There is no single document which spells out the entire social credit system from top to bottom. Rather, the official information on the SCS is spread across hundreds of documents, issued in dribs and drabs by the central government and local governments, each illuminating a tiny piece of the puzzle.

That means that research on social credit largely comes down to pattern finding – collecting all the sources and identifying where they overlap. And that’s pretty much what we did.

This report is based on intensive review of several hundred policy documents, social credit think pieces by Chinese policymakers, and Chinese-language media reports. Trivium researchers also visited areas where social credit pilots are taking place to get an on-the-ground look at the system in action.

In this report, we take both the macro view and the micro view, zooming out to give you a look at what the patterns show us about the SCS as a whole, and then zooming in to give you concrete examples of social credit scoring systems, punishment and reward mechanisms for individuals and businesses, and other juicy tidbits.

We also get a little theoretical. Drawing on social credit think pieces and speeches by key officials, we’ll put you inside the minds of the people creating the SCS, and illuminate how the Chinese government conceptualizes social credit, rather than how the international community sees it. Our aim is to have a clearer understanding of what the system actually is so that we can better predict how it will develop.

Because the social credit system is still evolving, we see this piece not as a definitive report, but rather as an ongoing conversation. In it, we’ll explain what we know and how we know it, what we think and why we think it, and what we don’t know, and why not.

Since the best conversations are multi-sided, we welcome input from companies, journalists, governments, researchers, and other interested parties. If you know something we don’t, please get in touch.

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We hope that this transparent, collaborative approach will help to broaden the conversation on social credit, and foster a productive discussion on its implications for China and the world.