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In China, buy the wrong things and go to jail

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As I travel around, I find different cultures fascinating Some are open, some are closed; some are welcoming, some are distrusting; some feel comfortable, some feel weird; some feel nice, some feel strict; and so on. A lot of the feeling you have about a country is a mixture of media headlines and language challenges.

Most people want to live in America because it’s the land of the free when, in reality, it is totally not. It is a tightly controlled country with strict views around religion, behaviour and language. The political correctness gone mental States is actually a difficult place to be. However, the media makes out it’s a great place to be. Movies, media, news and more make out that the global superpower that is America leads the world.

Meanwhile, we worry about Russia and China. Both were communist countries, and both are made out in the media to be led by a dictatorship. These countries snoop on you and abuse human rights regularly, according to the media. Their language is only spoken by people in those countries, and we don’t understand or like them.

Yet, when I go to Russia and China and meet people from Russia and China, the opposite is the case. They are well informed, intelligent people who are proud of their countries and their leaders. They recognise the Western media coverage and suspicion of their activities, but tell me that the Western media are very selective in their coverage.

Take Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. Are any of you aware of why this happened and what the Russian position is? Do you know the history of the Ukraine and why Russia thinks it is still part of their estate? If not, go read up and become informed. It might change your perspective.

And so yes, through travel I have realised a lot of my perspectives are based upon BBC news and my complete lack of communication capability with many societies.

Thank goodness for the internet. Through the internet, the language of the world has become English … for now. That may change but because everyone has had to learn English for business over the past few decades, it enables me to travel and talk with everyone, and learn a lot as a result. I’ve learnt why Putin behaves the way he does and why China is approaching the world as it does. The Belt and Road vision is staggering in its ambition, and it is happening. It’s not just an idea, but a vision being turned into reality.

So why am I blogging about this today?

Because of the Chinese idea of a social credit score. Most Western media has been writing about it as Big Brother, and a really awful idea. The idea is that every Chinese citizens mobile and online behaviours will be monitored, reported and given a score as to how well or badly you are behaving. Digital behaviours will track and trace what you click, what you write, what you say and more. Every nuance of your daily life will be tagged and reported to government databases, and you will be rewarded or punished accordingly.

Buy movies and toys when you’re tight for money and you will be reported negatively; save your yuan and stay indoors, and you will be rewarded.

Most Westerners detest this idea. Government watching what I do and what I say? No way.

And yet most Westerners are being monitored digitally by the US government, whether they like it or not. I’m also fairly sure that GCHQ would come knocking on my door if I used certain trigger words online. In other words, Western governments are watching what we do and say. It’s just not being reported publicly in the way in which the Chinese government has introduced their social credit score. For me, this is because the Chinese approach is to be completely open and honest, whilst the Western approach is to be covert and closed.

You may say I’m off on one here, but the fact that the Chinese government has worked closely to create the Tencent and Alibaba platforms, it is no surprise to Chinese people that they are now going to use those platforms to monitor their behaviours.

Meantime, if you want to know more, this Vox article is pretty good at comparing and contrasting the American and Chinese monitoring systems.

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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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