suppliers. No one else I know uses it.

lol, yeah. i've never even heard of someone in the bay having it.

It's specific to a certain demographic. Same with Kakaotalk for Koreans and Line for Japanese people.

Asian ==> Chinese

Use it for what it's intended for, chitchatting about nothing of lasting consequence.

If you have genuine thoughts, use something else.

Easy to say, but hard to do when the people who you genuinely value your relationship with don't use anything else. It's also not intended for "chitchatting about nothing of lasting consequence". It's specifically intended to basically be your entire life. In China you can pay all your bills, manage your bank account, buy plane, train tickets, hotel reservations, donate to charities, rent bikes, shop online, order food, and pretty much everything else you would possibly need to do. In the USA, for its active users it basically is all of social life. Potlucks, random dinner parties, hiking trips, wedding invitations, reading groups, badminton court reservations, even ordering gig economy homemade food, it ALL happens on WeChat, right here in Palo Alto, if you are part of the community that uses it.

I do agree though -- avoid using WeChat at all costs for anything secret. I have multiple WeChat accounts and sent a message from one to the other containing a link to one of my own servers. From the server logs, nobody accessed the link. Sent it again with some "interesting" keywords, and lo and behold, the link was accessed by an IP in China.

And "interesting" keywords were nothing of political significance. More business-wise interesting. I have belief that Tencent is spying on certain conversations beyond what government censorship requires them to do.

> Easy to say, but hard to do when the people who you genuinely value your relationship with don't use anything else.

Honestly most of my friends talk and organize on Facebook. I deleted mine. Things haven't really changed much. I just get texts when something is happening. Your friends are still your friends without whatever technology facilitates your social sphere.

My experience, and many others that I know, is that I don't seem to be majorly affected by a lack of a social media account. So I always get confused when people say that WeChat/Facebook/whatever IS their social life. If you don't like it, just dump it. Your friends will still be your friends. If they don't then I'm not sure you can consider them friends. I mean it is kinda ridiculous notion when you consider how surface level and superficial it is to kill a relationship because you don't use a specific communication medium.

You aren't going to lose your relationships. You aren't going to miss out on events. Your friends will still be your friends.

> Your friends will still be your friends.

While this is true, you still do need to be able to contact them in today's isolated world where we don't run into our friends on a daily basis in public venues. For a vast amount of my friends, WeChat is effectively the only means of communication to organize an in-person meetup. For a certain group of people, it has replaced phones, e-mail, Facebook, and everything else.

Last time I was in the emergency room and needed a friend to bring over something to me? I sent them a message on WeChat from my hospital bed. I didn't have any other means to reach this particular trusted friend. They don't use Facebook, Signal, Telegram, or anything else, they don't check their e-mail frequently, and I don't have their phone number because the only thing we have ever used to make calls is WeChat voice call.

I have other groups of friends who organize real life events (hiking, dinner, etc.) on WeChat. Without WeChat I'd probably be left out of those. Yes, friends will still be friends, but they won't go out of their way to ping you by e-mail for a random hike that everyone else they know would just respond on WeChat for.

I just don't hate WeChat enough to want to completely ban it from my life. The friction of finding alternate communication methods with all the people I'm already friends with is too much to bother; I just grudgingly use WeChat.

Separately, I'm in China from time to time, have both lots of friends and business contacts there, so it's basically 100% a necessity for keeping in touch.

So get their phone number. It sounds like problem solved.

I'm not saying you have to dump WeChat/Facebook/whatever. But I think saying that they are your only way to communicate with people is a bit ridiculous. We all have phones in our pockets. Your friends will use multiple systems. I guarantee that specifically your Chinese friends will, because they already have to operate in two worlds (unless they completely isolate themselves in America).

> have other groups of friends who organize real life events (hiking, dinner, etc.) on WeChat. Without WeChat I'd probably be left out of those.

I promise you that you won't miss out. Your friends are still your friends. They are your friends because you enjoy each other's company, not because you use WeChat. WeChat is a tool, it isn't the relationship. I don't know you, but I'm willing to bet that those friends enjoy your company enough to send you a text message instead of a WeChat message when they want you to be part of an activity. Though I'll admit that it might be bumpy in the start because people forget that you don't use a specific communication platform.

I think this is a case of you don't know what you're missing. That's not a bad thing, but it doesn't mean you're not missing anything.

100% correct.

I just happen to be on both FB and WeChat, because I have friends on both sides of the picture (English-/Chinese-speaking). I tend to have more social interaction with contacts on WeChat but many of them are conversely oblivious to the Facebook world. While they don't know about all your awesome house parties whose invitations appear only on Facebook, there are a whole slew of other awesome house parties happening on WeChat in the Chinese-speaking world of the Bay Area. Yesterday was the Duanwu festival, and my WeChat was flooded with people asking for who/where to buy dumplings from, others organizing parties to make them, yet others organizing camping trips, and you get the idea.

I'm speechless, I had heard there was not much interactions between communities in the US but this is a whole new level.

I'd argue that this is a reason for my original comment. Having friends that break out of the social media world forces you to contact them outside those spheres. Which also means that you're now operating in multiple spheres. It reduces the isolation.

Also, I wouldn't say I'm missing out. I'm in a PhD program with a pretty active department. It is pretty easy to find out what is happening. The only events I missed were when I first started, and I chalk that up to more people not knowing who I was.

Another possible explanation would be a system to combat viral content before it spreads too far (i.e. after a link has been shared a few times). You'd probably need to do a few more experiments to determine what triggers it with certainty. That said, I'm interested what those "interesting" keywords were, exactly.

I also hate using it but it is a requirement to live here. Once I had a one hour software update problem and the feeling of dread was overwhelming.

Sorry, but isn't every messengers try to load links to make fancy previews?

Yes, but not selectively based on keywords, and usually not with an MSIE user agent several hours after the message.

"I absolutely hate WeChat (not necessarily just for the reasons in the article, but many other technical reasons) but I'm forced to use it because all of my friends and my entire social life happens on it."

Genuinely curious - is there a non-app (ie., plain SMS) interface to wechat ?

There is a plain SMS interaction layer for groupme and because I host my own phone service at twilio, I have total control over messaging to groupme groups because I can just interact with groupme on the command line ...

I've already deprecated SMS as a form of communication with me, and auto-trash all SMS with an appropriate deprecation warning returned to sender telling them to e-mail me instead. So an SMS/WeChat gateway wouldn't help (it doesn't exist anyway).

But that aside it's less about it being app. It's more that:

- It's a walled garden that is difficult to build plugins upon. About 10 years ago with QQ/ICQ/AIM/MSN/Gtalk/Zephyr I had written plugins for end-to-end encryption, auto rendering of LaTeX equations, remote control of IoT devices, gateways between platforms so a QQ friend could be in a group with an MSN friend, with me as the gateway, automatic translation, and lots of other features. WeChat is feature-wise a HUGE HUGE HUGE step back for me from what I had built for myself back then.

- It only supports signing on from a single device at a time. I never have a consistent device with me, and change devices multiple times over the course of a day. Facebook messenger and E-mail work extremely well if switch devices frequently, and keep all conversation logs on the server so it's easy to continue conversations in another location without carrying a phone around. My only solution with WeChat is to have multiple accounts, one per device, and pull each friend into a group with all of my other accounts. This emulates the functionality of Facebook messenger.

- Too much spying. It constantly scans my Wi-Fi networks, sensor data, installed applications, IMU/GPS, and lots of other things. I run it on a 2nd phone that has LineageOS on paranoid privacy settings and spit back fake sensor data when it tries to do those things. I don't have anything to hide, but they shouldn't be doing that stuff. Also, if you don't give WeChat permissions to certain things, it won't let you login, period. Much different from, say, Facebook, which will let you login but will just be crippled in the features you didn't give it appropriate permissions for.

