The Washington Post recently ran a curious opinion piece — one that offers up an apology (along with multiple excuses) for China’s so-called social credit system. We’ve covered it here on NEWSREP going back to 2016, but it’s really only over the last year that China’s social credit scheme — most often described as Orwellian — has really been reported on by the mainstream news outlets. As the WaPo op-ed rightly points out, the term “social credit” is a bit of misnomer because it gives Americans the sense that this is similar to our credit scores in the United States.
What is happening in China is far, far more dire than this. In China, a citizen’s social credit score is based on party loyalty, and if that score is too low then your children can’t go to good colleges, you can’t get a loan, and you can’t even travel. It is the dream of the statist, or as George Orwell described it, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
The Washington Post piece, penned by Berggruen Institute vice president and director Bing Song, offers to soften the edges of China’s social credit scheme… soothing us with claims that it isn’t quite as Orwellian as the Western world makes it out to be. First, Song points out that there are actually four social credit systems which cover social, judicial, commercial, and government trust and therefore the overall system should be called a social trust system rather than a social credit system. This attempt to apologize for Chinese authoritarianism actually has the opposite of the intended effect; what the author is describing is far worse than what most western journalists envision.
Song goes on to point out that the West fails to report on how the Chinese people have rejected some aspects of the social trust system she describes, pushing back against the state’s attempts as social engineering. This, of course, is good news… but also obvious. In a country of a billion people, of course some can, and will, push back against the largest social engineering project in human history. This does nothing to justify the heavy-handed attempts that the Chinese communist party makes to create a harmonious state. If Muslims in Xinjiang push back against the government’s attempts to exterminate them, this does nothing to excuse the actions of their oppressors.
Finally, Song tells us that, “there are different cultural expectations of the government in China than in other countries. China’s governance tradition of promoting good moral behavior goes back thousands of years.” China apparently has a unique claim on state-sponsored morality — an absurd claim at best. Every country passes laws in order to enforce what the state deems to be good behavior. States treat the societies they govern as petrie dishes for social experimentation, engineering populations in certain directions. China is by far the most ambitious and efficient actor on the world stage when it comes to these endeavors — which also include eugenics, now undeniable as it has been publicly acknowledged that they have begun gene-editing babies in China. The morality of this social engineering is debatable to say the very least.
Something certainly smelled fishy about the WaPo op-ed, but Mike Forsythe at the New York Times did a bit of digging on who Bing Song is. She is a former high-ranking executive at Goldman Sachs, where she made managing director in just two years. As Forsythe points out, this is the elite of the elite in high finance. Prior to this, Song attended Oxford — paid for by the Swire Corporation. She is married to Daniel Bell, also with the Berggruen Institute, who has written extensively about how, in his opinion, the Chinese government is no longer a communist dictatorship but rather a merit-based one-party system. He teaches at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Some Chinese strategists have stated that they see their primary goal as to be the managing of a declining power, the United States, into its future position as a second-rate power. Browsing through the leadership of the Berggruen Institute one can’t help shake the feeling that they are designed to provide the trans-pacific relationship to enable this to happen as they publish books with titles such as “The Changing Global Order” and “Beyond Liberal Democracy.”
This is all especially ironic when it is published under Washington’s Posts motto: “Democracy Dies in the Darkness.”