Unpacking China’s Social Credit System

The Chinese social credit system has to contend with many challenges and has implications far beyond social control.

Ever since it was formally announced in 2014, China’s proposed Social Credit System (SCS) has attracted much media attention. Reports have frequently ranged from painting it as an Orwellian nightmare to a dystopian fantasy, with most commentaries viewing the policy purely from the prism of social control.

While the SCS can indeed be located as an initiative in the tradition of Chinese government efforts at maintaining social order and ensuring public compliance of policies, reducing it to merely a surveillance tool doesn’t do justice to the ambitious scope of this initiative.

The SCS is about much more than surveillance and loyalty. It is, in fact, fundamentally linked to the Chinese economy and its transformation to being more market driven. So while nudging persons to adopt desirable behaviour and actions and enhancing social control are all part of the story, there are larger drivers of this policy. Moreover, the implications of the SCS are not just limited to Chinese citizens or within China’s territorial boundaries.

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