China’s ‘Social Credit Score’ Blacklists People for Bad Behavior (Who Decides?)

The system is based on character and concocted from big data and artificial intelligence algorithms.

By Josh Owens,

China’s ‘Brave New World’ move towards a mandatory ‘social credit’ system for all citizens by 2020 has already blocked people from 11 million flights and 4.25 million high-speed train trips, according to Chinese state-run media.

While it sounds like an economic bust for transportation, state-run media are tossing the figures around as proof of the program’s success, with the Global Times citing a senior official suggesting that the form of punishment meted out by those with poor social credit would incentivize them to become better citizens.

The figures were said to be as of “the end of April,” though no starting point was mentioned.

Speaking at a credit development forum in Beijing on Saturday, Hou Yunchun, former deputy director of the State Council’s development research center—the center responsible for creating “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System”—said the system was needed so that “discredited people become bankrupt.”

“If we don’t increase the cost of being discredited, we are encouraging discredited people to keep at it,” the Global Times cited Hou as saying.

The authorities have also used the social credit system to publish the names of 33,000 companies who have violated certain laws and regulations.

But the question is, what determines poor social standing?

China’s social credit system—which Western media have likened to the Netflix series Black Mirror—will “forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility.”

The system is similar to a financial credit score, but based on character and concocted from big data and artificial intelligence algorithms. Upstanding citizens have high scores, while others (public nuisances, dissidents, etc) will be ostracized, marginalized—or kicked off trains and planes, for instance.

In the case of transportation, China is using the social credit system to punish citizens for bad behavior in various categories—from bad behavior on planes and trains, trying to get a free ride by using an expired ticket, contempt of court, or even getting caught smoking where they shouldn’t.

In effect, China’s social credit system is a series of mini-blacklists because the punishment is intended to fit the crime. Bad behavior on planes and trains means you’re not getting on one.

The system could also prevent people from getting loans or jobs. It could even limit their access to the internet, reports say. It could determine where children end up going to school.

“Regarding people who have serious trust-breaking behavior, privately operated schools must limit their children’s ability to attend high-tuition private schools, to practically carry out the responsibility of disciplining people with bad credit,” the authorities wrote.

And debtors can be banned from travel, four-and-five-star hotels, or making any luxury purchases.

In the meantime, social credit crimes are made very public—a tactic the Chinese have been using since 2013. By the end of last year, the public list of debtor had reached 8.8 million names, and some provinces even go as far as to advertise caricatures of named debtors on buses, public noticeboards and at movie theaters.

By 2020, all of China’s 1.4 billion citizens will receive a personal social credit score, determined by state-run facial recognition, artificial intelligence, smart glasses and other technologies. Most recently, reports have emerged that Chinese companies have begun monitoring their employees’ brain waves in an emotional intelligence sweep designed to tell factory bosses whether their hired hands are operating at full capacity. By Josh Owens,

China hangs on to its US Treasuries, but Japan systematically dumps them. Read… But Who the Heck Bought the $1.2 trillion in New US Debt Over the Past 12 Months?

Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely. Click on the beer and iced-tea mug to find out how:

Would you like to be notified via email when WOLF STREET publishes a new article? Sign up here.

  61 comments for “China’s ‘Social Credit Score’ Blacklists People for Bad Behavior (Who Decides?)

  1. 91B20 1stCav(AUS) says:

    Brave New World, indeed…

    • Ambrose Bierce says:

      Hey its my vision of the future as well. Money allows unworthy people from gaining wealth through illegal means such as lottery tickets or using bankruptcy to accumulate power and wealth (45). Its a utopian vision but it is also Facebook (CIA) on steroids. Fahrenheit 451 where money instead of books is the banned object.

  2. Auld Kodjer says:

    If Xi Zingping was a Californian start-up, he would be a lauded unicorn for “digital disruption”, “harnessing the bang”, and “industry transformation”.

    But he’s not, is he.

    He is a very modern dictator with very traditional objectives: the concentration of power (President for life), domestic domination of the people (control via technology), and global domination (a thousand small steps in one giant military expansion).

