Further of the China Model : The Historical Watershed role of COVID-19（I）
Further of the China Model : The Historical Watershed role of COVID-19.
Today, I would like to discuss the Chinese model and the way forward, focusing on the issues of information, digital, privacy and governance.
First of all, the author is not engaged in related work, mainly combining his own knowledge system and personal experiences ,to analyze from the social, cultural and political perspectives.So forgive me for using words or concepts used by non-technical amateurs.
I.The 2020 pandemic as a watershed event in human history: China is accelerating into its own model
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to be a very important watershed event in human history, it is also push China to accelerate steps to its very unique own path.
This watershed comes from the fact that China has fully enjoyed the vital functions of the information and digital tools in the fight against COVID-19.
——Data will evolve into a public good, a public resource;
——China will accelerate its developments in digital/information infrastructures, digital governance practices, big data, artificial intelligence and other information technology industries;
——China will accelerate the development of a governance model that differs from those of the most other countries( especially western countries led by the US).In addition to the obvious differences between the forms of the political systems, specifically, in the field of data, China will form a completely different relationship between public power and private power.If we put public and private powers on the two sides of the same scale, China will be more inclined to public power than in the West:Our society will expect individuals to “cede” more rights to the public, and expect people to “contribute” and “invest” more of their privacy into the society’s “public data pool.” This “surrender” and “investment” in personal privacy bring with them corresponding social obligations and responsibilities.1）Individual are considered to have a duty and responsibility to “contribute” some of their privacy to society, forming “public data”, which is fundamentally aimed at improving the well-being of society, while also bringing some personal benefits;2）Public regulators have an obligation and responsibility to use these data correctly as a means of promoting public and civic well-being.
——China will also accelerate on a path of its own, very different from other countries in the world.Is it possible that China’s model could spread to other countries?I think it’s possible.And, as the West fears, it may begin in developing countries outside the Western world, such as in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
We’ll come back to that later.
Take a look at the evolution progress of digital privacy protection concept in China.I will give my opinion combined with my own personal experience.Readers are also welcome to share their memories.
II.The relationship between personal (digital) privacy and public/public power: Western systems, cultures and models
The mainstream political cognition in the west is that civil society and individual and public power have some kind of opposite relationship.As long as the public power is improperly restrained, it will become a threat to individuals and affect their rights and well-being.Some of the core themes of the modern western political system are about how to restrain, limit and regulate public power (” to put power into the cage of the system “).
——Why, for example, is the electoral system so important?That is, the West believes that only with the right to vote, can we ensure that the public power can be restrained and that the public power can serve us.
——separation of powers——To let the different institutions of power separate, check and balance each other, self-restraint.So as to limit public power;
——Judicial independence: among them, the judiciary must be independent, free from interference, become a tool to restrain public power;
——Freedom of the press: giving the media the maximum freedom to criticize the government freely, as a check on public power;
——The sanctification of individual political and civil rights.These rights are in fact what the West calls “human rights”.Human rights in the West are in fact “narrow”, mainly around these so-called “negative rights” : the person, speech, association, protest, freedom of belief – believe that these rights are born and should not be deprived.Many of these rights, such as freedom of speech, are also primarily directed at government: a business can restrict the speech of its employees, but government/public power cannot restrict the speech of its citizens.It’s all about protecting the individual against public power.
In short, people distrust public power/government.The logic of the Western system firstly is not to reflect public opinion or seek consensus, but to limit public power.
The greatest enemy of the people is the government.
So do people in the West, and especially in the United States, the leader of the western free world, trust their governments?No.No matter how secure the data may be and how safe it may be from hackers, the United States will not use real-name authentication or facial recognition for presidential voting.There will be no mandatory health codes.In fact, the United States can’t even produce a national ID card.The people do not trust their elected government.This is a great paradox.
According to the westerners’ understanding, citizens and the government/public power are in essence “opposition”. Only through the current political system in the West can this opposition be resolved and “power is confined in a cage”.What about systems that are different from the West, such as “authoritarian regimes”?
