• The Communist Party in China will collect information online to give its citizens a "trustworthiness" score. (iStockphoto/Getty Images)Source: iStockphoto/Getty Images
The ambition is to collect every bit of online information about companies and citizens - good behaviour will be rewarded and bad behaviour will be punished.
Alyssa Braithwaite

24 Oct 2016 - 3:21 PM  UPDATED 24 Oct 2016 - 3:22 PM

China is planning to score its citizens based on their behaviour and interactions to measure how "trustworthy" they are, and their rating could affect all parts of their lives.

Under the Communist Party's proposed social credit system, anything from criticising the ruling party, to failing to pay back a loan, being slapped with basic traffic infringements or not caring for your parents properly, could see you docked of points, the Washington Post reports.

A low overall score could see you barred from borrowing money, traveling abroad, getting your children into the top schools or even getting a date.

The aim is to build a culture of "sincerity" and a "harmonious socialist society"...

A high-level policy document released in September listed the sanctions that could be imposed on any person or company deemed to be less than trustworthy, with the over-riding principle that "if trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere". 

China plans to roll out this social credit system by 2020 by collecting every bit of information available online about its citizens and companies - including court, police, banking, tax and employment records - and assign them a score based on their political, commercial, social and legal credit.

The aim is to build a culture of "sincerity" and a "harmonious socialist society", though critics are calling it a 21st-century police state.

It is not at all surprising says Dr Chongyi Feng, associate professor in China Studies from the University of Technology, Sydney.

"[China] is always a police state, it's never been anything else," Dr Feng tells SBS.

"Some people put the number we have at at least 2 million cyber police in China operating - they spy on all the netizens and delete whatever is deemed to be harmful to the party state. They have been operating all the time.

"Now it's expanded to the economic area, to the commercial area. For those commentators who focus on political activities, now it will mean you won't be able to borrow money or do business."

The reaction on social media has been one of horror, with people comparing the move to the Big Brother society of George Orwell's 1984 or a recent episode of dystopian television series Black Mirror

Dr Feng says the move will horrify Chinese citizens, but as they are living in a police state there's not much they can do about it.

"It's running against human nature, freedom, and liberty, and that is horrible stuff, but in terms of ordinary citizens or netizens, what else can you do?" he says. 

"If you protest, you'll get put in jail. But people will resent this, even those within the establishment." 

Implementing such a system for a population of 1.3 billion is a huge undertaking, but Dr Feng says China has the resources to make it happen.

"China has accumulated so much wealth they have the resources to do it if they are determined," he says.

"In my analytical framework about the current Chinese regime, I always define it as a post-totalitarian regime. But now they try to revert it back to totalitarian law. Totalitarian means the party state try to their best to control everything, and they use every means available for them ... and they do have the resources to implement this."

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