Red State Abroad

World Traveller, Western Supremacist

Category: Uncategorized

Why China’s “Social Credit” Scheme Will Create More Corruption, Not a Better Citizenry

(As published on FEE.ORG)

News of China’s social credit system has been making waves across media outlets for months. Some publications are going soft on the massive surveillance state, saying it is not as bad as it seems (it is), while others are referring to it as something straight out of Nineteen Eighty-Four (again, it is). With pilot programs operating in certain municipalities, the system is already affecting citizens’ lives by limiting their ability to travel or send their children to universities

“Four million people have been blocked from buying high-speed train tickets over low social credit,” VICE News reported earlier this year, “and more than 11 million from buying flights.”  

Government documents detailing the social credit system say the program will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”

The final version of the social credit system is expected to be fully implemented by 2020, but Beijing is being vague regarding the confirmed list of offenses and how the program will work. Here are some of the actions the Chinese government deems “bad behaviors” that warrant punishment:

  • Bad driving or traffic offenses
  • Jaywalking
  • Smoking on trains
  • Not cleaning up after your dog
  • Not having your dog on a leash
  • Not paying debts
  • Not paying taxes
  • Playing too many video games
  • Watching pornography
  • Making frivolous purchases
  • Consuming too much alcohol or junk food
  • Criticizing the government
  • Criticizing the social credit system
  • Visiting unauthorized websites
  • Being friends with or messaging others with low scores or those who commit the above offenses

Some transgressions may be worthy of punishment, like not paying debts, taxes, or traffic citations. However, one can already identify some issues with alleged wrongdoings, such as what defines fake news or a “frivolous” purchase or “too much” gaming. 

Even on the surface, not cleaning up after your dog seems well-intentioned. But for those unaware, it is still common for people to urinate and defecate in public in certain areas of China. (As someone who has lived in China for nearly the last year and a half, I’m all too aware of this fact.)

Perhaps Beijing should get the people to stop pooping outside before they worry about the dogs.

One reason to doubt the efficiency of the behavioral ranking system is the rampant corruption and use of bribes in China. After collecting and analyzing corporate data, Charney Research published a paper in 2015 that found 35 percent of companies in China pay bribes or give gifts in order to operate. One CFO went so far as to describe the practice as “an unspoken rule.” Bribes are particularly common in public hospitals, where doctors and nurses are severely underpaid. Patients try to persuade staff with a hongbao (red envelope filled with cash) for special or preferential treatment, which even the bribe can’t guarantee. 

This year, the local Shanghai government introduced a slew of new traffic laws and fines for offenses like smoking while driving, not wearing seatbelts, cell phone use while driving, and unlicensed driving. While I can appreciate the measures to improve safety for the average rider like myself, and this is purely anecdotal, no behavioral changes in taxi drivers are evident as bribes to traffic cops are still prevalent.

Even the simple act of delivering packages can foster bribes. I recently had a care package sent from the US. The sender paid all necessary customs fees based on the content and weight of the package, but upon arrival to Shanghai customs, the package was impounded. It seems the sender had not paid enough to ensure delivery to a residential address. Indeed, the sender was informed that delivery to residential addresses in China cost more than double the original shipping cost. Upon investigation with Chinese colleagues, I found out that this was nothing more than, you guessed it, a bribe. 

There is no reason to believe that the social credit system will suddenly transform the pervasive practice that is common business procedure in all industries in China.

One of the stated goals of the new social credit system is actually to cut down on the corruption and use of bribes in China. But in the grand tradition of government intervention, state programs have proven a reliable means of perpetuating the very problem they intend to eradicate. (See also: the wars on poverty, drugs, and terror.)

In the Chaoyang district of Beijing, there are allegedly 120,000 spies, each paid 300 yuan a month. Already they are at work tattling on their fellow citizens for bad behavior (or rather, behavior deemed bad). If you aren’t familiar with the currency, that’s a whopping $43 USD a month. Not exactly a Christopher Steele-sized salary.

