We’re going to need a new word for ‘Orwellian’. Wired explains China’s ‘social credit’ scoring system. It starts off as an efficient cashless society’s private-sector monitoring of everyone’s reliability as a customer, offering little rewards for prompt bill-payers. It then boosts the marketing-driven data-mining to gauge citizenship-worthiness from consumer behaviour. Blurring further with state surveillance, the system monitors your information-browsing habits and expression of online opinions, introducing deterrent penalties for ‘incorrect’ ideas. If that’s not creepy enough, you suffer additional penalties for having online friends who indulge in forbidden thoughts. Now add predictive analysis and facial- and voice-recognition technology, and you’ve got a dystopian sci-fi movie…
On a slightly bright note, illicit online material should all have been blocked, filtered and censored out of existence by the time the full microchip-in-brain capability goes live – so the system will in practice manipulate China’s zombie-populace through carrots more than sticks. Also, it’s hard to imagine sleepy Hong Kong and its disruptive-tech-averse vested interests being able to keep up with all this, so maybe we’ll be spared for a while. And how will overseas visitors to the Mainland, being non-persons to the all-seeing Big Brother, get anything done?
This week’s token Communist-skeptic at the South China Morning Post is (suitably controversial/not-taken-seriously) Niall Ferguson critiquing Panda-huggers’ Xi-veneration. China is not, he points out, a new-born bursting with potential like the US in 1817, and the Internet era will not necessarily provide Xi with the magic potion to make totalitarianism and central planning work for the first time in history.
Former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten also decides to burst the Xi bubble. He lists the demographic and environmental horrors ahead for China (he could add soil pollution), as well as inequality, and not forgetting over-concentration of power, as reasons to be doubtful.
And for light-ish relief, arty mag Hazlitt takes a discerning look at the Shen Yun cultural troupe. The self-styled ambassadors of Chinese dance present highly visual, arguably trashy, pastiche-type performances designed to impress Western audiences in places like Kentucky. As a front for the Falun Gong wacko-mystical-religious group, they push some anti-Communist messages as well, and they are pursued by Chinese embassy thugs who try to get the shows cancelled, and apparently vandalize the artists’ cars while they’re at it.
Hazlitt also does an in-depth discussion of two outstanding old TV comedy shows about the ‘monsters’ next door. The writer sees them as equally artistically admirable, though to my mind, the Addams Family was the classy and sophisticated production, while The Munsters was lame pap for kiddies. Still – good to see someone taking such black-and-white classic culture seriously.