Over 9 million Chinese citizens have been blocked from buying flight tickets due to their low Social Credit Rating, a system that measures a citizen’s “trustworthiness.” Three million people were also barred from buying business-class train tickets. The Chinese Communist Party plans on fully implementing the system in Beijing starting in 2020.
Under the Social Credit Rating system, committing actions which are deemed good by the authorities, like paying taxes on time, donating blood regularly, giving to charity, etc. will net the person a positive point. In contrast, actions considered bad by the authorities, like delaying monthly dues, serving jail time, breaking traffic rules, etc. nets the person a negative point. And based on the overall score, the government might decide to provide benefits or punish a person.
The ban on flight and train tickets is targeted at people who have a low social credit score. “The move is in line with President’s Xi Jinping’s plan to construct a social credit system based on the principle of ‘once untrustworthy, always restricted,’ said one of the notices which was signed by eight ministries, including the country’s aviation regulator and the Supreme People’s Court,” according to Channel News Asia.
Preventing travel is just one of the punishments that the government can implement under the Social Credit Rating system. The authorities can slow down a person’s Internet speeds, increase their loan interest rates, ban them from specific jobs, prevent their children from enrolling in top schools, take away their right to own pets, and do a host of other things. As the former Deputy Director of the Development Research Center of the State Council, Hou Yunchun, would say — the aim is to make “discredited” people bankrupt.
“We will improve the credit blacklist system, publicly disclose the records of enterprises and individuals’ untrustworthiness on a regular basis, and form a pattern of distrust and punishment. [For those deemed untrustworthy], everywhere is limited, and it is difficult to move so that those who violate the law and lose the trust will pay a heavy price,” according to the government’s plan for the system (The Independent).
It will be the residents of Beijing who first come under the full purview of the Social Credit Rating system. Starting in 2020, almost 22 million people from Beijing will be continually assessed on multiple criteria. Every public action, from behavior on the bus to the way people drive will be scrutinized. For businesses, the assessment will involve looking at feedback from customers, timely payment of taxes, debt obligations, and so on.
Escaping from the system is virtually impossible for individuals since important public services can only be accessed through a government ID number, which is what the social rating system will utilize to identify and evaluate people. “The social credit system is an evolving system of total control that is going to be implemented by Xi’s government to promote good behavior and to punish bad behavior… As it continues to form, more abuses will follow,” Maya Wang, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said to Newsweek.
Beijing is also exporting its Social Credit Rating system to other countries as well. Chinese Telecom Company ZTE helped Venezuela develop the “fatherland card” that works on a similar principle.