What this means is that it won’t be very expensive to red envelope your way to behave however you would like. The wealthy will simply pay off the informants, who have every incentive to demand payment for silence. The poor, on the other hand, will just have to behave.

Additionally, as Rachel Botsman of Wired UK points out, the birth of reputation black markets selling under-the-counter ways to raise your credit score is inevitable. In the same way that Facebook likes and Twitter followers can be bought, individuals will pay to manipulate their score.

If the government truly wants to create an equal and anti-corrupt society, they should just let the free market reign. Make no mistake, the market is already hard at work circumventing the social credit legislation in China. While the program threatens to downgrade users for visiting certain websites or messaging friends with low scores, the use of VPN apps in China to bypass the Great Firewall is widespread. In fact, not having a VPN is like missing a vital appendage; you just need one to survive in China.

The VPNs allow you to visit any restricted websites, use banned apps, and shield your online activity from the government’s prying eyes. So instead of messaging your low credit score friend on the Chinese friendly WeChat app, you can just message them on the unauthorized WhatsApp or Facebook apps. 

And while the big government gurus at Apple happily conceded to the Chinese government’s Orwellian demand to remove all VPNs from the Chinese app store, you can still purchase them on other platforms. In fact, for a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a modem at one of the technology markets in China that has a VPN pre-installed on it so that every device in your home can access the web totally unrestricted and privately.

Furthermore, it isn’t only VPN use that will salvage social credit status. Using cash for purchases the government considers unwise and relying on private ride-sharing apps will allow users to avoid bureaucratic judgment and punishments for behavior.

For those unfazed by this creepy government overreach because they think “that would never happen here,” beware, because it already is. Tech giants are already punishing people for their ‘wrong think’ by banning users from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, website hosting services, and payment processors. Invariably, these users tend to be conservative/libertarian, free-market advocates, though progressives critical of establishment politics have also experienced bans. And proving that their ideological confidence in the market is correct, it is the free market that swoops in to rescue their public standing with new platforms. Those banned from Patreon will use PayPal, controversial Tweeters are now on Gab, and when the overlords at YouTube find your Super Chat content offensive, you can instead post it on Stream Labs.

Whether it’s China’s social credit system or Silicon Valley’s, free markets find a way.

Yes, Let General Motors Fail

Hot off the presses yesterday was the news of General Motors 14,000 employee layoffs expected before the Christmas holiday. President Trump responded with an angry tweet threatening to cut off subsidies to GM in retribution for the redundancy while liberals on social media responded with “Muh… It’s Trump’s fault.”

While the retaliatory subsidy threat wasn’t warranted by the President, he is right on the mark when he says the subsidies must go. (Even when he is wrong, he is a right.) General Motors has been in decline for decades and we must let it fail.

It is not the job of the American tax payer to subsidize failing companies. If we wanted to keep General Motors in business, we would just buy their cars, but we don’t. Instead, drivers opt for the competitively priced, better quality Toyota and Honda brands.

Imagine if Starbucks sold garbage instant coffee rather than the premium brewed beverages we enjoy today. It probably would not be as successful. Now imagine that in order to keep Starbucks in business, rather than force them to make a better product, the US government mandated that every American purchase an over-priced instant latte every morning despite not wanting to drink it. Even a liberal wouldn’t agree to an arrangement that stupid, but that’s in essence how subsidies work.

Wrapped up in pretty bow addressed to “Too big to fail,” the Bush and Obama administrations agreed to subsidize GM’s declining business, to the tune of $50.2 billion dollars of tax payers’ money. Yet here we are, after another decade of poor performance, GM is struggling. The bottom line is General Motors is not offering quality products and no amount of assistance from tax payers will make that happen. It’s time for them to sink or swim.