- The UX downright sucks. You can't group friends or categorize groups, which means your screen is a mess once you join a bunch of groups. You can pin friends to the top, but once you pin enough friends, the chatrooms get pushed down so you can't see them anymore. People use WeChat to organize events via groups, yet it has no event-related features. The result is that you have to swipe through pages after pages of chitchat just to find the time and location, and screen through the chitchat to look for changes in the time and location from what was originally said. It's a horribly inefficient way to organize events. Just one of many problems.

From what you've written, it sounds like:

- you are comfortable writing code

- you want to interact with WeChat friends on >2 devices (not just phone+web, phone+desktop or phone+tablet)

- you would like a synchronised history of your WeChat interactions

You could probably build something close (but not the same) as what you need using https://github.com/Chatie/wechaty

It's made for writing bots, but you could use it to write a gateway. And have each of your devices communicate via that gateway.

Thanks, I heard about this library from someone else too! I should probably carve out some time to try to actually do this.

Its only benefit is its ubiquity, showing the strength of the network effect and the herd mentality of humans. I totally agree that it's a step backwards if your goal is actual communication of information. Even forum boards were better.

The only officially supported alternative is https://web.wechat.com/ which requires scanning a QR code with the phone app to log in.

A genuine question: Why can't you just call them you're down in the lobby?

And do you think having WeChat installed is a prerequisite for a good friendship?

Why the hate. It is just a chatting tool, nothing more. Most of the functionality is useless in US.

it's actually more than just a chatting tool.

I used to hold a kind of naive hope that the ham fisted Party would eventually be replaced with democracy. I remember back in 2011 my friends that were placed in moderately distinguished positions were sending their kids to Canada to collect foreign dual citizenship, fully expecting the collapse of the PRC in their lifetime.

But now I think the Party is too good at maintaining itself. It's augmented by technology like WeChat to know exactly what is going on across the whole country. Access to dissident conversations will make it even easier to tailor the kind of subtle propaganda they're getting very good at.

Will the PRC just continue to exist as it is, forever? My last remaining hope is for massive power grabs by xi jinping (already happening), followed by government ineptitude as he ages and underlings squabble, followed by chaos upon his death. Beyond that I can't see any way out.

Maybe there's a third option aside from continue the state quo or convert fully into a democracy? Maybe the party can evolve into something that's more and more benevolent to the people it governs?

As a Chinese who emigrated because of the many social problems of China, I'm not sure switching to democracy right now will be beneficial for regular Chinese. You've all heard stories about how bad mannered Chinese tourists are, but those are still somehow better than the average Chinese I'd say. Think about people who still eat shark fins today, who have no problem buying rhino horns or pangolin skins. (there are more extreme stuff, one example: https://www.animalsasia.org/intl/media/news/news-archive/fiv...). If you ever visited mainland China you probably noticed many public restrooms have no toilet paper. Some places tried to put toilet paper in but people would steal all of them right after.

I am not sure democracy can work with people like that. I fear it wont. I fear not enough educated/informed people will make democratic decisions that are harmful to themselves. I fear a democratic China will become the next Russia, the next Brazil, the next Turkey. At least the current party has done more poverty fighting than most of the third world democratic countries. (data available on world bank website)

Does China have problems? Absolutely. The question is if you really understand what are the problems, before we even start talking if the proposed solutions will work or not.

>Will the PRC just continue to exist as it is, forever? My last remaining hope is for massive power grabs by xi jinping (already happening), followed by government ineptitude as he ages and underlings squabble, followed by chaos upon his death. Beyond that I can't see any way out.

If that happens, is that a good thing? To you, or some Americans who see China as a foe, maybe. I doubt such a chaos is what the average Chinese wants.

P.S. PRC doesn't allow dual citizenship.

I hear you and understand you, but your argument is essentially nullified by the existence of Taiwan.

We have proof positive that the Chinese culture is not only compatible with democracy, it flourishes beneath it.

I'm not saying Chinese culture is incompatible with democracy. I'm talking about eduction mainly. If you look into post WWII histories of Taiwan/South Korea, it wont be hard for you to find a few dictators within the democracies[1]. I personally think during those periods the citizens of those democracies were catching up on how democracy works.

1. examples: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_Chung-hee https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiang_Kai-shek

Could not fantastic education provide an intelligent enough population to handle democracy within a single generation? I.e.... exactly what happened in Taiwan upon the removal of martial law?

The USA managed it swaths of the country spread across a frontier.

But you have to admit there are risks for the switching, i.e. there are countries that become worse after the switching. Personally, I dont think democracy is the cure to the current problems. Education probably is. And I haven't been presented with enough evidence to think otherwise.

Like, did Taiwan become drastic better after removal of martial laws? Or is Taiwan at a better position today mainly because of the help of U.S.? Is there any other third world democratic countries that have developed as fast or faster than China, who is NOT a U.S. ally?

How would education help under the current regime? Xi jinping isn't going anywhere until he dies, and Party members aren't elected (well some kinda are).

What good does education do if it doesn't drive government changes? What changes would the PRC allow at all?

Which democracy are you thinking of that 'became worse after switching'? I can't think of any, though I can think of a few countries that mostly botched the switch and ended up in a sort of pseudo-democracy.

I think its a bit premature, but do you really think China under a democratic system would be better for the world?

What would Chinese populism look like when it eventually emerges given more democratic features?

Are you sure we are ready for a Chinese Trump? and for the silent majority of China to dictate foreign policy?

I'm from the school of "be careful what you wish for".

China is commuting mass genocide against the Uighur people, has a surveillance state beyond that of any other nation, it is clearly intending on annexing Taiwan in 5 years whether Taiwan likes it or not, massacred protestors in Tiananmen Square, has a dictator for life, and it didn’t need a democracy or populism to achieve any of that.

Yes. A democratic China would be better for the world.

We have a competent Chinese Trump today in the form of xi jinping - the difference being instead of being limited to merely separating children the children of Other from their Parents and throwing them in jail, Jinping is directing the wholesale imprisonment and "reeducation" of entire religions, and occasionally just taking their organs from them.

I'll take a democratically elected trump that is gone in at most 8 years over the now irremovable xi jinping.

So yes, democracy is unilaterally the better option for China.

have you talked to any Chinese people and how many of them oppose this reeducation of entire religions? I'm just curious whether that will still happen in your planned democratic China.

Could be argued that anyone who watches propaganda on Chinese TV daily isn't particularly fit to have that discussion.

It's not like in the West where people are critical of this kind of stuff. They've really excelled at developing a "hive mind" mentality with what the state media put out.

Assuming you are not living in China, could you please go ask some Chinese around you? There are really plenty of Chinese living abroad.

In a democratic China the Uighurs will have representatives. If they don't, it's not democratic yet.

Ask other democratic nations if they can get away with voting for systematic oppression of a people via a vote.

Historically, decentralizing power (i.e. via democracy) leads to less shittiness for more people.

In any case, what possible reason would the average Chinese person have to systematically oppress the Uighurs or falun gong? They're only oppressed now because their religion poses a threat to the cultural control the Party exerts over the people. In a democracy, that control vanishes.

>In any case, what possible reason would the average Chinese person have to systematically oppress the Uighurs or falun gong?

This question is crucial to indicate that you have no idea about ordinary Chinese people. You need to sit down with some Chinese to talk about it if you are really interested. So I encourage you to find some first gen immigrant from mainland China currently living in SFBA. It wont be hard to find them. I can even direct you to relevant social media sites if you like.

Under democracy, people will work against the Chinese Trump.

I don't think the trade conflict with China is without concession of the Democrats though. The Mexican conflict is.

