The 60s in China

July 03, 2018

As an American, I'm used to living in a free society. Say what you will about the United States; the level of social control in China is on a whole different level.

In China, Outright censorship of many websites, including Google and facebook, occurs daily via the Great Firewall.

Bad social credit will keep you off of trains and planes. In the US, when you're tracked by a credit bureau, you have rights: to know what's collected, and to dispute anything you feel is inaccurate; I don't know of any such safeguards in China's social credit system. Having the government operate a system like this in the US would be a non-starter.

Face-scanning technology is becoming more widely deployed, logging every person who attends concerts or events where it's installed.

And discussion of China's "996" schedule for ambitious tech companies—work from 9am to 9pm, six days per week—is making the rounds of Silicon Valley.

One thing that's surprised me looking at near US history, is how conformist it feels: a mostly Christian nation of married people, who went to church every week, watched the same TV shows, and ate the same foods. Charles Murray says the US's singular civic culture is "coming apart"; maybe that's the price of a society where one can be Muslim, Christian, or have no religion at all, and not be physically beaten for being gay. [1]

The 60s was a reaction to all this: the rejection of the idea that you had to live according to highly scripted norms of family life, sex, religion, music, lots of things. So I keep wondering, is China going to have its own version of the 60s? Will ordinary people get sick of this 24/7 surveillance, and control, and seek something different?

Nothing's certain, but it feels possible.

[1] I'm not doing justice to Murray's point here. But I have to believe a society without a singular dominant culture would be more tolerant. On the other hand, civic nationalism in the US traditionally included a large measure of respect for those different from you, and some of our most "conformist" institutions, like the Army, were major forces for racial integration throuh the years. It's complex.

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