MIT Tech Review highlights that many in the West do not understand how China’s social credit score actually functions: There is no country-wide government rating and scoring system. Instead select provinces have implemented several overlapping systems to monitor and punish dissidents. This is meant to integrate with a financial score or credit score as we call it in the US, which would create a social credit score, but so far, that hasn’t really happened.
So beware, videos and images from China showing AI, image recognition, and scoring systems are mostly fantasy and some may even be the work of Chinese psyops. Be careful what narratives you buy into. Reality is quite a bit… messier.
I don’t highlight this article to minimize the growth of digital IDs, the surveillance state, and social credit scores. Rather, I would point out that modern nations have struggled to implement any of these systems successfully in even small regions, so the idea that China has successfully rolled this out nationwide is a fiction worth exposing.
Back in 2014 China hoped to implement its social credit system, a combination of financial and societal factors, by 2020. That system still doesn’t exist, in fact China just proposed a draft law framework (in late 2022) for how this system might work in practice.
Also worth highlighting is that right now police are stopping Chinese citizens, one-by-one, to search their phones for pictures and videos of protests. If China had such a sophisticated system of surveillance and censorship in place, they would have a program running in the background of every Chinese phone, using image recognition to identify protest photos and video, then flag the owners of those phones and even shut off their access to social media. China has no capability even close to that. In many areas where protests have broken out, China is just shutting down social media access to everyone or using signal jammers to prevent communications. Chinese leaders have little to no ability to identify and target individual dissidents and instead have to target entire areas with primitive control techniques.