By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton
China has banned more than nine million people so far from buying plane tickets and at least another three million from buying business-class train tickets because of their poor “social credit” ratings, according to the deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission. The ratings have also been used to deny loans and other forms of government support to more than 6,000 businesses blacklisted by the government. Two statements issued by the Chinese government on Friday confirmed that rule breakers can expect to face travel bans of up to a year. But I would bet that in some cases if not most, the bans are longer or permanent.
Under China’s new social scoring system, trustworthy entrepreneurs and individuals will be rewarded, while those who commit social misdeeds such as fraud, spreading false information about terrorism and causing trouble on flights will be discredited. You can even wind up on the blacklist for parking a bike in the wrong place or giving an insincere apology. President Xi Jinping’s plan is based on the principle ‘once untrustworthy, always restricted’, which will become effective on May 1st. Xi was just declared ruler for life… the first since Mao ruled the country. The system is expected to be fully implemented by 2020 and Xi will see it is enforced brutally and efficiently.
China’s Social Credit System is coordinated by the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms. It mashes together information gleaned from a wide variety of sources in order to give every citizen a social-credit rating. This includes data from the country’s social insurance database and the criminal records system, as well as information gleaned online. It is intended to penalize not just citizens who have failed to pay fines or taxes, for example, but also people the government deems guilty of ‘spreading false information’ and for ‘causing trouble’.
The social credit system will, according to government officials, “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.” Everything from how well you treat your parents to what you’re buying will affect your eligibility to receive various rewards and benefits. It’s a situation played out by way of Charlie Brooker’s dark satire in an episode of Black Mirror, Nosedive. In it, the central character, Lacie, lives in a world where her social rating dictates every aspect of her life, including travel and work.
This comes as China’s government has led a concerted push to remove Internet anonymity from mobile phone and social networks so that anyone online can be identified at all times by the authorities. This is in addition to the country’s firewall, which restricts access to websites outside of China that its government doesn’t want Chinese citizens to see and use. Blocked websites include search engines, foreign media and social media websites outside of the Chinese government’s control.
China started building this system three years ago. On Friday (March 16), it was announced that travelers who use expired tickets or smoked on trains would also be put on a blacklist, according to statements issued on the National Development and Reform Commission’s website. This is the beginning of Xi’s morality crackdown in the nation. Along with this, people are being forced to display a picture of their Dear Leader somewhere in their homes.
Those found to have committed financial wrongdoings, such as employers who failed to pay social insurance or people who refuse to pay fines, would also face restrictions, said the statements which were dated March 2nd. The commission added that the new rules would come into effect on May 1st. According to a Xinhua News Agency report, the government will look to improve the mechanism to ensure that social credit records are updated in a timely fashion and disputes can be well handled. I don’t think anyone is foolish enough to believe that horse puckey.
If you fall out of favor with the government in China, you will be walking to work or starving to death. Communists do not care. They are looking to reduce the population in the cities anyway.
The Chinese government’s Social Credit System has been duplicated in the private sector as well, with Sesame Credit, an affiliate of Alibaba’s Alipay subsidiary, controlled by billionaire Jack Ma, providing loans based on social credit ratings for a number of years already. It lends money based not just on an individual’s credit history, but also their buying habits and online social circles, and encourages users to flaunt their credit score publicly. That credit score is also shared with Baihe, one of China’s biggest online dating services, which promotes subscribers with good social credit scores with Sesame to prominent spots on its website. China’s government hopes that by adopting a combination of punishments and rewards it can keep its people in line and the Communist Party of China in power permanently.
A Wired report last year found that a user with a low Zhima Credit score had to pay more to rent a bicycle, hotel room or even an umbrella. Zhima Credit’s CEO has said, in an eerie prefiguring of the new travel restrictions, that the system “will ensure that the bad people in society don’t have a place to go, while good people can move freely and without obstruction.” This is right out of 1984. A dystopian society employing digital fascism. If you are a good communist and obey the rules, you will be favored. If not… you are expendable. Welcome to Xi’s China and their version of the Gestapo. What’s old is new again in the digital age.