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Author Topic: The odd reality of life under China's social credit system  (Read 100 times)
Hydrogen
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June 06, 2018, 11:59:26 PM
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In the UK, credit scores are mostly used to determine whether people can get a credit card or loan. But in China, the government is developing a much broader “social credit” system partly based on people’s routine behaviours with the ultimate goal of determining the “trustworthiness” of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens.

It might sound like a futuristic dystopian nightmare but the system is already a reality. Social credit is preventing people from buying airline and train tickets, stopping social gatherings from happening, and blocking people from going on certain dating websites. Meanwhile, those viewed kindly are rewarded with discounted energy bills and similar perks.

China's social credit system was launched in 2014 and is supposed to be nationwide by 2020. As well as tracking and rating individuals, it also encompasses businesses and government officials. When it is complete, every Chinese citizen will have a searchable file of amalgamated data from public and private sources tracking their social credit. Currently, the system is still under development and authorities are trying to centralise local databases.


Given the Chinese government's authoritarian nature, some portray the system as a single, all-knowing Orwellian surveillance machine that will ensure every single citizen’s strict loyalty to the Communist Party. But for now, that's not quite the case. Rogier Creemers, a researcher in the law and governance of China at Leiden University, has described the social credit setup as an "ecosystem" of fragmented initiatives. The main goal, he says, is not stifling dissent – something the Chinese state already has many tools for at its disposal – but better managing social order while leaving the Party firmly in charge.

Yet social credit isn't limited to the government and for the most part it has been operated by private firms. Ant Financial, the finance arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba, launched a product called Sesame Credit in 2015. It was China’s first effective credit scoring system but was also much broader, functioning as a social credit scheme and loyalty programme as well.

Along with providing preferential loans, a high Sesame Credit score – which ranges from 350 to 950 – can result in a huge variety of benefits, like no-deposit apartment and bicycle rentals. While the system is undoubtedly popular, the line between private social credit schemes and the government is being increasingly blurred. China’s supreme court, for example, shares a “blacklist” of people who haven’t paid court fines with Sesame Credit, which in turn deducts users’ scores until they sort out their debts.

As both the private and public components of social credit expand in China, there’s legitimate concern the system will end up creating an “IT-backed authoritarianism” unlike any other. One independent journalist has already been barred from buying plane tickets because of court fees related to his work, for example.

But, for now, it remains grimly captivating to see the benefits and rewards created by such an ambitious and potentially dystopian project. Here are some lesser-known examples of the social credit system’s real-life applications, from hospitals to K-pop.

Jumping healthcare waiting lists
China’s hospitals, long notorious for stifling bureaucracy, are currently experimenting with social credit systems. In a bid to reduce wait times by up to 60 per cent, Sesame Credit is giving users with a score above 650 a 1,000-yuan (£117) credit at one Shanghai university hospital, letting them see a doctor without lining up to pay. The scheme is set to expand to hospitals in 10 more Chinese cities. But social credit is also being used to punish some patients and practitioners. Last year, Chinese health authorities announced that people guilty of violence against medical workers – a significant problem in China thanks to poor malpractice policies – would be placed on the country’s national social credit blacklist. Also added to the blacklist were those running illegal plastic surgery outfits.

Punishments in virtual worlds
In 2015, Sesame Credit executive Li Yingun said playing 10 hours of video games a day would get a lower credit score than a responsible parent buying loads of diapers. But playing video games can lower your Sesame Credit score in a much more direct way – if you cheat.

Chinese citizens signing up for the wildly popular multiplayer shooter game Counter Strike Global Offensive must register using both their national ID and Sesame Credit score, according to state media outlet CGTN, and anyone caught using cheating software like ‘Aimbots’ which ensure perfect aim will have their Sesame Credit scores deducted, potentially affecting their real-life ability to get loans. “It's the worst punishment in history," Li Haiyi, vice president of Chinese game developer Perfect World, told CGTN.


Chasing K-pop stars
Rabid K-pop fans be warned. After obsessed fans caused serious delays at Beijing’s airport several times by rushing to meet their idols – including one incident where they managed to break into first-class – Chinese authorities passed a regulation that makes it possible to lower the social credit record of anyone found to have disrupted or blocked check-in counters and airport corridors.

Until then, fans were able to get away with their antics thanks to their large numbers and the fact that they bought cheap refundable tickets to enter secure areas, according to Chinese media reports. The new regulation also includes a potential one-year ban from flying and social credit penalties for a host of other bad behaviours, from forging boarding passes to stealing suitcases.

Giving men access to women only dating groups
In China, a high credit score can help you find a date. Zhenai.com, a dating service with 140 million users which is partly-owned by the American parent company behind Tinder, gives users with high Sesame Credit scores better visibility on their website. And in a Tinder-like move, dating giant Baihe.com lets users with high Sesame Credit show off their score to members of the opposite sex as long as they agree to display their scores as well.

