Citizen social credit

So far, we’ve taken the macro view on social credit, and examined the SCS on a national scale, primarily as it relates to businesses and professionals. Now, we’ll zoom in to the city level, and take a look at how the system treats individuals in the social context.

City governments are the key players for individual social credit. A person’s city and province of residence are responsible for collecting and managing most of the information about them. City data collection, blacklisting, and punishment and reward mechanisms happen just like they do at the national level, but on a smaller scale.

Within cities, data collection is decentralized. Each city bureau is responsible for gathering and logging data that relates to its administrative area, then submitting that info to the city’s SCS database.

For example, if you get caught drunk driving, the city police would keep their own record of the traffic violation as usual, and also add that violation to the city credit database. If you’re caught teaching under false credentials at the local school, the municipal bureau of education would submit that information to your city credit record. If you don’t pay your property management fees, the city housing authority will submit that to your credit report.

Good deeds get reported too: if you volunteer for community service, the related department will submit that info. If you donate blood or bone marrow, the local health planning commission will log your donation.

That data then gets passed up the chain through the National Credit Information Sharing Platform to the provincial and national databases.

China Social Credit System: Citizen Social Credit

The source documents we’ve seen show that the data collected on citizens at the local level is fairly standardized from city to city. That’s because most cities in China have the same set of bureaus and agencies. Those agencies already have a standard set of records they collect. These basic data sets get passed up to the national database from every location.

But while the data sets are similar from city to city, what cities have chosen to do with SCS data at the local level varies dramatically from place to place.

Scoring systems

Some cities are independently creating citizen scoring systems based on the data. These city-level scoring systems are what often get cited in media reports on the SCS, and are sometimes confused for national scores.

The scoring pilots are completely different from city to city. Some cities have decided on a 0-200 scoring scale, some on a 0-1000 scale, and this discrepancy is evidence that the central government didn’t dictate how citizens should be scored, but left it up to the municipalities to come up with their own programs.

Examples of city-level citizen social scoring systems
Location Name of scoring system (English) Name of scoring system (Chinese) Point scale
Suzhou 1 Osmanthus Points 桂花分 0-200. Baseline points are 100, with the potential to add up to 100 more.
Suqian 2 Xichu Points 西楚分 Scores start at 1000, and will go up or down depending on behavior. A rating from AAA to D will be assigned based on credit score range.
Rongcheng 3 Rongcheng Points 荣诚分 Scores start at 1000, and will go up or down depending on behavior. A rating from AAA to D will be assigned based on credit score range.
Weihai 4 Haibei Points 海贝分 Scores start at 1000, and will go up or down depending on behavior. A rating from AAA to D will be assigned based on credit score range.
Fuzhou(抚州)5 Yuming Points 玉茗分 Scores from 0-1000:
(1) Above 750 – Excellent credit
(2) Between 750-600: Superior credit
(3) 500-599: Good credit
(4) 400-499: Slightly dishonest
(5) 250-399: Poor credit
(6) Below 250: Extremely bad credit
Wuhu 6 Lehui Points 乐惠分 Scores from 350-1200
(1) 950-1200: Excellent credit
(2) 850-949: Superior credit
(3) 700-850: Good credit
(4) 350-700: Average credit
Hangzhou 7 Qianjiang Points 钱江分 (1) Over 750: Excellent credit
(2) 700-750: Superior credit
(3) 600-700: Good credit
(4) 550-600: Average credit
(5) Below 550: Needs improvement
Xiamen 8 Heron Points 白鹭分 5 levels:
(1) Excellent credit
(2) Superior credit
(3) Good credit
(4) Average credit
(5) Needs improvement
Zhucheng 9 Ju’de Points 舜德分 Scores start at 1000.

