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China’s Social Credit and the Joyously Oppressed

You are being watched.

I posted about China’s social credit system when it was first announced and I think one other time since then.  A more recent article tells the story of one woman who has no problem being watched, followed, judged, and rated, by her government. The program won’t fully be online until 2020 at which time it will take the form of a dystopian horror worthy of 1984. Am I exaggerating? Here’s the official outline from the Chinese government on the program, It will, “allow the trustworthy to roam freely under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”. Not the criminal mind you, not the violent, not the honestly dangerous, the “discredited”. And who “discredits”? The government of course. Can there be any better example of oppression than a government that watches you, rates you, and announces that you won’t be able to take a single step if you don’t fit their concept of an ideal person?

This system comes with real consequences. “Those at the bottom can be locked out of society and banned from travel, or barred from getting credit or government jobs.” What of those who play nice? Who “behave” the way the government wants them to as good and useful citizens? “Those, like Dandan, with top “citizen scores” get VIP treatment at hotels and airports, cheap loans and a fast track to the best universities and jobs.”

When the system is fully online what you purchase at the grocery store could impact your score. Buy something that is less healthy or perhaps from a country China isn’t currently having a trade war with and your score goes down. And the system will be fluid so each moment allows her to view her score in real time. If she sees her score go down, well she can change her mind about that product.

The big question for me is why a citizen would actually support such an oppressive and controlling system.

I believe the answer boils down to fear. Some will support it because they are afraid of not supporting it. And others will support it because they are already afraid and believe this system will be the thing that makes them safe.

“I think people in every country want a stable and safe society,” she says. Yes, they do. Stability and protection are the very reasons that people form societies. On the face of it those things aren’t bad of course. So when someone uses them as the reason to support something it sounds rather okay. Who could be against safety and stability? Who would want an unstable and unsafe society? This ignores the fact that absolute safety isn’t possible and that doing this actually makes you quite unsafe.

“If, as our government says, every corner of public space is installed with cameras, I’ll feel safe.” So trusting! I can’t imagine the level of ignorance or naiveté that allows a person to be so trusting of the government.

“She’s also likely to benefit from the system.”

And that perhaps is one of the main reasons people give into this kind of thing. In the immediate they benefit. They are not able to put things into perspective and see it all in the grand scheme of things. They are favored with a good social credit score today not realizing that tomorrow might see them an enemy of the state simply because they purchased the wrong kind of toilet paper.

But they get favorite status right now and that’s exciting and makes them feel special. If the government likes you that means the entire nation likes you! You’re the right kind of person and other people will look at your social score and want to be just like you. But heaven forbid you should do things so right that a large number of people want to be like you. Then you become an icon and a danger. It doesn’t matter, for the state, if you have the state’s best interest at heart, they won’t see it that way. They never see it that way.

She talks about how this is the only way a country with as many people as China can manage all the people.

That’s one of the greatest flaws of communism – it thinks it can actually manage all the people. The complexity of a billion people will never be managed. It’s not that they haven’t tried hard enough or in the right way, it’s that it just can’t be done. It’s impossible. Not everyone can be safe, not everyone can be fed, not everyone can be happy, not everyone content. It’s impossible. Some, who are happy today, will be miserable tomorrow. The shine of communism always wears off. There’s one simple reason for that – it’s a scheme, a fraud, a scam. It’s simply nothing more than a classic Ponzi scheme. Money comes in from one place and is handed out to a second place. The second place thinks that it’s made a great deal. Eventually the first place runs out of money and the second place is hit up for their fair share which is given to a third place and so on. All the while the administrators of the scheme live in high style and luxury, always better than the people. Such schemes always implode. The only thing not for certain is when the utter failure will take place. If people are lucky, like Venezuela it will happen sooner than later in full view of the world. If they are unlucky it will happen like in the USSR slowly and terribly over time behind an iron curtain. Someday China’s rural population (estimated to be about half the total population) will someday decide they want to rule themselves or the city dwellers will someday decide they want to be left alone like the rural farmers.

There is no magic wand to make people into something they aren’t.

Culture being what it is places like China have a better chance of lasting longer with this kind of thing than other places. There is a focus in many Asian cultures on the collective in the broader sense than there is in America. It can be said that they have a very police society. At first that politeness will take the form of an unwillingness to resist or make waves. That would be seen as bad form. The more independent minded a people the quicker communal forms of existence will fail.

Eventually though, human evolution takes hold and overrides culture. People are people. While we are indeed social animals we are also not schooling fish or flocking birds. We like to be alone or in very small groups. We don’t like to feel hemmed in or restricted. We will burst out when cabin fever sets in. We will become resentful of those who take from us when we’ve worked so hard. It doesn’t matter if the other person works hard too, they didn’t work hard for YOUR money.

Big Uncle is watching in China and while they can find those willing to say they are pleased they may just as easily find those who are disgusted and fearful of the future with an all-powerful all-seeing government made up of men in a distant capital who can never know what your best interests really are because they simply can never know you.

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