China just introduced a universal credit score, where everybody is measured as a number between 350 and 950. But this credit score isn’t just affected by how well you manage credit – it also reflects how well your political opinions are in line with Chinese official opinions, and whether your friends’ are, too …
This means that people need to choose between that coveted European vacation and keeping in touch with their old friends who are disagreeing with the regime’s opinions openly. This means that staying in touch with dissidents will cause you and your family to lose out on social benefits. As a result, this will very effectively isolate and neuter anybody who posts unofficial political opinions or unofficial history facts. They’ll effectively be sent into social exile, based on everything they do, write, think, and discuss online.
What China is doing here is selectively breeding its population to select against the trait of critical, independent thinking. This may not be the purpose, indeed I doubt it’s the primary purpose, but it’s nevertheless the effect of giving only obedient people the social ability to have children, not to mention successful children.
Yes, life will be easy, so long as you don’t question what we tell you, and isolate yourself from those who do.
My own thoughts are that this is simply a refined, quantified and universalised version of the same approach to dissent and dissenters that occurs in all societies, to greater and lesser degrees. Your mother warned you about associating with certain people, I’m sure. And have you tried disagreeing with the hivemind about climate change recently? Or questioning the official story on the 9/11 terror attacks? And do you see anyone in the (Australian) mainstream media disagreeing with the US/UK line on Syria and arguing that Putin is, for once in his life, actually doing something praiseworthy?
What the Chinese are doing is horrifying. But let’s not pretend that this sort of social control doesn’t exist in our own society.
I suspect that this system will simply cause people to bottle-up their discontent until it is unleashed in waves of protest – as occurred in eastern Europe and China in the late eighties, in the Soviet Union in the early nineties, and in Arab countries in the late noughties. Expressions of popular discontent are not only useful safety valves for social systems. They are also transmitters of valuable feedback to that system, helping it to adjust itself to developing trends and correct its errors. Suppress the feedback mechanism, and the trend-identification and error-correction mechanisms cease to work causing the system to career out of control and destroy itself.
But, with an economy in a terrible mess, and an expansionist territorial policy that is running into strong US and Japanese opposition, that’s possibly a lesser concern to the Chinese leadership right at the moment, than the need to keep the population under control.