The West, of course, sees public power in these systems as great threats to individual liberty.People can’t trust the government, they can’t be willing to cede their power to the government.
——I am An American, and I have elected my own officials at all levels of government through our democracy. I do not trust my government and would not be willing to cede my personal data and digital privacy to it. How much less any other countries?
III.Personal (digital) Privacy and public/public Power: Changes and developments in China
The Americans have good reason to worry.
In addition to digital security (which is a technical issue), in any society, people can form a relatively smooth relationship with the government/public power on digital privacy issues, which is a very complicated process.
Stage 1: institutional and cultural support.The situation in China is as follows:
1) People should have some trust in the government and be willing to give it a chance;
2) People don’t have much choice but to give the government a chance (e.g. “Real-name system for Internet forums /BBS”)
3) Most people are pragmatic and would not challenge the government in the first place. They don’t think they will encounter too many problems.
4) The relationship between government and society/individual is not antagonistic, but symbiotic;
5) The relationship between enterprises and the government is not antagonistic. The government helps enterprises, while enterprises support the government, and the government and enterprises are also “symbiotic”.However, according to the symbiotic relationship between government and enterprises, it is inferred that enterprises may provide data to the government, so giving data to enterprises = giving data to the government.
The second stage: practice and running-in.Personal vs public power in the continuous run-in, established the boundary between each other, establish trust;
1) The government/public authority knows when to use the data and when not to use it.Specifically, the purpose of government is not to spy on its citizens, but to serve them (including fighting crime)
2) The public authority should be especially careful about using data on the most sensitive issues — political speech — to “regulate what it does and ignore what it does”;After repeated practice, even if people participate in political issues, they can reliably determine their “margin of safety” : for example, content — can criticize policies at the technical level, but cannot challenge the fundamental political order or political limits;Scope — what kind of environment and scope to say what scale;Punishment mechanism – what kind of words have what kind of consequences.
3) Most people will find that there are no privacy or security issues associated with giving up this data.In fact, companies offer extra protection（“self-censorship”） when it comes to sensitive political issues.
Stage three: People are comfortable surrendering their digital privacy
Once individuals establish the security and safety margin of their digital privacy in front of the public power, they will complete the “from zero to one”, and then have a leapfrog change.
1) People are becoming more comfortable surrendering their digital privacy in all areas
2) The requirement of digital privacy has also changed from voluntary to taken for granted or even forced (for example, many things require mobile phone authentication + ID number + face recognition on APP).
3) The government “emerges” as a direct participant.In the early days, there was some concern about providing digital privacy to corporations, that they would give their data to the government and cause some kind of trouble.Later, the government could emerge, and people no longer feared giving data directly to the government.
Stage 4: Individuals and governments accelerate the continuous enjoyment of the benefits of individuals to society/government’s transfer of digital privacy, and accelerate the development of society in digital infrastructure, digital governance, and digital-related technology industries
1) People find that they can get a lot of convenience and improve efficiency
2) Society has discovered that “giving away” digital privacy can bring unexpected “public benefits”, such as lower crime rates;For example, epidemic prevention and control
3) The government/society find that data is an important public resource and public product, and an excellent means of public governance and public service
4) The above will further promote the digitization of social and public governance, and promote the development of related infrastructure and industries.
IV.China: The process by which individuals “cede” digital privacy
Previously the upper several stages are more abstract, the author will give specific examples as following.Maybe not so exactly, because I was abroad for a while.Readers are welcome to share their own experiences.The transfer of personal digital privacy started with the real-name system on the Internet, and then pushed into other areas, and gradually became a matter of course.
1:1990’s: A personal experience
The Internet was still a “new thing.I got dial-up Internet access from the phone in the early 90s.(“Doo-doo, drip, stomp stomp , squeak).At that time, I could read all kinds of overseas websites.It was the early nineties.One day, someone from the public security department or other any relative department, came to the door,
The visitor: is there someone on the Internet in your house?
My mom: Yeah, what’s wrong?
The visitor: who are you to surf the Internet.
My mom: My son.What’s the matter?
