In a further move to control its citizens, China is testing a “social credit system” that connects a person’s privileges to their social behaviors.
The idea was announced in 2014 and the government plans to enact it nationwide in 2020, according to Business Insider.
A new video released Wednesday by VICE shows a glimpse into what the social credit system looks like in action, including real-time consequences for those who don’t meet the government’s standard of good citizenship.
Watch the 5-minute video below:
The video follows a woman who acts as a neighborhood watcher, one who scours the neighborhood to journal the good and bad behaviors of those in the community.
Her work is done in a city of 3,000 people – one of the first cities to test the social credit program.
The journal is then sent to a government office, where an employee assigns a score to each entry, and the good or bad deed becomes published for all to view.
Notoriety is reaped by those who perform good deeds, while shame comes to those who do bad deeds.
However, shame and recognition aren’t the only outcomes of scoring social behavior.
Their very privileges in society are in jeopardy should their social credit become compromised.
The video highlights one man whose good deed of returning a wallet earned him material rewards, in addition to the possibility of discounts on utilities and access to lower rate loans.
In contrast, another man is highlighted struggling with a “B” social credit score after a court blamed him for a friend’s nonpayment on a cosigned loan.
As a consequence of his less-than-ideal score, he was denied the privilege of purchasing high-speed train tickets. Instead, he was forced to triple his commute time by riding the bus.
VICE pointed out that approximately four million Chinese citizens were blocked from purchasing high-speed train tickets, and 11 million were blocked from buying airline tickets as a consequence of their low social credit score.
China’s Social Credit System rewards people for ‘good’ behaviour, punishes the ‘bad’.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) December 10, 2018
Once a citizen’s score has dropped into a poor grade, it can only be raised by good deeds such as charity and volunteer work and donations, which must be recorded and scored by government workers.
“After doing all the good deeds, like donations and such, to gain points, I can now buy high-speed train tickets,” the man explained to VICE. “I am finally a normal person.”
Despite facing the consequences of subpar social credit and struggling to retain a good grade, the man remained supportive of the program.
“Only through this system can we discipline those who can’t discipline themselves,” he said.
Other consequences of poor social credit include impaired access to schools, jobs, hotels and even relationships via dating sites.