In China, Your Social Credit Score Can Determine Your Future


The Chinese government has begun assigning Chinese citizens credit scores in an effort to build what it calls, a culture of “sincerity.” The government will assign a score to individuals and that score will either increase or decrease based on what people buy, whom they associate with and what they post on social media.

Praising the Chinese government is considered exhibiting “positive energy,” and would cause one’s score to increase. Committing fraud, smoking in non-smoking areas and driving poorly can decrease one’s score.

An individual’s social credit score will range between 350 and 950 points, and a low score can have real-life consequences.

Liu Hu, a journalist, wrote a list of tweets heavily criticizing government officials. He was arrested over the posts in 2013 and was ordered to apologize. The court found his apology insincere. His name was subsequently placed on a list of “untrustworthy people.”

He can no longer fly because of his inclusion on that list, something Hu discovered when trying to book a flight recently. “I can’t buy property. My child can’t go to a private school,” Hu said. “You feel you’re being controlled by the list all the time.”

Helping the government build these scores are private data firms that surveille China’s public. There are 176 million surveillance cameras already in operation in China, with plans to double that number by 2020, the year participation in the social-credit-score program becomes mandatory for all citizens, in place.

To some, the plan sounds startlingly Orwellian.

“What China is doing here is selectively breeding its population to select against the trait of critical, independent thinking,” said Ken Dewoskin, a senior advisor and eminence fellow to Deloitte Services LP for China research and insight.

“This may not be the purpose, indeed I doubt it’s the primary purpose, but it’s nevertheless the effect of giving only obedient people the social ability to have children, not to mention successful children.”

Photo by 玄史生 via Wikimedia Commons