What could possibly be better for state surveillance and control? (Logic Magazine)
This summer I spent a month in Beijing. Iâ€™d last lived in China in 2016, and I was relieved to find my favorite noodle shops in their usual niches. But this time round, navigating the city felt inexplicably different. The cabs I tried to hail passed me by. On the subway, other riders jostled past me, swiping their phones at the turnstiles as I fumbled with my ticket. When I tried to sneak into the cafeteria in Renmin University for a cheap lunch, clutching my grubby backpack, I made it past the guards only to be stopped at the cash registerâ€”apart from student cards, the only form of payment accepted was Alipay.
It gradually dawned on me that that was why Beijing felt like a different city from the one I knew: in the two years since Iâ€™d left, the whole city had switched over to mobile payments on China-specific platforms to which I, a foreigner, had no access. These days in Beijing, the green and blue logos of mobile payment providers WeChat Pay and Alipay appear everywhere, from breakfast stalls to five-star hotels.
Just about every foreigner whoâ€™s visited China in the last ten years comments on the dizzying speed at which physical infrastructure is built. When I first moved to Shanghai in 2012, I worked in the cityâ€™s financial district, home to a skyscraper nicknamed the â€œbottle openerâ€: according to Wikipedia, itâ€™s the worldâ€™s tallest building with a hole in it. But these days, Chinaâ€™s part in the race to build the worldâ€™s tallest building appears to be waning. Chinaâ€™s much-vaunted speed in infrastructure building has more recently been directed at the digital rather than the physical world.
They would like to do the same in the U.S. but there is that pesky problem of legal tender which MUST be accepted for payment…
It will be interesting how they get around this. A judge from the ninth circuit? A amendment passed in the wee hours in congress? A presidential order?
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