“Total surveillance”, “police state”, “world of Orwell’s” such metaphors was accompanied by the world’s media reports about the Chinese system of social credit. A government program to establish control over the behavior of citizens has become one of the most discussed topics in the world. In China it is referred as the beginning of the end of personal freedom, and the civil activists demand that the authorities ceased to play in the all-seeing eye and big brother. For the Russians, the Chinese experience may be quite relevant, given Moscow’s desire to deepen cooperation with the great Eastern neighbour and the determination to learn from his experience in the field of information security. What really is a system of social credit and is it worth it to be afraid to understand”.ru”.
Then, I dreamed of the authoritarian rulers of all times and peoples, it happened! You can now follow everyone to know how many people came to work who transferred the money, ordered for lunch and how many grams of seaweed bought in the supermarket. Whether the authorities all the information it collects through the great and terrible system, and what exactly they intend to do with it? Someone believes that the collection of such data is a direct way to establish total control over citizens and a complete loss of freedom of action. Others see it as salvation from crime and other evils of modern society. Still others find that the system is able to further facilitate the life of man in the age of global Informatization.
“Social credit” is just one of the elements of the system of social management in China. According to official documents, she needs to grow in the Chinese honesty, integrity and to increase the General cultural level of the population. In addition, its purpose is not to intimidate citizens that all their actions are recorded in some database, and that retribution would follow any transgression, and to instill in them a sense of responsibility and sincerity, to act in accordance with generally accepted moral values. Despite the fairly innocuous and even noble motivations, aspirations of the Chinese authorities believe radical. And if most of them will remain at the level of declarations, the country will inevitably become like the TV series “Black mirror”.
The creation of a system is sometimes associated with increased control over society after President XI Jinping came to power in 2013. However, si is not the first who thought about this project.
For the first time on the system conditional evaluations began in the 1990s, in the midst of economic transformation initiated by Deng Xiaoping. These reforms have become the most successful continuation of the attempts to modernize China, which began in the late nineteenth century. Then the supporters of the reforms believed that it was mandatory for all the law — and not an unlimited Imperial power, should be a decisive factor in the further development of the country.
Traditionally it was believed that the Emperor of China is not only defined by the Sky the ruler, which it has bestowed its mandate on the government. His task is not only to govern, but to set the moral bar for his players-citizens, to be their example and moral compass. In other words, China’s power and morality was perceived as inseparable from other part of the portrait of the good ruler. After all, if those in power steal and lead a filthy lifestyle, the heavenly mandate, they are not supposed to have.
Contrary to the expectations of the first reformers, for subsequent governments law and order have faded into the background, and at first went the need to hold on to power at any cost. After the civil war in 1949 to power in the country came the Communists, which remained the right not only to determine what is legal and what is not, but also to set the bounds of the unwritten rules of culture and morality. After almost half a century, in 2014, the Congress of the CPC, the principle of government based on virtue or morality equated with the management on the basis of the law. The law, in turn, became a tool by which the government can nurture the Chinese, the necessary moral qualities. In General, a puzzle, and the government has established not only legal, but also moral authority.
In the late 1970s, the country launched the reform and all citizens had to adapt to market conditions. The need for control over their behavior appeared to be critical. After all, if you give people complete freedom of action, wanting to enrich themselves at the expense of others will be a lot of public discontent will not be gathered.
So, the basis for the development of the system of social management, and then the credit, was the economy. In new conditions it is, by design, would be culled unscrupulous borrowers as among large companies and among ordinary people. Bad credit history — to ban. As in Japan in the 1980s, and the United States in the zero issuing risky and non-performing loans did not lead to anything good, and the lesson was probably learned.
For 40 years the policy of reforms and openness the welfare of the Chinese people has improved markedly, this conversion later dubbed the “Chinese miracle.” At the beginning of reforms in 1978, GDP per capita in China was 156,5 USD. After 20 years it increased by more than 20 times, and in 2017, on average, each Chinese had already 8.8 thousand dollars of the total GDP. Ways to earn years also increased, the reform affected not only the economy but also education and other spheres of life. All this strengthened the confidence of the authorities of the need to keep the people in check and not wishing to give money or to save money, turning on the path of deception and corruption.
Now the system works like this: if a company or individual has a bad credit history, he will have trouble getting a loan. No points and estimated loan or give or not give. Bad credit history will not affect the ability to buy plane tickets or high speed train, not lose the opportunity to go abroad or using other public services, it would simply deprive unfair borrower the opportunity to borrow.
The only thing that can prevent the Chinese to get from Beijing to Shanghai five, not 25 hours is added to the blacklist, because he does not know how to behave and commits a foul. The same applies to, for example, aircraft and travel agencies. However, no points from it, not write off, as not credited for “good behavior”.