The visitor: Oh, just some web pages.We now only try to know a few things.
My mom: Oh, he’s a kid. Just surf the Internet.What’s the matter?
The visitor: That’s nothing, we’re just getting some information.
This was happened in 1990s.Very early.The visitor didn’t ask very specifically then left.But this made an impression on me.
2:1990s: Habitual anonymity
In the mid – 1990s, I was mainly on Telnet BBS.Web forums came later.At that time Net Ease BBS revision forum version we are not used to.
All the information I signed up for on the Internet forums was anonymous.One ID, one email address.All the information I gave (name, date of birth, etc.) was made up.Because I don’t believe in digital security — everything I signed up for on overseas sites or software (ICQ, Hot mail, Yahoo), not just in China,was made up.I am also wary of public power because of my historical experience, and I was afraid that any real-name information would bring me troubles.I’m sure most of you did the same.
Two days ago, I modified the information of a user registered in the website of mine.I found out my birthday was a deliberate mistake.Today, I do things differently. To make sure my account is safe, I replaced it all with real information.
3. Early 2000s: REAL-name system in BBS
The two things that impressed me most at that time were:1st, Li Xiguang’s idea that the network must have real name system, which was too long ago. I looked it up and confirmed it was 2002.2nd was the real-name system of BBS. I looked it up and confirmed it was 2005.Can be found at https://www.zhihu.com/question/21263660 ,this policy was actually has been building for years, the implementation had been a great event then.I was using Shuimu Tsinghua BBS, many users were extremely resistant, felt that this would bring great “unsafe”.The insecurity was not about digital security, but about public power and the impact on free speech.Unlike today, it was difficult for people to accept the real-name system.At that time, people’s concern was real, because they had not experienced what the author called the “practice and running-in” of the second stage.The author also believes that the REAL-name system of BBS is an important historical event for the earlier netizen.
In addition, Internet bars adopted the real-name system earlier, mainly to prevent minors from entering Internet bars.The author was abroad at that time, I had impressions return home ,was asked for id card as came into Internet bar.
4. Mid-2000s:Real-name system for blogs
This was in the period of 2006-2008.At that time, I was in the United States, running several similar blogs (Shuimu Tsinghua BBS, Sina, Blogbus), etc.I remember at that time, China wanted to introduce the real-name system for bloggers, but many people opposed it.Since blogging was an important channel on the internet in China at the time, writers like Hanhan were also of the blogging age.Therefore, the society paid more attentions to blog.Since I was abroad at the time, I didn’t have much feeling about that, let alone participate in the relevant discussions.
5. Mid-2000s: Facebook’s overseas social media experiences
The first fully real-name social media account I ever officially used was actually — a Facebook account.
I was at Harvard — the Harvard community where Facebook started.The students were all on Facebook.I also used Facebook to connect with my classmates.That was in 2005.
The essence of Facebook is REAL-name system.At that time, I felt very new to the real-name system, and also a little insecure.But because of the limitation in the circle of classmates, I felt that the problem is not big.
There was also A Faceren, also developed by North American students at Harvard University, that mimicked Facebook.A Xiaonei network (later Renren) was also created during that time in China.
These small networks based on alumni were all real-name.In 2005, I also thought that The Facebook model might be suitable for students in the United States, but it might not be suitable in China, because people were concerned about digital privacy and Chinese people were more worried about the abuse of digital privacy by public power, which was not as clearly defined as in the United States.
Interestingly, China’s online real-name system emerged around the same time as overseas real-name social media.
Perhaps overseas social media helped to popularize the online real-name system?I don’t know.I was not in China during that period.
6. Late 2000s: Alipay — a major advance of real-name payment system
An important factor pushing for a full real-name system is likely to be internet-based and mobile (mobile Internet) payments.
By this time, I had already returned to China.A history check will know that Alipay launched mobile payment in 2008;Credit card express payment was introduced in 2010.By 2013, Alipay had more than 100 million users.In that year, Alipay also launched Yu ‘ebao, a nationwide phenomenon in the financial field.
