Social credit system


The New Social Credit System of China 

China’s Social Credit System is a system that collects information about Chinese citizens from various sources, weighs the various data, and generates a ranking for each citizen.

The way this system works can be likened to the way Google works.

Google wants to provide the best browsing experience to users by enabling them to get the most accurate information.

Google does this by regularly checking all sites on the Internet and ranking them according to a series of parameters that undergo a constant optimization process.

The more appropriate the content is to the parameters defined by Google, the higher it ranks.

Content that is less compatible with Google’s parameters ranks lower, and in extreme cases, it will disappear completely from the search results.

The Social Credit System in China will check all Chinese citizens and rank them according to a series of parameters. It will continue to undergo a constant optimization process.

The Chinese government wants to provide the best life experience to its citizens through absolute security, crime prevention, and removal of “negative” people, as defined by the system, from the public domain.

Thus, the Chinese Social Credit System strives to rank the entire Chinese population automatically by a set of parameters representing “ideal behavior” as the Chinese regime sees it.

The differences between the Social Credit System and Google

1. Choosing whether to be part of the system 

Google allows site owners to choose whether to enable the search engine to crawl the entire site, only specific pages, or not at all. Chinese citizens will not have this choice.

2. Purpose 

Google’s top goal is to provide ideal content for web surfers. The supreme goal of the Chinese regime is to impose a certain ideology and form of behavior on all citizens of the country.

3. The operation of the ranking algorithm

Although Google maintains secrecy about specifics of how the algorithm works, there is certainly considerable transparency regarding the way it works and the changes that Google makes regarding the importance of the different parameters.

It can be assumed that the Chinese system’s considerations will not be transparent to Chinese citizens. That is, the weight given to each behavior will be confidential. For example: What is worse, failure to pay a debt or political criticism of the Chinese regime?

Characteristics of the Social Credit System in China 

The system is currently in its pilot phase collecting information from any possible source. The information will be classified according to four categories:

  1. Honesty in government affairs
  2. Commercial integrity
  3. Social integrity
  4. Judicial credability

The system will build a profile for each citizen. The profile will include any possible personal related data in any possible aspect of life, in which information can be collected. In our times, this means almost everything about an indivividual can and will be collected.

Negative information collected includes: political writing on the Internet (which is not coherent with the Chinese regime ideology), criticizing the government, supporting oppositional bodies, non-payment of debts, non-payment of income tax, breaking the law, disobeying traffic laws, disputes with neighbors or at workplaces, etc.

Positive information collected includes all obligations such as, repayment of debts, an absence of offense records, volunteering, support for the government (if expressed publicly), etc.

Each figure gets weighed into the general profile of the citizen. Depending on the weight of the various parameters, the citizen receives a rating. The rating can move down and up depending on the citizen’s behavior.

Citizen grading will have a dramatic impact on their live. In fact, this is a practical translation of the religious system of reward and punishment. The religious system is based solely on belief, while the Chinese system will receive a very concrete translation in everyday life.

How will the Social Credit System of China be expressed? 

The Chinese citizen will not be exposed to the considerations of the algorithm and the weight of each variable within the algorithm, but they will certainly be exposed to its results.

A citizen with a negative rating will feel the constriction of the Chinese government. This constriction will have different consequences.

For example: Preventing flights, preventing train traffic, preventing first class tickets in various transportation methods, preventing hotel reservations, preventing access to more prestigious jobs, preventing access to better education for children, and receiving negative publicity.

A positive profile will be encouraged by the administration and this will be expressed in several ways.

For example: Allowing loans or loans on more favorable terms, and access to better jobs. Another example that illustrates the level of involvement is the boost of the citizen’s profile on China’s largest dating site.

The purpose of Social Credit System

The purpose of the system was defined by Xi Jinping ,China’s president:

“To allow trustworthy people to travel everywhere under the sky, and on the other hand to make it difficult for those who are not worthy of trust to take one step.”

In other words, the Chinese government – which has the exclusive authority to define what is right and wrong, what is moral and immoral, what ideology is permitted and what is not – wants to enforce a set of values and rules to create an effective, automatic, and reliable system of reward and punishment that will reward “good” citizens, while punishing “bad”citizens, and thus train 1.3 billion people to live according to the line defined by the Chinese ruling party.

Such a system would be a perfect tool for social engineering on a scale not yet seen in human history and would allow the Chinese ruling party to increase its ability to control China’s huge population.

