China’s Social Credit System: a governance model in the era of Big Data?11 gennaio 2018 -
Di Ilaria Lezzi
In recent years, People’s Republic of China is progressively engaging Big data and Artificial intelligence to reshape its economic and social governance. Nevertheless, the decision of Chinese government to develop a national reputation system by 2020 sparked conflicting reactions. Based on advanced Big data technologies, the Social Credit System is settle to monitor and rate the economic and social conduct of Chinese companies; even if for to the national leadership this project will strengthen social loyalty and trustworthiness in market exchanges, large opinion looks at the plan as a State surveillance tool and mass disciplinary machine.
According to the Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System (2014-2020) issued by the Chinese State Council, the pivot of the reform is to foster “honesty in government affairs”, “commercial integrity”, “judicial credibility” and “societal integrity”. The Social Credit System is thus presented as an important channel to improve the socialist market economy, by automatically generating standards and creating business opportunities in China. It is rather clear that foreign businesses operating on the Chinese market would be treated at the same way as the local companies as well; this means that sensitive firms data will be in the hands of a foreign State and, obviously, that enterprises must adapt their behavior to the Chinese standards in order to not be discriminated from that market area. Freedom of action would be substantially downsized, since foreign companies would be forced to comply with Chinese guidelines before any action they intend to undertake; but on the other side, shared data would serve enterprises in term of respective loyalty and available information of the market needs and inclinations.
Even if the reform is a “top-level design”, the role of the central authorities would be reduced to gather, monitor and publish the information of everyone. The real players of this plan are State-licensed commercial data bodies as Alibaba, Baidu or Tencent; these corporations run all the social networks in China, therefore they have access to a vast amount of information about people’s social activities and interactions. The data will be then converted in a score between 350 and 950, in according to the government standards and published on the National Credit Information Sharing Platform. The rewards of having a high score includes easier access to loans, visas, public procurements or discounts in purchasing some goods and services; conversely, a low rate would imply negative effects as bans from commercial partnerships and job offers, or restrictions to participate in publicly-funded projects.
The rating system is “social”: its trait is not strictly economic, but even the social, political and environment attitude contribute to set the final score; in other terms, a company will get a lower rate not only if it does not pay its loans back in time, but even if it does not observe emissions targets, intellectual property standards or work safety rules.
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