Multiple Social Credit Systems in China
Economic Sociology: The European Electronic Newsletter 21 (1): 22–32.
11 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2019 Last revised: 26 Mar 2020
Date Written: 2019
In 2014, the Chinese government proposed to build a social credit system (SCS) to better collect and evaluate citizens’ creditworthiness and grant rewards and punishments based on one’s social credit. Since then, various SCS pilots have been enacted. While current media and scholars often perceive SCS as a single and unified system, this paper argues that there are in fact multiple SCSs in China. I identify four main types of SCS and articulate the relationships among them. Each SCS has different assumptions, operationalizations, and implementations. China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, and the macroeconomic management agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, are the two most important actors in the design and implementation of the multiple SCSs. Yet their distinctive views about what “credit” is and what an SCS should be produced great tensions on the SCS landscape. I also historicize current SCSs and show that many elements and assumptions of SCSs can be traced back to a broader political history of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Finally, I propose an alternative theoretical framework to understand Chinese SCSs as a symbolic system with performative power that is more than a simple repressive and direct political project.
Keywords: Social Credit System, China, Governance, Classification, Quantification, Rating System
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