Social credit system China’s answer to credit crisis

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/9 22:03:43

On Monday's The Late Show, a US late-night talk show on CBS, host Stephen Colbert made fun of China's plan to launch its social credit system in 2020. He took aim at "China's growing network of surveillance cameras," which, according to Colbert, is what "makes all of this - rating Chinese citizens' trustworthiness - possible." In the West's regular routine, they don't bother to analyze why China does something or see the actual situation of the country. They simply relate everything to the "totalitarian regime."

In April, Foreign Policy commented on China's system to assess a people's creditworthiness as a "step in the tightening of China's already scant freedoms." Earlier this month, Newsweek claimed "1.4 billion citizens to be monitored through social credit system."

In 2014, China released an outline for building a government-led national social credit system, pledging to establish a set of laws and regulations regarding social credit, a credit reference system that covers the whole of society and a related reward and punishment system by 2020. Whether people have ridden the train without tickets, violated traffic laws, conducted heroic acts or performed exemplary acts are rated and the score plays a part in their life, determining whether he or she can buy a plane ticket, secure a loan etc.

In today's Chinese society, trustworthiness is not highly honored. That's why we see corruption, expired vaccines, commercial fraud, tax dodging and academic cheating from time to time. Take the arson case in Hangzhou last year. A nanny started a fire that killed a mother and her three children: She was in huge debt and starving for more money from her wealthy employer. It was a tragedy caused by the lack of a credit ranking system.

There are not many traffic violators in the US and the primary reason is that the cost of violating traffic laws is very high. It is recorded on one's credit record, affecting employment, loans, rent, perhaps even marriage. However, such a system in China is not well-established, which means breach of promise or fraud will not result in heavy penalties or other serious consequences.

Against this backdrop, China hopes to set up a comprehensive social credit ranking system, allowing the trustworthy to enjoy more benefits while making it hard for the discredited to do anything. The move can link creditworthiness to people's future interests and risks, rewards and punishments. It's a response to China's credit crisis, an innovative measure to govern society. And the rapid development of internet technologies has provided the nation with more technical support and opportunities to do this.

Governance has never been easy in China, the most populous country on Earth. So the nation has to explore the path that suits it the most. Judging China by Western standards is therefore biased. When it comes to the social credit system, countries everywhere are exploring. Why can't China use modern techniques to try out this system? Doesn't the US track traffic violators with surveillance cameras?

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