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5th Webinar - Smart Cities and the Social Credit System: China and Europe

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

Report by Giulia D'Aquila

For our fifth webinar, we had the pleasure of hosting Simone Pieranni, who addressed the topic of 'Smart Cities, Social Credit and the parallels between China and Europe'. Simone is a writer for the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto, and the founder of China Files. He is the author of Red Mirror, a book exploring the ways in which the future of Western countries is going to draw more and more from the Chinese model.

During his presentation, Simone focused on the project of Smart Cities, identified as a key component of the the Xi Jinping era. He pointed out that Smart Cities are the result of a technological development process that began as early as the 1950s. Pioneering smart cities projects, such as those of the ‘Hangzhou City Brain’ and Xiongan, typically involve collaboration between the central government and some of the country's biggest tech companies, including Alibaba and China Mobile. Such projects are closely observed by Western governments in an attempt to adapt similar models to European cities, of which ‘Smarter London Together’ is just one example to date.

Simone pointed out how the Smart Cities project is closely linked to the introduction of the Social Credit System, a massive data-based behavioural rating system issued by the Chinese Government that involves both citizens and businesses. He highlighted some already existing parallels between the Chinese Social Credit System and the mutual evaluation systems adopted in Western countries.

On the one hand, Simone underlined potential ethical implications of the unknown utilisation of data, while on the other hand he highlighted an important difference between the ways in which data is used for rating systems in China and Europe. While in China private companies do not have access to such data (which is reserved for security reasons by the Central Government), in Europe those rating systems remain within the context of private services based on a mutual evaluation system. Moreover, he added that in this era in which ‘data is the fuel of modern times’, the export of data represents an interest which could create a further link between different governments and international companies.

Simone fielded questions from attendees regarding how the sustainable handling of data may be ensured, the political implications of the Belt and Road initiative, and the possible barrier that nationalism might pose to the importation of Chinese models into Europe.

If you are eager to witness the entire Webinar, you can watch it on our YouTube channel!


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