No precise count of the number of people currently detained in camps in Xinjiang has made its way out of China. In the absence of officially reported numbers or other hard evidence, researchers of various stripes have converged on the figure of one million. Former MERICS Visiting Academic Fellow Jessica Batke explains how international observers arrived at this figure.
The news that two genetically edited babies might have been born in China revealed the country’s deficiency in defining ethical norms and a dangerous lack of transparency in technological research and development. Whereas China is investing vastly into “hard science,” the negligence of “soft science” and humanities could undermine trust in China as a tech-superpower – and it could ultimately put humanity at risk.
Karen Fisher, Haiqing Yu
The digital economy offers new employment opportunities for China’s disabled people. Expanding the digital economy to include broader parts of the population combines the economic goal of China’s transition to a high-tech nation with the political imperatives of growth and social stability. This is the fourth part of a series based on a MERICS publication on social services in China.
Digital solutions have not delivered on the promise to guarantee high-quality education for all in China. The introduction of information and communication technology has encountered resistance from teachers and parents. It has also created a new divide between the producers and the consumers of ICT content. This is the third part of a series based on a MERICS publication on social services in China.
China counts on non-state actors, from charities to private companies, for the modernization of its social service delivery systems. Given the CCP’s preference for maintaining operational and ideological control, this approach has limitations. This is part one of a four-part series based on a MERICS publication on social services in China.
Interview with Mareike Ohlberg (via Young China Watchers)
The collection of citizens' personal data is a global issue, but China's social credit system is unique in its ambitions. Its uses range from assessing individual credit risks to forcing companies to comply with environmental standards, but also to discouraging dissenting political opinions. In this interview MERICS researcher Mareike Ohlberg describes China's struggle to define the standards for a nationwide system.
Unrest over Chinese online financing platforms shows that the combination of unregulated market forces and uninformed individual decision making can lead to undesirable outcomes. Unless the CCP is willing and able to foster comprehensive reforms, events might again spiral out of control when new innovative financial solutions are introduced.
China uses civil associations to lobby for CCP causes among overseas Chinese in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. The same organizations are active in Germany, but the spectrum of Chinese associations is much broader. Their focus on technology reflects China’s ambitions for industrial upgrading.
MERICS Guest Author Genia Kostka
Educated and wealthy urban Chinese have an overwhelmingly positive view of commercial and government-run systems that rate the “trustworthiness” of citizens, businesses and social organizations. Rather than perceiving them as instruments of surveillance, they see them as a way to protect consumers from food scandals or financial fraud – and to access benefits connected to a high social credit score.
Interview with Frank N. Pieke
For years, many China observers believed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would eventually crumble under the contradictions between a Leninist political system and a dynamic society. “But we were all proved wrong,” says Frank N. Pieke, the new head of MERICS. The CCP is more modern, more powerful and confident than ever, he says. Yet, Xi Jinping, who likes to present himself as an all-powerful state and party leader, might find it more difficult than expected to secure a third term.
Frank N. Pieke plans to build on MERICS' successful first five years as the institute's new director and CEO. The former head of the Leiden Asia Center and the Oxford China Center sees the Communist Party's transformation as the key to understanding China's global rise. At the helm of MERICS, Pieke and his deputy Mikko Huotari want to facilitate more coordinated information-sharing on China in Europe.
Interview with Rogier Creemers (via Young China Watchers)
The aim of China's social credit system, as Rogier Creemers of Leiden University sees it, is "to ensure that people who behave in a sincere and trustworthy way in society are incentivized to do so." In this interview, the postdoctoral scholar in the Law and Governance of China describes the current state of the social credit system and its intended uses for government oversight and moral education.
Interview with Martha Bayles
For Hollywood China is a huge market it cannot afford to ignore. But closer co-operation with the Chinese movie industry has not always gone well: Expensive co-productions like “The Great Wall” flopped at box offices worldwide in 2016. Yet Hollywood is still keen on China and willing to go a long way to please Chinese censors by tweaking scripts or replacing Chinese villains with baddies from North Korea. “Hollywood is compromising freedom of expression to stay in China,” warns film critic and Boston College lecturer Martha Bayles.
Interview with: Fu King-wa
Internet censorship in China has evolved from just blocking websites into an elaborate system of information control, says Fu King-wa, Associate Professor at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong. Fu has developed projects that track what has been deleted on the Chinese web. His assessment of the current situation is bleak: The space for public expression is depressingly small, he says. Yet the #MeToo debate in China also demonstrates that that not all discussion can be suppressed – even in China.
Interview with Didi Kirsten Tatlow
Chinese schools are notorious for their rote learning and endless tests and exams. But the Chinese government wants to change that – at least, the authorities want to introduce more creativity into the classrooms. That’s no easy undertaking, says MERICS Visiting Academic Fellow Didi Kirsten Tatlow. For children to become truly creative adults, Tatlow argues, they need time to play and the freedom to think their own way.
Chinese citizens are increasingly concerned about invasive data collection practices of private companies such as Alibaba's Ant Financial. But those hoping that state regulators will rein in these practices should not forget that the government relies on the tech giants to build its social credit system with the goal to monitor and restrict citizens’ behavior.
Interview with Jessica Batke
When China’s law on non-governmental organizations went into effect in early 2017, observers worried that many international NGOs would pull out as a result. Almost 18 months later, the picture is mixed as Jessica Batke of ChinaFile has found out. As part of ChinaFile’s NGO Project, she tracks the experiences with the new law and says that no NGO is known to have left China so far. Yet, this could change in 2018. Small NGOs find it particularly difficult to comply with the new regulations.
At this year’s German-Chinese media dialogue in Berlin participants shared concerns over separating real news from fake news on social media while acknowledging the fundamental differences in how both sides see the role of the media. Chinese participants spoke of the media’s job to promote government views, i.e. on globalization. Germans demanded better access to the Chinese media market and better conditions for foreign correspondents in China.
China’s growing political, economic and cultural influence in Europe is finally attracting the public attention it deserves. In this OpEd for the New York Times, former Beijing correspondent and current MERICS fellow Didi Kirsten Tatlow offers a personal view of how China expanded its footprint in Berlin since she last lived in the German capital.
Descriptions of Xi Jinping as new Mao Zedong or destroyer of the Deng Xiaoping legacy are prominent in the media outside of China. But resorting to old paradigms about leadership in Chinese politics may prevent us from seeing the differences between Xi and his predecessors.
Worries about the future of civil society organizations in China are limited to only a handful of European countries. Others put their faith in established informal ties or have subscribed to Chinese understandings of “people-to-people exchanges,” which are unlikely to be affected by restrictions on non-governmental organizations.
China's holistic approach to state security does not differentiate between policies to respond to external versus internal threats. The CCP mobilizes the entire society - with a mix of persuasion and coercion - to preempt threats from both inside and outside China’s borders and from both inside and outside the CCP.
(via The Diplomat)
Unlike any other Chinese leader since the reform era, Xi Jinping has worked on forging a Chinese national narrative with the aim to strengthen the ties between China’s citizens and the CCP. Chinese netizens challenge the official orthodoxy in online debates that are remarkably pluralistic despite increasing censorship and repression.
China's Internet economy is developing rapidly with the help of government funding and a protected domestic market. European governments have to rethink their digital policies to be prepared for the Chinese competition.
Interview with Shazeda Ahmed
In setting up the so called Social Credit System, China plans to monitor, rate and regulate the behavior of citizens and companies with the help of big data. What motivates the government? What are the major challenges? And what do people in China think about this system?