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China – The World’s Biggest Tech Thief?

Chinese theft of intellectual property from other countries (mainly the US and those in the EU) represents the greatest transfer of wealth in history according to Keith B Alexander, former director of the US National Security Agency.

intellectual property includes such things as patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and software, and China has a long history of stealing such things ever since it opened up its economy to foreign trade in the late 1970s. China has long been known as the country of origin for counterfeit DVDs (among other products), but more recently one its largest tech firms, the phone manufacturer Huwai was accussed of encouraging employees with bonuses for gathering confidential information from competitors.

To give you an idea of the scale of this, The United States estimated in 2017 that Chinese theft of American intellectual property costs between $225bn and $600bn annually,

The type of information stolen covers a huge range of sectors: everything from the designs for wind turbines to cars, medical devices and computer chips. In one infamous case, Germany’s Siemens introduced the high-speed train to China only to find that subsequent extensions of the system were manufactured by its Chinese partner, China National Railway Corporation, which had developed similar technology suspiciously quickly.

How has China managed this?

Back in day China was more likely to engage in full on cyber-espionage, but more recently it has developed a set of policies which forces foreign multinationals working in China to divulge secrets while they are forbidden similar access to Chinese companies’ information.

Technically this is against WTO rules, but it seems that China, being a ‘big player’ on the international scene can get away with this.

Relevance to A-level sociology 

This is a great example of a ‘state crime’ – state sponsored theft of intellectual property, and it’s a great example of a crime that up until this point has gone unpunished!

It also reminds us that where globalisation is concerned, there is no such thing as genuine free-trade, it’s only as free as the large nation states allow it to be.

NB – as a final note, Chinese intellectual property theft might be a thing of a past, China has invested so much in skilling its population up in technology that it is likely to become a cutting edge tech innovator in its own right in the not too distant future!

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China’s Social Credit System: Big Data meets Big Brother

Most of us are used to having our daily activities constantly monitored and evaluated – what we buy, how much tax we pay (or not), what television programmes we watch, what websites we visit, where we go, how ‘active’ we are’, who our friends are and how we interact with them – such monitoring is now done routinely via Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

Now, imagine if all of that ‘big data’ was fed to the central government, and mashed into a single number which would be our ‘citizen score’ which in turn would measure the value of our contribution to our nation and which would inform everyone of how patriotic, politically sound and trustworthy we are as a person.

And imagine further if that ‘citizen score’ determined our eligibility for certain jobs, our creditworthiness, where our children could go to school, or even our chances of getting a date.

This isn’t fantasy, China is in the process of developing such a Social Credit System, which will be mandatory by 2020. Presently, the Chinese government is liaising with various big data companies and trialing out schemes in order to figure out what kinds of data to collect, and what algorithms to use to determine an individual’s final ‘citizen score’.

The Trial Run…

One company which is set to be a major player in running China’s social credit system is Alibaba, which is currently trialling a ‘credit ranking scheme’ which people can voluntarily sign up to.

The scheme gives people a score of between 350 and 950, based on data collected from five major categories…

  1. Credit history – does the person pay their bills on time?
  2. Ability to fulfill contractual obligations on time
  3. Personal information – mobile phone number, address
  4. Behaviour and preference – such as what products someone buys – people who buy nappies are given a higher score, because parents tend to be more responsible, people who spend 10 hours a day playing video games are given a lower score.
  5. Interpersonal relationships – who your friends are and what you say on social media — those who ‘big up the Chinese economy’ get a higher score, for example.

It’s the the fourth and fifth categories above which are the most interesting… the first three are pretty standard (insurance companies in most countries will use these to assess premiums), but the last two involve turning personal comments into social and political capital…. they really politicize the personal!

When China’s social credit system ‘goes live’ in 2020, private companies will essentially be spying for the Chinese government – and negative tweets about Tiananmen Square for example, will hurt your social credit score.

FFS DO NOT thumbs up the tank guy!

And if your friends post negative tweets about Tiananmen Square, well, that will also make your score go down!

Rewards and Punishments

Volunteers who are currently signed up to Alibaba’s trial get rewards if they get a high credit score – preferential access to loans if they get a score above 600, and if they get to 650 they get faster check-ins at hotels and airports.

When the system eventually goes live in 2020, people with lower citizen scores will be punished – with slower internet speeds, restricted access to restaurants and will lose the right to freely travel abroad, for example.

As the government states the social credit system will ‘allow they trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step’.

Is it that different to what we’ve got in the West?

