In 2014, the Chinese government detailed a plan for implementing a nationwide Social Credit System. This is the government’s plan to evaluate citizens, businesses, and other organizations in China based on their adherence to laws and compliance with the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ideologies and policies.
Working with private companies, the government will expand the number of cameras in public that monitor people’s movements and actions, and will sift through that data along with vast amounts of online purchasing records and social media profiles. They say this policy will be in full force by 2020.
The most popular messaging app in China, WeChat, is used by 1 billion smartphone users in China. WeChat, unlike WhatsApp, doesn’t provide end-to-end encryption. This means that third-party operators, like the government, hackers, and internet operators, can monitor and sift through people’s conversations.
China has almost 200 million surveillance cameras. They are constantly watching for minor and major infractions. In Shenzhen, a major city, they have facial recognition cameras that send information on individuals to a database. It will then find each person’s ID number, social media accounts, phone numbers, etc., and send people messages about fines they face.
One might think that most Chinese citizens wouldn’t want anyone snooping in their daily activities, but most citizens actually agree with the actions of the government. 80% of Chinese citizens surveyed by the CCP said that they approved of the social credit system. Only 1% of participants slightly or strongly disapproved of the social credit system, and 1% believed that it shouldn’t be implemented at all. The results should be taken with a grain of salt given that it was administered by the CCP, who is monitoring everyone and benefits from getting positive results.
Surveys also show that wealthier, better educated, and older citizens approve of the Social Credit System more than less well-off, less educated, and younger citizens.
One theory is that policy proponents believe this system will give them an advantage. People with high Social Credit Scores would benefit from fast-tracked visas; faster, free car-sharing services; among other things. If people are law-abiding, they will get better access to services. Another theory is that proponents view it as a way to improve their lives and safety. They think of it as a way to protect law-abiding and honest citizens, fostering such behavior in society.
By 2020, the Chinese government plans to track people in China in the online and physical world. We’ll have to wait for 2020 to see what will happen.
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Copyright Alex Bean 2019