No one’s ever going to confuse China for a free and open country, but it seems like the government is trying just a bit too hard to let citizens know they belong to the government, rather than the other way around.
Just recently, the government began engaging in door-to-door censorship, sending cops to citizens’ houses to order them to delete forbidden tweets. That’s certainly not going to help the tweeter’s Citizen Score — a dystopian credit score that takes far more than debt into account to measure the worthiness of the country’s billion-plus citizens. The score tracks purchases, social circles, and online opinions to raise and lower scores. Certain purchases will raise scores while others that the government doesn’t consider worthwhile (like videogames) will lower it.
It’s far worse than that, though. Low-scoring members of your social circle can lower your score as well, forcing people to ditch their unhelpful friends and replace them with people more closely aligned with the government’s preferences. There are perks attached to higher scores, which basically give citizens the privilege to travel after they’ve proven themselves worthy servants of the state.
On top of that, there’s the pervasive surveillance. Facial recognition tech is everywhere, used to do everything from fine jaywalkers to lock people out of public housing. The government has plans to erect 600 million CCTV cameras to ensure nothing citizens do in public goes unobserved.
The latest addition to the government’s citizen repression toolkit is something that would break a reader’s suspension of disbelief if were included in dystopian sci fi novel:
The Chinese Government has developed a mobile app that tells users if they are near someone who is in debt. The app, called a “map of deadbeat debtors,” flashes when the user is within 500 meters of a debtor and displays that person’s exact location.
Should anyone want to name/shame/report Hot Deadbeats In Their Area, they can obtain the app from the WeChat platform. WeChat is in the process of being converted into a national ID system by the government, which will certainly help it tabulate citizen scores and out undesirables. With more than one billion Chinese users, WeChat has the ability to turn a communications platform into one-stop shop for data, communications, and personal info of a large percentage of the population.
At this point, the deadbeat app only affects a single province. This is due to it being the product of a court ruling, rather than a Chinese government mandate.
Deadbeat debtors in North China’s Hebei province will find it more difficult to abscond as the Higher People’s Court of Hebei on Monday introduced a mini-program on WeChat targeting them.
The article from China News is brief but it suggests the court has decided to outsource debt collection for fines and fees, as well as the enforcement of judgments against debtors secured by debt collection entities. But the court does know how to project the same cheery “for the good of the people” facade that accompanies every step the Chinese government takes towards all-encompassing dystopia.
“It’s a part of our measures to enforce our rulings and create a socially credible environment,” said a spokesman of the court.
Yep. There’s no society more credible than a population turned against itself.