It’s an idea that is four or five years old now, but the Chinese government is finally taking baby steps towards putting its “social credit” system into production. What is social credit, you ask? Well, it’s a system by which ordinary citizens are rated for their behavior. You can lose points for breaking minor laws, speaking out against the government, or for associating with people who do those things.
Users with high social credit get preferred placement on dating apps, free loaner bicycles, and other benefits. If your social credit is low, on the other hand, you might find yourself unable to buy a business-class travel ticket… or you might find that you have no ability to buy a ticket at all. Your children might be denied access to good schools, and you might be removed from lists of applicants for available jobs. Participation in the system is mandatory for Chinese subjects, er, citizens.
So-called “heritage Americans” rightly view this sort of thing as an utterly horrific abomination, particularly since it is backed by the government itself, but the Chinese don’t share our mistrust of social conditioning or coercive behavior. Look for Social Credit to be a massive success, both for the compliant citizens who score highly under the system and for high-ranking members of the Chinese government who will benefit from its chilling effect on potential critics or activists.
And we could leave the whole subject there, except for one little thing.
We know that “foreign” corporations will be subject to the whims of the Social Credit system, which means that even if Westerners are not individually ranked in Social Credit they will be evaluated as part of the credit rating given to their employer. It’s a nifty way to ensure that foreign critics of the Chinese government don’t have a chance to participate in the Chinese market.
It seems unlikely to think that it will stop there. In much the same way as Facebook creates “ghost profiles” of people who do not choose to have a Facebook account, there is no reason to think that the Social Credit system will not eventually expand to rate foreigners. Are you interested in visiting China? Better have good social credit. Do you want to work for a Chinese company, even if that company is an American-market pork producer? Then you’ll want to watch what you say. There are quite a few Chinese-owned American companies, from the Chicago Stock Exchange and the Waldorf-Astoria to AMC Theatres.
There is also, of course, the possibility — scratch that, the certainty — that the system will be subject to considerable error. For Americans, it’s likely to result in nothing more than some inconvenience or lost work opportunities. For a Chinese citizen, trapped in the country without the ability to buy a ticket out?
Luckily we have no such social credit system in the United States. Except we do, of course. It was just built using venture capital. We all understand now that nothing on Facebook is private, but in a world where employers are demanding access to the Facebook accounts of their employees there’s never been a better time to walk away from your veal pen in Zuckerberg’s Information Farm. Failing that, you should just create a short and sweet profile with no personal information and no political affiliations that might cost you opportunities in the future. You can be fired nowadays simply for holding conservative views — and if the rulings so far on James Damore’s lawsuit against Google are any indication, it’s perfectly legal for an employer to do so.
As for your humble author, maybe now’s the time for me to hurry up and take out a loan on a lightly-used Viper ACR. My financial credit score is way better than my social credit score is going to be.