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Chinese Big Brother to monitor citizens’ patriotism and online behaviour

From 2020, China is to introduce an almost total surveillance system of its citizens' social and political behaviour, but most Chinese do not seem to care.

Published: April 17, 2018, 11:23 am

    The People’s Republic of China is going to introduce a “Social Credit System” which will monitor its citizens’ online behaviour and utterances, giving them a score much like Western-style credit score. In the planning stage now, it is expected to be operational by 2020.

    However, most Chinese place such high trust in their government that they do not seem bothered by the idea of being constantly monitored and graded for “good behaviour”.  A survey of Chinese consumers by Dentsu Aegis, showed that 70 percent of participants were of the opinion that it will have a “positive impact” on society. The sample was 20 000, and may therefore be taken as representative of the entire population.

    The head of technologay and innovation at marketing agency Iscobar China, Francis Lam, explains the Chinese view of surveillance as part of a general appetite for tech. “Digital services give us more freedom and make lots of things more convenient,” he said. “They help us enjoy life even more.” So the chances are that Chinese citizens will embrace the Social Credit system rather than resist it.

    They would also tend to see it as a form of technological innnovation. According to Lam, “People feel proud of the advances made and of how they affect our status in a global sense. So they are willing to try anything new.”

    China has long censored criticism of its government and leaders on the internet. The New York Times reported in March this year that Zhang Guanghong, a human rights activist, was detained after sending a Whatsapp message. In the private message to a group of friends inside and outside China, he shared an article critical of China’s president. The irony is that the message was sent via technology controlled from within the USA, Whatsapp being owned by Facebook, but the Chinese government evidently had access to it. What makes it even stranger, is that Whatsapp is almost unknown in China.

    According to the New York Times, “In September, Mr. Zhang was detained in China; he is expected to soon be charged with insulting China’s government and the Communist Party. The evidence, according to his lawyer, included printouts of what Mr. Zhang shared and said in the WhatsApp group.”

    While U.S. citizens’ free speech is protected by the First Amendment to their Constitution, technology companies are also using data on users to censor some users but not others. Various Alt-Right figures have recently been denied access to Facebook and Twitter. Jared Taylor of American Renaissance lost both his Twitter and Facebook accounts, while Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute complained yesterday on Twitter that he “got wiped from Facebook this weekend”.

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