Mainstream media and politicians of both parties go into an absolute hyperbolic frenzy at the mere mention of eliminating government intervention for deteriorating corporate businesses. They all assume that cutting off the government teat automatically equals bankruptcy but that isn’t always the case. Here are few examples:

Apple – It’s hard to believe that the tech giant that occupies nearly every American household was nearly never-to-be. In 1997, Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy until it was saved by a $150 million-dollar investment. That capital was not supplied by central planners but instead their own competitor, Microsoft.

Marvel Entertainment – Many young people today probably have no clue that their favorite super-heroes originate from comic books (or even what a comic book is), which was Marvel’s sole business before declaring bankruptcy in 1996. Once the bottom fell out, the company was forced to change its business model shifting from comic books to movies and merchandise.

IBM – The IT company has remained a reliable fixture in the American economy for over 100 years. In the 80s and early 90s IBM struggled as new tech companies swarmed the market driving up competition. In 1993, IBM posted an $8 billion loss, the largest corporate drop in US history at the time. After hiring a new CEO and laying off 60,000 employees, the company was able to regain its footing and is still a stock market favorite today.

One only need to look at these veterans of failure to learn that the mistakes of free enterprise can often be turned into giant successes. We are doing a disservice to the management and employees of General Motors by denying them the opportunity to turn into something even greater than before.

If General Motors can’t turn things around, employees will simply have to get new jobs, start their own businesses, or improve their skill set to compete in the market. These market forces have been working for 2000 years of commerce. They’re not going to suddenly fail now.

The values of the American free market enterprise are grit, determination, and risk taking. Let’s see if General Motors still has them.

A Tale Of Two Countries

 Kavanaugh Crying
Last week marked a pivotal point in American politics. The Left’s failing effort to nail Judge Brett Kavanaugh on intentionally vague and deliberately unprovable rape accusations made it clear that there is no deceitful tactic they won’t use to resist Republicans. Whatever conniving means they can use, they will. Your family, your job, your children, and your character are all collateral damage in their fight for power.

This is a historic new low. Certainly, never in my lifetime have I witnessed something this cunning and that opinion seems to be shared among older conservatives as well. Even among liberals, there is the perception that this has now gone way too far. Just to recap (and to cause a brain aneurism for the leftists reading this) there is ZERO evidence of any wrong-doing on behalf of Kavanaugh. ZERO. No physical evidence, no location, no date, and not a single corroborating witness named by Dr. Ford.

We are now at the point of what I fear is an irreparable divide in America.  The left and the right share absolutely no values. How can we even share a country?

One half of the country looks to the constitution as a guiding principle for governance. The other views it as an obstacle to more state power.

One half believes in the value of free speech. The other half considers ‘hate speech’ literal violence… but sees no problem with setting campuses on fire and beating people with bike locks.

One side wants the right to defend themselves from the Nikolas Cruzes of the world. The other gets PTSD from the site of an AR-15.

One side wants to uphold one of the defining characteristics of Western Civilization: that the burden of proof be levied with the accuser and that you are innocent until proven guilty. The other side celebrates an accusation destroying everything you have worked for your entire life.

It is the Rules For Rationales vs. the Rules For Radicals.

As my decade+ tenure abroad may be coming to an end, I now must consider where I will live in America and where I can go where people hold my values. This is proving to be a daunting task as half the country not only disagrees with my values but detests them.

How can I live in a community that will automatically deem my husband a victim based on his excessive melanin? How can I send my kids to schools where educators will teach them that their slight pigmentation is more valuable than their skill set? For the left, my children and husband are automatically apart of the victim hierarchy while I must remain on the peripheral as a white ally. And what will become of my family when an irate Marxist gets an inkling of the conservative values we live by?

We are up against an entity that believes obese women are now beautiful, that multi-millionaire athletes are victims, and that gender is a malleable characteristic.  When our fellow citizens are murdered by illegals, we want to protect other Americans. Instead the left rushes to protect the law-breakers.

