By Barclay Shoemaker
The personal social credit system in China has already prevented over 13 million people from flying or using high-speed rail. That's roughly 26 million train and plane tickets.
Soon, China will implement corporate social credit as well. If companies want to do business in China — and keep access to its huge domestic market of over 1.4 billion consumers — they'll have to comply with about 30 different strict requirements, or risk being blacklisted too. Their ratings will be categorised by performance in sectors like environmental protection, tax and quality controls.
Social credit has been a trending topic in western media reports about China ever since it was announced by the State Council in early 2014. The proposed plan is set to rate all individuals in China by 2020, but recent reports have shown that the system is patchy. Scholars have started to argue that the system should be thought of less as a dynamic number and more as an agglomeration of ‘blacklists’ that a person can fall into.
As Shazeda Ahmed, a Ph.D. candidate at Berkeley’s School of Information who researches the social credit system has written, blacklists have existed for a long time in China already. What the social credit system is really designed to do is “to give blacklists teeth.” This is what the famous line in the State Council’s 2014 planning document is referring to when it says the system will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”