China’s communist gov’t creates machine to spy on and rate citizens’ ‘trustworthiness’
SHANGHAI, China, March 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Chinese communist government is poised to become what one critic is calling the “nightmare of the world’s first truly totalitarian state” with the rollout of a nationwide system that rates the “trustworthiness” of its 1.4 billion citizens.
China’s “Social Credit System” is set to become mandatory for all Chinese citizens and businesses by 2020.
Citizens who have a high trustworthy rating will be able to partake in the benefits of society, including banking, travel, healthcare, etc. Those with low ratings will be shamed and excluded.
The program, which is still confined to pilot projects in a few Chinese regions and cities like Shanghai, will collect online data, ranging from Uber reservations to comments on social media, to rate citizens’ “integrity” and reward or punish them accordingly.
According to the Chinese communist government’s “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System (2014 - 2020),” the monitoring system will focus on honesty in government affairs, commercial integrity, social integrity, and judicial integrity. The aim of the program is “to raise [citizens’] awareness of integrity and the level of trustworthiness in Chinese society.”
According to Meg Jing Zeng of Queensland University of Technology, the credit of the “Social Credit System”, or xinyong, is a “core tenet of Confucian ethics.” Originally meaning “honesty” and “trustworthiness”, xinyong now denotes “financial creditworthiness” as well.
The plan, which was first proposed in 2007, was ostensibly meant to regulate China’s new socialist-capitalist economy, which is plagued by cheating, counterfeit goods, problems with food safety, and dishonored contracts. However, the plan has been gradually extended to include other aspects of daily life, including personal habits, opinions and friendships.
Zeng writes that the goal of the pilot schemes is to create a standardized system of rewards and punishment. Some schemes have a “points system,” in which participants begin with 100 points, and then win or lose points, depending on their social behavior. For example, a participant loses points if he neglects to cancel a reservation to a restaurant before his no-show, or is caught jaywalking. However, he wins points if he does a good deed, like donating blood.
Rewards to citizens with “high social credit” have included discounts on transportation and shorter waits at hospitals. However, citizens with “low social credit” have found themselves unable to purchase airline tickets, get passports, or reserve any but the least comfortable seats on trains. They have also found their citizen identity document photograph displayed on digital screens as a form of public shaming.
If that weren’t troubling enough, a citizen’s social credit score can be lowered by associating online with people who themselves have low scores.
“What we have now in China is the nightmare of the world’s first truly totalitarian state,” Steve Mosher told LifeSiteNews.
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Mosher, the president of the Population Research Institute, is a frequent guest on EWTN’s “The World Over” as an expert on Asian affairs. His latest book Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order is currently third in the “China” section of the Amazon bestseller list.
“The Left has always said that true totalitarianism is impossible to achieve because there are never enough minders,” said Mosher. “That’s no longer true.”
Thanks to surveillance cameras on every street corner and to Chinese citizens’ reliance on electronic devices in shopping, bill-paying and communications, they have never been easier for their government to watch.
“A lot of people in China don’t use money anymore,” Mosher explained. “They use their phones. The Chinese government monitors all phones, everything electronic.”
The dark beauty of the new system is that residents of the People’s Republic of China, by operating online, are “self-reporting” on where they go, what they buy, and--on social media--who they know and what they think.
“Your social [credit] score goes up if you say good things about the regime,” said Mosher. “Your social score goes down if you say bad things about the regime.”
According to the expert, the Chinese government has a seat on the board of every social media company in China. It also owns one percent of the stock of each company, and although that percentage seems small, it is the government board member who is in control. Any wrong move by the company, Mosher said, “and he can shut you down.”
Mosher thinks that while the non-political types won’t mind that the government knows all about them, life will certainly become much more difficult for dissidents. For the time being, they can use cash to evade detection, but when the Social Credit System becomes mandatory, people who try to stay “in the dark” won’t be able to do anything in a financial sense.
“Is it now ever going to be possible for the Chinese people to organize a demonstration like Tiananmen Square?” he wondered. “It’s hard to see how dissidents can get ahead of the government.”
“The cyber walls are closing in.”