China is planning an authoritarian system which will essentially reward people for good behavior and punish others with difficulty based on a points system. And if you think this sounds like something that will happen in the distant future, guess again. Beijing is planning to begin implementation in 2020.

Claire Che, David Ramli, and Dandan Li report at Bloomberg News:

Beijing to Judge Every Resident Based on Behavior by End of 2020

China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident.

The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get “green channel” benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult.

The Beijing project will improve blacklist systems so that those deemed untrustworthy will be “unable to move even a single step,” according to the government’s plan. Xinhua reported on the proposal Tuesday, while the report posted on the municipal government’s website is dated July 18.

China has long experimented with systems that grade its citizens, rewarding good behavior with streamlined services while punishing bad actions with restrictions and penalties. Critics say such moves are fraught with risks and could lead to systems that reduce humans to little more than a report card.

Hat tip to Nicholas A. Christakis of Yale:

Harry Cockburn of The Independent UK reports that the plan is already having real world implications:

China blacklists millions of people from booking flights as ‘social credit’ system introduced

Millions of Chinese nationals have been blocked from booking flights or trains as Beijing seeks to implement its controversial “social credit” system, which allows the government to closely monitor and judge each of its 1.3 billion citizens based on their behaviour and activity.

The system, to be rolled out by 2020, aims to make it “difficult to move” for those deemed “untrustworthy”, according to a detailed plan published by the government this week.

It will be used to reward or punish people and organisations for “trustworthiness” across a range of measures.

A key part of the plan not only involves blacklisting people with low social credibility scores, but also “publicly disclosing the records of enterprises and individuals’ untrustworthiness on a regular basis”.

Some people may point to the credit scoring system in America for comparison but they are not the same thing:

Punishments are not clearly detailed in the government plan, but beyond making travel difficult, are also believed to include slowing internet speeds, reducing access to good schools for individuals or their children, banning people from certain jobs, preventing booking at certain hotels and losing the right to own pets.

Patrick Farrell and Patrick Tyrrell of The National Interest have more:

Big Brother Is Here: Why China’s ‘Social Credit’ Monitoring Tool Should Terrify You

For people living in China, government repression is a fact of life.

The country earned a rating of “mostly unfree” in the latest Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom and is judged politically “not free” by Freedom House.

Unfortunately, the situation may soon become worse…

The system would rate the “trustworthiness” of Chinese citizens according to a wide variety of factors, such as what they buy, how they spend their time, and who their friends are, just to name a few.

The government would then take those deemed untrustworthy and punish them by not letting their children attend prestigious private schools, not allowing them to travel, and shutting down their internet presence…

However, one must ask what it means to be “untrustworthy.”

In the case of journalist Liu Hu, it could mean trying to expose government corruption. Other offenses could be things such as jaywalking, smoking on a train, criticizing the government, or having friends or family that speak ill of the government, all things that can lower one’s score.

How long will it take for someone in American politics to propose something similar here?

You just know someone will eventually do it.


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