And Trump will be gone soon, so there's that

> Maybe there's a third option aside from continue the state quo or convert fully into a democracy? Maybe the party can evolve into something that's more and more benevolent to the people it governs?

As one raised in a democracy (the UK) and thankful for that, taking a big step back I don't know if democracy is a more stable system than others. Or even better in terms of long-term results. I wonder if our democracy is mainly the result of cheap energy which removed the hardscrabble existence of our ancestors and will go when cheap energy finishes (if we don't pull our socks up).

It's a contentious point, I'm not sure it's right, and I'm not punting for china. Just raising a question.

NB my father was born and raised in a military country with an oppressive government. Hearing some stories from him is why I know how fortunate I am.

Democracy will never be as stable as a regime or dictator, but it can also survive a lot more chaos and instability while still protecting the rights of its people.

A stable system does not mean a robust one. A tea cup on a counter is stable, but easily broken. A spinning top is not very stable but can survive most falls.

> Democracy will never be as stable as a regime or dictator

Why never? While I'm not arguing that democracies are inherently super stable (that's empirically false), I don't think that democracies are inherently less stable than dictatorships.

I would think an system that peacefully transitions power with the consent of the governed on a regular basis would typically be more stable than a system where the transition of power is generally a once in a lifetime event dependent on whomever holds the most power in government during the transition.

I can understand the argument that transitioning power is less stable than maintaining existing power structures, but transitioning power is inevitable even if it's to an heir.

Dictatorships aren't stable, dictatorship is stable. Dictatorships involve bloody power strugges that ruin the country and kill people. Dictatorship usually remains, though, because the replacement government is usually another dictatorship - ensuring that when it in turn falls, even more people will die.

taking a big step back I don't know if democracy is a more stable system than others. Or even better in terms of long-term results

I wonder what sort of education you've had? I can easily and quickly think of dictatorships that killed or enslaved millions of their own citizens - it's practically a requirement to be a really good dictatorship, it seems. It's a struggle to think of any democracies which do that. Perhaps the Israel/Palestine conflict has shades of that, perhaps internment of Japanese in America during WW2 counts a bit, but it ended pretty fast and was due to a war.

I'm gonna take a wild guess that your current lack of faith in democracy is caused by Brexit. Am I right?


Please note the bit about my father.

But yours a very good point! So what do I mean? It depends on the word 'better' and 'stable'.

'stable' is easily covered - chinese society has existed in a stable form for thousands of years. There's no evidence that any democracy has, because democracy as I know it is a relatively recent thing. Yeah, greeks and democracy, but they also kept slaves so no.

'better'? Well, what do you mean by that. I suppose on reflection I was equating that with stable, so if you accept that then I've already covered it, and feudalism/totalitarianism/authoritarianism is perhaps 'better'. A stable society at the cost of individual happiness.

You define 'better' as equivalent to human rights, which I agree with, however my point is, be clear with your definitions of pivotal words! That's all. And I should have been so as well.

To be clear I'm not advocating nor would wish to live under, such regimes.

(and the brexit shite is a train wreck, and I am losing some faith in people who voted for brexit based on xenophobia and ignorance. I've met both sorts so I know they exist).

> chinese society has existed in a stable form for thousands of years.

This is a patently false myth that the PRC promotes to legitimize its government. Never mind that the PRC is only 70 years old and radically different than the government that came before it, or the one 30 years before that, or 300 before that, or 200 before that...

Chinese language and culture has existed as long as all the others have. And furthermore, it has gone through just as many regime changes. Unless you're pretending each dynasty was a single government?

> chinese society has existed in a stable form for thousands of years.

There is no definition of “stable" for which this is even approximately true.

Well, how do you see that China has been stable? In the 20th century it's been conquered in an invasion, then went through a communist revolution and fought a civil war that split itself in two. The governments have been replaced repeatedly. It has such severe racial and civil unrest in its western regions the PRC built huge concentration camps and 'disappeared' millions of people into them as the only way to keep the peace. That doesn't sound very stable to me!

Compare that to Britain which has had continuous revolution-free government for hundreds of years, has not split, has had no civil wars for centuries and doesn't disappear its own citizens. It looks pretty stable in comparison.

I think maybe your view of China is coloured by PRC propaganda. They love to claim thousands of years of history, that the PRC is the source of all stability and harmony in China, etc. But a cold reading of history makes it look a bit different.

I voted for Brexit, because the best countries are universally the most democratic countries. That's how I guessed your poor view of democracy might be related to it. We can say these views are stereotypes, but I met a lot of Brexit voters who just didn't like the EU institutions or the way they treat the country, and none (so far) that didn't like immigrants. I'm sure such people do exist, they just don't seem to be prevalent in the circles I move in. Unfortunately I have met a lot of Remain voters who seem unfortunately keen on dictatorship - I guess that's why Leave arguments about democracy are only ever met with irrelevant counterarguments like "racism! xenophobia!". The lack of democracy in the EU is one of the things that appeals to them about it!

> Well, how do you see that China has been stable?

Hard to say. China's society has been around since after the unification, 221BC (post-waring-states, the qin dynasty). It may have gone back further, to the shang dynasty (~1500 BC) but that was probably a period of conflict throughout. But does conflict in itself negate continuity of society?

But a) my knowledge of chinese history is minimal, and b) most important, how do you measure a society. The UK of now is different from the UK of 1980, how does one measure the continuation of a society? By culture? The Shang dynasty oracle bones have script that may be the precursor of chinese writing. Han period statuary is very reminiscent of modern chinese stuff.

Britain was likely pre-literate before the romans arrived (50BC IIRC) and the art was very different then, such as it was.

I don't know, how should we measure this? I mention art and writing as a proxy for culture as a proxy for society, but what should it be? We can't debate without agreeing basic terms.

> In the 20th century it's been conquered in an invasion

I think you mean the opium wars. I mention this in another post here. But they survived as a culture (arguably). "went through a communist revolution" - ditto survived (I might argue).

> PRC built huge concentration camps and 'disappeared' millions of people into them as

Yesss, I mention this in another post here. That is one way to have stability albeit an horrific one.

Compared to this, the UK was invaded repeatedly within the last 1000 years, the language was changed, the genetics were changed, the art changed... but what is a culture/society? These things? Other? Tell me.

> I think maybe your view of China is coloured by PRC propaganda

No. Please my other posts here. And stability and harmony are a matter of definition. I am sure my and your vision of it is something far nicer than china's crushing 'pacification' but unless we define things, we're spinning our wheels.

Also this thread is not about brexit and in this context I'm not willing to discuss it. I don't know why you're bringing it up.

Yes, stability is not well defined. I guess I'd define it as a period of time without wars or non-peaceful transfers of governmental power.

Your knowledge of Chinese history seems pretty good to me!

By the invasion I didn't mean the opium wars, I was referring to the Sino-Japanese wars in which Japan essentially conquered most of China.


China has probably had a somewhat more stable writing system and gene pool compared to Britain, that's true. I suspect with more knowledge there'd turn out to be pretty large differences over time too. For instance medieval Britain used the Latin alphabet/writing system. The language has changed enormously since that time, but still uses that script. Probably Chinese is the same.

Getting back to the original point (and I'll drop Brexit), your original question was whether democratic systems are really more stable than others. With my definition of stability as avoiding civil wars, revolutions, and other violent transfers of governmental power, I feel pretty sure they are more stable. If you define it as absence of change in art or other forms of culture, I'd concede the point - I'd expect a dictatorship to have less change in art and language, simply because culture benefits from free expression and some of the most creative people in society are often rebellious, which doesn't fit well with such societies.

However, I quite enjoy unstable (or dynamic) culture paired with stable (or peaceful) constitutional change. That seems like a good mix, and it also seems to require democracy.