In addition to the school and the University officially, the Chinese be assessed only when driving a car. Driving is the only thing that is evaluated with points in China. When a similar system was in Russia. For a year the driver accrued 12 points for minor violations, for example, Parking in the wrong place, points will not be removed, but will write a small fine. If a more serious violation — running a red light or moving into the oncoming lane — the penalty is added to the cancellation points.
The confessions of the Chinese themselves, the fines generally do not exceed 500 yuan (about five thousand), they are not particularly concerned and on the budget doesn’t affect. But if four times violate traffic rules and to spend all the points — will be without a car until the end of the year, and this is a serious loss. Subtract the number of penalty points depends on the violation: driving under the influence can lose all at once. In this case, the driver will have to re-take the training, listen to the rules of the road and watch footage of car crashes under the stories about how important it is not to break. Such rules have existed for decades.
In most cases when the West is talking about the system of social credit — mention experiment set in the city of Suining, Jiangsu province. In 2010, there was presented a program of General [social] credit. It worked well: the citizens were given a thousand starting points, and depending on the behavior removed or charged additional. For example, drunk driving was off 50 points, for the birth of the child, consistent with the Committee on planning, — 35 points, for non-payment of the loan from 30 to 50 points.
Lost points accrued back to a period from two to five years, depending on the severity of the offense. By the number of points citizens were divided into four categories from A to D. Those who were entering in category a, receive facilitated access to employment, while citizens of the lowest categories could experience difficulties in passing exams and inspections when applying for a job. A high rating was also given advantages when joining the party, admission to the army, the purchase of housing on favourable terms, obtaining a license to conduct business and access programs sotspodderzhki.
Criticized for such an experiment for the government, according to foreign media. The Xinhua news Agency compared the system of universal credit with the so-called evidence about the trustworthiness, which the Chinese gave the Japanese occupation authorities during the Second world war. The nationalist tabloid the Global Times wrote that the government has no right thus to control the behaviour of citizens, but instead should be under their control. Categorization subsequently abolished, but sulinski experiment is remembered by many for a long time.
Most of what we know about the system of sotskredit in China — information from the Western media. They represent it as orwellesque a nightmare accomplished a dystopia and an attempt to establish an information dictatorship over the people. However, the Chinese themselves, as it turned out, don’t think so. “Ribbon.ru” questioned a resident of China named Ching about what she and her friends think about innovation.
Jing — an ordinary Chinese woman, she has higher education, she is preparing to enter the doctoral studies and working at the University. Unlike many of its average citizens, the I Ching constantly communicating with aliens (part-time tutoring Chinese) and have an idea about the mindset of those who live beyond the Great firewall. By her own admission, the social credit system is one of the most frequently discussed topics with foreign students. “Yes, almost all foreigners I’ve met, asking me, — she shares. — At first I didn’t even know what to say, or rather, did not understand what they are.” When Jing realised that burning question, I decided to figure out what you are talking about her friends.
“Actually, I’m really glad you raised this topic. I had been hearing about this and every time I repeat that the problem is very much exaggerated, — says the I Ching. — Look, here I am — Chinese. If I had any points, I would surely know about them. And so I do not know that my actions someone appreciates. Certainly no one will be watching if I kick the cats in the alley, and assess my moral character”. According to her, the so-called social credit is not a unified system in which all data about a person are added together, and then he start up a private business, which took into account his merits and misdeeds. This is also said by some scholars: a single network account for all the actions of man does not exist, and its appearance is still a figment of the imagination. However, if there is no such system now, this does not mean that it will not in the future.
“My creditworthiness is assessed by the Bank on specific criteria. I have a stable salary in a state institution, I have no debt does not have all loans returned on time, so I will give credit. And it does not depend on I, for example, drive the car. Yes, let me even deprived of rights, it is no credit impact,” she explains. The same applies to companies: violated the terms of the contract, delayed delivery, not pay taxes as creditworthiness will decline, no one wants to suffer from someone else’s carelessness.
In response to the question, is it true incorrect behavior, e.g., failure to pay child support, a street fight or unwillingness to spend time with his grandfather, a disabled person, can affect the rating of the citizen, Jing begins to smile. “I don’t understand, honestly, where it came from. You can seriously imagine that someone would follow me and keep track of all this?” she says. Some aspects of life are regulated by law, but what relates to moral character, friends, acquaintances and colleagues, these aspects are not yet regulated. Even if her sister or father-in-law already with dogs looking for lenders, according to Ching, to her credit is not affected.
Girl shares that heard about earning points. However, to confirm this she can’t. “Perhaps, as you say, in an experiment that where it is administered, but an ordinary Chinese people with such did not face. I also was thinking about that. You need to have some body responsible for gathering information too, and again, where these points anywhere else? I have never seen,” she says. In General, any inconvenience ordinary Chinese, apparently, do not. In the words of the interlocutor: “the Chinese are also not stupid. If people understood that something strange is happening, perhaps someone would be talking about it”. On the other hand, the Chinese authorities tend to implement innovations in life quickly and without question.