    • Kiers says:

      “Global Best Practices”……I shudder to think what 1% America has learnt from China (during the courtship of American Corporate Brahmins, with the Brahmins of CCP communist party, and American Political Brahmins with Israeli Mossad on Perception Management and minority handling, and with UK Businessmen in Finance, and Saudi Arabia on weapons contracts and kickbacks and ………) you get the picture!

  3. Mike Earussi says:

    The next step is control chips implanted in the brain at birth (if you think I’m kidding, just watch).

    • sierra7 says:

      Read: “The Departure” (book 1); “Zero Point” (book 2); “Jupiter War” (book 3) all by Neal Asher.
      Puts the “chip” implanting business on another level.

    • Mikey says:

      “Safety chips” It is for your own good you know.

  4. MCH says:

    I like it, this way, we will know who the upstanding citizens are. For example, there can be no doubt that comrade Xi’s Immediate family would be beyond reproach and have only the highest social credit. The same would be true for all the members of the central committee as they guide China to its prosperous future. As for those who are morally bankrupt, just ship them to the US. Minus their cash of course.

  5. William Smith says:

    Coming to a supermarket near you :
    In this case (in the West) it is the private companies who have a “social credit score” on you and will decide if you are allowed to use their services. Many muppets are also stupidly handing their DNA data to private companies who then onsell that data to other private companies (insurance etc).
    In the East it is being done by authoritarian governments, in the West it is being done by colluding corporates and “bought” governments. Just hyperventilate about “terror”, “think of the children”, “pedophiles” or any number of emotive catch phrases and idiots will gladly surrender their freedom to “authority”. When the price of safety is your freedom, the price is too high! So before pooh-poohing china, we need to look in our own back yard.

  6. John says:

    Orwell world, this is the globalists dream.

  7. raxadian says:

    Yeah the Dictatorship is coming back full force in China. At least is not as bad as Venezuela… or it is?

  8. Darian says:

    Sounds like being an anti-war activist and active Green Party in America and then trying to get a job or go through airport security.

    Or for that matter, just walking around in America as Amazon is giving real-time facial recognition software to the police for free. Alarm, alarm, alarm, anti-war activist on 4th street. Calling all cars.

  9. R2D2 says:

    “monitoring their employees’ brain waves”

    This is scary as hell; pretty soon there will be computers to read what a person thinks; and after that slavery for life will be a natural thing. As much as I love technology, that would be a huge red line for me.

    And if that happens in my life time, then I’ll be a “hacker for life”.

    • Ed says:

      I don’t think it is necessary for anyone to monitor most people’s brainwaves. Arguably, together, Facebook and Google already do that.

      Seriously. If Google ever decides to “do evil'”, they have mountains of data. Nylons know when the data gets deleted? My guess is “never”.

      • Ed says:


      • Robert_D says:

        Well said !

        What then if a person (e.g., “me”) refuses to have any social media presence ? Are such as I banned, or blacklisted summarily ? Do we slip through the cracks ? Are we forced to join ?

        Scary for me, what with ZERO recognizable online presence (Except through free email — I recognize that. Soon to change.)
        and no cell phone either.

        I cherish my freedom. But that may well be an illusion which would suit our uber-meisters well.

        • sierra7 says:

          Move to the mountains. No need to be a “survivor” activist. Just find a nice small place in the any of the beautiful mountain spots across the US, and “opt out”. I’ve done it mostly and have lived this way for almost 20 years. Yes, you have to give up some “conveniences”. But, by good planning and work arounds, you can do it. Also with a small retirement and a bit of savings.

        • R2D2 says:

          They already force many of us to have LinkedIn account; force in terms of the fact that they check your LinkedIn account when they want to offer you a job.

      • R2D2 says:

        Ed: Are you kidding me? Google passed the line of “do evil” long time ago. Facebook passed that line the day it was born :).

      • d says:

        My guess is “never”.

        Just like negative Govt data on anybody. Whether its truthful and correct, or not.

        Maybe you cant acess it but they still will be able to 100 years after you are dead and gone.

  10. Otto Maddox says:

    Coming to a country near you….soon!

  11. Mean Chicken says:

    Wonder if their brain scan can diagnose my brain cloud?

  12. d says:

    china also has sperm banks associated with this system.

