The Social Credit System’s Greatest Leap Goes Unnoticed

by Marianne von Blomberg

While China-journalists were all preoccupied with the Constitutional amendment, a major change occurred in the realm of the social credit system – which potentially might turn the existing order of politics and (constitutional) law upside down.

The system has been widely discussed in the media and the few who observed it carefully saw beyond the “Orwellian dystopia” cited in nearly every article. Those few saw a major obstacle in the system to be fully implemented any time soon: the giant discrepancy between what the state perceives as creditworthiness and what the widely-covered credit rating companies, such as Sesame Credit, regard as creditworthy. This problem seemed to have been swept aside in a single move in January 2018: the Central People’s Bank announced to found a company named Baihang Zhengxin, which may become the one central commercial credit rating service in the PRC, replacing or at least dominating the existing ones by making all of them shareholders. The definitions of creditworthiness used by commercial credit services currently will thus eventually make space for a notion of creditworthiness designed by the central government. The Chinese government changes the rules of the game by joining it.