IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 78

China in the face of market liberalization [38], second
that it allows for the intensified collection of data and
monitoring of individual persons on a day-to-day basis,
and third that it rewards or punishes both types of
actors for their behavior.
To describe the SCS as a system in development discounts the incredible amount of progress that has been
achieved in the past five years. The innovation of different credit systems at the national, provincial, and city
level, and ultimately the pace at which the concept of
"social credit" has become a widely accepted component of contemporary Chinese society. The SCS is a
multidimensional and multilayered initiative, ensuring
that the lines between public and private, local and
national credit schemes are often blurred.
Cursory analysis conducted by foreign media have
portrayed the SCS as a singular, homogenous system.
However, it is important to recognize that there is no
single "Social Credit System," but rather hundreds of
systems that operate under a similar logic [39]. SCS construction is simultaneously taking place across the
areas of production, logistics, government procurement,
finance, taxation, pricing, traffic and transportation,
e-commerce, education and scientific research, environmental protection and energy saving, social organizations, Internet applications and services, and finally,
Ziran ren) [40]. Together, SCS
"natural persons" (
construction in these areas combine to form what Rogier Creemers calls a "social credit ecosystem" [41]. To
posit that China's SCS is one all-encompassing system
therefore critically fails to recognize the multidimensional nature of the initiative, while at the same time overestimating the current level of integration between the
different systems the Chinese government is employing.
Enhancing database integration between public and private databases used within the SCS has however,
moved up on the list of priorities for Chinese authorities
in 2019. A major current project is the construction
of the meta-database for the corporate SCS, under
the name "National 'Internet + Monitoring' System"
"
+
"
Guojia "hulianwang + jianguan"
(
xitong), which is planned to host all government-monitored data and rating results, data from selected commercial rating agencies and e-commerce platforms, as
well as video surveillance systems [38].
It is in China's ambitious attempt at applying rating
mechanisms to a whole suite of life phenomena that we
see new cultural ideas beginning to shape the evolution
of surveillance practice. The system's disparate components are all constructed around the core concept of
"trust" ( Xin), which is shared between and among the
members of Chinese society. An inherent moral dimension underpins the justification for the SCS that draws
upon traditional Chinese cultural praxis and a carefully

78

constructed propaganda campaign that emphasises key
words and characters to ensure its legitimacy. Allusion
to traditional Chinese thought is made in reference to
the teachings of classical philosophers such as Lao-Tzu
and Confucius, effectively binding the Party's conception of a culture of honesty and integrity to moral norms
already widely enculturated within the general population [42]. Confucian ethics dictates that the self be
appraised in terms of its relationships with others,
necessitating adherence to hierarchical based codes of
etiquette, protocol, and convention [43]. In the context
of the SCS, useful elements are selected, others that are
not are ignored, while the Party's own ideals become
injected into the modern Confucian project. A widespread general consensus exists in China that views the
adoption of traditional values as having a positive psychological and social impact [44]. Considering that the
true Confucian project requires moral cultivation at all
levels of the society [45], for the average person the
mental leap from a loose cultural acceptance of Confucian ideas to a government enforced system based on
honesty and trust may therefore not span as wide a
chasm as many outside observers of China presume.
The current English translation "Social Credit System"
, Shehui xinyong tixi) fails to adequately
(
account for these trends, and arguably does injustice to
how Chinese people themselves have come to understand and participate in this new culture of surveillance.
Xinyong,
Indeed, the word for "credit" in Chinese,
can simultaneously mean both credit and trust. A reconceptualization of the system away from the narrow
focus on "credit," which in the West has robust financial
connotations, and towards a 'Social Trust System', is
therefore greatly needed in order to delineate the cultural and historical nuances driving the evolution of China's comprehensive surveillance regime.

The Black and Red Lists: "Keeping Promises is
Honorable and Breaking Promises is Shameful"
The notion of building a trustworthy society is woven
into the justification for the SCS's joint reward and punishment mechanism, China's now infamous "Blacklists"
/
, Hei mingdan/hong mingand "Red Lists" (
dan). Comprised of stratified tiers at the city, province
and national level, these lists either punish or reward
Chinese citizens. The Red List system celebrates trustworthy citizens by publishing their good deeds online
and rewarding them with gifts [46]. Noteworthy individuals considered to espouse the values of honesty and
integrity are further celebrated at regular ceremonies of
commendation taking place at the city level [47]. Deriving its enforcement authority from the Supreme Court,
the Blacklist system publicly describes the transgressions of the untrustworthy and metes out their

IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

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