    Only those with the appropriate political positions (pro Xi and CCP) are permitted to donate.

    With this system, a keyboard entry, all those of a certain group/persuasion, can be negative a thousand or million credits.

    Think what the NASDP could have done with such a system.

    The CCP wish to control every aspect of everything. This system will be, or become, part of that.

    This system is the devils number, with filters.

    Yet the west happily trades with this oppressive country.

    Even worse.

    Israel does business with it.

  13. lenz says:

    So if you are a self proclaimed cultural marxist, do you start with a higher credit base??


    Have you had a chance to read this blog?
    Extremely interesting research, would really care to hear your take on it.

    • Javert Chip says:

      I really see no difference between China’s “social credit” scheme and the USA’s current wave of social justice warrior fascist crap.

      Beating up college speakers (and a female professor at Middlebury College), proposing to jail scientists who don’t accept CAGW, social apps (Facebook, et al.) eliminating conservative speech all sounds pretty nasty.

      • Mel says:

        Plus using the Chinese system here would keep people from squandering their food stamps on things that are too good for them. It’s a win-win for everybody.

        • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

          Food Stamps began in the 1930s, and back then, most mothers knew how to soak beans overnight and make their own bread etc.

          But since then there’s been invented things like Hamburger Helper and Kraft mac and cheese (shudder).

          So I say, let people buy what they want because in some circumstances (working 2 jobs supporting 3 kids) those 3 for $5 sandwiches from Arby’s are the most cost and time effective way to fuel up between shifts, but in some cases, people just donn’t know any better.

        • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

          Oh, I meant to say, “Let people buy what they want, but provide education on how to cook and eat healthily. Make a series of comic books about it or something.

  14. raxadian says:

    1984 China edition!

    Just replace TVs for “Electronic device connected to the Internet” and is basically the same.

  15. Jon says:

    Black mirror predicted this. If you haven’t seen that TV show, watch it ASAP.

    • d says:

      Orwell wrote this. As an extension of what he saw in Russian, and pre 1945 Germany.

      In Animal farm and 1984.

      You need to read both and understand what Animal farm really is. Then you see animal farm compliments 1984 as a prequel.

      Orwell simply didnt see and realistically could not, so much of the technology we have today, and how it is being applied to what he saw then.

      The difference between chinas reeducation centers for muslim’s, The treatment muslims are receiving in chinese society, and what the NASDP did to Jews, is very slight.

      china as yet, has not attached some form of Blatant Elimination Centers (that we are aware of) to its muslim Reeducation Centers. Which most Muslim’s are not graduating from. Hence they become life long slave labour camps, much as part of the Auschwitz complex was.

      It would not surprise me to see some of the slightly less blatant Maoist elimination methods applied by china, (Malnutrition, Disease.) in the muslim western regions Reeducation Centers.

      • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

        There’s at least one good documentary on YouTube about how the Chinese treat the Uighurs.

        Keep in mind the “Chinese” we think of, who own and operate China, are one ethnicity, Han. If you’re not Han you’re just not cool in China.

        • d says:

          “Keep in mind the “Chinese” we think of, who own and operate China, are one ethnicity, Han. If you’re not Han you’re just not cool in China”

          Keep in mind the “Chinese” YOU think of, who YOU think own and operate China, are one ethnicity, Han. If you’re not Han you’re just not cool in China YOU think.

          I have chinese friends from most ethnic groups.

          They all have an issue with the same group I do. The CCP, which is not predominantly Han. Which is why the CCP push Mandarin as the language of power, when the language of the Han is the much older Cantonese. That Mandarin is derived from.

          Muslims in society are still allowed to worship as they are a Big Troublesome group. However recently they have been forbidden to wear beards in public (sound Familiar) as it interferes with the facial recognition technology.

          The Muslim areas of china, are the most heavily electronically surveyed, in all of china.

          I think you need to do some research the han are the group that has the 1 child policy applied to them most aggressively.

        • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

          Here you go:

          91% Han.

    • Robert_D says:

      Thanks. I am a Luther fan, a somewhat dystopian detective show, but I never heard of Black Mirror. The episode list is intriguing !

