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10 State Media Cartoons on China’s Social Credit Implementation

This is how state media propagate the Social Credit System.

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Chinese state media roughly illustrate the country’s much-discussed Social Credit implementation in two ways; as punishing individuals and bringing harmony to the collective.

The growing importance of China’s Social Credit implementation is a hot topic in the media – both in- and outside of China.

Ever since the Chinese government announced its first plans in 2014 on the construction of a nationwide Social Credit System to be rolled out by 2020, media coverage on the issue has seemingly been growing month on month.

According to the official government website, the system (or policy) is meant to “assess individuals and government agencies on areas ranging from tax payment and local government bonds to judicial credibility,” and focuses on credit in the areas of (1) administrative affairs, (2) commercial activities, (3) social behavior, and (4) the judicial system.

Part of the Social Credit plan is the implementation of blacklist systems that punish the “untrustworthy” behavior of companies or individuals through various measures. Already in 2013, China’s Supreme Court launched its online publicly available ‘blacklist’ with the names of people that have an effective court order against them.

In 2017, there were more than a hundred regions in China where local governments worked with blacklists. Earlier this year, Chinese media published reports claiming that more than 9,5 million people were blacklisted nationwide in 2017. Those on these lists could face a hold on their loans or travel bans, and will have to deal with a range of other restrictions in their daily lives until they comply with court orders.

In foreign media, the system has been called “Black Mirror-like” or “Orwellian,” while Chinese state media generally emphasize “innovation” and “harmony” when discussing these new implementations.

The cartoons that are published together with news reports on social credit also clearly show the big differences in how the social credit implementation is perceived in foreign media versus in Chinese media.

Below, on the left, is Financial Times‘ Ingram Pinn’s illustration which was featured in a 2018 article  discussing both private credit scores (e.g. Sesame Credit) and the national social credit implementation (for the difference between them, please see our “Open Sesame” article). On the right is a cartoon by state media outlet Xinhua – the same illustration is regularly posted across dozens of news sites when featuring social credit-related stories.

While the cartoon on the left illustrates people as carrying the heavy burden of their ‘credit score’ (note that only commercial programmes such as Sesame Credit actually have these scores), the cartoon on the right shows the social credit as flying over a group of cheering people.

1: “Xinyong” (trustworthiness) flies above the happy people.

In general, the illustrations on Social Credit in Chinese state media roughly present China’s nascent Social Credit implementation in two ways; (1) as punishing individuals for bad behavior and (2) as benefiting the collective, which builds on a more harmonious society together.

 

2: Building “trust” together.

This cartoon above was used in a local government post about social credit and shows people dressed as construction workers literally ‘building’ on the characters for ‘honest’ and ‘trustworthy’ (诚信).

3. Xinhua cartoon: constructing the social credit system.

The idea of literally ‘building’ on a Social Credit System together is also illustrated in other cartoons used by Chinese state media, such as the one above by Xinhua that shows a person waving a flag that says “construction,” standing in front of a number of blocks that form the term “personal integrity system” (个人诚信体系).

4. Integrity above the people.

The applauding and cheering keeps coming back in other cartoons, such as the one above that is published across multiple news platforms. The characters in the flying heart say “chéngxìn” (诚信) , meaning ‘integrity.’

5. Blacklisted people can’t go anywhere.

Besides the illustrations propagating the benefits of the Social Credit system for the collective, there are also many which emphasize the downsides for individuals who get blacklisted. This illustration, published on on the Economic Weekly zhonghongwang.com, shows a person on the left that has a heart on his chest saying ‘keeping trust’ (or: ‘trustworthy’), and the text above his head says “I can go anywhere” (路路通). The person on the left has a ‘lose trust’ black heart on his chest; this ‘blacklisted’ individual sees “limits” on all the signs around him and the cloud text above his head says: “I’m blocked everywhere” (处处受限).

6. Lose your trust in some place, and there’s no place to go.

This illustration published on Party newspaper People’s Daily shows an individual being punished through a pillory which has the term for “blacklisted person” on it. The man’s thinking cloud says: “Lose your trust in one place, and there’s no place to go” (“一处失信、处处受限”), which is a slogan that is recently applied a lot by Chinese media writing about the Social Credit system.

7. Social credit as ball and chain.

To be fair, the illustration above was not published by state media outlet but by various commercial sites, but I still wanted to include it here; these illustrations travel from news article to news article and it is not always easy to detect their origin. This cartoon shows a big ball and chain, the ball says “Social Credit System,” which is tied to the chain which holds a “Resident Identification Card” (official ID of the PRC) and is then tied to the individual.

8. Tax evaders get caught.

This Xinhua illustration, also published on the official government Credit site, shows a man caught in a “black list name” confinement for tax evasion, with the cloud saying: “I can’t move a single step!” (寸不难行). On the flying carpet that says “honor list for paying tax” is another man who holds a “legal tax paper” in his hand and who says: “I can go wherever.”

