big brother in china 2

Big Brother in China, II



allow welfare book a flight
rarely book (2) punishment
cut (2) pay off private (2)
absurd turn up impossible
prize point (3) has its way
score date (3) voluntary
rebate identify break the rule
affect rule (2) take away
obey on time watch over
bill (2) role (2) pilot project
test (2) track (2) participation
morals define (2) in charge
protest scenario authority (2)
award overdue cooperate
censor shut out surveillance
pillory black-list recognition
tardy animated scheduled
creepy order (3) subtract (2)
vague sense (2) role model
ideal mine (3) play along
loan proud of point of view
fulfill promote evaluation
honest evaluate requirement
vendor discount disadvantage
mass monitor demonstration
fine (2) obedient conceivable
in turn judge (2) assessment
sphere stuck (2) withdraw (3)
realm space (2) hold against you
criteria recover evaluation
roll out behavior


Video: Big Brother Ratings



This woman didn’t pay off her credit card, and as punishment, she can no longer book a flight.

He rarely visits his parents. So his welfare payments are cut.

And this boy plays too many computer games; so he isn’t allowed to go to a private school.

Sounds absurd, like a creepy science-fiction scenario?

If the government there has its way, this will be a reality in China by 2020.

Shi Ying from Shanghai is meter-testing an app called Honest Shanghai that collects her personal data and awards her points.

She’s able to track her score online. Good behavior is awarded more points, as well as prizes like free products or rebates; rule breakers get points taken away.

But what are the rules, exactly?

Shi Ying, Uses “Honest Shanghai” App: “I have a general sense of what will affect my credit history, negatively or positively. I think if I pay my credit card on time, I obey the traffic rules, and I don’t have any overdue bills, then I should be fine.

But I’m still not the best, I don’t know why.”

The app is just one of dozen pilot projects being tested right now in China. At the moment, participation is voluntary.

The government wants citizens with good, clean morals, at least as they are defined by the people in charge.

And monitoring is easy, since it’s impossible to get anything done in China without a smartphone: payment systems online … vendors … banks … chats … and even dating apps cooperate with government authorities to mine data.

In addition, the Chinese are watched over by more than one-hundred-and-seventy million (170,000,000) surveillance cameras that employ facial recognition.

This way, an ordinary bus stop becomes a public pillory: everyone else can see who has done something wrong.

There are already black-listed people tardy making payments, according to China expert, Mareike Ohlberg.

Online, the government puts out animated warnings of punishments of that kind of behavior.

Already around seven million Chinese can no longer book a flight.

Mareike Ohlberg, Mercator Institute for China Studies: “On government websites, you often see statements like, “Behaving badly like playing computer games could reduce your score.” Or, “If you order a taxi and don’t turn up, it could have a negative effect on your score.”

But there isn’t a clear system to show how many points are subtracted for what behavior.

“And in a certain sense, that’s what they want, because if the criteria remained a bit vague, then people no longer self-censor their own behavior.

It leads to an extremely obedient society that does exactly what the government wants. And from the point of view of China’s Communist Party, that’s ideal.”

Punishment is one thing, but there are also good citizens, and they are publically portrayed as role models.

Under the new point system, they receive rewards. They get loans more easily, are promoted more quickly, get discounts on products, and have to fulfill fewer official requirements.

Mareike Ohlberg, Mercator Institute for China Studies: “The new social credit system is getting mixed together with the old socialist thought of identifying role-models, who everyone then tries to copy.

Ideally as few people as possible will be given bad assessments: the majority of people behave “properly”, and therefore have a good rating, and aren’t punished by the “System”.

Then there are the small number of people given bad evaluations, and are massively disadvantaged.

But because the number of people who are in a way are shut out of society remains small, there are no mass protests.”

So why do the Chinese play along with this?

And that’s not the only question.

Would the system also be conceivable in Europe, where data protection plays a much greater role?

People reveal huge amounts of personal information on the internet. They evaluate others and are judged in turn.

China expert, Katika Kuhnreich, warns against a point system.

Katika Kuhnreich: “If we stuck the private sphere in the public realm full of cameras and microphones, we no longer have a place to withdraw to.

We are people. We need space to recover from work, but also from constant evaluation. And right now, everyone is working on building a surveillance system that no longer allows this.

And it’s a system in which mistakes are never forgotten. All of us have done things we are not especially proud of. And we’re happy these things can’t be held against us our whole lives.”

This kind of surveillance is scheduled to be rolled out in China in 2020. But an evaluation system like this is technically possible in any country in the world.


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1. The social credit system in China punishes people only for felonies like robbery, theft and murder. True or false? What were some examples mentioned?

2. Does a judge evaluate each person’s “offense” or “infraction”? Does the system fine offenders or wrongdoers? Does it take money away from them?

3. Are there secret police who patrol and watch over people, or is it mostly high-tech? Give examples.

4. The wrongdoers’ privacy is respected. Everything in the social-credit system is confidential. Is this right or wrong?

5. Is the government explicit in what the rules are? Does the government announce the rules? Can citizens read the rules somewhere? Is there a rulebook?

6. What are examples of “punishments” for low scores and what are some examples of “rewards” for high scores?

7. According to the expert, the Chinese will definitely rise and rebel against the social-credit system. Is this correct or incorrect?

8. Any form of social-credit system can only happen in totalitarian, authoritarian states like China. It can never happen in Western democracies.


A. Do you see CCTVs or surveillance cameras? How widespread are they?

B. Surveillance and CCTVs is a good thing. Do you agree? What are their advantages or pros?

C. Do they have any disadvantages or cons?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. We already have a “Big Brother” system. What do you think?

F. What do people think about all this? Should people do anything about it?

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