Defaulting on a loan, running a red light, having a second child, or receiving a serious warning from the Communist Party—just some of the behaviors that might give Suining County citizens a bad credit score, according to the first list of 812 names disclosed March 15 on a government Web site.
Suining County, Jiangsu has spent 800,000 yuan ($1,172,000) on a system that collects information on its citizen’s behavior and then gives them credit scores. The positive or negative score is intended to reflect the trustworthiness and moral character of the individual.
Depending on the level of severity—each behavior carrying an inherent point value—citizens with bad scores will be “dealt with severely and subject to monitoring,” reports a Southern Metropolis article. Whereas those with good scores will reap employment and educational benefits, along with Communist Party membership opportunities.
Zhu Pinwu, director of the newly established Credit Collection System of the Masses Office in Suining County, said in a blog entry that only when an individual’s score reaches a certain level will there be any repercussions. An article at sina.com quotes Suining County Committee Chairman Wang Tianqi as saying “keeping one’s word here will bring you benefits everywhere; breaking a promise there will bring you restrictions everywhere.”
“Bringing investment money and being a commoner’s hero” or “serving the common interest and being a people’s hero,” rank among the highest point-earning behaviors, according to the March 15 list. “Being a societal mother and helping a child”—a merit attributed to men and women—is the most commonly accredited behavior.
The county has been prudent with the personal information they have disclosed—both online and in a local newspaper—Zhu says. In his blog Zhu writes that the county’s public disclosures have been selective.
… For example, matters concerning prostitution were not disclosed. Over the past two month we have collected 1064 pieces of positive information and 3352 pieces of negative information. All positive information has been disclosed; only 1928 pieces of negative information were made public. This proves that we have been very careful.
Celebrated writer and Xiamen University Professor Yi Zhongtian advocates the move amidst what he calls the frequent occurrence of “moral dust storms.” In an opinion column at Southern Metropolis Yi writes that although the system has been poorly received by public opinion, it is an answer to the growing call for social regulation by the government. Yi writes that such an experiment is suitable for a county-level government because it involves relatively few people and can be established quickly.
The majority of online public opinion has been critical of the system.
Blogger Xiemo says credit appraisal might work for finance but not for the social standing of individual people.
信用评价在金融业使用比较广泛，银行为了规避风险，建立了个人信用信息记录 … 但应该说，这种信用是完全建立在商业基础上的。将个人日常行为全部纳入信用征集系统，恐怕最后的结果，是每个人都可能会有“污点”，留下不良的记录，面临着被处罚的危险。
The usage of credit appraisal in the finance industry is extensive. To avoid risk, banks established personal credit records … But we should say that this kind of credit was established completely on a commercial foundation. Taking an individual’s daily behavior and entering it into a credit collection system, I’m afraid the final result will leave everyone with a stained record, facing the danger of punishment.
Zhou Fang, a Xinhua News Agency editor and reporter writes about the system in a blog entry.
The thought and logic behind this system is chaotic, selfishly inventive, and a blurring of right and wrong. It will make the common people pay a great price for every tiny mistake they make. However, at the same time it will let law-breaking officials continue to live comfortably.
A blog entry at Chengshang-Qixia questions Suining County’s economic situation and whether poverty might lead to negative credit appraisal. The author writes that many of the point-deducting behaviors, such as vending in forbidden areas and spitting, are often associated with the poor.
不知睢宁县是否消除了贫困？有没有下岗职工？有没有特困人群？有没有城乡差别 … 作为省级贫困大县的睢宁，落后地区贫困人口应该不在少数。将一位下岗职工为谋生摆地摊偶尔摆到红线之内，一位偏远山村农民偶尔进城随地吐痰，一位因病致贫而一时无法偿还集体或个人的借款 … 这合乎情理吗？对贫苦穷人不是一种事实上的歧视吗？
I don’t know if Suining County has eradicated poverty. Are their any unemployed? Are there any destitute populations? Is there an urban-rural income gap … As a large, poor county, Suining must have many impoverished areas and populations. Take an unemployed worker who [vends goods] in a forbidden area, or a farmer from a mountain village who spits where he likes, or someone impoverished due to illness who currently can’t pay back a loan … Isn’t this really discrimination against the desperately poor?
In a blog entry, Qihuang writes that there is no legal basis for Suining County to carry out such actions.
With the establishment of this masses credit management system in Suining, we find no relevant regulation granting Suining County the legal basis to do this. Nor do we see any collective resolve from the local People’s Committee for Suining County to do this.
Blogger Liu Hongbo writes that based on the county committee secretary’s description, management of the system will be carried out heavy-handedly.
Rather than calling it a credit collection system for the masses, calling it a rope with which to bind the people would be more suitable—a whip to beat the people with. County Committee Secretary Wang Tianqi said the party committee and the government will “manage the masses’ information and spur them to tell the truth.” This already clearly shows the management of the masses’ information will be done with a whip to instigate the people.
Social scientists such as Shan Guangnai and Sun Liping warn about the coming of civil unrest and social decay to a rapidly developing China. Maintenance of a “harmonious society” is echoed between government and party organs and has been given priority at all levels of governance. The question for Suining County is whether such a credit collection system will serve to quell social dilemma, or exasperate it.