МОСКВА, 15 декабря 2021, Институт РУССТРАТ.
Many people have heard about the social credit system from media materials. Based on this, there is an opinion that China has created a system of total control over its citizens. If you have not paid taxes, you will not be able to leave even to a neighbouring city; if you express an oppositional opinion, you will not fly abroad. There is the persistent feeling of the Chinese dragon creating a system of state karma, when the state assumes the functions of a judge and punishes, in its opinion, unworthy behaviour.
If you ask an ordinary Chinese person, they will most likely be extremely surprised to hear that their behaviour is controlled and points are awarded for this. However, there is a grain of truth in the prevailing opinions.
It is difficult for us to imagine a system in which almost one and a half billion people are controlled according to a single pattern. No matter how difficult it is, it is implemented in the Middle Kingdom. To solve the grandiose task, the giants Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba, which manage a huge amount of personal data, were involved.
The companies themselves have long been using their own system of user credit rating: in Alipei, these are Zhima Credit and Wechat credit, which use artificial intelligence to earn points based on the analysis of the use of the payment system.
Actually, the idea itself did not appear out of nowhere. Over the past decades, the creation of a social credit system in China has been positioned as an integral part of achieving the «Chinese dream».
The basis of the legislative framework was the directive of the State Council «On planning the construction of a social credit system (2014-2020)», where for the first time the goal was officially proclaimed to create a comprehensive system of credit information covering the whole society.
At the same time, the new system is not fully provided by laws and regulations. Much is under development and approval, including by the people of China. For example, since January 1, 2021, a new civil code was adopted that repeatedly mentions the social rating system. There is no information about other similar documents in open sources yet.
We can say the following with confidence: there is a social credit system in China. At the moment, it is not a single state rating, functioning at the level of individual elements.
Elements of the social credit system: «black» and «red» lists; ratings of private companies; rating of the central bank; youth rating «Unictown».
Let’s start with multi-coloured lists. They are located on the website https://www.creditchina.gov.cn. Those who visit it can get information about any registered user. Users themselves cannot see the rating indicator (for example, «your rating is 125»).
«Black lists» include information about convictions for various types of crimes. After the repayment of the criminal record, information about this is deleted from the system (at least it ceases to be visible). In order to get such information, you need to know the person’s name and passport number.
In addition, there is a list indicating Chinese people who are prohibited from using trains and/or planes. It includes those seen smoking on public transport, drinking alcohol, traveling without a ticket, damage to public property, loan debts.
The rules are freely available on the following resources: http://www.caac.gov.cn/caaccredit/frontend/credit/personsummary/list and https://kyfw.12306.cn/otn/queryDishonest/init.
On the lists «opposite» to the data on the identity of a citizen, it is indicated in detail what they did and why they are on this list (for example: they smoked on train No. 225 in the vestibule of the 4th wagon).
The «red lists» are called such because of the peculiarities of the mentality of the Chinese. For us, the «red list» is a «white list», that is, having preferences.
It includes honorary citizens of cities, holders of various orders, medals, patrons, famous public figures. The lists are available both on the general website and on the websites of individual provinces.
As such, there are still no «buns» there, but this may contribute to a priority job placement.
Ratings of private companies appeared to solve the main question of the bank: who should be given a loan and who should not. Today, Alibaba (the owner of the Alipay payment system, the Zhima system), Tencent (the owner of WeChat and the WeChat Pay system) are present in this subsystem.
The bank’s issue is solved through special artificial intelligence algorithms. The displayed rating (we gave this as an example above. Let me remind you: your rating is «125»), provides access to benefits within the scope of the company’s activities. However, these ratings, in fact, are not yet used by the state.
Rating of the Central Bank of China
The latter provides an opportunity to get information about the number of bank accounts, credit cards, loans, the presence of delinquencies. Given that they have access to data from all Chinese banks, this information is used by private organisations and forms the basis of their rating.
Youth rating «Unictown»
In 2019, the developer of CY Credit, commissioned by the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China, launched a social credit system for young people from 18 to 45 years old. This was implemented through an application called «Unictown», focused on reaching about 460 million users. According to the terms of the program, participants are awarded from 350 to 800 points based on various factors (for example, the degree of education or participation in volunteer activities). For those who have scored over 650 points, discounts or other privileges become available. This rating is purely «positive», it does not provide for punishment when it is reduced.
If we take into account the tendency to combine information and its linkages, it is worth assuming that all the designated systems will be integrated into a single system.
The available components can be supplemented:
— the rating system is already for the companies themselves. The evaluation criteria are assumed to be: product quality, compliance with tax payment deadlines, compliance with credit obligations. The first step for this has already been taken. In 2019, the «Corporate Credit Assessment Standards» were published for nine main industries, which included enterprises from the field of industrial production, trade, construction, mechanical engineering, real estate, services, medical services, hotels and catering enterprises;
— the introduction of a single «black and red» system with the expansion of the list of violations and restrictions for those who commit them, as well as a list of benefits for persons who, for example, take an active civil position.
Foreign and domestic analogues
In Germany, the SCHUFA system has existed for a long time and is necessary for renting or buying a house, as well as for purchasing goods on credit. For example, if a buyer lives in a disadvantaged area, this affects their rating and, accordingly, the level of services that they can count on.
In Australia, there is a program of social payments to single mothers (ParentsNext), which requires the latter to report weekly on whether their children attended school, whether they went to the library or, for example, whether they took swimming lessons. In accordance with these reports, a decision is made regarding further payments.
We have it too. For example: if one has not paid one’s debts, one will not be allowed to go abroad (the same applies to QR codes). When applying for public service, the presence of a criminal record is taken into account, up to grandparents.
Thus, there are similar examples, but they are scattered and not united by a single system.
The future for…
We live in a world of constant transformations. More and more «big information» penetrates into life. As a result, this will inevitably lead to the unification of existing digital systems. We have such examples (the same “Gosuslugi” that combine the services of various departments), in Western countries and China.
China has decided to take a systematic approach to the implementation of this issue: there is a certain regulatory framework, individual components of the system have been implemented. Arguments about the permissibility of measuring the moral and social appearance of a particular person in the foreseeable future will be pushed aside. The trend is evident in the existing programs in Germany, Australia, and Russia. On a global scale, these are QR codes for the presence of immunity.
Like any system, the system of social credit, or, if you like, trust, will have its pros and cons. This will depend on the combination of external and internal factors affecting the process of its implementation.
In China, individual components are already functioning quite successfully. The global dissemination of this experience at the level of the rating of companies (Alibaba) is beyond doubt. The same goes for combining all rating systems into one, it’s only a matter of time.