Payment is very important to promote the full real-name system.
1) Internet-based payment is extremely convenient (especially with smart phones).People are attracted by the benefits of this convenience;
2) After several years, people get used to the online real-name system and find that there are no problems.Had good practice and running-in experience with public power;
3) Payment involves personal finance, first of all, security.A credit card must be attached;Bind real name.People surrender a certain amount of privacy for their own financial security.At this point, the surrender of privacy is purely selfish and self-protective;
4) Buying and selling goods has nothing to do with “sensitive issues” such as politics, and individuals prefer to gain personal benefits by giving up their privacy.
Payments have had a major impact on changing the way people think about digital privacy and security.
At this time, people no longer “surrender” privacy, but “surrender” as a “price” or “investment” for additional security.
7. Early 2010s: Wechat Pay strengthens the real name
If Yu ‘ebao established Alipay’s position in 2013, then the “wechat Red envelope” in 2014-2015 established wechat (payment)’s position.
The addition of wechat has made mobile payments the dominant form of payment in China.Payments helped push the online real-name system.
8. Mid-2010s: Mobile phone real-name system was promoted
It took several years for the mobile phone real-name system (from new to existing) to be implemented (around 2013~2016).By the end of 2016, The real-name ratio of mobile phones in China had almost reached 100%.
In the days before the United States had a national ID card, mobile phone numbers in China were already traceable to individuals and thus treated as ID numbers (though one person could have more than one).
Mobile phone verification + ID number has become the guarantee of real name identity.Most of the time, mobile verification has a high status in itself.Of course, today’s highly developed internet finance also brings hidden dangers of digital security.
9.The second half of 2010: the addition of face recognition
I don’t know exactly when facial recognition became widespread.
My own impression of using Apps is that first, Internet finance/wealth management Apps need to use face recognition.Later, I used The App Of Freely (distributed long rent apartment), face recognition, blink, move my head, felt a little new.At that time, investment, rental housing, such a major thing, face recognition was necessary.But I don’t know how the background data was unified.
Then I found myself needing facial recognition when I checked into some hotels.I first experienced this in Hangzhou.
And then it turned out that you could or needed facial recognition for airplane security.
Then found in office buildings, residential areas, the use of face recognition property had been very common.
At the same time, I found that my mobile phone number, ID number and face in more and more places in the background had been unified.
The last time I used face recognition was when I used shell’s “Quilt decoration” APP to confirm the identity of my decoration owner.Blink and shake your head.At this point, I take everything for granted.
10. COVID-19 Prevention 2020
Not only do you need to wear a mask, but you also need to show a health code.
Beijing’s regulations have always been and are stricter than local ones’, and it’s not just about showing health codes.Even today, many places have to scan the code to register.
Digital means may be the most successful means and the most important lesson of China’s epidemic prevention and control in 2020.
Most other countries do not have such means.Either there are no such information/digital infrastructures, or there are no such public acceptance and compliance.
China have them all: infrastructures, public acceptance and compliance.This is why China has succeeded in fighting the epidemic until now.
There are very few societies around the world that do both.China is probably unique in the world.This is a vivid portrayal of China exceptionalism.
That is why China has performed so well in the fight against the epidemic.
The result will be:
1) Individuals believe that the transfer of their digital privacy is beneficial to the security and well-being of themselves/society/the public/nation/country and even the whole human society;
2) The government finds that digital is a valuable tool and resource for improving public governance and maintaining public safety and well-being.
This is what I am saying: COVID-19 2020 will push China further down a different path from the West.Twenty years ago, we also feared and even resisted the real-name system on the internet.Today, we take for granted the ubiquity of real-name registration and the surrender of privacy.
Why did it become so?
1) We generally believe in technology and data security;
2) Through a lot of practice and run-in, we have established and defined our relationship with public power;We are confident that the public will not abuse our data, and as law-abiding citizens we have nothing to worry about;
3) We fully feel the benefits of real names: safety, convenience, and no cost or loss;
As long as we don’t break the law, the real-name system will do us more good than harm.
