Let’s talk about it. Here are the facts:
The idea of a social credit system first appeared in a document from the State Council of China published in June 2014. The country aims for everyone in China to be enrolled in a vast national database that compiles fiscal and government information by 2020.
That system isn't in place yet. For now, the government is watching how eight Chinese companies issue their own "social credit" scores under state-approved pilot projects, including Sesame Credit, a subsidiary of Alibaba (they run Taobao). Other companies include China Rapid Finance, which is a partner of social network giant Tencent (they run WeChat).
A national database will merge a wide variety of information on every citizen, assessing whether taxes and traffic tickets have been paid, whether academic degrees have been rightly earned, overall financial credibility, spending habits, criminal records, and social media behavior. After 2020, each adult citizen, along with their identity card, will also have a social credit score.
The purpose? A social credit system puts people's past history on record, with the goal being to build a better and more fair society. The intentions of the new system are not only economical, fighting fraudulent practices, but also moral. The Chinese government hopes to promote among its citizens socialist core values, such as patriotism, respecting the elderly, working hard, and avoiding extravagant consumption. The government wants to evaluate the behavior of its citizens in various other areas as well, with the aim of “strengthening and innovating social governance.” For example, buying too many video games, as stated in the document, would lower your credit score because those who play vids aren't being productive members of society.
A citizen’s score affects their eligibility for a number of services, including the kinds of jobs or mortgages they can get, and also impacts what schools their children qualify for.
This is all sorts of crazy. Not only will the government have access to every data point of what makes you, you, they’ll also be able to control (even more so than they already do) what actions its citizens make simply by saying - “Doing *insert behavior* will lower your social score”. Most Chinese people I’ve talked to, including those who write about politics, have no idea about this system. In the same vein that I support President Trump, I hope this system fails so the government can rethink its approach to how it governs its citizens.
I tried to pitch this story to my boss, and as usual, needed to highlight the “positives”, and I came up with this:
China would be the first country to implement a social credit system, compared to other countries who simply issue a credit score based on fiscal responsibility. The system will also use many of China’s high-tech achievements, including big-data research and face-tracking technology in order to track and maintain the social scores of its citizens. Whether the system will work or not remains to be seen, but China’s ambition for the project is worth commending.
However, it wasn’t quite enough as I was told, “The June issue is already full…”