Are there systems
similar to the Social Credit System?

There are already systems that collect and operate private information on civilians on a large scale:

Banks document the financial conduct of citizens and reward or punish accordingly by preventing account actions and various account restrictions.

Credit companies punish people who do not repay their debts, depriving them of credit cards or credit facilities.

Insurance companies compensate drivers who have not been in an accident with lower rates. Medical insurance for healthy people and expensive insurance rates for sick people or those who are more prone to disease.

Facebook collects information on a massive scale. Facebook’s audience insights system creates a huge map of population types with the possibility to focus on every segment of the population by infinitely different definitions and private information of almost 2 billion users of Facebook.

Through the system, Facebook knows how to target advertisements in a very focused way.

Each country collects information about its citizens such as address, work, family members, illness, residence, income, crime, and sometimes surveillance.

Secret services of different countries monitor information across the Internet, collect a great deal of knowledge about people around the world, cross information, and try to spot potential risks as they understand them.

Still, there are very fundamental differences between these systems and the Chinese system:

Social Engineering The first and most significant difference is that these systems do not work in favor of social engineering. Their ideology is economic and/or security.

They do not act in the name of a moral ideology (certainly not explicitly) and attempt to train populations to behave according to a certain set of values determined by the party that initiated the system.

Information loop – These systems do not close the information loop. Each system retains its information.

The systems belonging to private companies remain in their possession and are subject to laws that prohibit them from sharing or making use of private information (if they violate the law, they take certain risks and must be held accountable). 

The Chinese system has not yet closed the entire loop between the subsystems that provide the information but it aspires to get there.

The Chinese system aspires to reach the point where all the various systems that gather information about citizens, whether governmental or business, report and transfer to the social credit system the information that they accumulate on citizens on an ongoing basis.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Chinese Social Credit System

Advantages of the Social Credit System

1. Control – As of today, China is the most populous country in the world. In a short time, it will lose its lead in favor of India but will remain for the near and distant future, one of the most populous countries in the world.

Controlling a country of about 1.4 billion people is not a trivial task. There are many challenges. State management, economic growth, order, economic inequality among huge populations, the transition from villages to large cities, the continued development of huge cities, human diversity, personal security, and the list goes on.

In order to achieve its goals, the Chinese ruling party must minimize the challenges of controlling the population, reduce the risk of internal unrest and social unrest, and concentrate forces to achieve the goals it has set for itself (for example, the five-year plan).

The system will help China direct the huge population in the direction it wants to strive in a much shorter time range than India will be capable of.

2. Personal security – The system will certainly improve the level of personal security for citizens. It will improve crime, delinquency, and even the small day-to-day infractions of law-abiding citizens, such as traffic offenses.

3. Economic morality –  The system will improve the economic morality of the Chinese and will affect the national economic system for the better.

4. Execution through rewards – The system will allow the Chinese government to decide to direct the population through rewards, and thus achieve rapid results.

Disadvantages of the social Credit System

1. Lack of freedom –  This central disadvantage of the system relates to the essence of human existence. Are we free to choose our way? Are we entitled to decide what is right or wrong for us? Are we entitled to freedom?

What does this freedom include? Is the right to privacy part of freedom? According to the monotheistic religions, there is a God who created the world, controls it, supervises it, and supervises the people and their actions.

Whoever believes in God believes that he rewards him for good deeds, punishes him for bad deeds, and in any case that appears to be a mismatch between man’s actions and the reality of his life, there are various explanations intended to settle the contradiction.

It is clear that the connection between actions and results is not unequivocal, no matter how much the believer believes.

The Chinese system in this sense is a megalomaniac; it will replace God and become much more tangible and predictable than God. In its ability to immediately punish those who deviate from the path, it will tame all the people under it wing.

It will create a direct and quick connection between people’s behavior and the outcome. This connection will be made at any time and place where people can be delayed.

The citizens of China will lose their privacy completely. They will lose intimacy, their ability to keep secrets to themselves, and the freedom to choose a path that is incompatible with the tough ideology of the ruling party.

2.  Increase corruption – The system will open the door to corruption and manipulation. What happens if the system negatively ranks someone from the party? Will he accept it with understanding or will he try to influence the system operators?

Will the system introduce other parameters for government officials and their associates?

According to past experience with authoritarian authorities of a single party, members of the ruling party never lived according to the ideology they advocated. They always tried to get more for themselves.