5) The provision of data information by citizens has become the norm of society, a matter of course or even an obligation;
6) We even think that without these real name protections, there are some hidden risks.We will begin to fear or reject the non-real name system.
A few years ago, WHEN I used a mobile App for human face recognition, I might have felt a little strange, wondered whether it was necessary, and felt a little awkward.Now I use Apps, and if the system asks for facial recognition, I actively cooperate, taking everything for granted: “You have to recognize human faces.That’s how it works.It would be risky not to.”
This is the effects of osmosis.We’ve become more used to it;Our standards and considerations are different than they were a decade or two ago.The Chinese may not know it: we are entering a very different world from the West.But that may well be the world of the future.
Further of the China Model : The Historical Watershed role of COVID-19（II）
In 2020, China was a global leader in preventing and fighting against the epidemic, using unique digital management to achieve great success. The author believes that the epidemic will ‘accelerate the fission’, further increasing the acceptance of digital governance and consequently changing the relationship between the individual and society/government in Chinese society. This will be a further step in the “Chinese model”.
Prevention and fighting against the epidemic will accelerate a change in people’s recognition of digital privacy concession and digital governance.
1. People gain more comprehension on digitisation and its benefits.
2. People get more accustomed to digital governance and partial “privacy withdrawal.”
3. The relationship between the disclosure of personal (digital) privacy and access to public safety/benefits can be established.
4. The digital governance and the cession of one’s privacy are increasingly viewed in a positive light.
5. The advancement of thinking and the formation of a “new consensus” in China.
6. New applications: from digital governance and counter-terrorism to climate change as a matter of human destiny Full text If digital governance, such as real-name authentication and face recognition, only made people feel that, for a certain “price of privacy”, they could gain great convenience and security in life (the security of online/mobile payments), the epidemic has achieved the following two effects:
One, people are more aware of digital governance and its benefits: health codes used by residents for everyday travel. Those who travel across provinces need tripcodes, nucleic acid testing certificates, vaccination certificates, etc. People are seeing how the government is using digital management to proactively cope with local outbreaks and how China’s efforts to prevent and combat epidemics have been incredibly successful compared to other countries. There have been no more large-scale local outbreaks in the mainland since the digital epidemic prevention infrastructure went into effect.
Two, people are becoming more accustomed to digital management and “privacy concessions”. People are becoming aware that their whereabouts can be tracked on demand without any technical barriers; they realise that they have to scan a code to go to many places (to date, many places in Beijing still require scanning health code to register for entry rather than simply showing their health code). There have been incidents in Beijing where cases were spread through car-hailing. After that, the code was also required to be scanned when taking taxis/car-hailing (it is still partially enforced, although not as strictly). This is a bit uncomfortable at first, but for the purpose of epidemic prevention, society and the health of yourself and your family, everyone has to do it and withdraw a certain amount of privacy for the sake of public welfare. You could, of course, choose not to do it, except that you would find it inconvenient when you went out. As we say, consumer habits can be cultivated, so too can the withdrawal of one’s digital privacy be habitual and ‘developed’. It can be interpreted as a frog in boiled water. As the author said, people were resistant to real-name authentication for web forums twenty years ago. Now they are accustomed to it – not just a lack of choice, but a psychological adaptation.
Thirdly, people finally established a causal relationship between the cession of personal (digital) privacy and access to public safety/benefits in a relatively short period. Over the past two decades, the crime rate in Chinese society declined constantly. 2020’s report on the work of the nation’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate once described the trend of changes in China’s criminal cases over the twenty years 1999-2019: between 1999 and 2019, prosecutions of serious violent crimes by procuratorial organs fell from 162,000 to 60,000, an average annual decline of 4.8%; at the same time, within this smaller At the same time, within this smaller base, the proportion of sentences of more than three years fell from 45.4% to 21.3%. First, the “structure” and “dynamics” of crime have changed significantly: “drunk driving ” has replaced theft as the number one crime for criminal prosecution. Secondly, the major crimes are disturbing market order, producing and selling counterfeit and shoddy products, and infringement of intellectual property rights. The increase in criminal prosecution of these economic crimes not only represents an increase in such economic behaviour (think back to the 1990s and how many such sales of counterfeit and shoddy products and infringements of intellectual property rights there would have been), it shows that our society is progressing. The essence is, serious violent crimes – violent assault, assault against the person, robbery, rape, etc. – and the rate of heavy sentences are declining: in 2019, serious violent crimes accounted for only 2.5% of all criminal cases. This reflects social security in China continues to get better and violent crime is getting further away from us.
