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China’s creepy “social credit” system gets positive spin in a state-run tabloid

China’s creepy “social credit” system gets positive spin in a state-run tabloid
[Photo: Soumya Ranjan/Pexels]

China’s social credit system has reportedly blocked people from taking 11.14 million flights and 4.25 million high-speed train trips—and that’s apparently good news, according to China’s state-run news outlet Global Times, a.k.a. “China’s Fox News.”

While it’s unclear how the would-be travelers lost their social credit, possibilities include misbehaving on a plane, failing to apologize sincerely for tweeting critically about the government, jaywalking, not buying Chinese-made products, and smoking in non-smoking areas—all of which can reportedly cost a Chinese citizen social credit. Lose enough points and punishments can include thwarted travel plans.

The paper frames these disrupted trips as a good thing because it teaches a lesson about the sort of behavior expected from Chinese citizens. “If we don’t increase the cost of being discredited, we are encouraging discredited people to keep at it,” Hou Yunchun, former deputy director of the development research center of the State Council, said, according to Global Times.

According to Hou, China should continue to develop and improve its social credit system so that “discredited people become bankrupt.” Not everyone in China agrees with Hou, of course. Global Times also spoke with Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, who believes that China needs a national law to set standards and gauge a correct punishment. By 2020, China plans to give all its 1.4. billion citizens a personal score based on how they behave.

While the surveillance system is real, the exact tally of thwarted travelers should be taken with a grain of salt, because, as Foreign Policy pointed out, Global Times is “a market-driven tabloid that strives for exactly this sort of attention.”

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