The New American
by Alex Newman
In what may be one of the most Orwellian schemes ever concocted by the dictatorship, all 1.3 billion victims of Communist China’s mass-murdering regime will soon be given a “score” apparently measuring, among other attributes, their level of loyalty to the nation’s brutal overlords. The score will also showcase how “good” each “citizen” is so everyone can be punished or rewarded accordingly.
Under a regime-sanctioned prototype of the system known as “Sesame Credit,” the credit score-style number for each Chinese subject is reportedly to be compiled based on everything from analyses of social-media profiles and book-reading choices to the “Sesame Credit” scores of friends and acquaintances. The more you love your oppression and believe your rulers, the higher your score will be. The higher score, the more benefits you get from the regime. Ultra-slavish subjects with no “thought crimes” on record can apparently even get visas to travel to the West, according to media reports.
Critics say the scheme has the potential to make Communist China’s ideological coercion and its silencing of dissent far easier than it already is — and already, dissidents are routinely tortured, disappeared, and even executed in barbaric fashion. Among other concerns, analysts said the ubiquitous data-gathering used to compute the scores, combined with the added social pressure to conform, could cause even more nervous would-be dissidents to keep quiet in the face of escalating tyranny.
In a bizarre effort to make ruthless totalitarianism seem fun, the communist dictatorship — in partnership with regime-backed Big “Business” — is framing the insidious score as a sort of “game.” Apparently, the most compliant and happy victim of tyranny wins. Chinese subjects with high scores, for example, will reportedly find it easier to obtain permission to travel abroad, get loans, process bureaucratic paperwork, or even receive jobs.
While details about the Orwellian system remain hazy, the handful of news reports that have appeared suggest low scores could result in problems with the regime ranging from restricted Internet to lack of work. Considering the regime’s history of mass murder and persecution, it is hardly a stretch to imagine low scores potentially resulting in an extended stay at one of the dictatorship’s infamously brutal re-education camps for dissidents, many of whom have had their organs harvested by the regime while they were still alive.
The BBC reported on the outlines of the communist plot in October of 2015, comparing it to credit-scoring systems used in the West primarily to determine the creditworthiness of borrowers, just on a far more comprehensive level. What the regime in Beijing is building, however, is “taking the whole concept a few steps further,” the government-backed British broadcaster reported, drastically downplaying the differences.
“The Chinese government is building an omnipotent ‘social credit’ system that is meant to rate each citizen’s trustworthiness,” the BBC said in one of the earliest reports on the scheme. “By 2020, everyone in China will be enrolled in a vast national database that compiles fiscal and government information, including minor traffic violations, and distills it into a single number ranking each citizen.”
It is not yet clear exactly how the “Sesame Credit” score, run by regime-backed online retailing giant Alibaba under a regime-backed “pilot project,” is calculated. The types of purchases consumers make, as well as social-media activity, are said to play a role, but analysts who have studied the system and official documents about it suggest that the truth is even more Orwellian.
Perhaps the most thorough analysis of Beijing’s new system to rank its “citizens” was produced by a group of video game analysts as part of the “Extra Credits” video series. The short, animated film on Sesame Credit explains how the regime’s obedience metrics will work, and why the scheme is so dangerous to liberty. “If you post pictures of Tiananmen Square or share a link about the recent stock market collapse, your Sesame Credit goes down,” the video narrator explains. “Share a link from the state-sponsored news agency about how good the economy is doing and your score goes up.”
Your purchases, which must of course be tracked to implement the scheme, will also play a major role in establishing your score, as Sesame Credit has been admitting for months. “If you’re making purchases the state deems valuable, like work shoes or local agricultural products, your score goes up,” Extra Credits’ video said. “If you import anime (cartoons) from Japan though, down the score goes.” The video also offers a great deal of insight into how the tool could be wildly effective in ratcheting up the tyranny on the long-oppressed Chinese people. Watch it below:
A “planning document” on the Orwellian plot from the communist regime’s powerful State Council cited in news reports also offers additional details. The “social credit” score will “forge a public opinion environment that trust-keeping is glorious,” the official regime paper says, adding that the “new system will reward those who report acts of breach of trust.” In other words, the regime wants more snitches snitching on each other to the regime, and the snitches will be rewarded accordingly.
According to media reports, every Chinese subject and organization will be rated under the system. Certain subjects, or “citizens” as they are misleadingly referred to, in sensitive jobs such as journalism, education, or the tourism industry, will receive extra scrutiny from the system, BBC reported. Apparently the regime wants to make sure that those charged with manipulating people’s hearts and minds to love their oppression are even more “loyal” than the public at large.
A massive national database will collect all of the data needed, ranging from tax information and traffic tickets to education and birth-control orders (the communist regime strictly regulates how many children each subject may have, enforcing its will through forced abortions if necessary). Because Big Dictatorship has partnered with China’s regime-controlled version of Big Business on the scheme, all of the Big Data needed to build the most Orwellian tool of tyranny is already at the regime’s fingertips.
Even Americans need to be concerned, though, said ACLU Senior Policy Analyst Jay Stanley. “China appears to be leveraging all the tools of the information age — electronic purchasing data, social networks, algorithmic sorting — to construct the ultimate tool of social control,” he warned, cautioning that there had not been much information yet reported on the system.
“The United States is a much different place than China, and the chances that our government will explicitly launch this kind of a program any time in the near future is nil,” Stanley argued. “But there are consistent gravitational pulls toward this kind of behavior on the part of many public and private U.S. bureaucracies, and a very real danger that many of the dynamics we see in the Chinese system will emerge here over time. On the government side, for example I have written about how the TSA’s airline passenger ‘whitelist’ system could evolve in this direction.”
While receiving a “score” in Communist China will reportedly remain optional for the next few years, Chinese citizens are already flaunting their scores on dating sites, regime-controlled social networks, and more. However, the scheme is set to become mandatory for all Chinese subjects by 2020. And with the regime in Beijing becoming increasingly influential at the international level, people around the world ought to be very concerned.
Alex Newman, a foreign correspondent for The New American, is currently based in Europe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org