3. In the twentieth century, a number of large-scale experiments of social engineering were carried out in the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cambodia, Cuba, and several other countries, all of which were part of the Communist system.

In all places, attempts have failed and in most cases, after apocalyptic failures that claimed the lives of millions of people.

Possible Scenarios After Full-Scale System Activation

1. The system will encourage a drop to the underground and push people to lead a double life and try to do everything they can to escape the eye of the big brother who watches them all the time.

Such a scenario would lead to the development of a whole culture of lies and deceit. Such a culture developed under Soviet rule and was ultimately one of the causes of the economic collapse.

It would create an economic system based on large groups of people who worked only ostensibly to show good to the regime’s representatives.

2. Creating a large group of people that are ranked low and pushed into a corner will have nothing to lose and will respond violently.

3. A black market of trading in fictitious identities that rank high will come into play. People at the bottom of the social credit system will look for faster ways and shortcuts to climb up the rankings.

4. A black market of reports to the system will develop. For example, people who did things that hurt their ranking will try to influence as much as possible those who report the mistakes in order to avoid reporting.

The more automatic and seemingly impartial the system (and the intention of its planners), the less relevant this scenario will be.

5. Extensive breaches of the system and constant attempts to disrupt its operations could be catastrophic. Imagine that Google’s entire measurement system of websites goes wrong. What would be the result?

Internet chaos would make it impossible to find anything. The same is true of the measurement system of the Social Credit System. One of the main parameters is financial obligations and financial conduct.

Suppose the system that measures it stops operating, what will the results be?

A complete inability to continue to maintain the rating reliably.

6. China is also beginning to expand the system to foreign citizens, setting up a database identical to all foreign citizens that it can measure through social networks. Large Chinese trading websites (Alibaba, Ali Express, DHGate, etc…) and other sources of information are arousing the wrath of other countries that break into the system and lead to its collapse.

7. The system will represent the regime and will be completely identified with the ideology of the regime and with the political power of the Communist Party. The collapse of the system will directly affect the party’s power, and under certain conditions, may provoke an uprising by the population against the Chinese ruling party.

What is the system’s status today?

The system is currently in pilot.

Alibaba is one of the companies that takes part in this project. It is reasonable to assume that the vast amount of information that Alibaba and Ali Express collected, and still collect, on Chinese citizens and citizens of other countries, will serve the Chinese regime in favor of the Social Credit System

• The level of involvement of Chinese companies is still unclear. Also, the system management method is not clear yet as to how the system management and control will be shared between the government and private Chinese companies. 

• Gathering information is a challenge because not all companies are quick to cooperate and share their information, but it can be assumed that it is a difficulty that the Chinese regime can overcome without too many problems. After all, this is precisely the goal of this system.

• During 2018, restrictions were imposed on citizens who rank low in the system. Restrictions such as flights, purchase of train tickets, hotels, and on matchmaking sites.

Open questions about the Chinese Social Credit Syste

• Will the system act according to the authoritarian vision of its thinkers? In other words, will the system turn Chinese citizens into a fabricated human society that is navigated by a government algorithm, or alternatively, will it provoke counter-cult responses?

Will it be operated by the government, private companies, or a combination of the two?

It is difficult to overstate the implications of the identity of controlling shareholders in the system, whether it is a private company or government. It can be assumed with a high degree of certainty that the Chinese government will remain the main stack holder of the system and the one that dictates the core ideology of the system because this was the main motive from the start.

What will be the implications of the system for Chinese society? Will Chinese society become more disciplined in return for continued economic growth and improved personal security?

• If China succeeds in carrying out the largest social engineering experiment in human history, will other countries follow suit?

• Will there be a black market for buying high-rated identities?

Will the Chinese expand the system to keep track of people all over the world, with an emphasis on foreigners who work, live, or study in China?

Will companies like Google and Facebook collaborate in exchange for expansion into the Chinese market?

Summary of China’s Social Credit System 

China Social Credit System
China Social Credit System

For the Chinese Communist Party, the social credit system is the holy grail of control. It allows the Chinese government the possibility to tame the entire population into a set of selected behaviors.

But the party’s biggest advantage is also the greatest risk for it. The system will become so central to the Chinese government and Chinese society that any serious damage to the system will be detrimental to the Chinese government, making it much more vulnerable and exposed to countries that have an interest in harming China and the Social Credit System. 

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