While this may look like a horrific meeting between George Orwell’s 1984 and Pavlov’s dogs, maybe this isn’t that different to western big data management systems?

We’ve had credit scoring for 70 years now, that doesn’t exist in China yet, so this could just be a rapid development of what here has evolved by stealth.

And as to using personalized data….. individuals already rate restaurants, movies and books, and each other!, and various companies routinely scrutinize big data….maybe we are also getting closer to the Chinese concept of ‘life scoring’ as our real world and online worlds merge.

Sources

Modified from The Week, November 2017

Book – Rachel Botsman (2017) Who Can You Trust: How Technology Brought Us Together – and Why it Could Drive Us Apart

 

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Is China’s Involvement in Africa a new form of Colonialism (i.e. neocolonialism)?

China’s development over the last three decades has depended heavily on its investment in Africa: it relies on a number of natural resources extracted from Africa, and is also one of the major leasers of land in Africa (which it uses to export crops back to China). In order to facilitate the extraction of natural resources, return, thousands of Chinese workers now live and work in Africa, and the Chinese have developed infrastructure (roads for example) in many African countries.

The Chinese claim that most partnerships between Chinese businesses in Africa are mutually beneficial, a win-win arrangement between the Chinese and the ‘host nation’ – China gets resources, Africans get jobs and development.

Critics, however say that what the Chinese are doing in Africa is just a continuation of colonialism, and another form of neo-colonialism: it is basically a wealthier nation extracting resources as cheaply as possible from desperately poor countries and giving them as little as possible in return.

The three articles below are well worth a read to get an idea about the range of opinion on this matter:

  1. This Global Policy article: ‘The New Colonialism in Africa’ makes the case (as you can tell by the title) that China are basically neo-colonists
  2. This Guardian Article is more neutral.
  3. This Harvard Political Review article seems to take a more sympathetic view towards China, focusing more on the benefits of development for African nations.

Students might like to read through them, compile a list of arguments and evidence for and against the view that China’s involvement in Africa benefits Africa, rather than just China. 

 

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Assess the View that Poor Countries Will Always Remain Poor (20)

An essay plan including Modernisation and Dependency Theory, Neoliberalism and World System’s Theory, Bottom Billion and Neo-Modernisation theory, as well as contemporary trends such as war and conflict and environmental decline and case studies such as India, China, Afghanistan and Haiti.

Introduction

The view in the question is most closely associated with Dependency Theory which argued that poor countries would remain poor due to their exploitation through colonialism and then neo-colonialism.

However, the historical record of the last 200 years of industrial development clearly shows that the above view is overstated: most poor countries, including many ex-colonies, have got wealthier, and have done so through a number of different strategies. However, it is also true that despite enormous increases in wealth globally, many countries remain trapped in poverty.

In order to address the question above I will do the following:

Firstly I will review the various theories of development which have pointed to a number of different causes of and related solutions to poverty in order to demonstrate the overwhelming historical evidence against the view in the question.

Secondly, I will discuss how emergent global problems such as the spread of war, conflict and terrorism, increasing consumption and environmental decline could mean that those countries which today are still poor today might well remain poor in the future.

Numerous theories of development have pointed to a number of causal factors related to poverty – according to these theories if certain things happen then poor countries are likely to remain poor…

  • Modernisation Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of their traditional values
  • Dependency Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of the legacy of colonialism and neocolonialism
  • World Systems Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of trade rules established by the WTO which works on behalf of rich countries and TNCs.
  • Neoliberalism – Poor countries remain poor because of too much Official
  • Development Aid and Corrupt governments
  • People Centered Development – The question of whether poor countries are economically poor is irrelevant – there are many different paths to development and many different ways of measuring development
  • Paul Collier’s Bottom Billion Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of Four traps – Poor governance, ethnic conflict, the resource curse and being landlocked with poor neighbours
  • Hans Rosling and Jeffry Sachs – Poor countries remain poor because of the poverty trap and lack of Official Development aid from the west

Conversely, if certain things happen, then poor countries will not necessarily remain poor. Countries will develop if….

  • (MT) Poor countries need to learn from the West, industrialise and progress through the five stages of growth
  • (DT) Poor countries need to break free from Western Capitalism and isolate themselves through socialist models of development
  • (WST) They position themselves as semi-periphery countries, manufacturing goods rather than exporting raw materials – e.g. The Philippines/India/ China
  • (NL) Poor countries need to open up their markets through deregulation, privatisation and low taxation – e.g. Chile
  • (PCD) There are diverse paths to development but all of them should respect the principles of equality, democracy and sustainability.
  • (BB) We need a Marshal Aid plan for the Bottom Billion, countries need to sort out poor governance and we need fairer trade rules
  • (Hans and Jeff) We still need massive aid injections, which need to be targeted initially on improving health, but also on women’s rights and education.