  16. james wordsworth says:

    Xi is not stupid. He knows the thing most Chinese fear most is “chaos” or in Chinese, “luan” (see Chinese history). The population is more than willing to put up with autocracy to avoid “luan”.

    This is similar to America where fear is spread constantly (immigrants, drugs, heck even watch the constant fear in weather reports) in order to get the masses to conform.

    China has three big problems (that Xi is well aware of, and so justify his actions):
    1. Huge debt and a shaky financial system
    2. Hordes of young men unable to find wives
    3. A declining workforce and aging population.

    These are all potential sources of “luan”. Faced with this it is no wonder the leadership is trying its best to harness the population any way it can. Not saying it is good or right, just explainable.

    When Facebook knows you are pregnant even before you do, is it really that different? (watch any of the videos of Zeynep Tufekci for a primer).

    • Ambrose Bierce says:

      4) 200 million Muslims of which the standard 10% are Sunni. The are allowed to worship, which is not a given for Christian or Buddhists. While China seems to be heading toward zero diversity like Japan, their demographics are much different. The US is heading toward a rollback of Lincolns Union, and conservatives are actually the leading voice in that movement, though if Washington keeps putting these same people in the WH, then CA will lead the way out. 5th largest economy on the planet taking orders from Trump?

  17. Lee says:

    Oh boy – everybody reading Wolf Street just got banned from taking a plane or train in China for the next 20 years………………..

    People who post comments get the sin bin for 50………

    • d says:


      People in both those groups can enter china.

      It will however be one of the last acts of free will they ever make.

      In a country, where promoting a native language, can get you locked up, for the rest of your life.

    • Auld Kodjer says:

      Lee? Lee Sherman of 42 Wallaby Way Sydney? Is that you?

  18. RangerOne says:

    Its this kind of crap that makes me feel almost a bit hopefully that we do make AI smart enough to wipe us out and move beyond petty human idiocy….

  19. Bobber says:

    Do you get dinged for being overweight? Do you get dinged for eye contact.

  20. Bobby Dale says:

    Can anyone foresee a time when Homeland Security/TSA requires Precheck or RealID in order to travel on public transportation, including local buses and trains?
    And do these systems seem discriminatory against the poor and undocumented ?

    • Mean Chicken says:

      It’s not misuse or abuse of security (armed or otherwise) if that’s what you’re thinking, just keeping honest folk, honest.

    • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

      I heard something like 2020, when Californians will need a passport to go to other states unless we enact RealID…

      I bet Wolf knows!

      • Wolf Richter says:

        You only need it to get on a plane for a domestic flight – for international flights, you’ll need a passport, and as of now, a flight from California to Texas is still by many people considered a domestic flight, though both states were once independent Republics :-]

        From California DMV:

        “Beginning October 1, 2020, the federal government will require your driver license or identification (ID) card to be REAL ID compliant if you wish to use it as identification to board a domestic flight or enter military bases and most federal facilities

        “The California DMV began offering a federal compliant REAL ID driver license or ID card as an option to customers on January 22, 2018.

        “If you have a valid U.S. passport, passport card, military ID, or another form of Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) approved identification, these documents will still be accepted to board a domestic flight. Federally compliant identification will also be required to access military bases and most federal facilities.”

        • Lee says:

          So the USA now has laws similar to those in many communist countries that required ‘papers’ or permits in order for them to able to undertake internal travel within their own country.

          The USA even has its own type of “Internal Passport” – the passport card which:

          “… allow cardholders to travel by domestic air flights within the United States”

          Unbelievable how far freedom has fallen and rights have been lost in the USA over the past 30 years.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          You’re being silly and you know it. For decades, we’ve needed an official ID to get on a plane. Same in Australia. Same in Japan. Same in any developed country. You cannot just walk on a plane like you walk on a subway. The only thing that has changed is that there is now a federal minimum security standard for that ID for domestic flights so it cannot be so easily forged or misused.

        • d says:

          Unless he is showing his age, I remember when all you needed was a ticket.

          At least in our little backwater of world.

          As this conflict ridden, so repressive world, progresses, the advantages to living in a backwater, seem to be growing.

        • Lee says:


          Didn’t need to show id when getting on domestic planes in Japan last year.

