China’s upcoming “Social Credit System” – designed as a national reputation scoring system for Chinese citizens on a broad range of criteria – will “boost decentralised cryptocurrencies and other technologies.” That’s according to one Chinese crypto-advocate we spoke to – Dan (not his real name) – who has otherwise asked to remain anonymous.
The system, which has been dubbed “Big Brother meets Pavlov’s Dogs” by Wired magazine, is currently still thought to be in its planning stages, but will involve, according to Wikipedia, mass surveillance technology tied to big data analytics in a bid to provide the Chinese government with a scoring mechanism to “judge” the behaviour of each of its 1.4 billion citizens.
Decentralized Tech Needed Now More than Ever
The Chinese government plans to roll out the initiative by 2020 which, it is believed, will also incorporate mechanisms for rating a citizen on his or her associations – friends through to wider acquaintances. It appears, then, not only to be a tool for rating a citizen’s conformity, but one which also seeks to encourage it.
“Depending on how the Chinese implement this measure, there could be a huge knock-on effect for the adoption of crypto-based technologies more generally,” Dan states. “If hundreds of thousands of Chinese suddenly become outcasts – financial, social, political – then cryptographic technology becomes a natural home – for communication, for exchanging money, for evading government surveillance.”
The Chinese government’s own line – likely true – is that the system will largely serve as a platform for facilitating financial credit scoring and combatting corruption.
However, a whole host of civil liberties groups have raised concerns with the new policy. Human Rights Watch have described the development as “chilling”, citing one case related to what is believed to be an early implementation of the system in which one lawyer was denied access to air travel because he had previously supplied an “insincere apology” to the courts.
Whilst China has not formally banned Bitcoin, it has nonetheless adopted policies which outlaw crypto-currencies in all but name, with most cryptocurrency trading platforms previously operating on its soil having closed down voluntarily upon advice handed out from Chinese officials. A later clampdown was also initiated against websites hosting crypto-related content.