Is China’s social credit system a reasonable approach for a society that longs for a return to morality?

China’s social credit system was created to nurture a “construction of sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity, and judicial credibility.”

It works by collecting massive amounts of personal data from surveillance, financial institutions, commercial transactions and much more.

With the data, it aspires to fix problems within and outside the government, in individuals as well as businesses, and including factory accidents, food and drug safety scares, fraud, academic dishonesty, and counterfeiting. It also provides a way for the government to understand what citizens are doing and thinking.

Since the government started experimenting with the concept, in Beijing, 145,000 individuals have been blacklisted and faced travel restrictions. Across China, 6.7 million people have faced some sort of travel ban or hotel restriction.

Yet, 80% of Chinese citizens are in favor of the system and most perceive it as a means to achieve a more honest and law abiding society.

Is China’s social credit system a reasonable approach for a society looking for some restoration of morality?

Let’s take a look.

China’s social credit system may help this society that is looking to restore morality.

recent study on morality in China

A July survey showed that 47% of Chinese people rank moral decline as one of society’s top three worst problems, above environmental issues and unemployment.

One solution may be President Xi’s vision of China as “a country of patriotic, diligent and civilized people.” His social credit system is seen as a means to that end.

Chinese citizens feel differently than Americans about data collection

A survey compared Chinese and American views of big data collection and analytics.

Chinese respondents were more open to data collection targeted toward individuals. And, while US respondents had a more favorable view of businesses’ use of data, Chinese respondents strongly supported governmental usage of big data technologies.

US respondents strongly opposed governmental usage of big data technologies.

good samaritan law changes

There has been a debate in China about “bystander apathy” and its implications for Chinese morality, especially following the death of a two-year old. The toddler was hit by a vehicle and, as she lay bleeding, she was hit by a second vehicle. Twelve people walked by without stopping to help. She died in a nearby hospital.

Recently, bystander laws were changed, giving good samaritan-like immunity to those who come to the aid of victims, in an attempt to encourage the high moral ground, and in reflection of the movement toward Mr. Xi’s vision of “civilized people.”

charity

Chinese citizens donate far less than those of most developed nations. In the US, 63% of the population said they donated money to a good cause, while 6% of Chinese did.

46% of Americans volunteered their time, and 73% offered help to a stranger. In the same time period in China, 4% of people volunteered their time, and 24% offered help.

Social credit scores in China can be bolstered through charitable acts and donations.

US companies also assign credit scores for Americans

In the US, people with poor credit can be turned down for housing rentals or loans, even if the applicant’s score tanked as a result of medical bills or credit card debt from medical expenses. Americans with bad credit pay more for car insurance than those with good credit. Lower credit card rates are unavailable to those with bad credit as well.

Assigning credit based on good and bad behavior has been a long-standing practice in the US.

China’s social credit system will be corrupted.

a slippery slope

Government policing of its citizens under President Xi Jinping has included a crackdown on dissenting voices, including quieting liberal intellectuals and the media institutions that support them. The official state news agency recently banned the use of crude language and online slang in news reporting as well.

Blogs are routinely shut down for trivial concerns, such as their coverage of celebrity gossip.

School textbooks and street billboards promote honesty and obedience.

Check out the WordStirs article on secret camps in China meant to “educate” Muslims on the error of their ways.

There’s no disguising the authoritarian grip President Xi has on his country. The social credit system is more of the same.

ability to appeal a bad score

There is no due process in China and almost no way to appeal a rating that may be based on a sometimes-flawed facial recognition technology.

corruption

Any system that is controlled by one party that has something at stake is susceptible to corruption. Could the government give credits for voting a certain way?

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