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No sooner has Xi Jinping donned the mantle of “Paramount” Leader-for-life and ramped-up Internet censorship than the “social credit” system outlined in 2014 has been unleashed upon the Chinese public, with people now being barred from air travel or riding on trains if their “social credit” score is found to be lacking, under the “Once untrustworthy, always restricted” policy.

A few months ago, I ran a story about China’s new Sesame Credit-powered social rating system, with China’s answer to Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group Ltd. as one of its architects. The new Chinese social credit system merges individual credit and legal records and social media accounts, claiming to foster “sincerity culture” and “traditional virtues” to improve the honesty a creditworthiness of society as a whole.

If your “citizen ranking” sinks too low, you cannot travel, buy property, send your child to a good school or even eat at a nice restaurant. Every aspect of life factors in. Online shopping habits are traced, with certain purchases dragging down your score, such as video games. The government looks at your bills, your school records, whether you jaywalk and even whether you visit your parents enough. Your social media accounts are checked for any form of dissent. Your score can tank, cutting you off from your life if your enter the wrong numbers while paying a court fee, as Chinese journalist, Liu Hu found out, according to 9News in Australia.

The final version of this scoring system is set to be implemented in 2020. It will relay real-time data reports to government officials, law enforcement and maybe to certain private citizens. Law enforcement is currently testing eye glasses with advanced facial recognition software that pull data from national databases, to instantly recognize criminals or political dissidents and which could conceivably be plugged into this social credit system.

This is not an Orwellian freak show reserved for an increasingly repressive Communist state. A Sesame Credit-type Carrot Rewards app was already been rolled out in Canada, in what James Corbett calls a “merger of behavioral science, gaming and government.”

Alexandra Bruce

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Alexandra Bruce

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  • Erm, no. China’s very public Social Credit program is not America’s very secret No Fly List. Not even close.

    Our media are interpreting yet another Chinese policy, Social Credit, in Western terms but China does things differently and, usually, better.

    First, Social Credit is a popular initiative: the Chinese are the most trusting society on earth yet don’t have credit ratings so they’re tired of being scammed online for billions each year.

    First, they trust the government–not private credit agencies like Equifax–to run projects that impact everyone because they trust their government far more than we trust ours: 86% of them say it works for everybody and not just for a fortunate few.

    Second, Social Credit doesn’t just rate citizens. It rates everyone from government departments and individual officials to cops, corporations, Supreme Court justices, Congresspeople–absolutely everyone and every enterprise gets a social credit rating that arises naturally from their interactions with others.

    Third, doesn’t this sound better than being secretly rated by private corporations who sell your information to other private corporations and secretly share it with government agencies–without your permission? And charge us for access to our own information? And offer no reciprocity? Ask TRW for a vendor’s credit history and current rating and what it costs you.

    Fourth, Social Credit is 90% carrot and 10% stick: the higher your score the easier your life becomes. Japan and the Netherlands already offer expedited visa processing for tourists with scores above 750 and landlords and car rentals waive deposits if you’re over 800. It’s intended to be a magic carpet for those who play straight with everyone they encounter.

    Fifth: all the rules are public and anyone can play and all changes to your SC rating are transparent to you, in real time. For free.

    Sixth: China already has a prototype running, an online Social Credit Arbitration Court where, for a few dollars, you can have your case heard and receive a binding verdict that corrects mistakes. Millions of people use it and are refining it. It will go national in 2020.

    Seventh, There’s an idealistic element: it’s part of China’s 2,000-year-old plan to create a ‘datong’ society in which (to be brief) everybody is taken care of and nobody needs to lock their doors at night: a goal every Chinese supports and which the government hopes to deliver by 2120. Imagine the effects of 100 years of Social Credit on the entire culture…

    Customers applying for visas for developed countries, like Luxembourg or Japan, with scores above 750 need not submit bank records and enjoy perks like expedited airport security checks: a consumers’ magic carpet that reduces transaction fees and credit losses and builds consumer confidence. By 2018, more than 1,100 government officials had been blacklisted.

    More carrot than stick, corporations with strong social credit can expect government contracts and low-interest loans and raises small corporations’ credit if they observe consumer and product safety regulations, while debiting them for unreliability, dishonesty, excess emissions and even poor worker safety. Regulators say that, when the system becomes integrated it will generate corporate scorecards directly from sensor data, CCTV cameras, government and court records and consumer reviews.