It’s unclear whether or not every city will eventually have a citizen scoring system, but things look to be moving in that direction. At the end of 2018, for example, Beijing released a policy on improving the city’s market environment, which included a clause on the creation of the city’s “citizen integrity” system: 10

By the end of 2020, the Beijing “individual credit” project covering all permanent residents will be built, and [the use of] credit information will be promoted in the fields of market entry, public services, travel, entrepreneurship and job hunting. …We will improve the credit blacklist system, regularly publicize the records of corporate and personal trustworthiness, and identify patterns of dishonesty and punishment so that “if one is dishonest one area, they will be limited everywhere and will find it difficult to move”, thus ensuring that those who violate the law and fall behind on debts will pay a heavy price.

This is representative of the type of policy language we’re seeing emerging from city governments across China, so we do expect that most cities will eventually develop some kind of scoring system.

It’s also unclear whether or not the central government will wait to see which scoring system is most successful, and then swoop in and order all cities to adopt it. Time will tell. But for the moment, these scoring systems are just pilot initiatives laid over the top of the SCS data, and local scores don’t have any impact on your national credit file. It’s actually the other way around: your national credit file will impact your city credit score, if you live in a city with a scoring system.

Social Credit China: Citizen Scoring Systems

Still, because the underlying data sets are the same, examining how these scoring systems work gives us a fascinating look into what kind of behavioral data local governments are gathering on citizens, companies, and governments.

The below example of a city scoring system comes from a draft policy released in August 2018 by the government of Fuzhou (抚州), home of Yuming Points (scale ranges from 0-1000). It outlines which behaviors will result in a point deduction, which behaviors will result in an increase, and which departments are responsible for logging and submitting that data. Though this policy hasn’t yet been ratified, it gives us one of our deepest insights into the inner workings of the SCS at the city level.

Again, remember that the behavioral records that are being gathered on citizens will be passed into the central database, but the scores the city assigns are specific to that place only. Apologies for the crazy length of these tables, but we think they’re worth posting in their entirety.

Collapse / expand penalties table
Fuzhou draft policy – Social Credit Points Subtracted for Dishonest Behavior (Individuals)
Responsible City Dept. Penalized Behavior / Individuals Points subtracted
Municipal Discipline and Inspection commission
市纪委
Disciplinary action 20: Warning or demerit

30: Serious warning, major demerit, or demotion

50: Dismissal, probation

80: Expulsion

Department of the People’s Armed Forces
人武部
Evading or refusing to perform military duty 80
Court
法院
Failure to carry out a court-ordered sentence or judgement Points reduced to 0, placement on defaulter blacklist
Carrying out a court-ordered sentence after failing to do so after the first order 20
Fraudulent litigation infringing on the legitimate rights and interests of others and failing to cooperate with judicial organs in the fulfillment of their duties 50
Citizen was found guilty by is exempt from criminal penalty 30
Incarceration for 3 years or less 50
Incarceration for more than 3 years or recidivism 80
Procuratorate
检察院
Minor crime for which no prosecution is brought 30
Implicated in Civil public interest litigation 50
Bureau of Education
教育局
Teaching under false credentials, bad conduct, insulting students 30
Taking payment for make-up / remedial classes 30
Illegally running schools or educational institutions 30
Bureau of Science and Technology
科技局
Adopting improper means such as deception to encroach others’ scientific and technological achievements and seeking illegal interests in technology transactions. 30
Public Security Bureau
公安局
Receiving administrative punishment by the Public Security Bureau 30
Being detained by the Public Security Bureau 50
Standard traffic violations, including parking violations by law enforcement 30: More than 5 traffic violations such as running a red light or other one-time violations worth 6 driving penalty points

50: More than 10 violations

Drinking and driving, hit and run, covering license plates and other traffic violations worth 12 driving penalty points 30
Driving while severely intoxicated 50
Driving on drugs 50
Lifetime driving suspensions 50
Cheating on driver’s license exams or sending others to take an exam in your place 50
Buying or selling drivers license points 30: Buying drivers license points

