Yesterday, China’s State Council released a sweeping revision to landmark national morality guidelines released in 2001 (公民道德建设实施纲要). The new guidelines outline the moral ideals for Chinese citizens in the Xi Jinping era, and paint a picture of model citizenship through the eyes of the Party.
The revision bears plenty of unsurprising similarities to the 2001 version: both call for the strengthening of socialist ethics and traditional Chinese family values, both hold up collectivism and patriotism as core virtues, and all the other usual flag-waving. But it’s the differences between the two documents that highlight the changing times.
The quick and dirty highlights:
- Xi is driving this boat: The 2001 version pays homage to foundational socialist thinkers – the updated version mentions only Xi Jinping, a testament to his power.
- Pelted with virtue from all sides: The new version calls for the creation of a sort of moral echo-chamber where art, media, and public opinion celebrate traditional principles.
- Honesty in business: Both the new and old versions include articles focusing on integrity within the business environment, but the new version specifically points to social credit as path to enforcing professional ethics.
- Cyberspace ‘cleanliness’: The updated revision mentions “online behavior” as a key area of concern.
- Greening is good: Ecological ethics / environmental protection appear as a celebrated virtue.
- All for one, one for all: The Party is Hell-bent on fostering a culture of civic volunteerism, and intends to allocate resources to reward and incentivize those who contribute to society.
The revised guidelines only tangentially raise the issue of social credit — it’s not directly discussed at any great length in the text; but there are strong parallels between the moral ideals outlined in the revision, and the behaviors rewarded via the emerging social credit system.
Our take: These revised guidelines outline the Party’s qualitative ethical KPIs for Chinese citizens – the social credit system is one of the tools it will use to meet them.