Tuesday, 18 Dec 2018

China's Radical Plan to Judge Every Citizen's Behavior

China has a radical plan to influence the behavior of its 1.3 billion citizens: It wants to rank them based on their lives to reflect how good (or bad) a civilian they are. Versions of the so-called social credit system are being tested in a network or setting of the nation. Critics say it's a heavy-handed, intrusive and sinister way to a one-party state to control the population. Supporters say it'll make a more considerate, civilized and law-abiding society. The government has warned: "Those who are serious about the law and will pay a heavy price."

1. Is this for real?

Yes. In 2014, China's firm released sweeping plans to establish a countrywide social credit system by 2020. 2020. Since 2015, a national network that has been used by the world's largest network of high-speed train trips and has been linked to the social credit program. There are, however, doubts about whether China will be able to establish a universal system or have a place in the world. President Xi Jinping has called for a social credit system that covers the whole society.

2. Why does China say it's doing this?

"Keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful." That's the guiding ideology of the plan as outlined in a 2014 document. China has suffered from rampant corruption, financial scams and corporate scandals such as tainted baby milk in its breakneck industrialization of the past several decades. The social credit system is an attempt to raise the standards and restore trust.

3. How are people judged?

That varies place to place. In the eastern city of Hangzhou, "pro-social" activity includes donating blood and voluntary work, while lowers an individual's credit score. In Zhoushan, an island near Shanghai, no-nos include mobile phone use or smoking while driving, vandalism, walking dogs with loudness and playing music loudly in public. Credit scores may be boosted by failing to pay utility bills, breaking Communist Party rules or committing fraud. Spending too long on video games and circulating fake news can also count against individuals, various media reported. According to Foreign Policy, residents in the northeastern city of Rongcheng adjusted the official system to their own penalties for illegally spreading religion and defaming others online.

4. What happens if someone's social credit falls?

People may be denied basic services or barred from borrowing money. In Yiwu, a citizen with a low social credit score, buy a luxury car or send them to some private schools. "Trust-breakers" face restrictions on employment in finance, according to a 2016 government directive.

5. Is it possible to appeal?

Yiwu citizens have 15 days to appeal credit information that is released by the authorities, according to city guidelines. A case elsewhere highlighted by Human Rights Watch that they have not been aware that they have been blacklisted, and that it is far from straightforward to rectify mistakes.

6. Do the rules apply to foreigners?

For the pilot scheme in Yiwu, foreigners are included. A bad credit score will result in a visa and will not be issued in the future.

7. What part is technology playing?

Big-data advances have simplified the task of collating vast databases. The so-called "National Credit Information Sharing Platform," which is used to blacklist air and rail passengers, brings together information from central government ministries and local government. Regional officials are studying how to apply facial-recognition technology to identify jaywalkers and cyclists who run red lights, according to local media. China has already deployed similar technology in Xinjiang, site of a much-criticized crackdown on its Uighur population. The University of Rogier Creemers is an authoritative, authoritative, and authoritative, Leiden-based author of the law.

8. What's the reaction to the credit system?

Human rights groups see it a sinister move in a country where censorship of the media, internet and arts have been rampant, with thousands of political and religious dissidents jailed in recent years. China – do and think, wrote Mirjam Messner, head of the economy and technology program at the Mercator Institute for China Studies, on ChinaFile. Leiden University's Creemers says the system "remains a relatively crude tool," but this may change in the future.

9. What about in China?

There's been push-back against some local systems, Creemers told the Sinica podcast. A trial in Suining, near Shanghai, was halted after criticism from official media, he said. There was also some evidence of a lack of success in the area of ​​financial reporting by a subsidiary of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Still, educated, urban Chinese take a more positive view, according to a poll by Germany 's Mercator Institute for China Studies. Many support the system, it is a way to promote honesty in society and the economy rather than a violation, the study found.

–With assistance from David Ramli.

To contact the reporters on this story: Karen Leigh in Hong Kong at kleigh4@bloomberg.net; Dandan Li in Beijing at dli395@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net, Grant Clark

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P.


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