China's Social Credit System: An Evolving Practice of Control

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Citation: Rogier Creemers (2018) China's Social Credit System: An Evolving Practice of Control.
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): China's Social Credit System: An Evolving Practice of Control


Reviews historical and intellectual roots, early development, 2014 plan, and relationship to private systems of China's Social Credit System (SCS).

Claims "fundamental objective of the SCS is instituting cybernetic mechanisms of behavioural control, where individuals and organizations are monitored in order to automatically confront them with the consequences of their actions."

Based on ideas:

  • notion that the State is not merely in charge of legal authority, but should also foster social morality
  • positivist view of social reality based on systems theory, which holds that society can be understood and engineered through a holistic, scientific approach, blurring boundary between state and society, public and private

2011 decision called for construction of a credit system to foster sincerity in society, not only in commercial affairs, but also in matters of social and political morality.


  • government affairs: increase transparency, enhance lawful administration, build trustworthiness for government actors, and display the government as a model of sincere conduct
  • market economy: enhance efficiency, trust and transparency across a range of sectors, ranging from finance to construction, food and e-commerce
  • social services: enhance trust in healthcare providers, strengthen management over particular professions and enhance scrutiny over online conduct
  • legal system: more effectively implement judgments, enhance information sharing about parties in lawsuits and support norms for the legal profession

Discusses early local credit systems, IT considerations such as interoperability, and relation to private systems.

Characterizes SCS as currently an ecology of fragmented initiatives that share basic objectives and policy frameworks.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

Calls for a comparative approach (eg early forms of credit reporting in the US were explicit about goals to discipline citizens) and lists questions to consider when evaluating whether SCS is becoming the Orwellian system it is often portrayed as in west. has many source documents, from a footnote in the paper.