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29 November 2018

7:35 PM

29 November 2018

7:35 PM

I prefer to live in a country where I can rate my government and not the other way around – but many others don’t have that blessed choice:

Millions of Chinese nationals have been blocked from booking flights or trains as Beijing seeks to implement its controversial “social credit” system, which allows the government to closely monitor and judge each of its 1.3 billion citizens based on their behaviour and activity.

The system, to be rolled out by 2020, aims to make it “difficult to move” for those deemed “untrustworthy”, according to a detailed plan published by the government this week…

A key part of the plan not only involves blacklisting people with low social credibility scores, but also “publicly disclosing the records of enterprises and individuals’ untrustworthiness on a regular basis”…

People are awarded credit points for activities such as undertaking volunteer work and giving blood donations while those who violate traffic laws and charge “under-the-table” fees are punished.

Other infractions reportedly include smoking in non-smoking zones, buying too many video games and posting fake news online.

Punishments are not clearly detailed in the government plan, but beyond making travel difficult, are also believed to include slowing internet speeds, reducing access to good schools for individuals or their children, banning people from certain jobs, preventing booking at certain hotels and losing the right to own pets.

I guess the soft totalitarianism of the New Age Chinese Communist Party is a significant improvement on the old hard totalitarianism of Mao, which killed in the vicinity of 60 million people, But at this pace of progress, China is decades away from being a normal, decent society instead of an ant farm where the ChiComms play the population like a computer game – not “Second Life” but very much “First Life”, really.

The sad thing is, large sections of the Western left would love nothing better than to be in charge of a similar system at home, where every virtue signal is rewarded and every thoughtcrime, much less a questionable action, subtly or not so subtly punished. I would probably end up stranded west of Moree without the internet connection.


Projects like the social credit system, which rely upon all the latest technology to work, offer more support for the internet sceptics like Evgeny Morozov. Internet and the IT more generally aren’t invariably tools of liberation and democratisation.

All technology is neutral and its impact depends on its use. Just as a split atom can give us either a nuclear bomb or nuclear energy, the e-world gives me an opportunity to reach out to all of you around the world and bore you with my musings, but for the Chinese government it makes it possible to keep its population monitored and regulated.

Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk, where this piece also appears.

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