The dance of dualities in the Chinese Social Credit

Unlike the conflicting nature of dual forces in western philosophy, traditional Chinese philosophy manifests this duality in the form of complementary and balancing forces exemplified in the Yin-Yang.

Nishant Dilip Sharma, Research Intern, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi

Dualities have always held a prominent place in traditional Chinese philosophy. Unlike the conflicting nature of dual forces in western philosophy, traditional Chinese philosophy manifests this duality in the form of complementary and balancing forces exemplified in the Yin-Yang. The way in which the Chinese government has gone about experimenting and implementing the infamous Social Credit System in China is another duality at play.

What is being seen as the emergence of an Orwellian “Big Brother” age in China, is being carried out in several cities through a number of pilot projects running on a dual ‘carrots & sticks’ model. Just like any other ‘reward-punishment’ scheme, this programme offers certain incentives (carrots) to people complying with the expectations of the governing body and at the same time, has punitive sanctions (sticks) in place for non-compliance. Interestingly, the quality of the carrots and the size of the sticks has not been uniform across all pilots.

This arises from the fact that the implementation of pilot programmes is being undertaken in a two-pronged approach. At one end are the Government run mandatory SCS programmes that are operational in more than 43 Chinese cities. At the other end, there are the corporate-run Social credit systems. Unlike the Government SCS programmes (GSCS), the corporate ones (CSCS) are not mandatory. The CSC pilots do offer virtual and monetary rewards to their customers, however the real intent is to eventually become incorporated with the government’s plans. This way the corporate in question remains in the forefront when SCS is rolled out in a more comprehensive measure. Speaking of the sticks, punishments are harsher in GSCS than under CSCS. The carrots and sticks in the GSCS are in the form of ‘red-lists’ and ‘black-lists’ respectively. While one’s name in the ‘red-list’ would mean a special honor and privileged/subsidized access to public services, a name in the ‘black-list’ would mean lesser privileges or denial of certain privileges. This could mean low internet speed, ban from traveling, denial of bank loans, public naming and shaming, etc. In short, one’s social credit scores could have a great impact on his/her routine life and social reputation.

In a country which bears the tag of the most populous nation on Earth, such measurement of reputation scores for each individual is no small undertaking. This is accomplished through the creation of a systematic surveillance state where big data and artificial intelligence play a major role. Each camera captures the movement of every face and small offenses like jaywalking or walking your dog without a leash could result in an immediate fine from the government. Thus, surveillance in the eastern industrialized towns is associated more with governance and has helped bring down law enforcement costs and many governance issues.

In contrast, state surveillance in Xinjiang and Tibet is employed to address security concerns. Surveillance cameras here snoop into the personal lives of the inhabitants to stamp out any cultural expression. Any sign of resistance opens up the gates of re-education camps, the insides of which many have seen but few have come out to tell the story. Here state security is a priority while separatism is viewed as evil and surveillance becomes a tool. This dual nature of surveillance, that of governance in the eastern region and that of security in the western region, is another duality present in the Chinese system. This duality, however, begs to question the coherence of what China plans to achieve with a full-scale rollout of the SCS model in the entire Mainland China, which could be up and running as early as 2021.

These dual objectives, dual implementation models, dual outcome conditioning, raise multiple questions: Will China be successful at creating a reputation state amidst the incongruities that exist in China? The answer seems to be hooked to a second question: Will China be willing to respect the socio-geographic disparity present between the historically separatist western regions and the presently thriving eastern industrial hubs?

One way of doing so would be to prevent any punitive sanctions and credit reductions on the grounds of cultural suppression. A conundrum in the eastern region could be credit rating reductions caused due to systemic failures, human errors, or corrupt bureaucracy. As remediation mechanisms, legislations are being put in place to prevent such reputation harms. Shanghai’s local credit legislation passed in 2017 on the “right to be forgotten” provides a much-needed right to credit restoration and a reasonable requirement on administrative agencies’ query over citizens’ social credit information.

Such remediation mechanisms are also extended to cover data protection and norms for safe collection, processing and storage of personal data. These measures are limited to eastern cities like Hubei, Shanghai, and Hangzhou. The lack of such legal remedies in the GSCS pilots being run in the western region calls for a systemic shift in the way the pilots are being conducted. More polarized developments in the way the pilots are conducted could likely leave the western inhabitants estranged and brew discontent if the policy is applied without systemic planning and West-specific trials. Perhaps it’s time for the policymakers to take a hint from their traditional philosophies and create more balancing dualities than conflicting ones.

