Chinese authorities are turning to the social credit system to enforce regulations related to containing the spread of novel coronavirus.
Case in point: On February 17, Nanjing’s municipal government released “Implementation Measures on Further Strengthening Credit Management and Actively Preventing and Controlling the New Coronavirus Epidemic” (关于进一步加强信用管理工作 积极防控新冠疫情的实施办法). The policy states that the following offenses will be recorded in the violator’s social credit file:
- Failure to disclose or making false statements about recent travel to affected regions or contact with infected persons
- Refusing or evading medical checks
- Entering a public gathering place or interacting with others when confirmed contagious or aware of possibly being contagious
- Hindering virus information reporting systems, including slow reporting, failure to report, hiding reports or falsifying reports
- Fabricating or disseminating false information that disturbs social order
- Obstructing outbreak control personnel in the performance of their duties, or jeopardizing the safety of medical personnel
- Driving up prices on epidemic prevention products
- Not adhering to regulations regarding resumption of business activities and return to work
- Refusal to carry out apartment complex quarantine rules
- Not accurately reporting personal information on the “Ning Gui Lai” app [regional health status self-reporting app].
Positive contributions to the fight against the virus will be recorded as well, including:
- Traveling to Hubei to carry out virus alleviation assistance work
- Outstanding participation in front-line virus prevention efforts
- Important contributions while volunteering in virus prevention activities
- Procuring or transporting urgently-needed medical supplies or important materials, or expanding production to manufacture supplies or materials
- Donating materials or funds to assist prevention efforts
- Reducing rent, increasing capital investment or other financial measures that support SMEs during the crisis
- Outstanding performance in work and business resumption
- Outstanding contribution to the protection and defense of market order and stability
At least one epidemic relief measure at the national level has mentioned the SCS. On January 24, the Ministry of Transport issued a notice opening fast-pass channels for qualifying vehicles carrying personnel and emergency supplies, and exempting such vehicles from road tolls. The notice included a clause stating that impersonation emergency transport vehicles would be recorded under the SCS.
These policies reflect both the expanding integration of the SCS into policy enforcement in general, and the seriousness with which the government is treating those who endanger public health.
But the impromptu integration of these measures into the SCS also raises questions about the fluidity of the system’s boundaries. There has been considerable regulatory debate over the lack of national standards governing which types of behavior does and does not qualify for inclusion in social credit records. While a law intended to address these concerns is on the legislative docket, the epidemic has underscored the fact that the system is still subject to arbitrary expansion.