With regard to foreign policy, we are often told that it is the Government’s aim to defend ‘Our Values’ on the international scene. The logical conclusion to this premise is that the strength of our national relationship with another country should be partly determined by whether its Government acts, or intends to act, in accordance with the principles on which our Nation is built. Naturally, for this stance to have any credibility, it must be adopted consistently and apply to all nations.
If this is so, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Trade must make urgent and unabashed use of diplomatic and economic measures to influence the Chinese Government before it rolls out its shockingly totalitarian ‘Social Credit Scheme’ in 2020.
As a Nation without an entrenched Constitution or codified Rights system, the concept of ‘British Values’ is hard to define; the phrase is used so flexibly and indiscriminately that the values themselves can seem elusive and manipulable. But while the UK may not have a specific document as a point of reference, it is clear that a fundamental aspect of the relationship between the British citizen and the British state is that the latter affords the former the rights to privacy and to the pursuit of personal fulfilment.
Very soon, these very basic freedoms will have been comprehensively extinguished for one-fifth of the Human Race.
The Communist Party of China is, and has been since 2014, planning to launch what appears to be the most horrific assault on privacy and individual liberty in the history of humanity, in the form of the (deceptively) innocuously named ‘Social Credit Scheme.’
This is a plan which, if fully implemented, will make Oceania in Orwell’s 1984 look like an Anarchist Commune.
Essentially, under this Scheme, the Communist Party aim to compile total information about the day-to-day behaviour of every one of its citizens. In the information age- courtesy, particularly, of Big Data Analysis Technology- this, though a massive bureaucratic undertaking, will prove frighteningly achievable. Aside from just its own public records, the Chinese Government have access to their citizens’ internet history, giving them an instant insight into people’s interests, associations and opinions. Even those who, for whatever reason, do not have regular internet access will not be safe; there are plans to deploy CCTV cameras in hitherto unseen quantity across the nation, and to use facial recognition technology to make the individual instantly accountable for everything they do while in public space. It seems that the Chinese Government are well equipped, with all the wealth, power and infrastructure required, to know everything about everyone. Previous authoritarians who have pursued total surveillance relied on hearsay and informants- they would look with envy at the potential power wielded today by Xi Jinping’s Government.
For it is not the fact that the Chinese Government will hold all of this information that is most terrifying- however eerily invasive the prospect may seem- but what they intend to do with it.
Using this information, each individual will be assigned a ‘score,’ ranking their ‘social integrity,’ which will be used to reward and punish citizens for behaviour that the State, in its infinite wisdom, deems good or bad.
The criteria on which the individual is assessed has not been made public (which, in itself, is hardly conducive to a fair test.) However, you can ‘lose points’ for a number of minor, mostly legal, misdemeanours, including, but by no means limited to:
-Paying personal bills late
-Making ‘poor’ consumer choices
-Behaving discourteously at airports or train stations
-Looking at subversive material on the internet
-Refusing to perform military service
-Sharing stories which turn out to be Fake News
-Spending time and associating with other low-ranked citizens
-Spending too much time playing Video Games
If a citizen falls foul of these vices, they could potentially feel the consequences in every aspect of their lives. Aside from the ignominy of being publicly known as a ‘bad’ citizen, punishments for having a low score include:
-Being blocked from certain jobs
-Worse Interest Rates at Banks
-Higher utility Bills
-Slower application process when applying for Visas
-Being banned from buying plane tickets
-Being banned from luxury seating on trains
-Being banned from booking certain holidays and hotels
-Having your internet speed reduced
-Expulsion from school or University
-Your children being barred from certain schools
-Worse matches on the state-run dating websites (this is getting ridiculous)
A more illiberal state of affairs could scarcely be imagined. You like playing video games in your spare time? No holiday for you this year. You spend your disposable income on frivolities? Good luck ever getting a pay-rise. You crossed the road away from a designated crossing? Say goodbye to going to University. You looked at an online article which mocked Xi Jinping? Let’s see how you like a slower internet connection.
From the year 2020 onwards, 20% of the entire human race will live every day of their lives knowing that any tiny transgression of some distant bureaucrat’s view of what constitutes ‘good behaviour’ will have an impact on their financial, professional and even social prospects. There will never have been a Government so powerful; with 1.5 billion people at the mercy of its every pernicious, precocious ethical whim. Many, predominantly the mindless conformists who exist in every society, will prosper under this system, I am sure. But for anyone who has a shred of self-respect, this plan is an unequivocal atrocity against liberty, privacy, and individuality.
If we want to defend ‘British values’ abroad, the obvious place to start is by pressuring China to abandon this sickening scheme. In reality, facing down the behemoth of China, there is very little the UK can do. But by remaining silent, we will be complicit in the oppression of the 1,403,500,000 Chinese people.