The incipient initiative has generated fears that the authoritarian state is tightening its control over an already highly monitored public, ensuring that only those who strictly adhere to the values of the Communist Party can prosper.
The scheme, which the State Council of China wants to implement throughout the country by 2020, aims to evaluate individual actions throughout society, effectively standardizing behavior through rewards and deterrents.
“It is a new type of control of the totalitarian society that allows officials an incomparable scrutiny every minute of everyone’s life,” warned dissident writer Ye Du.
But so far, experts say there is no unified system and that cities and towns have different criteria for measuring good or bad behavior or “reliability”, as well as various incentives and punishments.
Those with “good credit” have a better chance of getting a job in government or a precious seat in a public kindergarten for their child in Beijing. But in the small town of Qinhuangdao, the reward for good behavior is a “model citizen certificate” and a free annual medical checkup.
“A great myth is that there will be a single score for all citizens,” said Jeremy Daum, a Chinese law expert at Yale.
“Social credit is not really a credit rating, in fact it is … a vague idea that covers a wide variety of regulations: the unifying characteristic of all of them, insofar as it exists, is keeping records will help make people more honest and reduce misconduct, “China Law Translate wrote in its blog, which compiles all government documents related to the system.
- Blacklists and bans –
Shazeda Ahmed, a doctoral student in Berkeley who studies China’s social credit system, agreed to explain that there is currently only a “hodgepodge of local pilot projects without any clear definition of what a national system would look like.”
“The government itself is not sure and is still in the process of finding out what that system can achieve and what its limits are,” Ahmed added.
In 2018, authorities banned millions of people with bad social credit from taking flights or trains, according to the National Public Credit Information Center.
Chinese actress Michelle Ye Xuan was one of those affected.
He was prevented from boarding a flight in March for not following a court order after being convicted of defaming a former lover of his then boyfriend. His Beijing-based publicist said the ban was lifted after the court apologized.
There are no clear rules about what the penalties are for those who do not comply with social credit systems, and there is no easy way to verify an individual rating.