Keeping Score: How Bad is China's Social Credit System?

China’s social credit system was first announced in 2014 and has since bred speculation that it will lead to an Orwellian nightmare – a real-life Black Mirror. Media reports claimed that all Chinese citizens would be given a numerical ranking by 2020. But is this true?

China wants to rate its people and businesses based on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour. Under the scheme, citizens gain points for donating blood, helping the elderly, and athletic achievements. Those who litter, buy too much alcohol, and play computer games will lose credit. Garnering points will give you advantages, such as deposit-free services. Low scores can prevent you from using high-speed trains or getting a bank loan. The programme’s stated goal is to build trust in Chinese society.

China’s social credit system has been compared to Big Brother and other dystopian visions. Though China’s omnipresent social credit system isn’t in place just yet, pilot versions already exist in some cities, regions, and business ecosystems, such as Alibaba. In our new episode of InfoBites, we’ll take a closer look at this controversial initiative and find out to what extent it’s already been implemented in China. We ask experts what all the fuss is about and whether the social scoring system has the potential to lead to a digital dictatorship.