Big Brother is alive and well in China. The communist nation, long known for suppressing and controlling beliefs and activities, is now taking it a step further with the launch of its Social Credit System (SCS). The SCS uses China's massive and growing system of public surveillance cameras, along with facial recognition technology and data on location, health, crime, etc. to assign a "social credit score" to individuals. Those "discredited" with low scores can be blacklisted for jobs or banned from air and rail travel.
The SCS is already in use in several major Chinese cities, with the government aiming to launch it nationally by 2021. "China already has that authoritarian system with all these police capabilities, but it mainly works at the local level," says Dr. Steven Lewis, China Fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute. "(President) Xi Jinping is trying to centralize it, and everybody's suspicion is they'll eventually get there."
Dr. Lewis tells KTRH that China doesn't have to worry about civil liberties or the right to privacy as protected in the U.S. Constitution. "In the United States, the people who have health data can't share that with crime data from police departments, can't share it with election data," he says. "But in China, there are no firewalls between all of those."
The SCS not only controls and suppresses individuals, but businesses as well. As evidenced by the recent dust-up between the Chinese government and the NBA over Rockets GM Daryl Morey's tweet supporting Hong Kong protesters, the Chinese will seek to punish U.S. entities who don't conform to the government's position.
All of this could have a chilling effect on Americans doing business in China. "Very few American technology company people have been wanting to go to China recently," says Dr. Lewis. "There are also scholars, and all kinds of people who are afraid to go to China, simply because the Chinese government now has the strategy of taking hostages."