China's Social Credit System - Summer Series
Four views on a highly contested topic
Transparent citizens, police state, totalitarian rule: The catchphrases used to describe the Social Credit System (SCS) are oftentimes lurid. China has announced to introduce a rating system by 2020, which measures and expresses the social behaviour of citizens and companies. Is the system the Orwellian nightmare that Western media often depicts it as, or is the story more complicated? In Asia Society Switzerland’s summer series, we try to shed some light on what the SCS really is, and how it works by interviewing four experts in the field.
«I think that anxieties about technology are at the very heart of so many of the tensions now between China and the western countries»
In our first interview, Kaiser Kuo – co-founder of The Sinica Podcast and former director of International Communication for Baidu, China's leading search engine – explained that from his point of view, the western anxiety about the SCS might be overblown and probably stems from a more comprehensive fear of China's technological rise. He further warns of a wrongly perceived entanglement between different parts of the SCS.
«People say that they actually feel safer because you have these SCS that are punishing those in society, companies and individuals, who do wrong.»
The second episode features Manya Koetse – a China social trend watcher and editor-in-chief of What's on Weibo. Focusing on how the SCS impacts the Chinese population, we learn that the system is received very positively by the general population, with many people only seeing the benefits but not the negative sides.
«In China, morality and governance have always been closely connected. The SCS merely adapts this paternalism for the 21st century market economy.»
Rogier Creemers – researcher in the law and governance of China at Leiden University – in our third interview sheds light on the political rationale behind the SCS. He shows how it evolved from a tool to prepare Chinese companies for the market economy to a regime instrument in order to enhance morality within the Chinese population.
«The government aims to be less visible as a regulator, and instead relies on the [social credit] system to incentivize actors to be self-regulating. In that sense, the SCS is an attempt of creating an ‹invisible hand ›.»
In our final interview of the summer series, Mirjam Meissner – Senior Analyst at Sinolytics and former Head of Program Economy and Technology at MERICS – elucidates how both Chinese as well as foreign companies are affected by the SCS. The Chinese leaderships views the system as a stabilizing factor that spurs economic growth.