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Ian Goodrum @isgoodrum
, 27 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
Some tweets about China's social credit system, how it isn't actually Black Mirror and how you should stop using facile pop cultural references to demonize countries you haven't bothered to understand.
First, some background on why the system exists. In China, a FICO-type system like what the US has wouldn't be very useful, as very few Chinese are debtholders. Most people don't take out loans for major purchases; they save instead.
Also, and probably more importantly, before the system existed there wasn't a unified set of consequences for businesses who failed to pay fines, uphold agreements or generally hold to acceptable standards of conduct. Unless the offense was criminal, few punishments existed.
This context is helpful, but less relevant when it comes to the reporting about the system in the Western press. You've seen the headlines: "Black Mirror is real," "God help us all," etc.
So what are the actual consequences for breaking the rules in this system? You can see for yourself: Here's the first list, related to investment and finance. This set of punishments is clearly aimed at high-income defaulters to limit their market activity. Spooooooky!
Some others include taking management positions in State-owned enterprises, becoming a civil servant and joining the CPC. Defaulting on debt or defrauding customers would probably already come up in a routine background check for these positions anyway, but whatever.
Here's the big one, the punishment that's grabbing all the headlines: Train and plane tickets. But what does the policy actually say?
In other words, if you're on the "bad credit" list, you can't buy first-class plane tickets or luxury train tickets. You also can't engage in "conspicuous consumption" travel or send your kids to expensive private schools. Wow, just like that Netflix show!
The most recent communiques on this policy were recently issued, and offer a bit more detail. First, trains:
To sum up, the first set of violations is for specific rules related to train travel, like the issuing of fraudulent tickets or scalping. This is a universal ban from ticket purchases. The second list is a broader one, which carries the "high-class" punishments we saw earlier.
The broader list includes the things you might expect, like financial deception or fraud, but also includes not paying out social security or employing entities who don't. How terrible that they should be punished with a seat on a C- or D-class bullet train instead of G-class!
(A side note: C-class and D-class bullet trains are a little less fast than G-class. They also cost less, because they don't have two tiers of luxury seating. No one I've seen reporting on this has bothered to point out the distinction.)
But let's say someone breaks the rules in the first category and wants to get off the blacklist. How would they go about doing so? Here is how.
In short if you're a scalper or a smoker, or otherwise subject to criminal punishment, you're barred from train travel for 180 days. In reality, it's doubtful a person caught smoking once will be put on the list. I imagine repeat offenders will be the only ones punished this way.
If you use false documents to buy a ticket, or ride without paying, your punishment is: Paying for your ticket. Downright Orwellian.
Planes are a little different. The punishments are stricter, but so are the offenses. Take a look:
In this list we've got forcible boarding, fighting on a plane, lighting a fire, doing actual terrorism. These are objectively dangerous things.
The list of other offenses from the train travel policy is the same for air travel: financial fraud, social security fraud, non-payment of fines concerning securities. White-collar crimes, in other words.
So, the punishments for plane travel are as follows: For violations of the first, specific list, a one-year ban. Remember, that's the "theft or terrorism" list. For the second, general "white-collar" list, the punishment is the same, barring fulfillment of statutory duties.
Why is the "white-collar" list subject to stricter punishment for air travel than train travel? The answer should be obvious: It's easier to flee the country on planes.
The scope of the offenses in this policy indicates it's intended for wealthy individuals, as an incentive to get them to pay their debts and fines.
Some media outlets have taken a couple local systems and made a weaselly link to national policy. For example, Shanghai has tested out its own version of the system which includes repeat offenses for things like jaywalking. Zhejiang province has done this with garbage sorting.
The above examples haven't actually been implemented on a national level, though, and it's unclear whether they ever will. I have my doubts, as the deadline for the credit system to be implemented nationally is 2020 and the clock is ticking.
If the central government thought these local schemes were worth including, we'd have seen something about it by now, and we haven't. The link between jaywalking and national credit is, to put it kindly, dubious.
At the moment those municipal offenses have a tiny (5 yuan, or roughly 75 cents) fine. That's it. But if you report that and report on the social credit system in the same story, you imply a relationship that isn't really there. It's speculative, and it's irresponsible reporting.
In short: It's not Black Mirror, you dweebs. Watch a new show.
Belated credit to @ChinaMedia1 for translating these NDRC documents. Give the site a read, the author is doing great work.

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