Why China’s ‘Orwellian’ Social Credit Scheme Enjoys Domestic Support

Why China’s ‘Orwellian’ Social Credit Scheme Enjoys Domestic Support
The logo of the Zhima Credit service of Alibaba’s Ant Financial on a smartphone in Jinan, China, May 28, 2018 (Photo by Da Qing for Imaginechina via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.

In 2014, China announced plans to establish a comprehensive nationwide “social credit” system by 2020, with the aim of using troves of data to assess the trustworthiness of individuals, businesses and other entities based on their compliance with laws and other regulations. The idea has been called “Orwellian” by United States Vice President Mike Pence, and media outlets have likened it to an episode of Black Mirror, the popular dystopian television series.

Aspects of the social credit system certainly raise valid concerns about privacy and the potential for misuse of personal information. But as Jamie Horsley wrote in Foreign Policy last November, “Chinese authorities are not assigning a single score that will determine every aspect of every citizen’s life—at least not yet.” In reality, the plan has pragmatic objectives that many Chinese people support.

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