Chinese (Anti-)­Constitutionalism

Many (Verfassungs-)blog posts on China, be it on tweets, white papers, or the Social Credit System, criticize legal institutions and realities by highlighting their difference from “Western” or constitutionalist traditions. This makes it rather easy for the explicitly anti-Western and anti-constitutionalist official Chinese system of thought, Sino-Marxism, to reject any criticism – either as Eurocentric, (legal) Orientalist, and “culturally hegemonic” or as ignorant of “theoretical basis” of the Chinese system. Knowing Sino-Marxism, which provides powerful political but only limited analytical tools, is thus crucial for transnational and global constitutionalists in order to defend their values without being accused of a lack of understanding – also in the current case of Hong Kong.

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The Hong Kong Judiciary and Beijing’s Temper Tantrum

On 18 November 2019, Hong Kong’s Court of First Instance held that parts of the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, and the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation enacted pursuant to the Ordinance, violate the territory’s Basic Law – its constitutional instrument. Beijing’s response to the ruling was the equivalent of a temper tantrum. Viewed in light of the Court’s judgment and Beijing’s lengthy history of undermining the Hong Kong judiciary, Beijing’s latest outbursts amount to nothing less than a declaration of war on the territory’s common law legal system.

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Demise of "One Country, Two Systems"?

Hong Kong’s existence as a liberal pocket within a socialist party state has been a risky experiment from the outset. The substance of the dispute about extradition to mainland China does not pertain to the viability of the “one country, two systems” governing model. The way in which the saga unfolded, however, reveals flaws in Hong Kong’s political system that, if unrectified, may prove fatal to the model.

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A Déjà Vu? The Social Credit System and fajia (Legalism)

While it is certainly beneficial to contrast the SCS to emerging governance mechanisms in the West or principles of civil liberties, it is equally important to connect it to traditional Chinese thoughts which may have influenced the policy-makers. In view of the tendency of associating the SCS with Confucianism, this blog post concentrates on fajia (legalism), a traditional school of political and legal thought that had shaped the mode of governance in imperial China.

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Untrustworthy: Social Credit Isn’t What You Think It Is

Posing questions about how technology can be used to shape citizens, and change what it means to be a citizen, is of critical and immediate importance, but using China as a blank slate on which we project hypotheticals causes more confusion than clarity. It can distract us from more pressing concerns regarding China, technology or both.

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Scoring Systems: Levels of Abstraction

One of the contested issues in this debate relates to similarities and differences between scoring systems in China and in the West – how unique is China? In this post, we will try to reconcile the different perspectives, arguing that both commonalities and differences exist, depending on the adopted level of abstraction. Thus, we shall zoom in the Chines Social Credit System (SCS), examining the features it shares with other systems and point to related issues: it is a scoring system, it is formal, it is ICT based, it is surveillance based, it is opaque and unaccountable. This enables us to distinguish commonalities and differences.

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Data Diets and Democracy: The Chinese Social Credit System From a Machine Learning Perspective

The Chinese Social Credit System trends against democracy. It is being built by a competent and motivated anti-democratic system with social control as one stated goal. The more important question though is whether the Chinese machine learning data diet will make Chinese AI stronger than Western AI, and whether the realities of machine learning will undermine Western-style capitalism and liberal democracy. As this essay argues, I think there is a real chance that both will occur.

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Is a Social Credit System Good for Women?

In a capitalist economy, the value of goods tends to be tied to their exchange value. A Social Credit System is, in principle, able to integrate a wider set of behaviours and characteristics that merit reward than the price mechanism. It could hence turn out to be better at valuing feminine-coded tasks, such as care-work. Yet, I argue, feminists should be sceptical with regards to the emancipatory potential of a Social Credit System, as such a system might turn out to merely reproduce dominant forms of valuing rather than promoting real change.

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