Scenarios of China's Social Credit System

In the week of June 1, the Italian magazine Pagina 99 conducted interviews on China's social credit systems with Larry Catà Backer, Zhu Shaoming, and Flora Sapio, as part of the research on an article on China's Social Credit System. The article, entitled 'From China To Facebook', was published in the June 16 issue of the magazine. 

This is the first in-depth press report on social credit to appear on the Italian press. 

Its authors - Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi and Gennari Santori - hold MA degrees in Chinese Language and Archaeology, and they have lived and worked in Beijing. This post presents the full text transcript of Zhu Shaoming's interview. 

An integral transcript of the interview Larry Catà Backer gave to Pagina 99 is available at Law at the End of the DayFlora Sapio conducted the interview with Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi by phone. 

An English translation of the article will soon be published on this website. The integral transcript of Zhu Shaoming's interview follows.








1. When did you start to focus on china social credit (and why)

I started to focus on China social credit in March 2017, when the National People’s Congress was held in Beijing. Several congressmen proposed the law drafts related to the social credit matters. I study the jurisprudence of legislation and care about the conceptual and theoretical issues — What does social credit mean, what is professional ability on a certain matter or personal integrity? Does transparency create motivation or suppress economic power? 
The social credit system in China is now a major research project in our organization, the Foundation for Law and International Affairs. Credit rating systems have been very well developed in the US and the EU. We would like to understand their different features and the reasons that gave rise to the features, and compare the situation in China. The nature of the topic clearly indicates that it will influence individuals, enterprises, and the whole legal system. Right now is a critical phase of developing legislation on the social credit system in China. 


2. Did you study the Honest Shanghai app case? Can you comment on this? 
I am not sure what you mean by “Honest Shanghai App Case.” I know this app; it is promoted by the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Information. This app does provide general credibility information about individuals and enterprises. In addition to this app, there are many other ways to find the credibility information through sites and apps of the Industrial and Commercial Bureaus and banks. These sites and apps offer convenient access to others’ credibility information free of charge.


3. There are more than 30 government projects on this topic. All are different. Can you explain to us which are best and the worst (and why) 
I think it is very difficult to conclude which are best and which are worst. But I do believe that the advancement of integrity in government affairs and judicial credibility are the most important. The credibility of governmental organizations and judiciaries will decide the climate to a significant extent. The most controversial aspect is its collective effect when the projects cover so many topic and matters. It is very important to establish how the data will be managed, applied, and protected. I think it is also important to leave space for private rights that are not monitored. 


4. How important is for the Chinese government the 2020 deadline 
According to the “State Council Notice Concerning Issuance of the Planning Outline for the Establishment of a Social Credit System (2014-2020)”, by 2020 it is critical to establish the fundamental legal system for social credit as well a credit investigation system that covers the entire society with credit information and resource, a credit supervision and management system, a credit service market system, and rewarding and publishing mechanisms. That means 2020 should be the anticipated time when the society will be running in a relatively transparent and predictable platform. In other words, 2020 will open a new area of China’s legal system and societal power. 2020 is also the year when a government under rule of law which has scientific functions, law-defined powers and responsibilities, which enforces the law strictly and impartially and which is open, fair, honest and efficient, law-abiding and creditable should be established (according to the “Implementation Outline for Building a Government Ruled by Law (2015-2020)). In addition, 2020 is the established year when a moderately prosperous society should be completely built. That is to say, 2020 is a critical time for the Chinese legal system and societal development. A relatively completed social credit system requires the integrity of government affairs. The integrity of government affairs is connected with a government ruled by law. A relatively completed social credit system will be an important component leading to a moderately prosperous society. Therefore, the 2020 deadline is very important for the Chinese government. 


5. Best and worst scenario 
The best scenario is all of the above goals are reached. The social system starts to play the role in all aspects of Chinese society. China opens a new era of its legal system. The economic and societal environment starts a virtuous circle. The worst scenario is that by 2020 new laws and regulations are enacted but require many revisions to other current laws and regulations. It might cause conflicts between different laws and legal documents with different levels of authority within the legal hierarchy. 


6. Is this experiment going to influence the rest of the world? How? 
The most direct influence to the global community is that foreign investors will need to create their credibility profile in China. This suggests that there will be more stringent frameworks and rules that foreign investors and enterprises have to follow in China. This will, of course, have some impact on their business models. Once the new model of social credit is well accepted, it might in turn affect business models throughout the rest of the world. On the other hand, I think our attention to this topic, and the attention of other scholars and practitioners in Western countries, is proof that this experiment is already influencing the rest of the world. In That said, how exactly it will influence the global community in the long-term remains to be seen. 


7. Do you want to point out some other topic related to the matter? 
FLIA is co-hosting a conference on China’s social credit system together with Shanghai Jiaotong University Koguan School of Law, East China University of Political Science and Law’s School of Economic Law, and Tencent Holdings Limited. The following topics will be discussed are all very much related to the matter: 
1. The legal structure and content of the social credit system, its drafting history, and its provisions;
2. The theoretical and conceptual issues of the social credit system and how it fits with the basic line;
3. The technical issues of the social credit system, including the collection and application of data, the rating system, etc.;
4. The Institutional issues of the social credit system and the roles of government and other stakeholders, and the protection of personal information;
5. The social credit system in a global context and as a current trend in China; and
6. The implementation of regulations on the social credit system and how it fits within the rules system in Shanghai. 
In addition, many other important questions are worth considering: How should China deal with the relationship between the social credit system and the administrative penalty system? How are big data transactions conducted in the EU and the US? How should China conduct big data transactions and how to protect the data?


About Zhu Shaoming


Shaoming Zhu is the Founder and President of FLIA

She is an SJD candidate at the Pennsylvania State University. She received her Bachelor of Laws and Master of Laws in China. Her publications, including books, articles, blogs, and funded research projects focus on jurisprudence, comparative law, private international law, NGOs and global governance, Chinese legislation on social and economic development, and other related topics. 

Shaoming Zhu has been granted more than 40 awards for her academic and social work.

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