China's social credit system prevented people from buying 17.5 million flights and 5.5 million train tickets in 2018, according to the Associated Press, which obtained a document from the National Public Credit Information Center.
The AP reports that millions were attempting to make travel purchases were blocked because they ended up on the government's blacklist for social credit offenses. The report didn't discuss how these people had become “discredited."
The Communist Party of China (CPC) says the social credit system is an essential component of the Socialist market economic system and the social governance system. Its aim is to encourage trustworthy behavior through a blend of penalties and rewards for citizens to improve a fast-changing society after three decades of economic reform. Offenses can include failure to pay taxes or fines, jaywalking, smoking, shoplifting, or taking drugs. Penalties include restrictions on travel, business, obtaining loans, or access to education. Companies can lose access to low-interest bank loans or be dropped from government contracts.
One government slogan for the scheme says: “Once you lose trust, you will face restrictions everywhere.”
The social control system is part of efforts by President Xi Jinping’s Communist regime to use artificial intelligence and surveillance cameras to control more than a billion people.
CPC launched social credit in 2014 and is currently piloting it in multiple cities around China. The system is expected to roll out nationwide by 2020, giving the government control to almost all people and businesses.
Human rights activists warn that social credit is too hard on citizens and might unfairly label people as untrustworthy without telling them.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence condemned social credit in October as “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life.”
AP said some of the offenses last year penalized people for false advertising or violating drug safety rules.
Since inception, the system has caused 3.5 million people to “voluntarily fulfill their legal obligations," the report said, which included 37 people who paid a total of 150 million yuan ($22 million) in overdue fines or confiscations.
The report gave limited details on how many citizens live in areas where social credit is operating.
In the West, social credit is very controversial and is often portrayed as a futuristic society controlled by the illusion of a perfect society through artificial intelligence and surveillance cameras.