    The program comes with a sting in its tail, as Oxford University’s Rogier Creemers says, “When rules are broken and not rectified in time you are entered in a list of ‘people subject to enforcement for trust breaking’ and denied access to things. Rules broken by corporations can lead to them being unable to issue corporate bonds and individuals being unable to become company directors. Trust-breakers can face penalties on subsidies, career progression, asset ownership and the ability to receive honorary titles from the Chinese government. Those who fail to repay debts are punished by travel restrictions”.

    A typical travel restriction made the news in 2017 when a real estate developed attempted to book a first class ticket to London and found that the system would only issue him a tourist seat. When he investigated he found that his restriction stemmed from several court judgements whose penalties he had not paid. By 2018, the People’s Court had banned six million defaulters from traveling by air and was working with government departments to ensure that they would be ‘limited on multiple levels’. A local court got creative: when someone calls a delinquent debtor in Dengfeng, Henan Province, instead of a ringtone they hear, “The person you are calling is listed as dishonest by the Dengfeng People’s Court. Please urge them to fulfill their obligations”.

    Social Credit gives consumers the same access to corporate and government ratings as corporations and governments have to consumers and make a highly trusting society transparent. Since it will be operational by 2020 and will doubtless arouse Western fears of Orwellian control, here is the official summary of the State Council’s Basic Plan for Establishing and Improving Systems of Joint Incentives for Trustworthiness:

    Praise creditworthiness, discipline untrustworthiness. Fully utilize credit incentives and constraints, increasing the extent of incentives for trustworthy entities and of disciplinary actions for seriously untrustworthy entities, letting the trustworthy receive benefits and the untrustworthy be subject to restrictions, forming systemic mechanisms for praising honesty and disciplining untrustworthiness.

    Coordinate departmental and social action. By disclosing and sharing credit information, establish cross-region, interdepartmental, and cross-sector mechanisms for joint incentives and joint disciplinary action, forming a common governance structure in which government departments coordinate their concerted action, industry organizes self-discipline and management, credit service organizations actively participate–all broadly supervised by public opinion.

    Protect rights and interests in accordance with laws and regulations. Strictly follow laws, regulations and policies to scientifically delineate trustworthy and untrustworthy conduct, develop joint incentives for trustworthiness and joint disciplinary action for untrustworthiness.

    Establish complete mechanisms for credit restoration, objections, appeals and so forth to protect all participants’ lawful rights and interests.

    Focus on key points, coordinate advancement. Persist in being problem-oriented, striving to resolve credit issues in key industries that are currently harmful to the public interest and public safety, on which many people have given strong feedback or which have caused serious negative impacts on economic and social development.

    Encourage and support innovations and demonstrations by local people’s governments and relevant departments and gradually expand mechanisms for jointly incentivizing trustworthiness and jointly discipline untrustworthiness to every area of the economy and society.

    This is another Big Chinese Experiment, a revolutionary way for people and institutions to relate to one another so let’s give it a chance. Whow knows? We might learn something.

    • Put in the proper context, as Mr. Roberts does, this system appears to be much better and more just than the private credit agency system we have here in the U.S. Over here, corporations run the show and can run rough shod over people, with little recourse but the courts, which favor the rich. In this Chinese system, the corporations will be rated as to how well they treat the public along with rating the individual. And, with real consequences for the corporations, good or bad, depending on their rating.

      Naturally, this system would need to be tailored for the West, but it bears serious consideration.

  • Social credit , another way of saying, Big Brother Mother Fu*ker, as was rolled out in Germany in the 1930’s. And is also being implemented by “google”, another attempt at control of what we have left of “freedom of speech” we don’t have much left of any freedoms in this world, that’s one of the reasons we are being sprayed with lithium six days a week, Never A Straight Answer has at last admitted to the spraying of us all. With chemtrails, fluoride in the water, lithium, six days a week, pharmaceuticals easily prescribed to make an occasional false flag, to take away more rights, like remove the right to own a gun, that’s next by the way. A very controlled environment of tax payers, and not much more. I believe the great experiment called The United States, is about over. Good luck folks.

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