Nice reply, thanks, upvoted.

Pinning anything down is a bugger but I'll accept your definition of "without [civil] wars or non-peaceful transfers of governmental power". It's pretty good. (just to be a complete bastard, do 'the troubles' of northern ireland count as civil war?)

My knowledge of chinese history is an illusion. I've always found the culture interesting and the 2D & 3D art/sculpture much more elegant than a lot of western stuff. Can't say the same about the music... I picked up a remaindered book on the oracle bones <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oracle_bone>. Regarding the art, I was leafing through a book on ancient chinese artefacts. But the more I know, the less I know. And yes, [edit: ancient] chinese script is doubtless as legible to a modern person as anglo-saxon is to us, likely even less so.

I'll read up on your manchuria link, thanks - I wasn't aware it was that it was so extensive. I recall loadsa abominations by the japanese etc etc so it goes.

I understand where you're coming from, thanks again!

The Troubles certainly got pretty close and are the best rebuttal to the idea of British stability, yes. And that unfortunate partition of India thing.

> But does conflict in itself negate continuity of society?

Perhaps we should ask the tens of thousands of families and cultures that were wiped out in endless war?

I sense from your post that you confuse democracy with capitalism.

Also Brazil and Russia are not democratic (right now). Neither have a democratically elected leader.

oh so the current presidents of Brazil is not democratically elected you mean[1]?

And how would you assure a democratic China will not have a corrupted election scheme that resemble Russia's?

Without you stating any evidence, I dare to say your sense is wrong. Chinese are more than ready for capitalism if the current system is not already it.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Brazilian_general_electio...

Yes. Two other candidates were illegally prevented from participating. And there were more fake news campaigns in brazil, where whatsapp is the de facto communication medium, than USA during the election.

"Lula’s criminal conviction on corruption charges last year came under highly suspicious circumstances. All year long, polls showed him as the clear front-runner for the 2018 presidential race [...] Ever since, Lula has been held in a makeshift prison cell inside a Federal Police building in Curitiba [...] An electoral court then barred Lula’s candidacy for president. Barring Lula from running as a candidate paved the way for the election of the far-right extremist Jair Bolsonaro" https://theintercept.com/2019/05/22/lula-brazil-ex-president...

Different question, when we talk about China ( which is mostly incompatible with Western as superpower, because of the differences between society and disruption through state capitalism).

I am always a little bit concerned about how it comes across for a Chinese person, because I do not want to offend them. And most of my points are about Xi's rule ( and actually somewhat cautious about it going globally).

Can you enlight me on "what is happening now", if you are offended in a personal way or is it obvious that there is a difference?

Sorry but I think your first paragraph is not complete? when we talk about China () then?

Generally speaking I wont get offended as long as the discussion is rational and logical. Me personally dont care much about country or patriotism. But Chinese are like any other populations, each individual can be quite different.

I'm not really in the loop of what is happening now but I do think sometimes only (trade?) wars can resolve unbridgeable misunderstandings.

Thanks, that's what I wanted to know.

And when we talk about China = all the stuff that has been going on lately, comments here are not pro Xi mostly.

Thank you for being curious. What I found offending on HN is people who are cool-headed within their own domain can be irrational and quick to conclusions when it comes to issues related to China.

We all know the project management tree swing cartoon[1]. We can almost replace the project with China within this cartoon lol.


edit: I read some of your other comments and I dont think you know China as much as you imagined you know. There's news about Belgian police shot a refugee child for example. I wont based on that to say all belgian kills refugee children. So treat news from China as news if you dont mind. More extreme things happen within a population of 1.5 billion.

At least I can read about the Belgium's incident and people in Belgium can protest feeely. That wouldn't happen in China, that's the difference between a first world country and China

I'm from Belgium and heard the news. It's an accident, yes.

But it's not endolged by anyone here. That's a pretty big difference.

India has a big population and doesn't throw thousands of falun gong and Uighurs into reeducation camps, harvesting their organs at whim.

India has a big population and doesn't threaten the sovereignty of democratic nations like Taiwan.

I'm happy to acknowledge the good things happening in China and the advancements its made since the cultural revolution (of which my partner's mother can tell you stories of from her time in labor camps), but not when the objective is to try to sweep under the rug the massive crimes against humanity China is doing, right now.

What you are saying is India has a better human rights record than China. But at the end of the day what exactly is human rights? To you it's the ability to speak freely, to nordic countries it can be free education, free healthcare, and even free internet connections. But to a poor country, what is the most important human right? It's be able to be fed! It's not die!

According to world bank data, China had 755.8 million people living on less than $1.9 a day in 1990. In 2013 it's 25.2 million.

What about India? There are still 268 million people earning less than $1.9 per day in 2011 and data are not collected afterwards[1]. More than doubled the infant mortality rate[2].

Now I believe you live in SFBA. There are ton of mainland Chinese working at AMZ, at FB, at Google, etc. Tons of them in Chinese grocery stores. Go ask them if they think India is better than mainland China to live. Now that they live freely away from mainland China's propaganda, go ask them if they care about the massive crime you are talking about to the degree they would want a government overthrown and have a government similar to India's.

Again my point is there are huge problems about PRC. Still, it would be highly unlikely that the solution is what you, a nonexpert, proposed. I believe there are westerners who understand the problems better than me. But they've spent years of effort studying the issues. Not like you or even me who just read some news articles and think we knew better. Thinking about it it's almost like climate change. Everyone has a say to it no matter what experts think.

1 http://povertydata.worldbank.org/poverty/country/CHN http://povertydata.worldbank.org/poverty/country/IND http://povertydata.worldbank.org/poverty/country/RUS http://povertydata.worldbank.org/poverty/country/BRA look up some other third world countries as you see fit.

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_infant_mo...

I'll not monitor this thread anymore but I've sent you a msg we can talk there.

And to add education to the data:

In 1970 41% of Chinese are illiterate, comparing to 63% Indians. In 2015 India is at 30%, PRC at 6%.

https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/projections-of-the-rate-o... ^ this source is interesting. it's actually sponsored by ycombinator. anyway if you look into many categories you'll probably have a good idea how India compares to China now. The many charts of this page is enough for me: https://ourworldindata.org/hunger-and-undernourishment

It'll be fine as long as people in bulk are reasonably happy, which equates to the economy doing well which allows china's economy to look and feel good. "look and feel" because there seem to be many proper economists (I'm not) that see china's economy as a facade hiding junk.

When we get the big bubble pop which seems to be hastening in, their people may start to feel a lot less comfortable. We'll see then what happens but I don't think it will be remotely nice as their government will start to blame anyone but themselves (well naturally!) and political tensions will rise.

Oh look, a post with details of china's dodgy economic situation and how it treats its people is downvoted.

But who would do that? And why??????? So confusing....

Maybe one day, if China embraces democracy, it might hope to become as prosperous as India. /s

In all seriousness, "democracy" is at this point almost meaningless as a barometer of good governance. There are a lot of spectacularly successful autocracies and a lot of dismally awful democracies. In the broad scheme of things, the CPC has done a damned good job of advancing the interests of the Chinese people. China might one day gradually transition towards democracy in the manner of Singapore, but many Chinese people are rightly fearful of the possibility of the collapse of the CPC. The most common outcome after the overthrow of a dictatorship is chaos and economic collapse, followed by a much worse dictatorship.

> CPC has done a damned good job of advancing the interests of the Chinese people.

Certainly the nation has modernized rapidly. But at what cost? Western media speaks of famines, proxy wars, land grabs, implicit and explicit suppression of anything/anyone different.

(Not saying other forms of governing are guaranteed to do better, but at least with democracies power is supposed to be more distributed.)

