China’s “social credit” system rewards “good” citizens while punishing “bad” ones: Is this America’s future?

Author George Orwell’s fictional work “1984” has turned out to be more prophetic than anyone could have imagined in the late 1940s when it was published.

In his book, Orwell wrote about an all-powerful Big Brother ‘surveillance state’ that tracked everyone in real time. Even at home, the government was always watching and manipulating.

The technology that Orwell imagined in 1984 exists today and it is being utilized by an authoritarian government — China — in ways that some believe will eventually be adopted by the world’s “democracies” including the United States under a future, Left-wing despotic leader.

A recently released video describes what China calls a “social credit” system, whereby government officials rank citizens as “good” and “trustworthy,” or “bad” and thus subject to punishment based on their living habits.

Virtually every activity is recorded and analyzed to come up with a ‘score’ that Communist Party officials then use to gauge a citizen’s worth, overall, to society.

“Like the credit score that most Americans get for how they handle their finances, Chinese citizens are now getting social credit scores,” a CBS This Morning correspondent reported, noting that the system will be utilized by Chinese authorities to “deny services” to people “based on behavior.”

The government began testing its system about five years ago in some 30 Chinese cities. Everyone is tracked — visually and electronically — as are all activities. The government plans to roll out the program across the entire country by 2020.

Surveillance cameras that proliferate throughout Chinese cities identify each person, whose information is then stored in a massive database. Included, of course, are purchases — most of which are now done electronically — and habits. Whether a person is smoking on a train, jaywalking, all activity is recorded and logged.

And it all goes into a person’s social credit score. If that score falls too low, people could be denied travel or certain purchases like buying or renting an apartment. (Related: Surveillance on steroids: New device covertly scans you from a distance with a wifi blast to determine your emotional state, without your consent.)

In the video, a Chinese journalist is featured as someone who is on the list of untrustworthy people, a list which appears to be made public by the government. He was forced to apologize for a series of tweets he wrote (that were probably critical of some government policy). When he did apologize, he was told that it was “insincere,” so he remained on the list.

He said he was forbidden to travel and buy property. And he can’t send his child to a private school.

“You feel you’re being controlled by the list, all the time,” he told his interviewer.

Government-imposed behavior modification

As you might imagine, when a government begins keeping a social “score” of its citizens, the authorities have already determined what makes a good citizen and what makes a bad one. What’s more, as the system is implemented in more and more Chinese cities, there are more citizens who are put on the list.

At the time the video was made, Chinese authorities had already placed 15 million citizens on the ‘bad’ list who have been prevented from traveling.

The technology for this kind of system obviously exists, and what’s more, it’s only going to get better. Algorithms will be tweaked to catch citizens who are trying to hide a bad habit, for example, so that the government can keep even closer watch on citizens’ habits.

Most advanced countries have this kind of technology — including the United States. Already American cities are littered with surveillance cameras, and Americans’ purchases, Internet browsing habits, and other behaviors are being tracked, both by government and private sector entities.

The only thing stopping the U.S. government from implementing a ‘social score’ is that the policy has not yet been implemented — and for now the U.S. Constitution remains in effect.

But there are fears that someday such a system will be implemented, one way or another, and all under the guise of changing ‘bad’ habits and determining who gets public benefits and how much.


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J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for and, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.

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