Chinese Digital Dictatorship

What can be better than good old longreads? Here’s my July’s one. Enjoy!

The whole world has always considered China as a giant copy-machine, but now it’s time for it to present its own major invention: social scoring based on big data and technology. China has invented digital dictatorship.


You could’ve read about it in Orwell’s 1984 and now it’s about to become real life. Big Brother who sees everything and knows about you more than you know about yourself. He judges your every step: even minor sins lower your score, but good deeds work in favor of your rate. It works like government-controlled karma. Or credit scores, you choose.

China has been working on this project for 15 years, and now they are about to present this system to the world.

By 2020 every Chinese citizen will be controlled by the system. Citizens with high rates will be able to use different social and economic preferences, and those with low rates will get tons of sanctions and restrictions. The main aim is to “give the trustworthy all the benefits, and those who lost the trust will be unable to move” (让守信者处处受益让失信者寸步难行).

Trial version of the system is already implemented in nearly 30 cities. First every person receives 1000 points then your rate either goes up or down, depending on your behavior. All the info on a citizen from municipal, commercial, judicial, and other organizations goes to the unified data center and it’s proceeded there via big data algorithms. Data center in the city of Rongcheng where the program is already being used analyses 160.000 parameters from 142 organisations. Try to imagine that!

Anything from defaulting on a loan to criticizing the ruling party, from running a red light to failing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points. Failed to clean after your dog? Lose 5 points. Helped your elderly neighbor to get to the hospital? Get 5 points. Also secret denunciations give you points. Seen someone doing something bad? Report about it and you are a valuable member of this happy society.

There are several categories of people there:

  • AAA – 1050 points
  • AA – 1000
  • A – 950
  • B – 900
  • C – 850
  • D – 600

The higher your rate is, the more benefits you get: cheaper loans, better schools for your children, better medicine, etc. But when you’re from D category, you won’t even get a job as a taxi driver.

As I mentioned above, not only state organisations will provide info, but commercial too. 8 companies are listed and 2 of them are Alibaba and Tencent. Alibaba is the biggest online-shopping platform and Tencent owns WeChat, local WhatsApp. Both companies are IT giants: 90% of online payments in China are made via Alipay and WeChatPay. These companies are able to provide any most valuable info on almost everyone: on what, when and where people spend their money. That also know what you are doing at any taken moment, who you chat with and where you are located. Alibaba also owns Weibo, Chinese Twitter, so they might know more than anyone.

All the criteria for scoring remains unknown, but it matters whether you registered your account using your real name, what you ‘tweet’ about, who are your online friends and your rate depends on their rate. Your rate also depends on your consumer behavior: buying computer games will lower it, and when you buy Pampers, you must be a responsible parent, you your score will go up.

It all looks like ‘Black Mirror’ episode “Nosedive”


Many jurisdictional issues remain unsolved, but as for me, the moral ones are even more important. Who has a right to judge? Based on what? What if the error in the processing system occurs? Who will be responsible for the mistakes?

Anyway, we’ll see how it will work out, but, as we learned from ‘1984’, “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”


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