Another brand new phenomenon that is being introduced by yet again Chinese is “social credit system”. Chinese authorities claim that they have banned more than 7 million people who were considered to be “untrustworthy” from boarding flights and approximately 3 million others were deemed so from riding on high-speed rail trains. This provides evidence that Chinese authorities are getting more pro-active and use advanced technologies to have a complete crack-down on crime. To combat with this approach various pilot projects have already been launched nationwide in China.

The National Development Reform Commission reports on untrustworthy records offer evidence that China could engineer society if it combines technology with its credit system. The capital city of China, Beijing is striving to generate and officially operationalize a Social Credit System (SCS) by 2020. Now, what pertains in SCS is a national system designed in such a way to value, acknowledge, identify and engineer better individual behavior by generation of the scores for 1.4 billion citizens. This system will award the trustworthy and likewise punish the disobedient.

The “social credit system,” was first announced in 2014 which aims to strengthen the idea that “keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful,” according to a government document. The program is due to be fully operational by 2020, but is being piloted for millions of people already. The scheme is believed to be obligatory. Currently, the system is piecemeal and not fully executed some are run by city councils, others are scored by private tech platforms which hold personal data.

It is more similar to private credit scores, a person’s social score can also move up and down depending on their behavior. The exact methodology is still a secret and yet not be found by others but examples of breaches include bad driving, smoking in non-smoking zones, buying too many video games and posting fake news online.

Some of the operational execution of this scheme is observed in China as it has already started punishing people by restricting their travel. Approximately, 9 million people with low scores have been blocked from buying tickets for domestic flights, Channel News Asia reported in March, citing official statistics. Moreover, they can also compress down on luxury options because the recent statistics report that somewhat three million people are barred from getting business-class train tickets.

Actually, the main ideology behind this system is that it will punish bad passengers specifically. Some of the common observed potential misdeeds include trying to ride with no ticket, loitering in front of boarding gates, or smoking in no-smoking areas. According to Foreign Policy, credit systems monitor whether people pay bills on time, much like financial credit trackers but also ascribe a moral dimension. Other proposed punishable offences include spending too long playing video games, wasting money on playful purchases and posting on social media. In addition, spreading fake news, specifically about terrorist attacks or airport security, will also be deemed as one of the punishable offences.

For instance Beijing newspaper reported that 17 people who refused to carry out military service last year were barred from enrolling in higher education, applying for high school, or continuing their studies. Besides this, citizens with very low social credit would also be banned from enrolling their children at high-paying private schools. It’s not clear whether this particular policy has been put into action yet officially.

Moreover, “Trust-breaking” folks would also be disqualified from doing management jobs in state-owned firms and big banks. Some crimes, like fraud and embezzlement, would also have a big effect on social credit system. Likewise, individuals who refused military service were also banned from some holidays and hotels with implication that vacation plans are fair game too.

On the flip side the regime rewards people here as well as punishes them. It is reported by Chinese national that good scores aids in speeding up travel applications to places like Europe. An anonymous woman in Beijing also told the BBC in 2015 that she was able to book a hotel without having to pay cash deposit because she had a good score.

Furthermore, another feature on SCS is Naming and shaming method available. In year 2016 it encourages companies to consult the blacklist before hiring people or giving them contracts. However, people will be notified by the courts before they are added to the list, and are allowed to appeal against the decision within ten days of receiving the notification. Although it’s not clear when the list will start to be implemented but it’s adverse along with fruitful implications are being observed.

Beside the weirdness of the system the Human Rights Watch referred it as “chilling,” while Botsman called it “a futuristic vision of Big Brother out of control” and some citizens say it’s making them better people already. In order to conclude, Pakistan is also suffering from ever increasing crime rates, cybercrimes, unfair punishments and unlawful acts. To keep a check and to bring sense of responsibility among the citizens of Pakistan we have to launch such system from which society at large benefit. Pakistan has to aware its citizens that the government control is intact and if there is breaking of rules they will cause them punishments and if they religiously follow the rules it will shape Pakistan as harmonious and peaceful society.

 

The writer is a Master Trainer/Advisor at the Pakistan Industrial Technical Assistance Centre Lahore, under the Federal Ministry of Industries and Production, Islamabad.