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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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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