Futuribles Journal n° 434

Institutions - Recherche, sciences, techniques - Société, modes de vie

The Chinese Social Credit System: How Beijing Evaluates, Rewards and Punishes its Population

In our increasingly connected and permanently interactive modern societies, the propensity to rate and evaluate everything is increasing. Whether to assess a phone call, rate a delivery service or medical appointment, or pass an opinion on a photograph or article etc., individuals/consumers/citizens are regularly called upon to express their opinions. But beyond these individual demands, which are controversial in themselves, we are also seeing institutional control systems developing, based on rating systems, like the one established in China in the late 1990s which has been markedly reinforced in the last ten years or so. Might Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ have passed from fiction into reality, as many western commentators on the Chinese Social Credit System (SCS) fear?

Emmanuel Dubois de Prisque takes another look at the SCS here, showing how this system—inspired by Western practices for assessing the ability of economic actors to repay their borrowing—has wormed its way into the daily lives of Chinese citizens. He highlights the aims of the Chinese leaders in this connection (in particular, to promote virtuous human behaviour and trust), and the extent to which these are entirely consistent with China’s long cultural and political traditions. Emmanuel Dubois de Prisque stresses the dangers and drawbacks of the SCS where individual rights and freedoms are concerned, but he also shows the improvements it has brought about in China. Lastly, he ponders the possibility of such a system being exported to Western societies, though he does find this improbable at the moment, given the demands of those societies in terms of individual liberty.

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