John Robb describes China’s now-infamous social credit system as the world’s first “networked tyranny.” Allow me to coin the term “networked Confucianism” to describe the same system.
Combine Confucian ethics with modern surveillance technology and social networking, and this is what you get:
China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident.
The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get “green channel” benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult.
The Beijing project will improve blacklist systems so that those deemed untrustworthy will be “unable to move even a single step,” according to the government’s plan. Xinhua reported on the proposal Tuesday, while the report posted on the municipal government’s website is dated July 18.
According to the Party, the overall social credit system will “allow the trustworthy to roam freely under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”
China’s greatest philosopher might have approved:
When Confucius was asked 2,500 years ago what a ruler needed to govern a country, he said 信credit, faith, or sincerity; food 食; and an army 兵. But if he could only have one, it would be the first 信. The Chinese character we translate as “credit” has thus long been a core concept of Chinese governance. […]
At first glance, the official goal of the SCS appears to have little to do with financial credit. It is “construction of sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity, and judicial credibility” (State Council 2014), which is more a call to embrace traditional Confucian moral virtues than a vision for high-tech governance. The plan document cites a laundry list of social ills that stem from the lack of trust and trustworthiness at all levels of a fragmented Chinese society. These include tax evasion, factory accidents, food and drug safety scares, fraud, academic dishonesty, and rampant counterfeiting of goods.