Pavel Dvořák is a Slovak sinologist living and doing business in tourism in China. In theintroduction to his web blogs he says he has had a passion for that country since childhood. In his latest blog, Dvořák defends the newly built technology system assigning credits to Chinese citizens by the government. Some critics reproach the system for allegedly introducing an excessive, unsound, totalitarian control over the people.
A social credit is nothing new, Dvořák argues, as it is “a thing as old as humanity itself”. What is different now, according to him, is just the way of implementation. In the past a credit was an unwritten public opinion about a person spread by word of mouth. Dvořák reminds that “today, there are social credits that are systematically recorded and used,” pointing at financial and commercial institutions as examples. He says: “We have social credits in Slovakia in many forms. For example, by a bank. If you apply for a loan, the bank first looks at your social rating. Only then it decides whether to lend you the money. You have social rating on Facebook today. Each user has a score based on whether he deceives, shares problematic posts, etc. The algorithm is only known to Facebook. I am certain that we have plenty of similar ratings today. Obviously Google, Amazon, Netflix, your insurance company and every company with the ability to process Big data has it. And now just imagine that all these evaluations could be unified in one database. A system that would derive ratings and information from each database; while the artificial intelligence would create an algorithm to produce a universal score. That is what China plans to do. China is not reinventing the wheel. China is looking wherever the wheel can be mounted.”
The blogger rejects criticism voiced in articles dealing with the new Chinese social credit system – however, only in general terms, without mentioning any specific article. He writes: “In the vast majority of articles and infographics dealing with this social credit that I came across to, there are false and misleading information. Many, for some reason, claim that the system will be called the Sesame credit, that it was invented by Alibaba and used by the government. I do not know why the media in our country regard Jack Ma, the founder of the technology company Alibaba, as a demigod. He is not, and this is misinformation! The Chinese government has made an agreement with several companies that collect user data and create social assessments today about the access to these data. I think it is currently being negotiated with twelve major technology companies. It wants this information to be included in the social credit system, which has existed for several decades!”
Pavel Dvořák suggests that the government social credit system will concern just the economic soundness of a person. “How will it work? For example, you will pay for the Chinese Uber in time and not cancel orders, so you will not have to pay a deposit to the bicycle reservation system. Individual systems will be interconnected,” he describes, but at the same time admitting: “However, how exactly the system will work, what it will contain, how it will process the data, that is unknown.” Subsequently, he claims boldly: “Every article stating that people will get worse scores when they search for names of dissidents, or similar misconceptions, misleads. These are just conspiracy theories. The system we are talking about is so far just a bank credit system and nothing more.”
In the paragraph under the title “Are the Chinese responding to the new social system just as hysterically as the Western media?” the blogger notes that he has never experienced that Chinese people would start to talk about the issue by themselves. He indirectly suggests a principal approval of the credit system on their part. “Some people think that it could solve China’s problems that worry the whole nation. Low level of decency and culture among people. Skirmishes of disobedient tourists on aircrafts, ruthless drivers, cheaters, etc. Their view is rather positive,” he writes and continues: “The Chinese are accustomed to the fact that the state in cooperation with technology companies is implementing more and more technology into ordinary life. For example, face recognition that is currently on every second train station… Some people, of course, do mind, some people do not, and some even praise it. They say China is safer than Europe thanks to it.” The third group represents people who raise red flag, according to Dvořák. “And they warn rightfully. If a similar universal credit will be implemented successfully (and that is the question), it will be a mighty tool. A tool that can make a lot of good but also a lot of bad. The abuse could have tremendous consequences.”
In relation to eventual possibility of “exporting” the credit system to the outside world, the blogger is entertaining certain political deliberations, too, saying, i. a. that “people are not equal”. “Democracy is a beautiful thing worth fighting for, but liberal democracy, as we know it today, sadly, does not work. A similar system, the social credit that does not contain the human element, meaning that it is not manipulated, could save it. This could prevent populism, fake news, deception and misappropriation, abuse of the social system, ruling of unskilled and unqualified – the existential problems of the liberal democracy,” Pavel Dvořák argues.
The information is prepared by the team of the COMPACT project.
COMPACT is a Coordination and Support Action funded European Commission under framework Horizon 2020.
The objective of the COMPACT project is to increase awareness (including scientific, political, cultural, legal, economic and technical areas) of the latest technological discoveries among key stakeholders in the context of social media and convergence. The project will offer analyses and road maps of related initiatives. In addition, extensive research on policies and regulatory frameworks in media and content will be developed.
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