By 2021, all Beijing citizens will receive a social behaviour rating

22 Nov 2018

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Beijing’s government has announced that its controversial social credit system will be ready for 2021, with serious consequences for those it doesn’t approve of.

While often compared to the dystopian episode of Black Mirror where people live in a society ruled by an earnable score, China’s growing social credit system is similar in style, but not the work of science fiction.

Now, according to Bloomberg, a timeline has been put in place that will see citizens of the Chinese capital, Beijing, given a social credit score by 2021, with each individual’s score determining everything about their life.

Under the system, those the government sees as being ideal citizens – who are following laws and not challenging the state – will be put into a ‘green channel’. Meanwhile, those the government deems as troublemakers or not contributing to the nation will find themselves unable to partake in many aspects of society, such as getting a bank loan or purchasing other goods.

The massive project will start at the end of 2020 when data on 22m of Beijing’s citizens from several departments will be scored. It will then be expanded and perfected over the following year.

The country has actually been slowly introduced to the concept over the past few years in an effort to make it an easier transition to the new order. For example, the city of Hangzhou introduced its own social credit system earlier this year whereby those the local government deemed as having “pro-social behaviours” – such as donating blood – were rewarded. By May, however, 11m flights and 4m train trips were denied to citizens based on having a bad social credit score.

Driving much of China’s ability to conduct mass surveillance on a grand scale has been down to the country’s rapid, large-scale adoption of mobile payments through phones. Apps such as WeChat and Alipay are now the go-to way of payment for many in a country where using cash is seen as increasingly unusual.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic