In China, a system of “social ranking” is currently being rolled out. It is in many ways an Orwellian (Mar) dream that is about to be launched. The system combines the social life of each individual with the economic life. The result is a ranking that gives either advantages or disadvantages.
Currently, the system is in a kind of “beta stage” with test projects in a number of cities around China. The government’s plan is for the system to be in use throughout the country for all Chinese citizens by the end of 2020. If there is any possibility of obtaining an exemption or exemption? No, the system will be mandatory.
This is how the credit system works
It was in 2014 that the Chinese authorities first launched the idea of a social credit system. According to a document from the idea phase, the purpose is in principle to reward good deeds and punish bad deeds.
What is what is subject to the authorities’ assessment. Some are about common sense, while other grounds of assessment are probably less obvious at least to a Swedish viewer. According to reports, a fairly large proportion of the grounds of assessment are of a secret nature.
Social credit in practice
The system should monitor the digital footprints of each individual citizen and also anticipate events in real life. Both positive and negative actions are then counted together and presented as a score.
For a citizen of China, the ranking system will be a central part of every day life. Every day there is a wide range of events and actions that can give either more or fewer points. Since many parts of the system are secret, it is unclear exactly what actions are counted and what impact they have. However, we can present some type examples taken from the various pilot projects. A lot of these should follow the nationwide system starting in 2010.
Ranking factors in real life
- All types of traffic offenses – even not stopping at a pedestrian crossing
- All types of crime
- For example, buying video games instead of buying diapers – a sign of responsibility
- Behavior in public environments
- Connection to certain foreign organizations
- Bad health
- Simply “taking care of” – time without minus points gives more plus points
- Have a low debt
- Pay back small quick loans on time and other types of credit
- To have a “good” job with a “good” employer
Ranking factors in the digital world
- To play violent games or other morally appropriate games
- Posting incorrect or government-critical information online
- Excessive activity on social networks
- Browse blocked sites
- Application for certain types of loans and/or high loan amounts
When it comes to plus points for digital activities, there is very limited information available. However, it is conceivable that relatively small use of the internet overall can be positive in points.
The fact that some actions on the Internet can give rise to plus or minus points is because the government can monitor data traffic in the country. The net is, so to speak, not “free” in the same way as it is in Sweden.
Effects of high and low points respectively
The higher the number of points, the greater the benefits. Those who instead have a low social credit can expect to be restricted in various ways. Based on reports from test projects in, among others, Shanghai and Suzhou, we can mention the following.
Low interest rates on loans
For those loans that are considered to be less negative under the system, those who have a high score may receive lower interest rates and better terms when they need to borrow money directly. Instead, a low score gives the opposite.
Cheaper hotels and transport
A high score seems to be able to give discounts on both hotels and transport. Examples from a couple of pilot projects support this.
More advanced place on dating sites
An effect of a high social credit may be greater exposure to dating sites. Zhenai is the largest dating site in China and here people with a high score get a much higher visibility. In addition, if they both agree, two members can show their scores to each other.
Blocking on some site
People who received a low social credit score in one of the test projects were blocked from shopping on websites like Alibaba and TaoBao. Thus, they could not make e-commerce purchases as before.
Restrictions on mobility
There are a number of examples of people in China who have described that after a certain event, they can no longer buy either air tickets or train tickets. It is a de facto restriction on free movement that can be very restrictive.
Both rice and rose from the Chinese
The planned system de facto aims to reward citizens who make the right choice. According to classical psychology, it is a safe way to encourage desirable behaviors. This is something that many Chinese actually seem to appreciate.
In the pilot projects that have been implemented, the initial experience among the “supervised” has been that they have been afraid of losing points. Slowly but surely, however, they have become accustomed and many feel that most around them have improved their behavior towards other people.
That said, of course there are loud critics from both China and other parts of the world. For example, the Human Rights Watch organization has called the system deeply troubling. For us Swedes, this system clearly feels foreign, but it must be said at the same time that we are already being monitored very closely when it comes to our economic progress.