social credit and surveillance

Social Credits and

Surveillance in China, I



behave score (2) based on
punish on time no longer
purify reward estimated
bar (3) credit (2) handle (2)
ban book (2) trustworthy
court order (3) apologize
tweet sincere property
list discount private (2)
rate evasion fluctuate
fraud range (2) buy/bought/bought
assign drop (2) real estate
install expand network (2)
CEO track (3) catch/caught/caught
shame average jaywalker
bill (2) run (3) determine
abuse mundane surveillance
impact decade benefit(s) (2)
upside shape (2) interest rate
boost zero-in public (2)






By 2020, China plans to give all it’s 1.4 billion citizens a personal score based on how they behave.

So some people with low scores are already being punished if they want to travel. Nearly eleven million Chinese people can no longer fly, and four million are barred from trains.

Next week the program will start expanding nationwide.


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The government says it is trying to “purify” society by rewarding those who are trustworthy — and punishing those who are not.

So like the credit score that most Americans get for how they handle their finances, Chinese citizens are now getting social credit scores based on everything from whether they pay their taxes on time to how they cross the street.

When Liu Hu recently tried to book a flight, he was told he was banned from flying because he’s on the list of untrustworthy people.

Liu was a journalist who was ordered by a court to apologize for a series of tweets he wrote, and then was told that his apology was insincere.

“I can’t buy property. My child can’t go to private school,” he says. “You feel that you’re being controlled by the list all the time.”

And the list is now getting longer, as every Chinese citizen is being assigned a social credit score, a fluctuating rating based on a range of behaviors.

It’s believed that community service and buying Chinese-made products can raise your score. Fraud, tax evasion and smoking in non-smoking areas can drop it.

If a score gets too low, a person can be banned from buying train and plane tickets, real estate, cars and even high-speed internet.

“It’s a good thing,” this woman says. “There should be punishment for people who can’t behave.”

China’s growing network of surveillance cameras makes all of this possible. The country already has an estimated 176 million cameras, and it plans to have more than six hundred million installed by 2020.

Shu Li is the CEO of Sense Time, one of China’s most successful artificial intelligence companies. It has created smart cameras for the government that can help catch criminals, but also track average citizens.

Journalist: “This know every person, every bike, every car, every bus.”
Shu Li, CEO Sense Time: “It can tell whether it is an adult, a child, a male, a female.”

In several big cities in China, including here in Shanghai, the government is even tracking jaywalkers. Cameras record them going through intersections, zero in on their face, and then publicly shame them on nearby video screens.

Ken Dewoskin has studied China’s political and economic cultures for more than three decades. He says how the new scoring system truly works is kept secret, and could be easily abused by the government.

Journalist: “How far into people’s daily, mundane activities does this go?”
Ken Dewoskin, Economist: “Well I think the government and the people running the plan would like to go as deeply as possible, to determine how to allocate benefits also how to impact and shape their behavior.”

Now there are upsides for people the government considers “trustworthy”: they can actually get better interest rates at banks, they can get discounts on their energy bills — and China’s largest, online dating site reportedly even boost the profiles of people with high credit scores.


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1. The Chinese government will track and monitor only dissidents and political opponents. True or false?

2. What is social credit system? How does it work? What is its purpose?

3. Give examples of infractions and their punishments.

4. Is this system only to punish wrongdoers and prevent “bad” behavior?

5. Do the Chinese citizens agree or disagree with the social credit system? Do they like or dislike it?

6. They system relies increasingly on technology. Is this right or wrong?

7. What will happen in the future in China regarding the social credit system?


A. There are forms of China’s “social credit system” in my country. Yes or no? If yes, give examples.

B. Would your government be interested in such a system? If yes, what may be some benefits?

C. Do citizens completely support this system, support it, in-the-middle, yes and no, partially support it, are against it or are totally against it?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. What should citizens do? Do they have any choice or control over this development?

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