The Peoples Republic of China’s new mass surveillance of its citizens is apparently coupled to its Social Credit System, wherein points are awarded or subtracted according to how well those monitored behave, primarily in the workplace and in public. Transgressions noted ranged from jaywalking to so-called economic crimes, with higher scores rewarded, for example, with access to loans and prestige job offers, preferential seating at special events and prize trips—and lower scores penalized with denial of such perks as well as punishments like flight bans and exclusions from private schools.
But Chinese scholars have begun to push back against Western charges that the Social Credit System is typical of Chinese Communist authoritarianism. The China Law Translate website argues, for instance, that only pilot cities are so far involved and that only serious law breakers face serious consequences. Other Chinese counter that Germany and the UK have begun similar programs that monitor social behavior.
Given China’s 3,000-plus year tradition of Face Reading (Mian Xiang), one would expect the PRC to explore hi-tech possibilities of facial analysis and also facial imagery—both of which can serve as instruments of control and coercion. The Ancient Chinese believed in the ability of faces to reflect human qualities as well as the power of facial imagery, as exemplified by the famous story of Emperor Qin Shi Huang who ordered his portrait to be altered in order to deceive his subjects.
Concerning Mian Xiang, as this website has stated earlier, Faces Tell All anticipates the development of truly scientific face reading, mainly based on aspects of Chinese Medicine that conform to Western findings in facial diagnosis—those relating to physical manifestations of health and disease—and would involve amassing a huge database of facial images exhibiting abnormalities that correlate with known disease entities. This process has actually begun, concentrating, so far, on certain genetic diseases.
Of course, one could anticipate an expansion of the basic concept to include facial manifestations of mental and emotional illness, stress, environmental and nutritional factors as well as habitual emotions. These are expressed in telltale colors, textures, marks and lines on the face commonly diagnosed in Chinese Medicine Face Reading, and are, in fact, incorporated into the fictional computer program described in Faces Tell All.
Keeping a Western perspective, Faces Tell All does not attempt to use classical Mian Xiang face mapping or its feature-by-feature analysis relating to personality traits. However, characters in the novel discuss the possibility that, although features and traits may not correlate directly on an individual basis, Mian Xiang’s observations of perhaps millions of samples might reveal trends or tendencies toward correlations, such as, for instance, large mouths indicating generosity, and full lips, a sensual, emotional nature.
(Although personality may not jibe with appearance in individual cases, Western theories that features may be suggestive and influential in personality development could help confirm certain Mian Xiang correlations between faces and traits.)
Therefore, given their historical interest in facial analysis and imagery, the Chinese would seem to have an advantage in the actual development of such programs whose theoretical outlines the novel sketches out in fictional form. Faces Tells All predicts its introduction in the near future. As in the novel, will the US and the PRC compete or even cooperate in such a venture? (IBM and other US companies are already collaborating on China’s surveillance program.)