I’m not sure where your sample starts but to start from the beginning one has to take into account the Great Leap Forwards, Cultural Revolution, invasion of Tibet, and so on. The ineptitude and corruption of the Nationalists never approached the suffering of the 50s and 60s which were actively difficult to achieve.

The sole mechanism by which the party became a force for stability is slowly being eliminated: collective leadership in China is now something of a joke. That’s where things went wrong under Mao; it’s why the “bad emperor” problem exists as a concept; and it’s where things are beginning to go wrong at the edges (Xinjiang, Tibet…) under Xi.

Agree. Democracy isn't the end of governance. A dysfunctional democracy is no better than an effective authoritarian government.


If you keep doing ideological flamewar on HN we are going to ban you. Breaking the site guidelines will eventually get your main account banned as well.


I think China take will the path to democracy most other democratic nations have taken including my own: As the middle class eventually grows big enough it will demand and get political influence ultimately creating democratic institutions (formal freedom of speech, parliaments, elections, referendums) as we have it in the west.

It is easy to focus on a single news story and forgetting that China is a much freer society today than it was 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.

As a matter of fact --- what you said used to be a belief shared widely among public intellectuals in China 10-20 years ago. No one believes in it now.

As a Chinese, I'm inclined to agree with you. One thing above all is the education level of the population has gone up quite a bit. I personally think that's a cornerstone for any future social reforms.

By no measure is China a freer society today than it was 10 years ago.

China is big, so it ebbs and flows depending on who's in power.

Two steps forward one step back. In the last ten years, more people have travelled, studied, or learned about the world than ever before. The people running the show will die one day, that's not representative of what will happen. It's what the people think that determines what will happen. What the younger generations have experienced in their personal lives will translate to what they want for society, and that's my measure: the younger people are much freer in their personal lives than those 10 years ago. They know what they want, and one day they will get it.

Unless, of course, they are Muslim or falun gong.

really? source please?

Chosen at random (because I'm not your on-demand research assistant): https://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/21...

Thanks. I didn't mean to make you a research assistant. In this age of misinformation, I think it's good manner to back up our claims with some evidence. And as a Chinese I was pretty surprised by the claim itself.

The FISA court system, Patriot Act & Freedom Act punch enough holes in the 4th amendment to make it useless.

Pretty clear that less liberty is the outcome for all.

Thanks! My reply is to your comment's parent though :)

>By no measure is China a freer society today than it was 10 years ago.

That's debatable but we know for a fact the USA was freer 10 years ago.

That is not the subject though

Having said that is there any way to combine democracy and a single party fully embedded to the Government?

Yeah see Singapore more or less.

>The PAP has been returned to power in every general election and has thus formed the Cabinet since 1959


Sure.. right now there's a selection process for the National Congress... just make it so anyone can run for that position (and maybe the Central Committee too). Then hold free and fair elections in each province.

Imagine a cheap plastic Crocs stamping on a face recognition database forever.

Massive power grabs can be a sign of weakness, not strength.

"kids to Canada to collect foreign dual citizenship"

China does not allow for dual citizenship.

"My last remaining hope is ... chaos"

That was evil.

This is indeed very scary especially now it requires facial recognition part... to sign up for WeChat, you need to have a valid phone number; to use WeChat pay, you got to provide real-name and official ID, bank account, etc. From the WeChat social network, relationships are easily identified.

The mere existence of such tool is destine to be misused, regardless who made it. This is what real power looks like.

There is practically no difference in these requirements versus what Facebook is requiring. Try to create a Facebook account and they will soon flag your account to require a photo for facial recognition. You can't signup for Facebook without a valid mobile number. And if Facebook does not like the photo you provide for facial recognition, they want a government ID.

Mmh no? I've been without FB account for 3-4 years, and recently opened a new one from scratch because some friends only use FB and absolutely nothing besides confirming my email was required.

Yes, it does suggest that I add my phone, and that I verify my friends, and that blablabla, but nothing else is required for me to add few friends and join a chat.

I'd been without a Facebook account for four years as well, but created one for testing/verifying the behavior of an application we'd recently gotten approved.

As far as I'm aware it would not let me create an account without a mobile number to confirm the account.

After performing a single action (creating a page), my account was flagged, and thrown into the facial recognition captcha process.

See here for many more anecdotes about this process:


My bet is that they were able to internally link your previous account and the new one. And probably kept building your profile while you were "without" an account.

Oh interesting point of view. I was thinking they might have linked my "ghost profile", not the previous one, but yeah that's a possibility

> to use WeChat pay, you got to provide real-name and official ID, bank account, etc.

Isn't that a basic KYC procedure for every financial product like banking?

"The mere existence of such tool is destine to be misused, regardless who made it. This is what real power looks like."

I encourage you to read the novel _A Deepness in the Sky_ which introduces the concept of "localizers" which are the technological end-state of "smart speakers" and social networks like wechat. Very well fleshed out and very thought provoking:


Thanks for the book recommendation. I just bought it on Audible.


And yet facebook wants to be more like WeChat[0].


I'm glad this article was written. I think the general public is unaware of how China operates, and through education we can better protect our own civil liberties (and better understand why the China is the way that it is).

I do wonder how long it's going to be before we see WhatsApp and the surveillance state articles.

I dunno. We're not anywhere near the level of China (here in the USA).

To achieve that, we'd need

1. The fourth estate to become a government agency (functionally)

2. Facebook to have government agents on-site that employees have to follow the orders of

3. The existence of a "department of cultural well-being" with total authority to regulate art, media, news, etc

4. Laws on the books outlawing esoteric orwellian concepts like "distributing harmful rumors" or "disrupting the cultural well-being of the United States."

Certainly any one of those steps would have me in front of the capital with a big bottle of water and a picket sign, ready to settle in for the long one.

China is very far removed from us.

The question is not how far removed you are, but do you believe human nature is the same and therefore you are capable of becoming the same. In the US there is a strong constitutional tradition against certain encroachments, yet all evidence points to the people accepting the same erosion even with those safeguards.

You might be willing to stand in front of the Capitol (or so you say), but not so for most people, especially given the right "patriotic" motivation, poverty, or fear.

Facebook's board of directors doesn't include goverment agents (even if retired)?

(even if retired) being the key point.

The PRC has active bureaucrats working in nearly every info company in the country. They are the Party's Cultural Representative and their word is law.

There is no equivalent in the USA, not even close.

Seems like a difference without distinction if the outcomes desired by the government are achieved through retired agents and a variety of pressure points.

The illusion of "average citizen control" is more common in USA population than China it seems, whether this control is real is debatable.

The current American government regularly issues proclamations that major news organizations are publishing fake news. It sure doesn't seem like they're achieving their desired outcomes there. Maybe that's not a fair comparison - have any major Chinese companies been able to say "yes, we understand Xi Jinping wants us to do X, but we think he's authoritarian and wrong so we won't do it"?

I agree there's a long way between the USA and China for the reasons you mention.

Still, something nags at me. The USA has all those things in some less government-oriented sense, not organised by a totalitarian party but by a vaguely defined group of powerful people who all live in the same few cities, who all share the same worldview, who all work extraordinarily hard to keep people they disagree with away from the levers of power and who share this same basic mindset:

1. The press is incredibly uniform in America; all papers take explicit political positions despite their role supposedly being to neutrally inform their readers, and they all supported Clinton in the last election. As a foreigner I frequently encounter astonishing falsehoods about my country in supposedly respectable and internationalist papers like the New York Times.

2. Facebook doesn't need government agents to team up with the press in support of an agenda - activists in its employee and management base will ensure it does that anyway.

3. There's no formal department of cultural well-being, but there is nonetheless an exceptionally strong set of beliefs amongst a tiny group of people (the elites/the establishment/the swamp/whatever you want to call them) which do relentlessly impose on news, art, media, etc. Witness how every superhero movie now contains explicitly woke and feminist storylines.

