By 2020, China will have all of its citizens ranked based on their “social credit” score. Through this behavioral scoring system that has been in place since 2014, the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China intends to modify their citizen’s behavior by rewarding and punishing them, accordingly, for being either good social actors or deviants. Essentially, the government is acting as parents to bring their citizenry into conformity with the socialist/communist ideology of the utopian society.
“The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home.”Rerum Novarum, May 15, 1891, Pope Leo XIII.
China’s social credit system combines the commercial credit score that Americans are familiar with, which rewards, punishes, and ranks people according to their debt to income ratio and their responsible use of credit, with a score assigned to how their citizens conform to China’s communist ideology. This system not only rewards and punishes the immediate citizen according to their own conformity, but they are also scored upon how their parents or grandparents have conformed as well.
In 2015, a 16-year-old student from Jiangsu, China, tried to board a train. She couldn’t even purchase a ticket. The student, Zhong Pei, tried enrolling in classes at her university. But she was not allowed to do that either. Zhong had committed a serious crime: She was guilty of being related to someone else. Her father had killed two people and died in a car accident. So the Chinese government blacklisted her as “dishonest.” It took her four months before she was able to overturn the decision and go to her university.https://katusaresearch.com/chinas-social-credit-system-coming-to-united-states/
Before I proceed, allow me to be clear about the application of the moral law in regard to “social” and “commercial credit”. Any system or mechanism that intends to modify or control behavior should be judged according to its ends. In saying that, I’m not offering up utilitarianism, which posits that an action is right or wrong, depending on the consequences it produces (i.e. the ends can justify the means). Rather, I’m simply recognizing that we can’t avoid systems and mechanisms that intend to modify behavior. They are everywhere; natural and unnatural, parental and non-parental, manual and digital.
Therefore, such mechanisms have to be judged according to what they intend to produce. For example, the liturgy of the memorial sacrifice (the Mass) intends to modify behavior by having the participant stand, kneel, pray, confess repeatedly and repetitiously for their entire life, so that who they are during the liturgy will be who they are in the world and Who they have received during the liturgy will be Who they give away in the world. Yet, in the case of commercial credit, while the immediate intent is to help financial institutions minimize risk; the outcome has helped to facilitate a consumer culture where people are dependent upon their credit score for needs and wants. Here the intent isn’t immoral, but the outcome has leaned towards inciting immoral behavior because it often produces greed, covetousness, and idolatry (the dependence on credit score, rather than God). In contrast, the case of China’s social/commercial credit score, the immediate intent is idolatry (the dependence on the state, rather than God). China intends to modify its citizen’s behavior in accordance with not what Christ and His Church teaches, but according to what the state teaches; thereby, replacing God with itself.
The rewards of conforming oneself to the moral law of China (i.e. becoming a trustworthy citizen), rather than to the law of God are very tangible. They include such things as being allowed to rent better cars, rent hotel rooms, and buy a home without a deposit, access to better schools and universities, access to buy homes in better neighborhoods, access to better health care insurance, access to better jobs, ability to travel outside of the country, access to better date prospects on dating apps, faster internet speeds, being able to own a pet, access to public transportation, and the ability to get a loan.
The opposite of all of these things holds true for those who are deemed not to be trustworthy citizens by doing thing such as loitering, smoking in non-smoking areas, spreading fake news, attending Mass at a non-State Catholic Church, jay-walking, walking a dog without a leach, having a parent with a bad social credit score, hanging out with people with low social credit scores, and committing crimes like theft and murder (obviously will send your score spiraling). There is nothing worse in China right now than being labeled as a ‘dishonest’ citizen.
Mike Elgan recently wrote an essay at Fast Company, entitled Uh-oh: Silicon Valley is building a Chinese-style social credit system, in which he attempts to demonstrate how while China’s social credit system is an official government policy, in the United States tech and travel companies are increasingly doing something eerily similar, outside of current law. I think if you have ever been or heard of someone being banned, blocked, or blacklisted on social media platforms, or from Airbnb, or Uber, you already knew that corporations like those have been trying to modify American’s behavior to make everyone “nice” and lean left. Yet, as Mike points out, the danger of social credit in the United States is that it created an extra-law; that is, we have the official laws of the local, state, and federal government that we have to abide by, but now we are also being obligated to obey an extra-law that is being mandated by tech, travel, and insurance companies if we want access to their product or service. Mike also points out how social credit systems create classes of people and, thereby, further divides us.
China has exported their citizens throughout the world and is employing social credit to control them wherever they are living. Citizens of China have been forced to walk, rather use public transportation here in the United States because social credited deemed them to be overweight.
Where it regards the Catholic Church and what we know to be true, China’s social credit system and variants of it being employed around the world presents both a clear danger and heretical teaching, because it is the digital exportation of socialism and communism. That is, in an instant, governments and corporations can (apparently) replace God, by forcing their citizens and clients to seek their esteem and their graces by obeying their laws. In 2020, most Chinese people will have been compelled to believe that they need the government to accept them, more than they need to love God. The concepts of salvation, sin, and forgiveness will be completely replaced by social credit terminology where ‘access’ ‘trustworthiness’ and ‘dishonest’ determine all things in ones daily life.
No one’s life should be completely controlled by any system like this. China is essentially making their citizens their little children by striping away from them any hint of God-given freedom, and China is such a global power and their citizens are everywhere, that no one is safe from their exportation of this digital socialism/communism.