Is China heading towards perfection?

The CIBIL score is something that has been floating up in several TV commercials nowadays. It is very intriguing to know what it exactly is. CIBIL score is nothing but, a rating parameter which entitles one to get a loan or credit card from a bank in India. A person is allotted a numerical score based on the history of his/her punctuality in loan repayment. But in China, the government is developing a much broader social credit system based on people’s routine behaviours and actions with the ultimate goal of determining the ‘trustworthiness’ of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens and more importantly identifying the ones who are truly loyal to the prevailing communism. To many it may sound like a meaningless initiative, but it is the hard-reality existing there. The social credit system is a national reputation system which was commenced by China’s State Council on June 14, 2014. The aim of this system is to raise awareness for integrity and level of credibility within society. It is presented as a means to perfect the socialist market economy as well as strengthen it with innovative governance of society. The outline of the system balances mainly on four fundamental pillars which include honesty in government affairs, commercial integrity, societal integrity and judicial credibility. In June 2013, the Supreme People’s Court of China blacklisted 32000 debtors. This marked the first step in the implementation of the policy of credit system. In 2015, People’s Bank of China licensed eight companies, like Sesame Credit and Tencent to carry out trials of the social credit system. Multiple firms have collaborated with the government to develop the system of software and algorithms stationed in a centralised unit, which incorporates the technology of big data analysis.  Data is derived both from peoples’ personal accounts, as well as their networking activities. Website operators can mine the traces of data that is left and stem a full social profile, which includes peoples’ location, friends, health records, insurance, private messages, financial situation, gaming duration, smart home statistics, preferred newspapers and shopping history. The prime factors which are used to inspect the behaviour of citizens are payment of invoices, ability to honour the stipulated contract, personal preferences and behaviour, interpersonal relationships and legal standing. As of now, the social credit system programme is still on a developmental stage and is expected to be fully operational by 2020. Once implemented, every citizen will be rewarded, or punished, on the basis of their behaviour. Some types of punishments can be flight ban, exclusion from private schools, slow internet connection, exclusion from high prestige work, exclusion from hotel, registration on a public blacklist and the list goes on. Such a system in India would have surely been successful in keeping the financial sector scams under check. Fugitives like Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi would have been in jail by now.

The Communist Party in China intends to establish the ideal society with this mass disciplinary machine. The parameters considered in judging citizens, are clearly devoid of logic by large means. A person might be unable to pay back his loans because of financial constraints. But, this system will prevent the person from getting a better employment opportunity thereby completely destabilising his financial condition. The system has also been used to rate individuals for their internet habits like gaming, personal shopping, and a variety of other personal and wholly innocuous acts that have no impact on the wider community. On top of that this scheme leads to conflict of interest among those who are in charge of implementation and can lead to serious corruption and scandals. Looking at this issue from the human rights point of view makes one understand how the fundamental privacy rights are abused and tampered with. However, the Chinese intellectuals are extremely optimistic about this project and are dreaming of the flawless society whose ‘perfect’ citizens will strive to establish China as the undisputed leader of the global superpowers. If this project succeeds, China will undoubtedly have the most efficient citizens. It will play a bigger role in world’s trade and politics. A renaissance of communism will usher in and its tremors will spread far and wide from its epicentre in Beijing. But, for now, it remains grimly captivating to see the benefits and rewards created by such an ambitious and potentially dystopian project and whether China succeeds in establishing the ‘perfect’ society.


-Ayush Chatterjee

Volunteer Organizer, TEDxNITTrichy


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