4. "Distributing harmful rumours" and "disrupting the cultural wellbeing" exists in the west too, we just call it hate speech / trolling. Different terms for the same thing and our social networks have WeChat like policies towards them.

Whilst the driving force for this doesn't come from government, and there's no formal party per se, the end results are surprisingly similar on a less extreme scale. And if Clinton had won the policy alignment between the government, Hollywood, Big Tech and newspaper owners would be nearly total: you don't need a totalitarian state when those who have power over information or culture all agree with each other on what must be done anyway.

> As a foreigner I frequently encounter astonishing falsehoods about my country in supposedly respectable and internationalist papers like the New York Times.

This is news to me - do you have examples? I'd be very interested in learning more.

>activists in its employee and management

Those are citizens, not government officials. And right now I'd be inclined to say that the average bay area Facebook employee's desires align very little with that of the federal executive branch of the USA, so this point doesn't work for me.

> Witness how every superhero movie now contains explicitly woke and feminist storylines.

And witness not only how you haven't been sent to xinjiang and reeducated for disagreeing with their values, but they weren't sent to xinjiang for producing media that's explicitly against the ruling executive and Senate party in America's value system.

The promotion of equality for men and women, besides, is a far shout to what is happening to activists in China.

The last article I read on Brexit in the NYT started by claiming the British economy was shrinking, and went downhill from there. As far as I can tell Americans are receiving a completely garbled view of anything EU or Brexit related.

Also although I'm not Russian, see practically anything related to Russia, Russian Twitter bots, etc.

right now I'd be inclined to say that the average bay area Facebook employee's desires align very little with that of the federal executive branch of the USA, so this point doesn't work for me

I think you missed my point, because I did say in my post "if Clinton had won, the alignment between government and the Hollywood/big tech/etc nexus would be complete". But she didn't win, so you're right, to some small extent they're different. That said, the executive is so huge in America that even a guy like Trump is very limited in how much he can steer it.

I was also very careful to say that the things I'm comparing are not on the same scale, so, your last paragraphs are merely making points I already concede. I am not claiming the USA and China are the same, I clearly stated they aren't, but it's important to reflect on the similarities. After all the Chinese regime is not primarily enforced by the actual executive branch, but rather by regime loyalists in positions of power in so-called private industry as well. It's not people who directly report to Xi Jinping censoring WeChat. It's WeChat employees themselves who try to guess what might be ideologically compatible, or what might be "best for Chinese harmony".

A far-reaching ideology that has the explicit support of the power structures creating communication services, art, culture, news and sometimes government, and which considers censorship ("deplatforming" in western NewSpeak) to be an important and legitimate tool for preventing the spread of rumours ("hate") is definitely something to sit up and take notice of.

Finally, I'd remark that modern feminism has nothing to do with promoting equality for men and women. Quite the opposite.










3 & 4.

There is an up swell in support for banning forms of speech and "dangerous ideas".



Corporations have been the ones to do most of the censorship at the moment:


But there isn't much difference between corporations and the government in the US at the moment:





What it boils down to is that the narrative of the US is that we are "free" and a "democracy", so the powerful must use more subtle and subversive techniques to achieve the same goals as autocrats elsewhere such as China.

Don't get me wrong, the US is still better than China on this front, but my response is simply to say that it's not so binary.

Please use your words next time, not a random dump of links you found compelling.

I've used my words many times and all that ever happens is that I get shouted down or called a conspiracy theorist, so I decided to lead with evidence directly responding to the OP's points, and then follow with words. Did you not see those?

If you frequently get called a conspiracy theorist it's most likely because... you're a conspiracy theorist. Like, you claim in some of your posts that NPR is a mouthpiece for Lockheed Martin, and that Jeff Bezos decides what the Washington Post will print.

Now, maybe those conspiracies are real, and you're seeing something the rest of us are too blind (or too deep in the pockets of Deep Hacker) to see. But then you have to work extra hard to build the case and persuade, with a cogent narrative. That requires a lot of work! It's not very fair. But it's the only way you're going to get people to listen to you, if that is an outcome you want.

Then your arguments weren't convincing, which I sympathize as being very frustrating.

Certainly this approach was likely far less convincing - I feel no motivation whatsoever to click a bunch of random links having no idea their content. Furthermore, should I do so, I may arrive at a very different conclusion than you intend. I do give you props for coming to the table with so many sources, whether they're quality or not I have no idea.

The links are fine, they lead to words.

I think that in the west, we have a different dynamic between tech and government - one that makes a huge difference.

In China, it would appear that the government is deeply involved with WeChat (which itself, is deeply entrenched in everybody's lives). This close co-operation gives them access and control to monitor their citizens - leaving the possibility of an Orwellian system.

In the west, instead, its a little bit more back and forth between tech and government. The big tech companies take advantage of opportunities they discover (for the purposes of profit) with the government subsequently cracking down on activity they deem abusive and harmful. Conversely, if the government itself seeks to spy on or inappropriately extend its reach into people's privacy, the tech companies are big enough to stand together and object to these types of intrusions. Cases such as those involving the government seeking to break into an iPhone and Apple refusing to help or with Facebook making WhatsApp E2E encrypted by default (and soon Messenger as well) are a few examples that come to mind.

With the current uproar and battle cry to break these big tech companies up, part of me feels that we might collaterally lose this balance of power between the two.

>In the west, instead, its a little bit more back and forth between tech and government.

Hand over data or shut down your company is the ultimatum.

That wasn't the case when the FBI tried to get apple to unlock iphones for them [0].

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FBI–Apple_encryption_dispute

Because Apple is too big. Had Apple been a smaller company, that would have been the ultimatum.

see, it's different though: Firstly, the data capture is "incidental" - we weren't actively trying to capture the data of $FreeCountry, it just happened as a byproduct of tapping this muti-terabit fiber-optic cable. Secondly, instead of violating citizens' privacy on $FreeCountry soil, the data are routed to $ReallyFarPlace for review and processing by $OtherPeople, not members of $FreeCountry. Because of these frivolous and arbitrary "measures", $ConstitutionalRights are maintained.

Shortly after ZuckBucks launch next year

Very good article, and the video on that page is a must-watch to understand the perils of a state/tech/media alliance that runs too deep.

The bit about face recognition and voice imprinting is most certainly being used to populate some database, but it also serves as a CAPTCHA of sorts.

Advancements in procedural face and voice generation could create a powerful tool to beat CAPTCHA advancements, and to preserve anonymity against creeping surveillance.

Of course, China has hooks into the device manufacturers so doing this is an order of magnitude harder than it already is.

If posting photos from a 6/4 vigil in Hong Kong got the reporter from zero to the first tier watch list, I have a feeling any biometric mismatches would quickly escalate him to the next tier.

This maybe implies a use case where deepfakes could actually used be to the benefit of society.

I honestly see it going the other way. Deepfakes being used to create fake material that falsely incriminates someone. So if they have the biometrics of an account on file already, they would match a fake video circulating the service to that account and presto you are on a watch list.

I could imagine a "resistance" bombarding wechat with so much garbage that the PRC wouldn't be able to trust intel gathered from it.

Now that is an interesting thought. They could incriminate party members and government officials to sow distrust in the ranks.

Having seen though how certain groups of the population have been dealt with in China does make me wonder if they would not just round everyone up and send them for “re-education”.

Would you mind elaborating this thought?

Presumably by creating ai generated personas dissidents could get some manner of protection from this type of surveillance.

Imagine deep faking Party members.

I'm sure the state will do so happily to politically assassinate officials that don't fall in line, but imagine if the people started doing the same to the Big Dogs, like to jinping himself. The possibilities are exciting ...

