The Currency of Doing Good: China’s Social Credit System

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What is a social credit system?

The Chinese government has recently proposed an initiative to assign each citizen a specific “social credit” score by the year 2020. This means that every Chinese citizen will earn a rating based on their economic and social status, receiving perks and restrictions accordingly. The government would also have access to data regarding specific behaviours, like any traffic violations and spending habits, making it easier to obtain loans and or secure employment. Your digital footprint could possibly dictate your future. To set the tone, the project’s official slogan is:

[to] allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.

Ring a Bell?

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Sesame Credit App

It’s important to note that while China’s social credit system isn’t currently active, the Chinese government has granted a number of companies permission to experiment with their own social credit systems. Alibaba’s financial division, Sesame Credit, has a pilot program where Alipay users can opt-in, and receive social credit scores to unlock a number of perks. Scores are calculated out of 950, and those with high scores can share them with their friends, promote them on popular dating apps, and even go through airport security faster.

Pros & Cons

While the national social credit system is not ready, there are a number of pros and cons associated with Sesame Credit’s pilot program.


  • Preventative measures to help government identify and monitor fraud and intellectual property theft.

  • Facilitates a rigorous business environment by allowing citizens to increase their scores by increasing consumption on Alipay.


  • Intrusion on personal privacy.

  • Doesn’t leave room for people to make mistakes.

  • Lacks sufficient legal regulations.

  • Gives too much power to the system creators to determine morals and ethics.

  • Ability to screen dates- your blind dates won’t be so blind after all!


Social credit systems, like Sesame Credit, have incentivized “good” behaviour. However, it isn’t without endless ethical problems. For example, why does the creators of the program get to determine the standards of “good” and “bad” behaviour?

-- What valuation system determines the results of the rubric? --

-- If a citizen was scammed and ends up in debt, does he deserve lower credit? --

-- Could this lead to the discrimination of those who have chosen to opt-out of these programs? --

Nonetheless, we will keep tabs on the progress of this new system to make sure our readers are up-to-date.

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