How to Make the Perfect Citizen? Lessons from China's Model of Social Credit System

30 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2020 Last revised: 18 May 2020

See all articles by Liav Orgad

Liav Orgad

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law; European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS); WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Wessel Reijers

European University Institute

Date Written: April 1, 2020

Abstract

The COVID19 crisis has triggered a new wave of digitalization of the lives of citizens. To counter the devastating effects of the virus, states and corporations are experimenting with systems that trace citizens as an integral part of public life. In China, a comprehensive sociotechnical system of citizenship governance has already in force with the implementation of the Social Credit System—a technology-driven project that aims to assess, evaluate, and steer the behavior of Chinese citizens.

After presenting social credit systems in China’s public and private sectors (Part I), the article provides normative standards to distinguish the Chinese system from comparable Western systems (Part II). It then shows the manner in which civic virtue is instrumentalized in China, both in content (“what” it is) and in form (“how” to cultivate it) (Part III), and claims that social credit systems represent a new form of citizenship governance, “cybernetic citizenship,” which implements different conceptions of state power, civic virtue, and human rights (Part V). On the whole, the article demonstrates how the Chinese Social Credit System redefines the institution of citizenship and warns against similar patterns that are mushrooming in the West.

The article makes three contributions: empirically, it presents China’s Social Credit Systems and reveals their data sources, criteria used, rating methods, and attached sanctions and rewards. Comparatively, it shows that, paradoxically, China’s Social Credit System is not fundamentally different than credit systems in Western societies, yet indicates four points of divergence: scope, authority, regulation, and regime. Normatively, it claims that China’s Social Credit System creates a form of cybernetic citizenship governance, which redefines the essence of citizenship.

Keywords: Citizenship Governance; China; Social Credit System; Civic Virtue; Cybernetic Citizenship

Suggested Citation

Orgad, Liav and Reijers, Wessel, How to Make the Perfect Citizen? Lessons from China's Model of Social Credit System (April 1, 2020). Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Research Paper No. RSCAS 2020/28, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3586503 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3586503

Liav Orgad (Contact Author)

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 46150
Israel

European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) ( email )

Villa La Fonte, via delle Fontanelle 18
50016 San Domenico di Fiesole
Florence, Florence 50014
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.liavorgad.com

WZB Berlin Social Science Center ( email )

Reichpietschufer 50
Berlin, 10785
Germany

Wessel Reijers

European University Institute ( email )

Villa Schifanoia
133 via Bocaccio
Firenze (Florence), Tuscany 50014
Italy

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
117
Abstract Views
506
rank
261,765
PlumX Metrics