There are many Chinese news reports or other videos on YouTube and most of them are narrated by artificial voices.

We can imagine the reasons for that.

I once tried downloading WeChat from Google Play but the registration process required another existing WeChat user that I may know to recommend or vouch for my account first so I couldn't complete it. Strangely enough, a few months later I needed to use it for work and this requirement disappeared. Has this ever occurred to anyone?

Yeah they occasionally get paranoid and clamp down it seems. I had installed it, made an account, then uninstalled it. When I reinstalled, I forgot my password. That flagged my # as suspicious and then it required another WeChat user(who had an account longer than, IIRC, 6 months, and who hadn't validated anyone else lately) validate me before I could continue.

A few weeks ago I tried again and all they wanted was a facebook auth to create a new account. I think they're trying to broaden adoption now. Probably a good strategy for a spy app.

Maybe the person at work who asked you to use it (or whomever) vouched for you already? I don't know how it works but that would make sense.

What is more scary is that there are many Chinese Americans using WeChat to connect with family members. There is no doubt some of them work in the U.S. government or other sensitive companies or agencies. By tracking their location alone, the Chinese government can obtain huge amount of data.

should we ban wechat? probably yes. it's a quintessential threat to privacy, freedom, and democracy practice. but are we able to? not at all. All big corporates and even some in government are on their side. China is where money is to make and ruling is to learn.

The question is what is the due process to ban wechat. An executive order from Trump? If wechat is banned, should all other Chinese apps and websites be banned because every Chinese company is tied to Chinese government? If someone objects to the ban, should he/she be banned for colluding with a foreign threat? If you go down the slope, then at some point the US will become as oppressive as China. China can't make US more authoritarian, but paranoia can.

Along with Baidu and all the other sites that have had their American counterparts banned in China. Yes please.

It's red scare 2.0 with you people.

It's thing like this that I wonder if the the US will always have a bit of an advantage in the coming cold war. Similar to how the Soviet Union gave the West continual propaganda victories, China seems to be replicating the same mistakes. The US has done so many bad things, always seemed to win the propaganda war because the Soviet union was so unequivocally repressive.

Maybe. But both, the Soviet Union and the US had to offer something.

US: Idea of freedom and democracy

Soviet Union: Idea of equality and communism.

China lacks an ideology that can attract foreigners. Also, in all super powers since Rome it was possible for able people to become a citizen and to be part of it. Even Nazis became American (think von Braun).

It is not possible to become a Chinese citizen.

That's enough for me, I'm uninstalling the app and my Chinese friends better upgrade to WhatsApp or Telegram.

Yes. China. I love WeChat I must say. Much better than WhatsApp.

Yes, Tiananmen Square. Westerners in China call it "The day when nothing happened". But I also heard different views from Western Politicians that were deeply involved with the Chinese system. The amazing thing is that the students were actually allowed to protest for a long time.

The guy in the video is just an asshole. He is harassing normal Chinese people who might get problems.

I love Chine. I understand and respect "sensitive" issues. In the end I can not become Chinese and always will be a "tolerated guest".

What is this weird notion of "respecting sensitive issues"?

Is that just a polite way of saying, "I don't discuss human and civil rights violations." Why should I respect a person's desire to not hear about their own government's crimes?

What makes the problem so challenging to fix is that it's not an inherently weird notion. I respect sensitive issues all the time; I don't make light of tragedies around people who've recently experienced them, I don't discuss controversial issues at quiet dinner parties, and so on. The Chinese government has just hijacked that entirely natural mechanism to justify driving some conversations out of the public sphere entirely.

There is a strange man who shouts “no Brexit” very loudly outside parliament every day. None of the residents like him. He hasn’t been run over by a tank yet.

For forty years mothers of disappeared people have assembled in the Plaza de Mayo.¹ They have not been run over by a tank yet.

In Belgrade protests have been held for twenty-six weeks against government corruption.² The police have attempted to repress the protests, but not with tanks.

A UK student protest in 2011 continued for several months.³

There is nothing strange about protests continuing for a long time. If the party had repressed the protests with tear gas a week after they started, most liberals’ view of the party would have turned out much better than the current view. The point is that using the army on one’s own people is taken to be bad, and repressing that memory is taken to suggest that there is a deeper malaise that creates a general willingness and ability to use such force.

As for causing trouble, it is unlikely that those whom the journalist messaged will actually “get problems”; they may be put on a list, but unless they do anything further, they are unlikely to face any consequences. And had they, for example, held a public vigil without the journalist (or tried), they would have ended up in a sticky situation anyway. So I don’t see what’s wrong with the journalists’ actions.

As for the view of Chinese, it is up to you to decide what “China” actually is. Of course you should respect the “true China” in some sense, but many will claim to be that—the party, activists, people like me, etc.; at some point you must choose. The events of 6/4 are a reasonable indication of what Chinese unencumbered by excessive government restrictions on expression think, as are today’s in Hong Kong, or the long history of peasant revolts and political strife. The Chinese people’s reaction to “sensitive” issues like the Rape of Nanjing was unstinting resistance to the Japanese occupiers; to the ineptitude of the nationalists the struggle of the People’s Liberation Army; to everyday injustice the sight of the millions of petitions that are the mark not of deference to authority as it exists but loyalty to an ideal of good governance. In attempting to be a “tolerated guest” you necessarily have chosen a China, even as it seems in its simplicity to be the most neutral one. But ultimately all these choices are anything but neutral, and Chinese history would suggest that most Chinese would choose otherwise.

1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/28/mothers-plaza-...

2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/video_and_audio/headlines/4804638...

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Hetherington_House_Occupa...

Why so focused on democracy? Is democracy a value by itself?

Have a look at this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pentagon%27s_New_Map


Just copy the idea of Apple “Find my” as they had for e-wall, wechat .... and reprogram to enhance this.

As Leo or is it Smith would say ... “upgrade”.

The matrix totally own you.

Then came a stage I was not prepared for. "Faceprint is required for security purposes," it said.

I was instructed to hold my phone up - to "face front camera straight on" - looking directly at the image of a human head. Then told to "Read numbers aloud in Mandarin Chinese".

My voice was captured by the App at the same time it scanned my face.

Afterwards a big green tick: "Approved"

In NYC there's been a growing trend towards merchants going cashless. There are bills to prevent this. Losing ability to pay with cash means a loss of privacy and anonymity.

The WeChat dominance in payments reminds me a bit of this trend. Luckily some US local governments care about maintaining some level of privacy.

The West has to be wary of becoming a surveillance state. More often than not tech companies in the West are using China tech as an example of how they should operate. We have to protect our civil liberties. I grew up in a post-communist country in Europe, riddled with corruption and dictatorial tendencies, and it is really not a nice place. It's strange that as technology becomes a bigger part of our society, the more it is used against us.

Another hit piece by bbc; move along there is nothing to see.

basically Chinese government doesn't want its citizens to talk anything cultural, political, spiritual, religious, etc. If you wanna talk fashion, food, travel, music, and the likes, that's absolutely fine. and it seems Chinese people are perfectly content with it. I heard that wechat is transparent to Chinese authority. Last year, a dozens of college students who are Marxist activists and advocate for workers' right in Shenzhen(yes, that techy wonderland so much applauded on HN) were arrested and disappeared since. Some say the authority can watch their every move via wechat.

Don't make blanket statements about billions of people like "they are content with it". Some might be, some might appear to be, some might not have thought about it, some might very much not be.

that's why I said it seems...because I'm not aware of any academia discourse or civil societal movement from china focusing on this kind of thought policing in its extreme. based on what I experienced, It SEEMS to me Chinese people are quite content and obsessed with their economic well-being.