Sometimes, though, mixing up social credit and dating goes too far. In late 2016, Alipay launched a new feature on its app called Circles which created women-only groups where only men with Sesame Credit scores over 750 could comment on women’s posts – which they immediately did, mostly by asking for sex. The feature was widely-derided as digital prostitution – one blogger called it “Alipimp” – and it was soon taken down.

Skipping deposits for rentals
Good credit can make city living significantly easier in China. In some cities, people with high Sesame Credit scores can check into hotels, rent umbrellas, and even rent cars without paying a deposit. But it’s not all about the rewards.

Chinese cities piloting government-run social credit systems punish a wide range of activities, potentially causing travel and government service restrictions. Recently the names of 169 people who have been banned from buying travel tickets were published by the government.

In the eastern city of Suzhou, for example, bus fare evasion, posting fake product reviews online, not paying your electric bill, and booking a room in a hotel without showing up all cause deductions in the city’s 200-point social credit system. Possibly to make Suzhou’s program feel a bit less Orwellian, the scheme is named after a flower popularly used in teas and cakes.

Banning social gatherings
In a sign that the government is using the social credit system to deepen its control civil society, social credit is being harnessed to crack down on “illegal social organisations.” The Ministry of Civil Affairs has announced it would take measures to blacklist people involved in such organisations, which were claimed to be largely fraudulent or copycat associations often using vague names in their titles like “international” to swindle people.

The regulation state that one’s social credit would be affected if they were found to be involved in running such an organisation. But what makes a “social organisation” legal or illegal in China sometimes has a lot to with its political stance. China has cracked down on foreign-funded NGOs, while the same ministry attacking “illegal social organisations” recently required that the legal ones include Communist Party “building” in their charters to “ensure their correct political direction”.

Stopping you eating
Since 2015 China’s supreme court has shared a ‘blacklist’ of millions of people who defaulted on their court fines with Sesame Credit. In turn, Sesame Credit lowers these users’ scores and even bars them them from making luxury purchases on the Alibaba-owned online marketplaces TaoBao and Tmall.

The system could go much further in the future. Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile payments in China, frequent debtors could eventually be barred from attempting to “buy breakfast, take a bus and look for jobs,” one Chinese academic told China Daily. While that seems extreme, one woman in 2017 did get plastic surgery to escape debts worth 25 million yuan (about £2.9 million).

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/china-social-credit

Here's an interesting economic social experiment undertaken by the chinese communist party. Hopefully this won't turn out like china's "great firewall" where american politicians were proposing the united states implement a "great firewall" to produce the "internet kill switch" functionality which china has--to "fight terrorism".

The implications of this...  Well, I could easily imagine interesting discussions and debates over this. Whether states should reward good behavior as well as punishing bad behavior. If morality can be forcibly implemented or whether morality can only exist as a choice bereft of outside environmental circumstances. In an extreme scenario, it might be possible to force someone to make moral decisions by holding a gun to their head. But would that represent true morality if it begins to infringe upon the concept of "free will"?

There could be interesting points derived from this.

This part has to be 100% untrue:

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Given the Chinese government's authoritarian nature, some portray the system as a single, all-knowing Orwellian surveillance machine that will ensure every single citizen’s strict loyalty to the Communist Party. But for now, that's not quite the case.

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June 07, 2018, 01:06:29 AM
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This looks like the book 1984 by George Orwell, an amazing Book.

The book tells the story about a socialist authoritarian society where there is an entity called Big Brother. He sees and hear everything you do and say, everytime everywhere. Even common people became eyes of the party, denouncing his friends and family when they are doing something that could be classified as an unapproved behavior.

It's an old book from the 1949.

Very nice reading.

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June 08, 2018, 02:20:37 PM
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There is an episode in Black Mirror series, that there is a similar social credit system like the one in China. It is bad for people.

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June 08, 2018, 11:50:29 PM
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This looks like the book 1984 by George Orwell, an amazing Book.

The book tells the story about a socialist authoritarian society where there is an entity called Big Brother. He sees and hear everything you do and say, everytime everywhere. Even common people became eyes of the party, denouncing his friends and family when they are doing something that could be classified as an unapproved behavior.

It's an old book from the 1949.

Very nice reading.


1984 is good for putting things like totalitarianism in context. There are many good analogies and deep analysis blended in with the story.

Another story I like addressing class warfare is the original version of "The Time Machine" by HG Wells. The analogy and moral of the story there is a bit indirect. I think the gist of it is, life for the wealthy becomes so convenient and easy that over time they lose their problem solving abilities. While on the opposite end of the spectrum, those in poverty evolve into a group of primates which is well suited for physical labor but ill suited for higher cognitive function.