9. Trust ranks.

This widely circulating illustration shows four individuals from A to D, standing on a block that says “Trust credit levels.” The A man holds a sign that says “special treatment” (or: “favored”), whereas the number D man is put a dunce on his head that says “constrained,” while he falls into a black whole.

10. Big credit is gonna get you.

The cartoon above, by state media outlet Xinhua, shows a computer that has the term “government information sharing” on it, and says: “[We] unite in taking disciplinary measures!” He holds a big net that is titled “Social Credit Web,” and captures a man with a briefcase who is “blacklisted,” and also says, as we’ve seen in previous illustration, that there is “no way to go” for him.

All in all, the message these various illustrations propagate is straight-forward: those who stay off the black lists and behave like good citizens are free to go wherever they want, those who do not will be caught and lose their freedom of movement. They further emphasize that the Social Credit System is a combined effort, that will, allegedly, benefit the collective and make China a safer and more harmonious place.

Want to understand more? Also read our previous articles explaining social credit in China here and here.

By Manya Koetse


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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Insight

The Detainment of Canadian Ex-Diplomat Michael Kovrig Triggers (Censored) Discussions on Weibo

“You take one of ours, we take one of yours,” some commenters write.

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The detainment of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig is generating major discussions on Chinese social media – but many comment sections have now been locked.

The news that former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig has been detained in Beijing is not only generating mass attention on Twitter and in English-language newspapers today; on Chinese social media, thousands of people have also responded to the issue.

Kovrig, who is known as Kang Mingkai (康明凯) in Chinese, served as a diplomat in Beijing and Hong Kong until 2016, and currently is a Hong Kong-based Senior Adviser at the International Crisis Group, where he works on foreign affairs and global security issues in Northeast Asia.

News of his arrest in mainland China came out through the International Crisis Group. In a media release on December 12, the International Crisis Group called for the immediate release of Michael Kovrig, and stated that Kovrig was detained on Monday night in the Chinese capital by the Beijing Bureau of Chinese State Security.

According to the Washington Post, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang (陆慷) told reporters during a regular press briefing on Wednesday that he had nothing to say about the issue, and that China and Canada have maintained “normal consular communication.”

Lu Kang during Wednesday’s press briefing.

Lu further said that the International Crisis Group was not legally registered in China, and that the organization had “violated Chinese laws” because “it was not registered.”

On Weibo, a post of the state tabloid newspaper Global Times on the issue became the most-read post on the account (17,7 million followers) on Wednesday. At the end of the day, it had more than 34,400 comments, 158,000 ‘likes’ and over 36,000 shares.

The post says:

[Foreign media: “Former Canadian diplomat Kang Mingkai has been detained in China”] According to Reuters, the International Crisis Group stated on Tuesday that its senior adviser in Northeast Asia and former Canadian diplomat Kang Mingkai (Michael Kovrig), has recently been detained by the Chinese government. According to the resources, Kang Mingkai is a former diplomat in Canada and in Hong Kong, who held a position as a strategic communications expert at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and is able to speak Mandarin. He joined the International Crisis Group last year as a senior adviser to Northeast Asia to study and analyze foreign affairs and global security issues in China, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula. He criticized China many times, and advocates a hard-line approach towards China.

Despite the many comments, the post’s comments section was locked for viewing by the Global Times on Wednesday night local time, only allowing some comments to remain visible, such as one saying: “This is most likely an old spy on a special agent mission.”

Other posts on the issue that generated much attention, such as the Beijing News post that received approximately 5000 comments, or the Toutiao post that received 11,000 comments, were also locked for viewing.

A later post by Global Times (China time December 12, 23:07) stated:

Confirmed! This Canadian is held for legal investigation. – Reporters have learned from relevant departments that Canadian citizen Kang Mingkan (Michael John Kovrig) is suspected of engaging in activities that are harmful to China’s security. As of December 10, he is held by the Beijing National Security Bureau for investigation according to law. Currently, the case is under investigation.”

“Well done,” a typical comment said, with many accusing Kovrig of being a spy.

But there are also more critical comments, with some saying: “This might not be a good thing,” and others suggesting that Kovrig is a “political prisoner.”

Elsewhere on Weibo, the many comments on this issue are also open, with one popular one saying: “They are using a legal way to tell Canada their behavior is illegal.”

On both Weibo and Twitter, as well as in the English-language media, Kovrig’s detainment is linked to the recent arrest of Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), the financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technology – which happens to have been founded by her father, Ren Zhengfei (任正非).

According to many, the detainment of Meng in Canada is linked to the detainment of Kovrig in Beijing.

