‘Social Credit’ Will Determine Whether People In China Can Use Planes And Trains

Anders Hagstrom | Justice Reporter

China will begin relying on its new “social credit” system to determine whether low-tier citizens are allowed to purchase plane and train tickets, according to the country’s National Development and Reform Commission.

The Chinese government announced a new initiative in fall 2017 to begin rating its citizens in a social credit system, penalizing people for criminal behavior as well as what they buy, do, and say, The Verge reported Tuesday. Beginning May 1, the country will implement President Xi Jinping’s policy of “once untrustworthy, always restricted” approach to social engineering.

“It will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious,” the policy announcement states. “It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility.

The Supreme People’s Court announced in early 2017 that 6.15 million people had already been slapped with penalties for bad actions, Reuters reported. China approached several companies to use data for the system, including Sesame Credit, an insurance and loan company that also affiliated with the widely-used payment app AliPay. The system assigns users values between 350 and 950 points, based on five factors: credit history, ability to fulfill a contract, personal characteristics, behavior and preference, and social relationships, according to WIRED.

The final two factors are the most invasive, taking into account things as personal as shopping history and use of free time. The app then penalizes users and “nudges” them to buy products or pursue hobbies the government likes.

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Many have criticized the program as Orwellian, including Johan Lagerkvist, a Chinese internet specialist at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.

“It is very ambitious in both depth and scope, including scrutinizing individual behavior and what books people are reading,” Lagerkvist told WIRED. “It’s Amazon’s consumer tracking with an Orwellian political twist.”

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