Blacklisting: Selling drivers license points

Being in arrears on payment of goods 50
Serious criminal activity relating to public welfare (economic, food and drug, public safety) 50
Bureau of Civil Affairs
民政局
Changing the stated use of charitable donations without notifying givers 30
Providing fraudulent information to receive subsidies in elderly care or public aid 50
Justice Bureau
司法局
Illegal behaviors by law practitioners 30
Rule breaking during judicial examinations 50
Non-compliance with community correction 30
Bureau of Finance
财政局
Failure to declare and pay relevant local taxes and fees, withholding of tax arrears such as non-deductible personal income tax, etc. 30: Will be based on public announcements made by the Tax Bureau, those in serious arrears will be blacklisted.
Tax inspection infractions 50
Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security
人社局
Illegal use of child labour, social security and medical insurance benefit fraud, and refusal to correct dishonest acts as ordered 30
Unreasonably withholding or owing wages to more than 10 people, failure to pay wages in amounts over RMB 500,000, and causing group petitions, strikes and other public incidents 50
Rule breaking that results in inclusion in the Civil Servant Exam [Violators] Database or the Technical Expert Exam [Violators] Database 50
Absconding while owing wages 100
Housing Authority
房管局
Bad behavior, administrative punishments 30
Being in arrears on property management fees 15: Each payment past due by over 5 months. Max of 30 points
Being in arrears on rental payments for low-income housing and public housing 15: Each payment past due by over 5 months. Max of 30 points
Bureau of Transportation
交通局
Passenger and freight vehicles loaded over the legal limit 30
Taxi drivers who have been flagged by the Bureau of Transportation 30
Forestry Bureau
林业局
Destroying trees, indiscriminate deforestation, changing the use of forest land without authorization, reclaiming forest land without authorization, causing forest fires through negligence, and use of veterinary drugs without a license 30
Culture, Radio, Television, Tourism and Sports Bureau
文广新局
Operating an entertainment business without permission, or engaging in publishing without permission 30
Health and Family Planning Commission
卫计委
Standard administrative punishments 30
Violations related to health professional technical qualification examinations 30
Medical practitioners who conduct fetal gender identification for non-medical needs or who termination of pregnancy on the basis of the baby’s gender 30
Failure to pay the fines for child born in violation of the Two-Child Policy 30
Birth certificate fraud 50
Practicing medicine illegally, creating disturbances in a hospital, obstructing law enforcement and other medical-related violations 50
Bureau for Market Regulation
市场管理局
Violations in the field of market regulation 30
Urban Administration and Law Enforcement Bureau
城市管理行政执法局
Standard violations in city management and related administrative fields 20
Serious violations in city management and related administrative fields 50
Work Safety Bureau
安监局
Holding a post without proper license qualifications and other standard violations 30
Serious violations such as operating with hazardous materials without a permit 50
Tourism Development Commission
旅发委
Illegal activities such as operating a tour company, travel guide, or transport service without a license, deception, and forcing tourists to make purchases during tours 50
People’s Bank of China Fuzhou City Branch
人民银行
Being in arrears on bank loans 50
Untrustworthy acts by a business, second class Legal representative receives 50 points deduction
Untrustworthy acts by a business, third class Legal representative receives 80 points deduction
Management Center of the Housing Provident Fund
住房公积金中心
Being in arrears on personal housing loans from the housing provident fund 30
Fraudulent in withdrawal from or taking fraudulent loans from housing provident fund 50
Customs
海关
Violations of customs inspection and quarantine laws and regulations 30
Tax Bureau
税务局
Failure to declare and pay relevant local taxes and fees, withholding of tax arrears such as non-deductible personal income tax, etc. 30: Will be based on public announcements made by the Tax Bureau, those in serious arrears will be blacklisted.
[Negative] tax inspection data 50
Bureau of Land Resources
国土资源局
Illegal occupation of land for housing development, destruction of farmland 30
Providing falsified materials during real estate registration or transaction 30
Various administrative organs
各行政机关
Refusal to comply with effective administrative penalties 50
Electricity Suppliers
供电公司
Being in arrears on electricity payments 10: Each payment past due for over five months, or payments past due for over 2 months that are in excess of 10,000. Maximum total deduction of 30 points
Stealing electricity or damaging public electrical facilities 50
Mobile and Telecom Suppliers Being in arrears on mobile and telecom bills 10: Each payment past due for over five months, or payments past due for over 2 months that are in excess of 2,000. Maximum total deduction of 20 points
Bureau of Tobacco Mailing of tobacco products over the legal amount, transport tobacco without a licence, illegal sales or production of tobacco 30
Water supply companies Being in arrears on water payments 2: Each payment past due for over five months, or payments past due for over 2 months that are in excess of 2,000. Maximum total deduction of 20 points
Stealing water or damaging public water facilities 50
Insurance companies Code of conduct violations by insurance practitioners 30
Insurance fraud 50
Collapse / expand rewards table
Fuzhou draft policy – Social Credit Points Added for Trustworthy Behavior (Individuals)
Responsible City Dept. Incentivized Behavior / Individuals Points earned
Organization Department
组织部
Officials who perform outstanding work during the course of a year 50
Being an exemplary Communist Party member 50
Civil servants who perform meritorious service 80: meritorious service first class