There's a reboot and newer version of "The Time Machine" which of course eliminates these parts of the story.

I guess if someone wanted to go overboard and overthink things they could question whether china's social credit system could reward those best suited life under a totalitarian regime, while punishing others. Over time, this could affect human evolution with perhaps negative consequences.

There is an episode in Black Mirror series, that there is a similar social credit system like the one in China. It is bad for people.

Really? Thanks for the info. I've heard good things about Black Mirror, maybe I'll have to check it out.   Smiley

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June 09, 2018, 01:39:05 AM
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Blackmirror series is definitely amazing and you really should check it out.

Netflix bought the series in 2017 or 2016. So the first 2 or 3 seasons are much better, but even the last season is great.

Blackmirror is about new technology gadgets and human psyche.

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June 09, 2018, 12:48:27 PM
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But would that represent true morality if it begins to infringe upon the concept of "free will"?

Lol, are you doubting it?


This part has to be 100% untrue:

Quote
Given the Chinese government's authoritarian nature, some portray the system as a single, all-knowing Orwellian surveillance machine that will ensure every single citizen’s strict loyalty to the Communist Party. But for now, that's not quite the case.

No, it is actually 200% true.
The final aim is to be sure that the communist party has total control.
It starts with air tickets, traveling, then with what you watch, how much time you dedicate listening to the great leader speeches, and slowly you turn into the cattle they want, eat, sleep work for the "country" and never dare to oppose the system.

I always laugh when Americans and westerners are angry at the government trying to "control" the population.
Every tinfoil hat model that has his channel aimed at fighting the gubbermint on youtube should take a six-month trip to Russia or China or Africa and when he comes back I'm pretty sure he will start the day by kissing a politician a day.

Hopefully this won't turn out like china's "great firewall"

No, of course not.
The firewall is just preventing people from accessing information, this new measure will prevent people to live :p

Btw, how much toilet paper you use?
https://www.shine.cn/news/metro/1806086002/

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“For most people, 80cm paper should be enough,” said Li Bei, an employee of Shoulian Science and Technology Co, the supplier of the machine. “The face scan machine can save about 70 percent of toilet paper.”

Reminds me of the communist times, when you were allowed to 15 egs and 300 grams of butter a month.....
Beautifull times....so much wow




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June 10, 2018, 04:48:49 AM
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It is very important to collect information in China! In the era of big data, there is no credit crunch!
The blacklist is listed on the letter of credit and it is impossible to use high-speed trains and planes to make loans. The children are affected when they go to school!

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June 10, 2018, 05:40:50 AM
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I kinda like this social credit system.I know it`s a little bit totalitarian,but it can be used for good purposes.
It`s simple and it can be very effective.If you do bad things,your credit score gets down and you can`t purchase sertain goods and services.I`m wondering is there a way for the chinese to cheat that social credit score system?

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June 11, 2018, 07:54:45 PM
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I've always thought that Sesame Credit was something that was privately owned by Ant Financial (parent company of Alipay)? Perhaps that parent company is in some way or form communicating with the government regarding this info, but this isn't something that is directly forced onto citizens, I don't think.

I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of social credit system was implemented in western countries later on.

If you buy stuff online, you can actually judge the seller's reputation a lot better, since their Sesame Credit rating would be showing. But all of this idea is based on full verification of citizens, which China has done an extremely good job of making sure that everyone has an ID card, and that ID card is used for everything online (Wechat, Alipay, etc.)

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June 11, 2018, 08:01:38 PM
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I heard about it a while back, it's only in an area of the country currently.
Pretty silly if you ask me
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June 14, 2018, 11:02:29 PM
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If we will direct this system in the right direction, it will be all right. Future is here, only you can take it in your hands.
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June 15, 2018, 02:15:17 PM
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I kinda like this social credit system.I know it`s a little bit totalitarian,but it can be used for good purposes.
It`s simple and it can be very effective.If you do bad things,your credit score gets down and you can`t purchase sertain goods and services.I`m wondering is there a way for the chinese to cheat that social credit score system?

Oh, but everything can be used for good purposes.
Cyanides, for example, are used in mining, medicine, pest control....but also other things at which Zyklon B was the best.
Even having a single party is good, you don't spend so much time and money with elections.
A credit score that might haunt you for life because you didn't clap with more than 60Db when the prime minister's car passed on your street is definitely a good idea...

Who decides what bad things are?
For example, you know that porn is banned in China? So if you get caught maybe it's bye bye ice cream or chocolate for you!!!
Still think it's a good idea?


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August 05, 2018, 10:25:48 PM
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There is an episode in Black Mirror series, that there is a similar social credit system like the one in China. It is bad for people.
The film itself or it talk about social life is somewhat similar to the situation of this country. The terrible things that have been applied in this era are terrible. Hopefully it needs to be changed so that there is no regrets beyond expectation.

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