Meng was detained on December 1st during a transit at the Vancouver airport at the request of United States officials. She is accused of fraud charges for violating US sanctions on Iran. According to CNN Business, Meng allegedly is accused of helping Huawei get around sanctions on Iran by misleading financial institutions into believing that subsidiary company ‘Skycom’ – which is active in networking and telecommunication in Iran – was a separate company in order to conduct business in the country.

Chinese officials, demanding Meng’s release, have called the arrest “a violation of a person’s human rights.” Meng has been released on bail on Tuesday, December 11.

“You take one of ours, we take one of yours,” one commenter replied to news relating to Kovrig’s detainment.

“Are we exchanging hostages like North Korea?” one Weibo user responded.

On the Weibo account of the Canadian embassy, there have been no direct mentions of Kovrig, but the embassy did dedicate a post to the celebration of human rights on December 12th, saying: “We commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Canada, China and all member states of the United Nations support this basic document of the United Nations.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Insight

“Is the Moon Still Rounder in Europe?” – Weibo Responses after Strasbourg Shooting

As reports of the Strasbourg attack make their rounds on Weibo, many social media users are concerned about public safety in Europe.

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As the Strasbourg shooting is making headlines worldwide, the idea that is dominating public discussions on Chinese social media is that Europe, in general, has become an unsafe place.

At around 20:00 local time, a man opened fire near a Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg on Tuesday night, killing at least four people and injuring eleven others.

French authorities have identified the gunman as the 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt, who is listed on a security and terror watch list.

As the gunman is still at large, approximately 350 security officers – including two helicopters – are involved in the search for the suspected terrorist, who reportedly had criminal convictions in France and Germany, had served time in prison, and was supposed to be arrested by the French police hours before the shooting occurred.

News of the shooting has been reported on Chinese social media by state media outlets including China News Service (中国新闻网), CCTV, People’s Daily (人民网), Legal Evening News (法制晚报), and many others.

The Consulate of the People’s Republic of China in Strasbourg has issued an “urgent safety reminder” on its website, warning Chinese who are in Strasbourg to stay vigilant, to remain indoors as much as they can, and to avoid the city center.

On Weibo, the Strasbourg shooting is receiving hundreds of comments across dozens of posts, with many similar reactions coming up as those after earlier terrorist attacks in Europe. Whether it is the Paris attacks of 2015, the New Year’s mass sex assault in Cologne in 2016, the Brussels explosions of 2016, the Manchester Arena attack of 2017, or others, a sentiment that is often dominating discussions on Chinese social media is that ‘Europe’ in general is not a safe place.

“I am supposed to go and study in the UK next year, would it be safe? I am a bit scared,” one popular comment said, with another person responding: “UK or France, it’s all the same, depending on the city or neighborhood where you live.”

“I am preparing to go back to China,” one Spain-based netizen writes: “At least China is safe.”

“My god,” another person says: “I’ve just been to Strasbourg last week. Our car got stuck in between a march of the Yellow Vests and the riot police.”

“France has been in chaos recently, I hope our compatriots are safe. My sister is there, and we’ve been terribly worried.”

“It’s better in China,” a typical comment said.

“I’m scared. My dad has been pleading with me not to make my move to France,” another concerned commenter writes. “Go to another country,” a Chinese student living in France responds: “Right now I am looking forward to graduate as soon as possible so I can return to China.”

“How is the situation in Italy?” another person asks: “I am going, but I’m afraid to.” There are many more similar responses, with people saying they have booked a trip to France or Europe, and are now doubting whether they should go or not.

Although there are also some voices who are saying the Chinese media is exaggerating reports about Europe, and that France is safe depending on the area, there are those responding saying: “How can you still say it’s safe when you also say ‘don’t go there and there and you’ll be ok,’ ‘just avoid the demonstrations and you’ll be fine,’ ‘don’t go out at night and it’s no problem,’ – isn’t this what ‘unsafe’ means?”

For many, the reports about Strasbourg are adding to the image they have of France and Europe following a week of turmoil involving the Yellow Vests (黄马甲) movement, which has also been widely covered in Chinese media.

There are many who respond to the shooting with sarcasm, saying the suspect used the “weapon of democracy” and that it is not a ‘terrorist attack’ but a “rise of oppressed ethnic groups in France,” also adding slogans such as “Vive la France!”

The expression “Is the moon still rounder in Europe?” or “Is the moon still rounder abroad?” (“国外的月亮不是圆吗”) is also posted multiple times in response to the attack.

It refers to a popular sarcastic expression that was ubiquitous in China during the early years of the Reform and Opening Up, that everything in America, Europe, or ‘the West’ is allegedly better (the grass ‘greener’) than in China – even the moon.

Public opinion on Chinese social media is now seemingly turning towards the idea that China is the safer place to be. As one commenter writes: “We were not born in safe times, but at least we were born in a safe country” (“我们不是生在和平年代,我们只是生在和平的国家”).

“France was messy before, now it’s even more chaotic. Friends in France, please stay safe!”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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