Putting ‘Good Citizens’ in ‘The Good Place’?

In this contribution, I will aim to answer the question as to whether a Social Credit System will be more likely to lead a society to a ‘digital republic’ or a ‘digital dictatorship’. After analysing how the Chinese Social Credit System exhibits an enormous gap between policy-making and policy-execution, I argue that instead of a utopia or dystopia, such a system is more likely to lead us to a future of ‘digital bureaucracy’.

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The Citizen, the Tyrant, and the Tyranny of Patterns

Good citizenship cannot be captured or fixed by an algorithm, because: (1) people genuinely disagree about what good citizenship is; (2) there are limits to how any conception of good citizenship can be enforced in states that uphold the rule-of-law; and (3) even the best scheme of algorithmic citizenship would fail to achieve its objectives due to the inherent weaknesses of applying algorithms to social affairs.

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An Illusion of Western Democracies

The thesis I propose is that the reason why the Social Credit System so scandalises Westerners is not because it is contrary to ‘our’ Aristotelian and Arendtian liberal political tradition. Rather, it is precisely because it shows the illusion upon which this tradition is founded. This consists in believing that there is a void at our disposal between people as ‘free’ citizens and the political as a set of laws.

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A Perfect Storm

On 9 June 2019, Hong Kong became the focus of international attention as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched on Hong Kong Island to oppose the imminent enactment of a bill that would introduce a rendition arrangement, inter alia, as between Hong Kong and other parts of China (including mainland China, Taiwan and Macau). This legislative proposal has not only led to the largest protests in the history of postcolonial Hong Kong but has also brought about one of the greatest crises of governance in post-1997 Hong Kong.

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From Defensive to Assertive: China’s White Paper on Human Rights

On December 12th 2018 the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) published a white paper (WP) titled ‘Progress in Human Rights over the 40 Years of Reform and Opening Up in China.’ The paper, which seems to be targeting more foreign audience than a domestic one, reflects upon the progress China has made in the field of human rights since Deng Xiaoping’s liberalization and opening up reforms that began in 1978.

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