50: Meritorious service second class

30: Meritorious service third class

Municipal Commission for Guiding Cultural and Ethical Progress
文明办
Recipients of national “good citizen” award 80
Recipients of Jiangsu province “good citizen” award 50
Recipients of Fuzhou city “good citizen” award 30
City volunteers 10: service up to 50 hours

20: 50-100 hours

30: more than 100 hours

Taking joy in helping others, returning found money, acts of honesty and trustworthiness, devoting oneself to one’s work, filial piety, care of one’s family, and other good acts. 50
Political and Legal Affairs Commission
政法委
Acts of heroism and courage 80: bravery first-class (provincial level)

50: bravery second-class (prefecture / city level)

30: bravery third-class (county level)

30: bravery

Recipients of legal and political rewards of merit 50: national level

30: provincial level

20: city level

Department of the People’s Armed Forces
人武部
Merit award first-class 80
Merit award second-class 50
Merit award third-class 30
Federation of Trade Unions
总工会
Recipients of labor and entrepreneurship awards 50: national level

30: provincial level

20: city level

Municipal Communist Youth League Committee
团市委
Recipients of various youth awards 50: national level

30: provincial level

20: city level

Recipients of various volunteer awards 50: national level

20: provincial level

10: city level

Women’s Federation
妇联
Recipients of various women’s awards 50: national level

20: provincial level

10: city level

China Charity Federation
慈善总会
Charitable donations 10: RMB 10,000 and below

Additional 5 points for every 10,000 above the first 10,000, max of 20 points. Points will be counted together with the Red Cross and will not double.

Charitable awards 50: national level

20: provincial level

10: city level

5: county level

Red Cross
红十字会
Charitable donations 10: RMB 10,000 and below

Additional 5 points for every 10,000 above the first 10,000, max of 20 points

Red Cross volunteer 50: national level

20: provincial level

20: city level

Points will be counted together with the Civilization Office and will not double.

Bone marrow donation 50
Bureau of Education
教育局
Recipients of awards in the field of education 50: national level

30: provincial level

20: city level

Bureau of Science and Technology
科技局
Recipients of science and technology awards 80: first class national level

50: second class provincial level, first class provincial level

30: third class national level; second class provincial level

20: third class provincial level, first class city level

10: Second class city level

5: third class city level

Technological entrepreneurship and innovation experts, individual patent awards 20
Innovative Design Competition winners 50: national level

30: provincial level

20: city level

Public Security Bureau
公安局
Merit award first class 80
Merit award second class 50
Merit award third class 30
Providing important clues 30
Assisting public security organs in dealing with unusual cases 20
Procuratorate
检察院
Merit award first class 80
Merit award second class 50
Merit award third class 30
Providing important clues 20
Assisting in dealing with cases 20
Justice Bureau
司法局
Recipients of awards for excellence in the practice of law 50: national level

