By 2020, Chinese officials plan to have about 626 million surveillance cameras operating throughout the country. Those cameras will, among other things, feed information into a national “social credit system.”
That system, when it is in place in perhaps two years, will assign to every person in China a constantly updated score based on observed behaviors. For example, an instance of jaywalking, caught by one of those cameras, will result in a reduction in score.
Although officials might hope to reduce jaywalking, they seem to have far more sinister ambitions, such as ensuring conformity to Communist Party political demands. In short, the government looks as if it is determined to create what the Economist called “the world’s first digital totalitarian state.”
That social credit system, once perfected, will surely be extended to foreign companies and individuals.
At present, there are more than a dozen national blacklists, and about three dozen various localities have been operating experimental social credit scoring systems. Some of those systems have failed miserably. Others, such as the one in Rongcheng in Shandong province, have been considered successful.
In the Rongcheng system, each resident starts with 1,000 points, and, based upon their changing score, are ranked from A+++ to D. The system has affected behavior: incredibly for China, drivers stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
Drivers stop at crosswalks because residents in that city have, as Foreign Policy reported, “embraced” the social credit system. Some like the system so much that they have set up micro social credit systems in schools, hospitals, and neighborhoods. Social credit systems obviously answer a need for what people in other societies take for granted.