The PRC's Social Credit System
Weixin - Sydney ClownNet
26 September 2018

The following is a translation of an article published on social media platform Weixin (微信) by the account ‘Sydney ClownNet’ (悉尼活宝网) about the potential implications of the PRC’s social credit system.

Attention all Chinese people! These people will find it hard to travel and they won’t be able to take a train. They shouldn’t even consider going abroad! In serious cases they will find themselves in prison!

“An episode of the British sci-fi drama “Black Mirror”, which has been popular for the past two years, describes a scene in which there is a super realistic social network in the future, where everyone has their own score. Their social status is based on their score: small things like social interactions, booking flights, taking taxis and big things like buying or renting a house, getting married… the score determines everything. Everyone is scored by and scores others constantly…”[i]

Although we are reluctant to admit it, science fiction becomes reality.

The scenes in these films and television dramas are not complete fantasy. This system has quietly come about in real life.

There has been a lot of news about people refusing to give up their seats on trains lately. A male passenger named Sun drew a lot of debate online recently. However, just last week, a female offender became the next hot internet search topic.

Besides the pressure from public accusations, they have also been subject to legal sanctions and placed on a blacklist.

Railway officials have micro-blogged how to deal with it:

The Railway Passenger Transport Department recorded details about a certain passenger Zhou on train G6078 on September 19 on the railway credit information system and restricted him from buying tickets or riding on trains for a specified period of time. This was done in accordance with the provisions of the rules in the “Opinion on appropriately restricting travel of certain serious untrustworthy persons by train for a specified period of time in accordance with the social credit system” promulgated by the National Development and Reform Commission and eight other departments. The passenger will not be able to purchase train tickets for 180 days from the date of the public notice unless there is a valid objection.

This sort of situation is not unusual.

The first list of those who have lost credit and were restricted from taking trains and airplanes was posted on the “Credit China” website on June 1, 2017. The list included a total of 169 people, among them Jia Yueting, the founder of LeTV.[ii]

There are information displays at Beijing subway stations showing people who have lost their credit.

“Deadbeat” used to be a name for useless, despised people. But “Deadbeats” today cannot take flights or trains, or go to high-end consumer malls. They may not even be able to take the subway in future.

Social credit is updated in real time.

If you don’t pay your debts, if your business is not honest…

If your plagiarise and cheat in your studies….

Do you think there is no cost for acting recklessly?

Social credit scoring is coming,

Are you prepared?

Those who have lost credit are not only restricted in their consumption of luxury goods, they cannot get loans, and cannot leave home. And they are openly exposed in newspapers, on television, on radio, on the internet and in new media. Restricting the movements of the untrustworthy is really great!

How is your credit score calculated?

The whole social credit system is made up of the combined functions of a business user system, a personal credit system and a public system. China will establish a basic public credit information system by 2020.

The mechanism of the existing national credit system

  1. A People’s Bank of China personal credit record. If a personal credit card or loan fails to be repaid in time, it will leave a bad record on the credit report of the People’s Bank of China, thus affecting future loan applications, etc.
  2. People who are deemed to have lost credit. The Supreme People’s Court promulgated “Some Provisions on the Publication of the Information List of Persons Who Are Deemed to Have Lost Credit” and opened a public platform for the “National Courts Publication and Enquiry List of Persons Deemed to Have Lost Credit” on October 8, 2013.

If the person is a “natural person” on whom measures to restrict consumption have been imposed, the following high-consumption, non-livelihood and work mandated actions shall not be allowed: (1) for transportation, choosing flights, soft sleeper trains, and berths on ships in second class or above; (2) high-end consumption in superior hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, golf courses, etc.; (3) purchasing real estate or new construction, expansion, and high-end decoration; (4) for offices, leasing high-end office buildings, hotels, apartments and other places; (5) purchase of non-business essential vehicles (6) leisure travel and vacation; (7) children attending high-fee private schools; (8) paying high premiums to purchase insurance and wealth management products; (9) taking any G-series high-speed trains and first class seating on any other trains, etc.; and other non-living and work-required consumption activities. If the person subject to restriction is a work unit, after the measures to restrict consumption have been imposed, the person subject to restriction and his legal representative, principal responsible person, the person directly responsible for affecting the discharge of the debt, and the actual person in control shall not implement the foregoing acts. If the foregoing actions are carried out for personal consumption on personal property, an application may be filed with the enforcement court.