Case studies and global trends information which suggests poor countries will remain poor 

  • War and Conflict/ Terrorism
  • Higher rates of consumption as countries develop
  • Environmental challenges and the lack of global agreements on climate change
    Increase Military Expenditure
  • The increasing power of TNCs and lack of fair trade rules
  • The lack of commitment to giving official development aid by rich nations
  • Haiti
  • Iraq/ Syria
  • Afghanistan
  • Liberia

Case studies and global trends information which suggests poor countries will continue to develop

  • The lowering of birth rates
  • The increasing number of children in school
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The UN’s sustainable development goals
  • Continued Economic growth globally
  • China
  • India
  • Brazil
  • Nigeria

Conclusion and Analytical Points – Using the evidence above BUILD a conclusion

From the above evidence it is clear that not all countries have remained poor….

The most applicable theory which helps us explain underdevelopment today is ____________________ and following this theory poor countries are most likely to develop if….

However, some of the challenges in the world today suggest that some underdeveloped countries might remain poor in the future. For example…

On balance I feel that that while all countries will probably not remain poor (delete as appropriate) (1) the majority of poor countries will remain poor and only a few will develop / (2)  most developing countries will develop but a few are likely to remain poor/  (3) add in an alternative closing sentence of your choice…

Global Development Revision Notes

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Global Development Revision Notes

 Global Development Notes Cover53 Pages of revision notes covering the following topics within global development:

  1. Globalisation
  2. Defining and measuring development
  3. Theories of development (Modernisation Theory etc)
  4. Aid, trade and development
  5. The role of organisations in development (TNCs etc)
  6. Industrialisation, urbanisation and development
  7. Employment, education and health as aspects of development
  8. Gender and development
  9. War, conflict and development
  10. Population growth and consumption
  11. The environment and sustainable development

 

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Are Chinese Teaching Methods Best? (Experiments in Education)

According to recent studies, China is home to one of the best education systems in the world, while Britain is trailing a long way behind. In some studies Chinese students are three years ahead of British students in reading and writing ability.

China is well known for its ‘tough education’ methods, but can these methods be used to improve the performance of British students? In a recent BBC documentary: ‘Are our kids tough enough? Chinese school’ a field experiment was conducted to find out.

five Chinese teachers took over the education of a class of fifty Year 9 pupils at Bohunt School in Liphook and taught them (in one class of 50!) using Chinese teaching methods for a month, and then tested in English, Maths, Science and Mandarin, and the results compared to other students who remained receiving a more typical British Education.

 

The main features of the Chinese School consisted of:

  • The school day being 12 hours long with a 7 a.m. start consisting of a flag raising ceremony and outdoor exercises.
  • In the classroom, most lessons were essentially lectures. Teachers stood at the front writing the theory on the board, while the students (were supposed to) take notes and learn.
  • PE was a compulsory – and students were timed, tested and ranked against each other.

Results

The ultimate test of the experiment was to see if Chinese teaching methods improved educational performance – which they did (or at least appeared to have – see below). Students who attended the Chinese School for four weeks scored about 10% points (on average) higher in Mandarin, Maths and Science and they also did better in English, but with a smaller margin.

The experiment also revealed that there was something of a culture clash – those students were not particularly self-disciplined or well-behaved did not respond well to a Chinese style of teaching which is less student-centered and not as inclined to encourage individualism.

Limitations of the field experiment

I say that the Chinese-School kids achieved better test scores – what we’re not told is how much they improved, or what their ability was compared to the control group. I’m assuming all this was controlled for.

The Hawthorne Effect might apply – the improved results might be a result of the students knowing their involved in an experiment (and knowing they’re on TV) or the better results might simply exposing the kids to something different, rather than it being about those exact Chinese methods (a change is as good as a rest!)

It’s also not clear how representative this school is – Bohunt seems to be a brilliant school, enlightened (which is reflected in getting involved in this whole experiment in the first place). Would you get the same findings somewhere else?

Ethics: Some (wrong) individuals might try and argue that some of the children experienced harm to their self-esteem by being ranked in PE (other (right) individuals might argue this is just life, tough, get over it kiddo).

Related Posts:

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Field Experiments in Sociology

Unstructured Interviews in the Context of Education