The author does not have the data in hand but believes that China’s felony crime rate has been declining at an accelerating rate over the past five years (since 2015), along with the full rollout of the real-name authentication system and the overall upgrade of the digital infrastructure. China is becoming the safest country in the world. The author is afraid that this is not easy for the Chinese people who live in an environment of “boiling frogs in warm water” and take everything for granted. It is only when they travel abroad and encounter crime that they, in turn, feel that China is safe. On the contrary, foreigners who come to China now have a deep understanding: Everyone I meet exclaims how safe China’s big cities are and how low the crime rate is (with many specific scenarios, such as someone walking through the central city late at night and not feeling safe at all). This is difficult to imagine in Western metropolises and most developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. For a law-abiding citizen, one would not think about crime. But if you think about it differently, let’s say you are a thief looking to steal, rob or commit other violent acts; in which country would you least expect to commit a crime? China, obviously. The Skynet (nationwide video monitoring system in China) is everywhere. At the current level of digitisation in China, a criminal has nowhere to hide – one will be identified in seconds and caught in minutes. China’s digital infrastructure and digital governance is a nightmare for criminals.
Digital infrastructure and digital governance play a crucial role in reducing crime rates. But without an event that happens in the short term to help you effectively ‘string’ together cause and effect, you may not feel this. In 2020, the fight against the epidemic in China served such a purpose – people could observe in a relatively short period that there was a causal relationship between the data and digital privacy they contribute to public safety and public welfare. Because I contributed, I made an effort, and everyone is safe. Therefore, when a public place asks me to scan a health code, I will not hesitate to pull out my phone and scan the code. I believe that my actions are contributing to public welfare and public safety. One sees that the essence of this ‘withdrawl of privacy’ is to ‘contribute’ and ‘invest’ part of his privacy in the form of data to a public data pool; this public data will ultimately be held by the public power, but the public power is essentially at the service of society. It will be responsible for transforming this pool of data into a public good and tool for the benefit of society, providing public safety and well-being. Every member of society will ultimately benefit from it.
Fourthly, people can view digital governance and their own privacy concessions from a positive perspective. The epidemic has led to establishing a ‘causal link’ between the cession of privacy and public welfare, and it has become clear that digital governance does make sense. It does have benefits. They are felt by the people. And not only can it protect against epidemics, it can also protect against thieves; not only can it help with public health, it can also help with public security. Wouldn’t society be safer with more of these tools? Moreover, a boundary has been established between the public authorities and society/businesses/individuals. I.e. the former will not use this data information without restraint. At the same time, the latter has trusted the former not to misuse it. This is very important. It’s not the same as the all-powerful ‘Big Brother’ described in 1984. Big Brother is watching you all day long. The slightest hint of a problem will catch you and deal with you. Every little thing you do that doesn’t fit in with the system can put you in real danger. This image of a centralised system makes people afraid of public power + digital governance. But the reality is far from that: as long as you don’t break the law, no one cares about you. Even if you technically break the law, there are no consequences as long as you don’t draw attention to it and as long as it’s not deteriorated into crime. The privacy of the data you withdraw will not directly put you into trouble. This is very subtle and very important. Data is a form of power. The public power can use it, but more importantly, it is not used. In China, it is believed that the transfer of data is generally “safe” because the public authorities are acceptable of the complexity of society and the grey areas and “do something with power” by “grasping the big and leaving the trivial”. A prime example is the ‘underground economy.’ For those economic practices that are not officially recognised and are in the ‘grey area’ of the law (the various underground economies from nightclub escorting to extracurricular education and training), can Alipay/WeChat payments be used? Is it possible to put oneself at risk with this kind of data-retentive payment? What I understand is that in the early days of Alipay/WeChat payments’ application, many areas traded in cash. But later on, people felt that nothing would really happen, no one would have time to “monitor” you, and as long as nothing went wrong, nothing would happen. After a sense of trust and security was established, the underground economy was digitised, and people used mobile phone payments on a large scale. So, nowadays, we hardly see people with a lot of cash. Ten years ago, carrying a lot of money meant he had to do business with the underground economy. Today, he would also choose Alipay/WeChat payment. Behind this is a grasp of public power’s boundaries and bottom line and a certain trust in public power. Westerners may never understand this. (P.S. I’m afraid the most scenario one would use cash these days is the red envelope for family and friends on Chinese New Year’s Eve. In addition, as I wrote on Twitter, a seemingly unrelated but important reason why internet payments are not easily accessible in the US is the “tipping culture”, where tips are required at all times and the amount paid can be adjusted according to the amount of change on hand. (Mobile/data-based payments and consumer culture are very much at odds with each other)
Five, a step forward in thinking and the formation of a ‘new consensus.’ After the battle of the epidemic, the nation will argue that ceding some of its data privacy seems necessary; the government contends that collecting data for digital governance seems necessary. There is some kind of new consensus between the two sides on the boundary between public power/public and private domains. People will become more aware of data, more accustomed to data management, more acceptable of ceding data privacy, and aware of the benefits that giving up some personal privacy can bring to society and themselves. Public authorities/government will also find data to be a vital tool for social governance. Only by having more data can they better understand and serve society. When private domain privacy/private domain data protection and public power/public domain/digital public governance are viewed as two sides of the scale, the balance falls more in favour of public power/public domain/digital public governance. (P.S. Of course, private domain privacy has boundaries. For example, if you stay in a hotel and do your activities in the hotel’s public space, you are in the public domain; your physical activities in the hotel room are in the private domain. (It is also because of boundaries that people are willing to cede privacy). The author believes that this new relationship between the public and private domains is a new consensus in China after the epidemic. It is also a further step in China’s established model.
Sixthly, there are new applications in public governance, counter-terrorism and climate change.1. Smart Cities, Smart Communities and Property At the beginning of 2016, some ministries and commissions issued a document, calling for the opening of small communities and the removal of fences. The request was that “in principle, no more enclosed residential communities should be built, and completed residential communities and unit compounds should be opened gradually”, an event that sparked a huge social controversy and concerned the author at the time. After the 2020 epidemic prevention, the government has discovered the importance of data management and the importance of community and asset property management in grassroots/grid-based management. The final grip in the fight against the epidemic is property. Hence, the joint circular was issued by the Ministry of Housing and Construction and ten other ministries in early 2021 to support residential property (Circular on Strengthening and Improving Residential Property Management issued by the ten ministries on 5 January 2021).