  1. People who have seriously lost social credit in other fields. The National Development and Reform Commission, the Railway Corporation, the Civil Aviation Administration and other departments jointly issued the “Opinions on promoting the establishment of a social credit system in order to appropriately restrict the train travel of certain seriously not creditworthy persons for a specified period of time” and “Opinions on promoting the establishment of a social credit system in order to appropriately restrict the airline travel of certain seriously not creditworthy persons for a specified period of time” on 3 May this year. These opinions will be implemented from May 1.
  2. Business credit information. Businesses or individual industrial and commercial entities will also have existing illegal activities recorded. This not only directly affects their reputation in business dealings, but also relevant departments can jointly carry out punishments according to law.

Can credit scores be cashed in?

The shared economy based upon a personal credit system is gradually changing China. The “invisible” and “intangible” personal credit is gradually becoming “reality”. The credit that you have accumulated can really be spent as cash now.

For example, in Hangzhou, those with good credit can also enjoy the service of “boarding now and paying later” on nearly 5,000 buses. With the “good faith card” carried on their citizen card they can go into campus fitness centres, stay at hotels without paying a deposit and they can leave hotels without checking out. This has already become reality…

If you want to apply for a bank loan and the record in your credit report indicates that you are a person who pays back on time and honours your agreements, the bank can not only lend money quickly but also give you a lower interest rate.

With the rapid development of China’s credit system, it is particularly important to manage your personal credit. People who are considered to have “credit”, not only can enjoy all kinds of convenience, but also accumulate and improve their credit score in the performance of repeated actions. As their score gets better, they enjoy more preferential services.

There is also a credit score blacklist in Australia.

A new policy which has been instituted by the Australian government is also really wonderful! In order to strike at tax and welfare cheaters, they will be prevented from going abroad for the following:

– Tax evasion

– Tax fraud

– Welfare fraud and submitting false claims

– Tax and welfare related liabilities

These can all land you on the government blacklist and in serious cases you will be fined severely. You could even face the threat of being put in jail and be prevented from going abroad. These new regulations are the most serious travel restrictions in Australian history! It is estimated that over 150,000 people have been prevented from leaving the country!

At the same time, the four major banks in Australia are sharing the complete credit records of customers, which will completely change the national lending activities and crack down on untrustworthy behaviour. Needless to say that you will pay a fine if you don’t obey and you may even be deported directly!

Construction of a social credit scoring system is no longer just talk. The credit scoring system does not only exist in the world of the “Black Mirror”. It is an institution that covers China’s social system and links together the various types of social welfare.

All personal data from bank accounts to criminal records to Internet search history will receive unprecedented attention. Not just affecting normal daily life, but in serious situations the threat of high fines and even jail time.

Imagine the future when your social status is really in accordance with your score: from small things like social interaction, boarding an aircraft, taking a taxi, to big things like buying a house, getting married… In order to achieve a better score, what will our social life become?

[i]       Black Mirror is a British science fiction anthology television series created by Charlie Brooker, with Brooker and Annabel Jones serving as the program showrunners. It examines modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Episodes are standalone, usually set in an alternative present or the near future, often with a dark and satirical tone, though some are more experimental and lighter.

[ii]      Jia Yueting or YT is a Chinese entrepreneur and businessman. He was the chairman and CEO of Le.com, as well as chairman both Coolpad Group and Sinotel Technologies. He also founded LeEco, the Le.com subsidiary LeSports. He has been called “China’s Steve Jobs”.

Translation by: Chris R. Lanzit, NAATI Certified Professional Translator (Chinese-English), NAATI Practitioner ID: CPN0BC84W

Date of translation: 12 October 2018

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