30: provincial level

10: city level

5: county level

Bureau of Transportation
交通局
Recipients of awards in the field of transportation 50: national level

30: provincial level

20: city level

Culture, Radio, Television, Tourism and Sports Bureau
文广新局
Recipients of cultural and sportsman’s awards 50: national level

30: provincial level

20: city level

Health and Family Planning Commission
卫计委
Recipients of the “Most Beautiful Angel” award 30
Recipients of the “Happy Family” award 50: national level

30: provincial level

20: city level

10: county level

Donating blood or blood platelets without compensation 10: Blood donation below 400 ml

Additional 5 points for every 200 ml beyond the first 400ml, max of 30 points. 10ML of platelets is equal to a blood donation of 200 ML.

Tourism Development Commission
旅发委
Recipients of various travel industry awards 50: national level

30: provincial level

20: city level

Forestry Bureau
林业局
Saving wildlife, reporting illegal hunting, killing, transportation, sale, purchase and use of wildlife and its products; Reporting damage to wildlife habitats 40: Ecological preservation on the national level

20-30: Other

This table is fairly representative of what we’ve seen from other scoring pilots, but in some places, local governments have expanded the “no-no” list to address localized problems.

Shanghai, for example, recently launched a garbage-sorting scheme, and is penalizing non-compliant companies and individuals through the SCS.11 In Jinan, a citizen’s score can be impacted by not leashing their dog in a public place.12 In Anqing, jaywalking has the potential to affect your credit.13

Problems

Looking at these and similar tables, a few problems jump out right away:

The point system isn’t very egalitarian

There are a lot of ways for anyone to lose points, but not as many ways for anyone to gain them. That’s because most of the ways to increase points are things over which people have very little control, or else they are awards which many people aren’t in a position to receive, particularly those in low-income brackets.

Being rewarded for providing important clues in a criminal case requires that you happen to have knowledge of that crime – a matter of circumstance and luck. Technological entrepreneurship awards, innovation awards, and literary awards generally favor the highly-educated.

According to these point scales, the only ways that anyone, at any stratum of society, can raise their points at will and by choice are by:

  • Doing volunteer work
  • Donating blood or bone marrow
  • Giving charitable donations
  • Performing “good deeds”
Violations are easier to record than acts of charity

Human bureaucracies weren’t set up to record acts of kindness. While there are already well-established collection mechanisms in place for most offenses, there aren’t established collection mechanisms for “positive” behaviors. The police know you ran a red light because there are traffic cameras designed to catch those violations. But how does the government find out you gave someone back their wallet?

A December 2018 Vice News documentary on the scoring pilot in Rongcheng features a profile of a local “information collector”, a sweet retired woman whose job is to walk the city searching out good and bad deeds, which she records in a notebook and reports to the local credit bureau office. That kind of thing might work in some small towns where everyone knows each other, but it’s definitely not nationally-scalable, nor is it objective.

The concept of “good deeds” is ill-defined

What constitutes a “good deed”, and who decides? The nebulousness of this wording leaves it too open to interpretation.



  1. Official page for Suzhou Osmanthus Points
  2. Official page for Suqian’s Xichu Points
  3. Explainer on the Rongcheng Points scale
  4. News item on Weihai’s Haibai Points
  5. Policy draft: Fuzhou Yuming Points
  6. Official page on Wuhu’s Lehui Points
  7. News item on Hangzhou’s Qianjiang Points
  8. News item on Xiamen’s Heron Points
  9. News item on Zhucheng’s Ju’de Points
  10. 中共北京市委 北京市人民政府关于印发《北京市进一步优化营商环境行动计划(2018年—2020年)》的通知
  11. 上海启动生活垃圾分类大整治,居民垃圾不分类会被处罚吗?
  12. Chinese dog owners are being assigned a social credit score to keep them in check — and it seems to be working
  13. 安庆人注意了,实名曝光+人脸识别+信用挂钩,闯红灯的代价是越来越大了···