The Chinese Regime’s ‘Social Credit’ Dystopia
The Chinese regime is pushing a new form of order under its big data “social credit” system, a system based on extreme surveillance and documentation that assigns each citizen a rating, and either rewards or punishes them.
“The social credit system being implemented in China represents the coming dystopian nightmare of authoritarian state control combined with networked databases that allow every meaningful social and economic activity a citizen engages in to be monitored for ‘compliance’ purposes,” said Dr. Robert J. Bunker, adjunct research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute at U.S. Army War College.
In June 2014, the Chinese regime published its plans for the social credit system, which publicly scores citizens on a wide range of metrics, including their online purchases, their daily behavior, and the people they associate with.
The system was set to become mandatory in China by 2020, but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) recently announced that starting on May 1, Chinese citizens with poor “social credit” scores will lose the ability to travel by airline or train for up to a year.
Social crimes that could render Chinese citizens unable to use the travel systems include causing “trouble” on a plane, spreading alleged “false information” about terrorism, using expired tickets, giving an “insincere” apology, or even parking a bicycle in a walkway.
Bunker said the social credit system resembles something that could be found in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” but noted this real system “is far more insidious,” as it represents “a massive social engineering program—one that will increasingly be [driven by] facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence” and that will be used to control close to 1.4 billion people in a totalitarian, communist system.
Some groups have compared the CCP’s social credit system to credit scores in the West, but there are major differences between the two. The Western system can limit financial loans based on a person’s poor handling of money, but the CCP’s new system can limit nearly every aspect of a person’s life, based on nearly any choice they make.
“This system goes so far beyond the neoliberal capitalist ‘financial credit rating’ in its intrusiveness as to not even be comparable,” Bunker said.
He said, “This would be like being an Uber or Lyft driver 24/7 for the rest of your life and having to keep getting continuous favorable reviews from your clients, or else increasingly lose your basic societal rights.”
The social credit system is an extreme continuation of social controls that are fundamental to all communist systems.
There are two fundamental forms of order: moral order and outer order. A person’s moral order is their personal restraint, based in their religion, traditions, and personal values. Outer order comes from the laws of government or a collective, and may not always align with a person’s inner values.
When a communist system takes power, the first thing it does is destroy each person’s moral order. This directive comes straight from Karl Marx, who wrote in his “Communist Manifesto” that “communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality.”
With moral order destroyed, power is then shifted solely to the heads of state, and the state is then charged with creating not only a system of laws for outer order, but to also create its own system of morals based on social policy.
This is where the political-moral system of “political correctness” comes into play—the ideas of which were laid out in 1967 in the “Little Red Book” by Mao Zedong, the former CCP leader who by some estimates is responsible for 50 million to 70 million unnatural deaths.
Mao’s idea of political correctness was simple: If you supported political initiatives, you were “correct,” and if you did not support these movements, you could be persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, or killed.
In most communist societies, when moral order is destroyed, social stability depends on the threats and punishments of the state, and these threats and punishments are only applicable within the boundaries of what the communist regime can monitor.
With its social credit system, however, the CCP is trying to work around this, but not by restoring moral order. Instead, the state is extending its eyes into every detail of a person’s life and manufacturing a state-run pseudo “karma” system in which it rewards or punishes people, based on the AI-driven collective score of their minute decisions.
And as the CCP promotes its “China model” for global governance, this extremely totalitarian system of social stability may soon find its way into other countries.
Bunker said, “The concern, of course, is that as China escalates its great power challenge to the United States and her democratic allies globally, it will offer its social credit rating system to its authoritarian allies as part of its internal security aid packages.”
He said, “This suggests that we may very well be on the brink of a new type of high-tech Cold War with expansive Chinese political and economic authoritarianism fully supported by networks, databases, and AI.”