China’s Global Influence in the Film Industry

Preethi Amaresh, Former Research Officer, Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S)

China’s rise is the economic story of the 21st Century and the entertainment industry is no exception. Cinema was introduced in 1896 in China.[i] The film industry is viewed as part of China’s modernization process and with the global influence wielded by the country’s economy, the rise of “cultural industries” in China is seen as the next step on a path from a developing nation to a world power.

Before the 1949 revolution, China had a vibrant film industry. There were studios in Shanghai – the city was known as the Hollywood of China – which made comedies, romances and melodramas on an almost weekly basis, which were very popular with domestic audiences. But during the Cultural Revolution, the ruling Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong came close to destroying Chinese cinema. Soon after the Cultural Revolution the film industry again flourished as a medium of popular entertainment. [ii]

With China’s liberalization in the late 1970s and its opening up to foreign markets, commercial considerations made its impact in the post-1980s filmmaking. Fifth-generation Chinese filmmakers who had graduated from the Beijing film academy   sought to popularize Chinese cinema abroad. Continue reading “China’s Global Influence in the Film Industry”

A Case for the Useless and Things Unsaid

Cidarth Sajith, Research Intern, ICS

The 2012 documentary ‘The Act of Killing’, in which the perpetrators of the 1965 anti-communist purge of Indonesia, re-enact and dramatize their killings is not only held by many as an audacious documentary that oversteps into the obscene due to the very gleefulness with which the protagonists oblige, but also draws consternation over the impunity and reverence with which they are held. Nevertheless, it earned an Oscar nomination and subsequently managed to reignite the debates over Indonesia’s denial and reluctant embrace of its past. But, what makes the documentary truly fascinating and relevant is how it captures the unravelling psychosis of its protagonists, their fractured realities and most importantly, what art and theatre portend for societies reeling under trauma and supressed memories. Continue reading “A Case for the Useless and Things Unsaid”

Health and Wellbeing in the Context of the 19th Congress of the CPC

Madhurima Nundy, PhD, Associate Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

The political report delivered by Xi Jinping at the 19th Congress of the CPC is open to analysis and many interpretations. Indeed, it is a lengthy and comprehensive report where Xi attempts to cover all aspects of development in the last five years and challenges that face China today, apart from his take on socialism entering a new era. Health and wellbeing of the population is an integral component of human development which gets articulated in various sections.

It is accepted universally, that the determinants of health and wellbeing are not restricted to access to health services alone but includes social, economic, environmental and cultural factors that influence the health of the population. As a prelude to his speech, Xi gave an overview of the overall socio-economic development and that 60 million people have been lifted above poverty. Continue reading “Health and Wellbeing in the Context of the 19th Congress of the CPC”

Tibet, the 19th Party Congress and China’s United Front Work

Tshering Chonzom, PhD, Associate  Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

What does a powerful Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China mean for the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) various minority nationalities, especially the Tibetans? The nature and extent of authority accorded to the United Front Works Department (UFWD) that handles nationality, religious and overseas Chinese affairs, during Xi’s second term is an important starting point for analysis.

The UFWD organized a press conference on 21 October 2017 on the sidelines of the 19th Party Congress, in which its leadership saw the organization as an important player in Xi’s new formulation of ‘new era’. For instance, the various conferences held under its aegis in the past five years – such as the Second Central Xinjiang Work Conference (May 2014), Central Nationalities Work Conference (September 2014), 6th Tibet Work Forum (August 2015), National Religious Work Conference (April 2016) – are retroactively characterised as work convened ‘under the guidance of the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics’. Indeed, at the national religious work conference that was held from 22-23 April 2016, Xi called upon the UFWD to take the lead in coordinating responsibilities with various organisations. In his report to the 19th Party Congress, he likens United Front work to a ‘magic weapon’ that will ‘ensure the success of the party’. Continue reading “Tibet, the 19th Party Congress and China’s United Front Work”

India’s Uncertain Demographic Dividend

Jayan Jose Thomas, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and Member, Planning Board, State Government of Kerala

A version of this article was originally published in Chinese as ‘印度不确定的人口红利’ [Yindu bu queding de renkou hongli], Diyi Caijing, 10 July 2017. This is part of a series by Indian scholars in China’s top business affairs news portal facilitated by the ICS. The English version follows below the Chinese text.

