What will a bad citizen do

China Good Citizen, Bad Citizen?

Good Citizen or Bad Citizen: Zhang Jian is waiting for his evaluation. In the town hall of the east Chinese city of Rongcheng, a gigantic glass rotunda. The 42-year-old hands over the forms to the employee at the Office for Social Credit Management.

"I work for a public authority, for the forestry department. I need an assessment for a promotion - and for that I have to get my social credit balance. If it is not good enough, I will not be promoted. But I will not do any Worries. I watch my demeanor and actions. I shouldn't have major deductions. "

Zhang Jian's printed social credit balance. (Axel Dorloff)

Red over the traffic light and the account balance goes down

The Chinese coastal city of Rongcheng started introducing a social credit system for all citizens back in 2014. The idea behind it is simple: the state collects as much data as possible, compiles it and evaluates it. Every citizen gets a points account. And on this basis, the state can then punish or even reward.

Zhang Jian knows what to look for in everyday life. "If I drive over the traffic light when it is red, the account balance goes down. If you misbehave in public, for example in a fight, you are immediately blacklisted. My work in the forestry department also goes into the social credit System. If citizens are not satisfied with our service, they can complain. That will affect my score. "

Hardly anything works without a good rating

The approximately 670,000 residents in Rongcheng must regularly show their social credit points. For applications, that of the bank, for insurance companies. Hardly anything goes without a good rating. An Lin is a clerk in the Social Credit Management Office. Before giving Zhang Jian his balance, she explains the point system to him.

"The score is initially the same for everyone, exactly 1000. This number then increases over time - or gets lower. The highest rating is AAA. Then it goes down to AA and then A and so on. The worst rating is D - that's below 599 points. "

The glass town hall of the east Chinese city of Rongcheng. (Axel Dorloff)

Those with a good rating will be given preferential treatment

Those with a good rating are given preferential treatment: for social benefits or for school admissions. Anyone who appears in the worst class D no longer qualifies for management positions, receives benefits and loses their creditworthiness. This morning remains a good morning for Zhang Jiang. His social credit account: 1015 points, an A + rating. He takes off his glasses and looks relieved.

"Here, look, I have a couple of prints there. Five in total. Once because I went through the traffic light when it was red. But here: my performance at work, for that I got 20 plus points! If I had a B get, there would be nothing with the promotion. Civil servants, like me, need at least an A. "

"Big data is the great promise to observe and control your own population"

The classification of citizens like Zhang Jian works with the help of big data. More than 50 offices, authorities and institutions provide data: criminal records, traffic offenses, credit history and much more. David Bandurski is a media scholar at the University of Hong Kong. One thing is clear to him: the authoritarian state of China is gearing up for the digital age with the social credit system.

"For China, big data means the great promise to observe and control its own population. The idea of ​​the social credit system is about making big data usable. Also, to recognize certain problems or social dissatisfaction in advance and to prepare for them Fighting crime is part of it too - but it's about much, much more. "

For the Chinese government, it is about trying to create the morally impeccable human being. However, what is morally good and morally reprehensible is determined solely by the Communist Party. There are currently dozens of pilot projects in China, and by 2020 the most comprehensive, interlinked system is to be established. No other country is pushing so radically to control and evaluate its citizens socially in the digital age. Good citizen or bad citizen, reward or punishment.