Keeping score

By 2020, these two systems will be combined with the social credit system under a comprehensive nationwide plan launched by the Chinese government. The program will score citizens based on their social behavior.

Citizens who honor contracts and display good behavior, such as donating to charities or volunteering for community services, will be rewarded with lower utility bills and other similar benefits, while those with a poor social grade due to bad behavior, such as not paying loans on time, evading tax, selling counterfeit goods, spreading false information, forcibly occupying a seat on a train or even walking a dog without a leash, will have their privileges restricted.

The China Credit Research Center under Peking University is tasked with conducting research into credit theory and practice, and providing a decision-making basis for the government in the construction of its social credit system. Du Liqun, deputy director of the center, and her colleagues helped establish the system in 2002.

According to Du, the system is expected to be completed by 2020 in four fields – business, individual, politics and jurisdiction.

By then, the database, platforms, software and hardware at local and national levels should be in place, and each department should be ready to interact with the others and a reward and punishment mechanism will have been set up. Businesses will be given a unified social credit code and individuals will have an ID-linked code. A credit website will be set up to trace all credit records.

The system has already been implemented at the national level. Early this year, an annual report by the National Public Credit Information Center revealed that 17.5 million attempts at buying air tickets and 5.5 million attempts at buying domestic train tickets were blocked in 2018, and 128 citizens were prevented from leaving China due to unpaid taxes.

Some parts of China have also started testing the social credit system. At the provincial and city levels, websites have been set up to track the credit scores of enterprises and individuals.

The government of Yichun in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province started experimenting with the system as early as 2008. Yichun is one of the most active cities in the country in implementing the system. It has held conferences with the Credit Research Center led by Du to explore the best approaches, and is expected to have a complete set of rules and practices in place by 2020.

Chu Lidong, deputy director of the Yichun Administration for Industry and Commerce tasked with operating the system, told the Global Times that the city began with the sectors that matter most to people’s daily lives, such as transportation, education, medical care and employment. The work includes clarifying the rules for defining and publishing the credit red list and black list and improving the reward and punishment mechanism.