LIRNEasia is a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank active across the Asia Pacific

Reducing confusion over China’s “social credit” system

I have been cautious about buying the Western media story on China’s social credit system, but I had little other than gut feeling for my caution. Now finally, here is an analysis that will balance the Western narrative, which the author says is more about what those in the West worry about and not about what is actually happening in China.

Debate over the appropriate balance between security and liberty is nothing new. While technological and data management innovations have introduced new tools, it can’t surprise anyone to learn where China’s Communist Party draws the line between individual privacy and social stability. If anything, I would have thought that the plan’s faith in market forces and private business, or the efforts at government legitimacy through increasing transparency, would have been more surprising to those outside of China.

This article wasn’t meant to be about China so much as foreign coverage of China. China’s Social Credit is often used as removed way of discussing our own situation from a safe distance. This is, of course, also the role that science fiction like “Black Mirror” and Orwell’s 1984 has traditionally played, so it isn’t surprising to see them invoked here as well. We look at exotified foreign nations or speculative futures in order to reflect on our present, but what we take away from it likely says more about us than about the subject of our examination.

This is all fine, but it’s important to also remember that there are two stories worth exploring here; what is actually happening in China and what we fear is happening to ourselves.

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