          Didn’t need to show an id to get on a plane in Australia the last time I flew domestic either. In fact there is no law on the books that require you to show id if you are in an airport here. Yet.

          To get on a plane to fly international – yes. Domestic – no.

          Only happened in the good ole US of A when I was there last time.

          Didn’t have to take off my shoes or belt to go through security in Australia or Japan – just the good ole US of A.

          99% of the crap people go through for ‘security’ is plain ole bs. Security is lacking at airports for workers and work area access.

          99% of the people employed by the TSA at airports wouldn’t know a forged document either.

          Id’s don’t deter terrorists one bit.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          You walked through the entire airport from the front door to the plane, and through security screening, without ever showing an ID? Are you sure?

        • Lee says:

          Yep – for domestic flights in Japan and Australia.

          No checks on the buses into and out of Narita either.

          None at Chitose.

          Automatic check in and no id’s.

          All that was needed was the boarding pass.

          No belts off and no shoes off either.

  21. BirdBrain says:

    I’m surprised this comment is here but my reply was removed? What’s good for the goose is surely good for the gander, WoIf. I find this grossly hypocritical (among other things I won’t mention here).

  22. Robert says:

    Cheap tube socks- that’s pretty good. What you never see mentioned in the MSM re facial recognition technology is the opportunity for the criminal geniuses out there out there making money selling your social security numbers to form burglary rings based on knowing you are not at home.

  23. Gershon says:

    Soon the globalists will have their own system of “social credit” in place to demonize anyone who resists being herded on to their incorporated neoliberal plantation or disputes The Narrative being propagated by the captured media and the indoctrination mills formerly known as our education system.

  24. sierra7 says:

    “Resistance is futile”; You will be assimilated.
    And, see my previous post about the Neal Asher Trilogy.

  25. mvojy says:

    And how do you file a complaint with customer service if you are erroneously added to the bad citizens list? It’s not like disputing charges on your credit card or credit report. And once you’re outside of the country and put on the list you have no way back in to earn your way off the bad list? There are so many ways this system can be abused, make mistakes or be used for political means to punish anyone that disagrees with them. This is taking big brother to an astronomical level.

  26. wizenedvariations says:

    IMO, this is the automation of a multi-century long tradition of social control, which prior to the vast urbanization in China since ~1985, was done at the village level. The Communist variant involved cadres, the Manchu dynasty ‘village elders’, etc., with public shame and the handing out of privileges the primary means of social control. Variations date back to the Zhou Dynasty.

    This, ‘new’ means of social control is China’s answer to hundreds of millions of people pouring into urban conurbations over a short period of time and the destruction of what might be called the rural village system.

    Aspects have merit. Consider US passenger plane travel and the need to nip behavioral problems before they happen. In the US, this will likely be done through a massive data base consisting of known felons, bad credit histories, etc. I suspect that arguments here will center around the argument that citizens do not have the alienable RIGHT to air travel. Bad public behavior has consequences.

  27. ewmayer says:

    I would argue that a ‘softer’ version of this sort of thing is already well underway in the ‘democratic West’, a kind of informal collaboration between mass-domestic-surveilling governments and relentlessly-data-sucking-and-aggregating private corporations, many of whom owe their existence to seed funding from the security state. This goes hand-in-hand with the push toward e-currency and banning of physical cash under the pretext of ‘stopping crime’ – that can be used not only to impose NIRP on the mopes every time the elite-crook sector needs a bailout, but also to track every purchase. And those kinds of purchases require a tech-layer intermediary, which gives the data-suckers the capabiity to exclude targeted individuals from participation in all aspects of economic life except the black-market ones, just as China is aggressively doing. History has shown without fail that any technology which can be misused for oppression will be be misused for oppression, but never before in history has there been a set of technologies which give their wielders such ubiquitous access to all aspects of the lives of the citizenry. “Orwellian” is in fact too mild a term for it – the all-seeing security state of Orwell’s 1984 would require an unrealistically large ratio of security personnel to commoners to realize in practice – it would make the Stasi look like pikers. And even Winston Smith used physical cash. But with automated mass data collection and aggregation and a fully digital economy, the numbers suddenly become much more workable.

Comments are closed.