China implements social credit system for citizens: those who are good are given benefits, those who are themselves, are punished.

If you do something right, you get a reward. If you do something wrong, you will be punished. It is something that is taught to us from childhood and that also forms a foundation for our society. But in China, they go that one step further...

I happened to find two articles on this subject. By 2020, China wants to put a system of social control in practice, their so-called social credit system. Apparently, the word 'credit' is a moral concept in China that indicates one’s honesty and trustworthiness. In the past few decades, its meaning has been extended by also including financial creditworthiness.

They are planning to create a database in which all Chinese citizens are included. In this database everyone gets a social score, which is determined by good and bad behavior. If you behave as a good citizen, you will receive all sorts of benefits, such as VIP treatments or easier access to a loan. If you break ranks, you will have to deal with the sanctions. This is not to be taken lightly. You run the risk of losing access to social security, you are denied access to star restaurants or your children are not admitted to the best schools.

For us it all sounds exaggerated and almost unthinkable, but the Chinese themselves can still be found for such a system. Celia Hatton, correspondent for the BBC, went to Beijing and received remarkably many positive comments. The Chinese support the project because "it is a good method to track the social behavior of people" and because the "rewards are interesting."

Not new

The idea is not completely new. Different Chinese companies already use a similar system. The best known is Sesame Credit from Alibaba, the world's largest online store with around 400 million users. In the Sesame Credit system, users get a score between 350 and 950. Parameters for this score include paying your bills on time and buying "decent" things.

Someone who plays video games 10 hours a day is seen as a slacker, but someone who often buys diapers is seen as probably a parent and gets a higher score, because this person is more likely to have a sense of responsibility. -  Li Yingyun, technology director at Sesame. 

A higher score gives you a number of advantages, such as renting a car or a bicycle without an advance or being allowed to cut in line at hospitals.

The Sesame Credit system is also linked to the Chinese online dating site Baihe. So you can use the social code of your possible matches as a guideline. And there is even a game developed where you have to gamble if the person you see on the picture has a higher or lower social score than yourself.

Black Mirror in real life

For viewers of the Netflix series Black Mirror, this probably sounds familiar. In Nosedive, an episode of the third season of the popular series, we see a similar system in operation. People get the chance to give points with their smartphone to whom they encounter in their daily lives. On this basis they receive a social score, which determines which loan they can get, if they have priority on aircraft seats, ...How unbelievable it seemed in the episode , in China it will soon become reality.

Publishing information about blacklisted citizens online is apparently a common practice. The picture below goes one step further. Large screens are used to expose people on the streets.

Photo: blacklisted debtor displayed on a LED screen - source 

If the system is used to suppress people, to let them obey as robots, then this seems to me a very sad way to 'live together'. But I try not to judge. Learning to understand a different culture takes years and nothing is black and white. To give you an example: the system is also used to blacklist companies that have caused environmental damage. Government officials can also be found on online blacklists. Exposing corruption seems beneficial to me.

No matter how bizarrely I found the system when I read the articles, again, I didn’t write this post to judge. If there are people here on U°Community who come from China or have acquaintances living in China, I am incredibly curious what you think of this system. And is the information correct? It has become my second nature to be rather skeptical about newspaper articles, where the nuance is often lacking. 

Does this system ensure a fairer and safer world? Or will it only increase the inequality? What about privacy? Or do I, as a Westerner, give too much importance to privacy? These are just a few of the many questions you can ask yourself.


#china #culture #mindset