普遍的观点认为,印度将受益于所谓的“人口红利”。据世界银行估计,2010年至2030年间,印度15岁至59岁人口将增加至2亿多人。与此同时,包括中国在内的世界大部分发达地区的适龄劳动人口预计将会下降。也就是说,未来几年,印度会为全球劳动力供给的大幅增长贡献力量。

然而,实现人口红利对印度来说并不容易。首先,获得诺贝尔经济学奖的阿马蒂亚·森(Amartya Sen)指出,在卫生和教育领域,印度面临严峻挑战。2010年,印度的婴儿死亡率是每千名47例,而在中国,这个比例已减少到每千名13例。

对印度政策制定者来说的另一个重大挑战,是为新进入劳动力市场的印度人创造就业机会。事实上,大部分年轻劳动力的增长将来自印度最贫穷的地区,主要包括北方邦和比哈尔邦在内的北部和东部地区。 Continue reading “India’s Uncertain Demographic Dividend”

Key Issues in Urbanization in China

Lu Ming, Professor, Antai College of Economics and Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

A version of this article was originally published in the Business Standard as Towards sustainable urbanisation in China’, 6 May 2017. This is part of a series by Chinese economists facilitated by the ICS.

China has received enormous dividends from its decades of urbanization, which provided labour resources for the development of its industrial and service sectors and rapidly raised the income of the Chinese people. A large number of Chinese farmers became part of the country’s modernization process, allowing for poverty alleviation in rural areas. At the end of 2016, the urbanization rate of China stood at around 57%

China however, continues to face serious impediments in the urbanization process.

One of these is China’s household registration system or the hukou, which connects a person’s right to access public services with whether or not he has a resident status in a locality. The reality is that some one-third of city dwellers in China are trans-regional immigrants who actually do not possess local household registration. As a result, they do not enjoy the same level of social security and public services as local urban residents.

This is a particularly serious social problem for China. Continue reading “Key Issues in Urbanization in China”

India and China: For a Change in Mindsets

Ravi Bhoothalingam, Honorary Fellow, ICS

In the previous article (“Why China matters”, May 2), we explored four reasons why China is important for India in our journey towards vikas for our citizens. Accordingly, the article argued that it is to India’s advantage to engage strongly with China on the economic front, whilst managing our various political differences. But what assets does India bring to the table in this engagement? What steps are needed to make it fruitful? Is it possible to think of China-India cooperation as having a larger — even transformational — effect on Asia if not the world? Continue reading “India and China: For a Change in Mindsets”

Elderly Care in India and China: Need for Comprehensive Policy and Planning

Madhurima Nundy, PhD, Associate Fellow, ICS and Prof. Rama V. Baru, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Adjunct Fellow, ICS

Demographic transition and population ageing are one of most discussed phenomena of the present times. China and India are at different stages of the demographic transition. In India about 8.6 per cent of the population are elderly while in China it is 16.1 per cent. Given the large population size, in terms of numbers, the elderly population is large.

Change in Family Structure and State Response

While the demographic transition is determined by the economic and social changes in any society, the transition itself has profound social, economic, psychological and ideational consequences for the individual, family and society. In India and China, the changing family structure, living arrangements and support services have created challenges for dealing with the changing needs of the elderly population. Continue reading “Elderly Care in India and China: Need for Comprehensive Policy and Planning”

Dalai Lama at the Namami Brahmaputra River Festival in Assam: Mixed Signals for India-China Relations

Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, Assam

His Holiness the Dalai Lama graced the Namami Brahmaputra River Festival[1] in Guwahati as chief guest, on 2 April 2017, as part of a 14-day visit to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Assam Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and several state cabinet ministers received him at the banks of the Brahmaputra in Guwahati. The Assam Government and the New Delhi-based research think-tank India Foundation, jointly organized this particular event hosting the Dalai Lama.[2] This visit combined with the Dalai Lama’s subsequent itinerary covering Tawang and Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh lends itself to some questions about India’s China policy and in particular, the link between the boundary dispute and aspects of river-management and -sharing between India and China. Continue reading “Dalai Lama at the Namami Brahmaputra River Festival in Assam: Mixed Signals for India-China Relations”