Those who have been to China ten, five or even two years ago and went back now, amazed at how quickly life changes in the country. If three years ago the Chinese were only used to pay through electronic wallets Zhifu Bao or WeChat Pay — analogues of Apple Pay, in 2018, many already do not carry cash. To pay by phone it is already possible when buying a car, and a pound of bananas in the shop in the alley. In addition, if you pay with your application credit card and the time to return the money — user will wait for the bonuses. However, while this applies only to private companies. Alibaba, for example, in 2015, has launched its system of credit Zhima Xinyong, although it is more like a loyalty program, and joining is completely voluntary.
Information about the citizens do kollektsioniruya and used by the authorities. In the age of big data (big data), its collection makes the statistics more accurate and large companies, for example, allows you to affect domestic consumption. Now recalculate born in Jinan boys and girls as quickly and accurately, but when you move to a new apartment you will immediately be prompted to buy the necessary furniture and tell where nearby gym cafes your favorite network and where can I pick up parcels from online store Taobao.
According to Jing, the only inconvenience that she experiences from the fact that someone in any case has access to her personal information is calls from banks with unnecessary suggestions. According to her observations, the Europeans are too sensitive to the fact that someone has access to their personal data. “Chinese is so hard not to care,” she says, ” at least the majority. If you’re not doing anything wrong, what’s the difference? Someone knows where you work, someone which route back home, what’s your phone and who you’re friends in social networks. It’s not secret information, we in any case put it on display. Therefore, we do not treat it so tenderly. Know well someone that I bought socks with pigs and took out a loan on the car, so what?” In other words, if you look at the situation through the eyes of the Chinese, it is difficult to understand what all the fuss and hysteria in the Western press.
Of course, we can say that the Chinese have been brainwashed (not for nothing that the term appeared in China), however, the word Jing is largely confirmed by the studies of Western scientists.
As noted by Roger Cremers of Leiden University of the Netherlands, the purpose of the system of social credit of cybernetic control, monitoring behaviour and immediate retribution for offenses. According to the scientist, the comparison of the system with exaggerated dystopia. Although the project sounds like you will have a single megaset, tracks and all, in fact it is more complex and fragmented the movement. It is the Foundation of ranking citizens and not estimates, which, as we have seen, no one in the country gets. We are talking about lists — red and black (and talked about what our Chinese interviewee). Red — good, get trustworthy the Chinese, black is bad, there is a place non-payers and other violators.
The system is not even close to the final design, and it is not with such rapid speed, as is commonly thought. Its different components are at different stage of development, technology for project implementation is still imperfect. Moreover, to think that all government agencies of China are in complete harmony with each other, their interests coincide, and the Ministry we will gladly open their databases to each other — at least naive.
According to Cremers, the Chinese government in an authoritarian state, though all-powerful, but cannot do whatever they want. In the case of a system of sotskredit authorities may face at least three obstacles to the implementation of the plan. First, the Chinese are not the patient, and in the country’s modern history are many cases when local and Central government was forced to make concessions to the protesters because of unpopular measures. Before you start total surveillance, the government will need to protect yourself from possible public discontent. Moreover, as noted by Christopher Oudemans in his article “How it really works the Chinese system of social credit”, in big cities residents still think more about the importance of privacy, and their opinion is the government can not be ignored.
Here, however, it is worth to mention that the concept of private life and its mystery in China differs from the West: what is considered quite normal in China, in European countries can be considered a violation of privacy. In addition, the Chinese themselves, for example, in contrast to the inhabitants of Western countries are in no hurry to discuss politics and to criticize the government including on the Internet.
The second obstacle is the contradiction between different authorities involved in data collection. To unify the various branches of the bureaucracy one program for data collection and storage, and to develop an adequate system of penalties is much harder than it seems. Not the last role in the creation of such a system play and private companies and their relations with government are not always smooth.
In addition, the system is not quite easy to implement technically. First we need to make sure that all incoming data is accurate, additionally, the databases of government agencies and private companies should be formed according to the same standard. Following this, there is the question of a uniform system of handling the vast array of information.
Those who study the Chinese state administration, these challenges will not seem new. These issues have long been concerned about the Chinese authorities and are chronic pathologies of Chinese politics, writes Crimers. In his opinion, to a certain extent the idea of creating a system of social credit is based on “techno-optimistic assumption that automation data will help the state make information about citizens transparent.”
In General, for full-scale implementation of the system, more work is needed to prepare and also to thoroughly figure out how it will “get along” with other, existing mechanisms of social management. For example, the control of criminals, dissidents and extremists, which is responsible for the Ministry of public security of the PRC, the system functionality is not included yet. So what about the government conspiracy against its own citizens or on the mechanism of total surveillance of them yet. Now it’s just one of many attempts to somehow control half billion population.
But it is quite possible that in the near future when technology will become more sophisticated, data collection is widespread, and departments to establish information exchange, the Chinese authorities will try to turn the monitoring system into the system of control and suppression. And this will agree, a matter of time and political will.
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