China is testing a new plan to urge its citizens to do more good and be more trustworthy – the Social Credit System. It’s kind of like the American credit score, except it tracks far more than financial transactions. It tracks good — and bad — deeds.
Part of the system is a neighbor watch program that’s being piloted across the country where designated watchers are paid to record people’s behaviors that factor into their social credit score. A high score could bring you lower interest loans and discounted rent and utility bills, but if your score is low, you can be subjected to public shaming or even banned from certain kinds of travel, life gets hard.
China’s economy has exploded over the past decades, economic reforms required banks to be able to evaluate individuals looking to borrow money to buy houses or start new businesses. Fraud and excess borrowing were rampant because most people didn’t really have much of a credit history. To measure its citizens’ trustworthiness, in 2014, The State Council laid out a plan that aims to build a centralized database to evaluate individuals and organizations based on their financial and social behaviors.
The program is scheduled to be nationwide by 2020, which means every Chinese citizen will be tracked, scored, and receive perks and restrictions accordingly.
VICE News went to a village in one of the first pilot cities to see how the local office funnels the behaviors of 3,000 residents in this neighborhood into social credit scores.