Such strong support for a sector is scarce and highlights the importance of property in the government’s mind. Without the epidemic, likely, such recognition would not have been possible. In turn, the property is the government’s most powerful grip in promoting digital governance. By simply building and upgrading digital infrastructure (cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and other next-generation information technologies), data on individual communities, physical assets, spaces, institutions and people can be captured on the front line as a means of public governance. This is the essence of the future/smart city and the future/smart community. After the 2020 epidemic, it accelerated into a focus of public governance in Chinese cities and communities. I understand that several cities in China are vigorously promoting related work, usually in cooperation with local property enterprises, which invest in technology, collect data and provide it to the government, which will provide certain financial subsidies or other policy support. What is the result? The government will have basic data on the vast majority of communities, office units and public spaces in the next few years. It will be able to converge it with other data. The purpose of government having data is to enhance governance and better serve the public. Of course, it also creates a so-called dilemma: is the government acquiring data for itself (unlimited expansion of public power) or for society/public? Americans tend to believe the former (the government is doing it for itself). At the same time, many Chinese will choose to accept the latter (the government is ultimately doing it for the betterment of society). This is the difference between East and West. America will never go as far as China. 2. Counter-terrorism This is about the Xinjiang issue. How do radicalised people rejoin society after education and training? How do we prevent them from re-radicalising and creating terrorism/violence? How can we avoid them becoming the seeds of spreading radicalisation? The author believes that the government must have undertaken several actions to help them adapt to society. For example, various vocational and professional skills training; subsequent arrangements for them to work in certain industries/enterprises to discover a safe and stable path to wealth. The various experiences accumulated in the targeted poverty alleviation can all be used. But economics is only part of the picture. People, after all, have minds and consciousness and values that cannot be changed simply by occupation and income. So there must be monitoring of these groups of people. This is where China’s data infrastructure can come in handy. Real-name authentication, face recognition (and possibly other biometric authentication, such as fingerprints) are used everywhere for these people. Imagine the same way we had to scan health codes every day when entering and leaving various places during the epidemic, requiring them to constantly scan the codes and report their trips in the form of data. Itineraries may seem basic, but they make perfect sense if they cover every physical place and online shop. We can know where each person/group of people went each day, how much time they stayed and what kind of pattern they had. With the data, we can analyse it. This is just the bare minimum, plus countless other data. The future model for radicals must be to force them to give up more (digital) privacy (which will certainly be considerably more than the information needed for epidemic prevention) and to implement data-level surveillance on them, thereby guaranteeing public safety. If they comply for a long period of time (long term “code green”), they will presumably be “upgraded” and will no longer need to provide as much information. It is still a question of the relationship and boundaries between personal privacy and public power. This scale will tip more towards public power in the Xinjiang militant crowd. It is incomprehensible and even more unacceptable to Westerners in this form, but it does not matter to the Chinese – this is our mode of governance. 3. Carbon Neutrality, Green Living and Personal Green Data Can digital governance be integrated with the goal of carbon neutrality? The environmental crisis brought about by climate change is the biggest crisis of all. It is much bigger than the competitive game between China and the United States, the political “infighting” between left and right in the United States, and the conflicts between other countries, regions, and cultures worldwide. It is the climate issue that is the issue of human survival. Can digital governance under a certain paternalistic/authoritarian politics help solve climate change problems? The answer, I think, is obvious. It is easier for China to build a green national consensus than for the United States, which is imploding in infighting, to promote a national effort to become “carbon neutral” and stop climate change. Digital infrastructure and tools have the potential to make a huge difference. Everyone’s carbon emissions/footprint (and more data such as water footprint) is actually recorded in the way everyone eats, drinks and lives – from shopping consumption (what they buy and in what form it is delivered), eating (what they eat and in what form it is delivered), travelling (where they go, what means they take, where they live), to living energy consumption (electricity, gas, water ……). Everyone’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and carbon sequestration can also be recorded in data form. An important tool to promote “carbon neutrality” may be data. The presentation and restoration of our lives in terms of quantitative carbon data, so that we know what we are doing to nature.
At some point, when climate change has reached a point where it threatens the continuation of humanity and the natural world and is widely recognised if any country might be the first to introduce a ‘carbon credit rating’ (similar to Ant’s ‘Sesame Credit’) to quantitatively assess an individual’s carbon impact on the world in the form of data – such a thing could only happen in China. If any country might be the first to introduce a ‘carbon credit rating’ (similar to Ant’s ‘Sesame Credit’) to quantitatively assess an individual’s carbon impact on the world in the form of data – this could only happen in China. Digital governance could be a key tool to help solve the ultimate global crisis – climate change. And looking around the world, who can propose a solution? Only China, I’m afraid – a country that is united, collectivist, has a data infrastructure and an institutional culture of digital governance, and is concerned with a community of human destiny. The author believes that China will become a global mainstay in climate change and environmental protection issues – all of which will rely on China’s extremely unique governance model.
(To be continued. We will discuss more abstract issues in the next article)
Source: Tuzhuxi, Chair Tu