China’s Social Credit System: a curse or privilege?


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For a second, think of what kind of person you are. Are you a good person? Do you treat others kindly? Who has the right to judge?

These questions were central to George Orwell’s novel “1984.” Now, in 2019, it is a central question for Chinese society. 

In a few provinces across China, a new social credit policy has been in the works. In 2020, this policy is set to go nation-wide. 

What is China’s Social Credit Policy? 

The Social Credit System is like a credit score for your behavior. The national system assesses its citizens and businesses social and economic reputation. Good behavior equals a high social credit. Bad behavior equals a low social credit score.  

Modern Technology & “Giving Marks”

The majority of information that affects your score will be based on Internet activity and phone app usage. Let’s say you spend all day being lazy and playing computer games. Oops, you just lost a couple of points. Spreading rumors (unconfirmed information) or posting provocative posts can give you even more dings on your social credit.

Social credit, in essence, is a modern system of social justice. Good behavior gets rewards and more points. Bad behavior = decrease in points. This system is meant to cover most aspects of human misbehavior: aggressiveness on the subway, jaywalking, and criminal behavior. 

According to the government, the social credit system will improve the safety and civility of Chinese life. Powerful Chinese companies such as Didi and Alibaba are already on board- collaborating with the government on the tech side of the system. Their main goal: provide the police information on unsavory citizens.  

Good Citizen Perks  

The social credit system has its benefits. If you contribute positively to society, you are rewarded. Citizens with good social credit scores get put on a coveted red list. The “red-listed” get a number of perks. They can book the best hotel rooms and airplane tickets without putting down a deposit. Red-listed citizens also receive discounts on energy bills and are preferred for loans and credit. 

What if you get put on the blacklist? 

For citizens with bad behavior, the social credit system is challenging. If you end up on the blacklist (citizens with low credit scores), your chances of getting off are pretty grim. There simply isn’t anyone to complain to. 

All the decisions regarding credit system scores come from various governmental departments. So, if you end up on the blacklist, who do you complain to? 

Depending on your “bad behavior,” there are ways to raise your credit score. If you defaulted on a large loan, simply paying back the loan might be enough. In other cases, it is important to prove that your behaviors were misinterpreted.

As the system gets rolled out to different cities and provinces across China, it will be interesting to see if the social credit system will actually make Chinese society safer. What’s your opinion on the new system? Share in the comments!


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