Historically it's the middle class people who demand a share of power and who initiate all sorts of social reform and progression to protect their wealth and social status. Chinese middle class is very large now(in both absolute and relative terms) and arguably more wealthy than their western counterpart, however, the expected calling for more freedom, democracy, and human rights simply does not exist.

Well worker rights is a fantasy in the west too.

Google and facebook track our every moves and the NSA can watch over our every move. The scary thing is few journalist are left to talk about it over here.

The NSA can't watch our every move, that's illegal.

We learned from Edward Snowden that they do so for some people anyway, illegally. It's bad and wrong.

It's not nearly at the level of China.

America doesn't have xinjiang reeducation camps for political dissidents that also happens to be full of people charged with the crime of being religious.

America isn't harvesting the organs of its prisoners against their will.

The consequences of being caught by the Chinese surveillance machine is far, far worse in China than it is in the USA, which really doesn't even have it at the same level.

Broadly speaking, while the NSA’s spying is illegal, horrible, and despicable, they are not known to be used for political intimidation and censorship.

I can very loudly protest against the president, or the NSA itself without fear of retribution.

*Exceptions exist but these principles are 10000x stronger than China.

You've not heard of how the FBI tracked MLK, or anybody else who presented a genuine threat to the state or state ideology?

That's happening today, in China. It's not, in the USA.

For example, you are allowed to go in front of the capital right now and spread the word of FBI actions re MLK. If you did this in China, you'd be sent to a reeducation camp, or simply killed and your organs harvested.

If we're talking about what a state considers to be marginal groups, you must not compare your own imagined experiences if you're not part of a marginal group. The consequences of being caught by the police as a black man, for example, is far far worse in the US than it is in China or many other places. This is also a much more likely event.

You might want to try arousing the suspicions of your own state to see how it really reacts. You might be disappointed.

> The consequences of being caught by the police as a black man, for example, is far far worse in the US than it is in China or many other places.

This claim is almost impossible to evaluate. What do you mean by 'caught'? Are you referring to guilty people being punished in accordance with the law? Innocent people being unfairly targeted for investigation? Or illegal police brutality?

Pointing out the marginalization of black people in US is not the argument you want to make. Are you aware of China's persecution of the Uyghur people? Internment camps, forced labour and reeducation?

Things are a thousand times worse over there. It's good to be aware of things we need to improve on, but do not lose perspective.

Where is over here? In all the Western countries I'm familiar with, journalists are free to say bad things about Google and Facebook and the NSA, and it happens with some regularity.


Nonsense. Try expressing some communism or Wahhabism in earnest and see where it gets you. It may not end up being the state apparatus that first gets to you, but the end result is the same.

Every society has its boogieman. You're just blind to it.

Whatever WeChat's links with policing in China, I believe that they have an equivalent of Face ID to authenticate users. Keeping in mind that WeChat is used as an electronic wallet and almost bank account in China.

It would have been better journalism to mention this instead of only going for the angle of state policing. It's likely that WeChat already had the person's biometrics details because of the above.

Of course that's less catchy than implying that they requested biometrics details because he had posted about Tiananmen commemorations. (though the end result is likely the same)

Apple does not have my faceID biometric details and does not need them outside of my own device. Wouldn’t that make your assumption just as bad?

I've got a bunch of cards and empty bank accounts sitting around, none ever asked for biometrics.

No, it’s an article by and for anyone with western values. You know, the values that resulted in 99% of the innovations in this world.

Please don't take HN threads into generic ideological or nationalistic flamewar. Such discussions are all the same: predictable and nasty. We're hoping to avoid them here.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20132749 and marked it off-topic.

You can correlate, directly, the "Western value system" with 99% of innovations in this world?

Wow! I have questions!

1. What is the west?

2. What is the homogeneous value system of the west, in its entirety?

3. What is list of the inventions this value system?

4. How do we know it was these values that generated these innovations instead of other causes?

As you might expect, I am extremely skeptical! I'm particularly curious how you're going to deal what I view as a very non homogeneous concept of "Western values" (it is news to me to hear them lumped together like that), and where you'll draw your border on "The West." For example, surely your West definition must include the Arabian peninsula, for giving us mathematics, 0, and eye surgery. Surely also it must include China for giving us gunpowder and extensive bureaucracy? Oh and Japan for innovations in education systems!

Western values: freedom of speech, the ability to remove bad leaders, etc.

IMO, all of the historical innovations you mention in the Arabian peninsula, China and Japan happened during periods of relative openness in those cultures.

Interesting - so those values existed well before our modern concept of "the west," in a place we probably wouldn't call "the west" during a period of time when "the west" was very "not open?" For example, during the dark ages, Inquisitions, etc?

Why call it "western values?" Why not just specifically refer to the values by name?

They are called “western” values because their current form began with the Enlightenment and scientific revolution in Europe and have stuck around since then. But yes they’ve popped up temporarily in other past cultures like Ancient Greece. If you know of a better name than “western values” let me know.

They are called "western values" thanks to a very eurocentric (and somewhat ignorant) view of the world that was exported thanks to colonialism.

Many of the inventions and values attributed to "Western values/culture" are derived from non western civilizations (including a tremendous amount of math/science knowledge which was imported from the east).

Propoganda and lying through ommission is quite prevalant in western accounts of history, it may require studying abroad to realize the scope of this activity.

The enlightenment as a unified event exclusively across Europe is missing a lot. Scholarship is very much identifying more complexity here and the idea that liberal democracy can be assigned to Europe and nowhere else is falling apart.

This is why it is better to use the actual names of the ideas rather than describing them with a questionable provenance.

"Liberal democracy" is a much better term than "Western values".

The digital war will be won with pencil and paper.

Jun 06 2019


Facebook/Twitter have been used to manipulate politics in many countries. China does not want WeChat to be used in a similar way. Somehow here in the US/West everyone gets the real news?

The Chinese government will use WeChat data to arrest and make dissidents vanish.

Fakenews is not a threat great enough to justify this.

There is no equivalence between what is happening in China and what we are dealing with in the USA.

Kind of like the US government using Facebook data/communications to arrest people?

Sounds very equal.

Interesting, I hadn't heard that the United States government was wholesale surveilling its population, with no oversight, with an open tap in Facebook data, and using that information to imprison people for thought crimes such as having a religion.

False equivalence doesn't pass for me. The USA has surveillance issues, but it isn't the prc.

In many ways its worse, PRC doesn't arrest or extrajudicially murder people that have never visited China from what I understand.

Julian Assange would be surfing in Australia with his family right now if he exposed Chinese war crimes.

> Julian Assange would be surfing in Australia with his family right now if he exposed Chinese war crimes.

We certainly don't know this to be true or false, because China hasn't had a Julian Assange yet.

What we can work with is available data - China has tens of thousands of thought-criminals in reeducation camps, and is actively killing them for their organs. America has leveraged its extrajudicial international powers twice in recent memory - once for Julian Assange, once for Kim Dotcom.

5 eyes, Prism, ATT fiber tapping, windows NSA key etc.. And how do you manage to conveniently forget about Snowden revelation?

Still not even close. The U.S. has a constitution that gives its citizens legal recourse when they feel the government has gone too far and gives them some basic rights. The U.S. has elections to hold leaders accountable. China has none of these things.

I admit the U.S. govt probably envies the system China is putting in place and would love to emulate it, but the system of checks and balances built into the American political and legal system makes that impossible.

It is specifically the lack of checks and balances in China that makes what is happening so frightening. Their surveillance state is really just beginning. I wonder just how dystopian it will become in the next ten to twenty years.

How does elections hold leaders accountable?

Leaders always know they have to answer to voters. So They cannot just do whatever they want. The communist party in China does not have to answer to voters. So they can do whatever they want.

I concede that perhaps there are internal checks and balances in the communist party that I am unaware of.

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