We cannot agree on foundational principles because the left has no principles. The operate by any means necessary. The freedoms that we hold dear they wish to transfer to the state. They disdain the values for which our ancestors died.

When the Republicans stopped Merrick Garland from becoming a Supreme Court Justice they simply refused to hold the vote. They didn’t accuse him of being a gang rapist. Kavanaugh has been nominated for a lifetime appointment, but the crimes he is falsely accused of are worthy of lifetime imprisonment.

The slander of Judge Kavanaugh is proof that there is no middle ground. The left is completely devoid of morality. They hate America and will do anything to destroy it.

There are men and women in America salivating over the demise of the entire Kavanaugh family. They have never stopped to think “What if someone were to do this to me?” Would the ‘Believe All Women’ crowd uphold that standard when it was imposed on them or their husband or son. I doubt it. But perhaps that’s exactly what these people deserve; to lose the presumption of innocence and the necessity for evidence. They will never appreciate the values of American jurisprudence until they lose them.


Nothing Is Sacred Anymore

President Trump’s worst characteristic is his spitefulness for those he doesn’t like. While most of us cringe as his unartful statements leave his lips and tweets hit the feed, the media talking heads chastise him. Unfortunately, those who castigate him for this vice, put it on full display this weekend.

For the rest of America, a funeral is a time to celebrate a person’s life, remember their endearing qualities, share memories, and be thankful for your time with the deceased. What we learned this weekend is that even while standing in the house of the Lord, virtue signaling your political opinion is more important than mourning the dead. Nothing is sacred anymore.

The necessity to interject politics into every aspect of American life is a cancer on our culture. Constant criticism of our political opponents was once a benign practice confined to our news media and Facebook debates. This disease has now metastasized to every corner of our life. It’s injected into television, sports, chicken sandwiches, quaint little restaurants in Virginia, and now the simple act of burying our dead. Rather than cherishing the final moments of our time with our kin, we look for opportunities to ‘own’ our enemies.

Despite his best effort to exclude Donald Trump from his memorial, John McCain’s funeral was very much about Trump. We listened as leaders criticized our destructive political climate while simultaneously participating in it. We heard blanketed insults towards our president when the focus should have solely been on the patriot in the casket. What aired on September 1st, was not a respectful memorial, it was a roast masquerading as a funeral complete with Royal Wedding style media coverage. President Trump truly is a remarkable deal-maker. He has purchased equity inside the frontal lobe of every resister without even spending a dime.

Additionally, the sudden adoration for McCain gave the service an air of forgery. Candidate McCain was a decent man when running for president in 2008, but you wouldn’t have known that if you were a democrat then. Back then he was the usual republican racist, sexist, bigot, etc. according to the left. The ‘maverick’ they loathed is now the ‘maverick’ revered.

Before penning my judgements on the ceremony, I re-evaluated my stance. Maybe I was being dramatic in my assessment? But my original interpretation was proven correct by The New Yorker in a piece titled, John McCain’s Funeral Was the Biggest Resistance Meeting Yet. Not only were the elites using the death of McCain to attack Trump, they were proud of themselves for doing it. They are completely unashamed of their attempt to use a funeral to sway political opinion. Our culture has now descended into the bowels of political ire at the expense of our burials, something we once held sacrosanct.

I keep naively thinking that this hyperbolic state of outrage will eventually fall into remission. That perhaps some rational discourse, positive economic data, and a reduction in foreign intervention might quell the fears of the left. That maybe, just maybe, the president’s pettiness might be countered with the advice from Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.”

But it appears that this cancer has festered for far too long and is now terminal.

The president’s statements about McCain’s POW status were abominable and the flag snafu after his passing was petty and mean-spirited. But rather than respectfully mourning John McCain, it appears the resistance saw it as an opportunity to one-up this poor behavior.

It’s as if Trump said “No-one disrespects McCain as well as I do. No-one.”

The resistance: “Hold my beer.”

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