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China’s Social Ranking System Is Getting Closer to Becoming a Terrifying Reality

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China’s “social credit” system—the one straight out of a dystopian Black Mirror episode—is getting closer to becoming a reality.

The lifelong social ranking system is set to be adopted in Beijing in 2021, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, with residents to be judged on data based on their social standing by the end of 2020. The program would essentially mark any individuals found to have violated laws or social codes and restrict their access to services like travel or certain programs.


The plan was originally posted to the Beijing municipal government website in July but was surfaced by the state-run Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday. Per the plans outlined by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform and reported by Xinhua, the ranking system could affect everything from an individual’s access to public services, to their ability to start a business or find a job. Per Bloomberg:

The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get “green channel” benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult.

The Beijing project will improve blacklist systems so that those deemed untrustworthy will be “unable to move even a single step,” according to the government’s plan.


An earlier iteration of the proposal, quoted by Rachel Botsman at Wired last year, aimed to “forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious.”

While such programs have been introduced on a much smaller scale (such as access to loans) in China, Beijing’s social credit system would have a much greater impact on an individual’s quality of life. Bloomberg noted that Beijing’s initiative is among the “most ambitious” of similar programs being implemented in other cities in China, and social profiles will reportedly be based on data collected from several government agencies.

Reuters, citing statements on the commission’s website, reported in March that anyone’s so-called “credit score” could be affected by “spreading false information about terrorism and causing trouble on flights, as well as those who used expired tickets or smoked on trains.” Social credit programs currently underway have reportedly blocked more than 11 million people from flying, and 4 million from high-speed train travel.

Between this and its widespread surveillance, China seems like it’s damn near close to becoming an Orwellian nightmare.