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How social ratings affect reputation in China and why you might be blacklisted

“Tell me what your social rating is and I’ll tell you who you are” – this could be a saying about modern China. When it comes to social ratings, the first thing that comes to mind is a dystopia in the spirit of Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We”, where everyone lives with food stamps, and of course the “Diving” episode from the TV series “Black Mirror”. The heroine’s life literally depended on the tastes of others.

Do you rarely visit your elderly relatives? Are you being rude to the waiter? Are you showing off an expensive car? Are you fighting with your neighbors? Are you crossing the street at a red light? Your employers and friends will now know all this. In any case, this is exactly the information that can be found in the Russian media. So what actually is social rating? A complete control system or something completely different?

We’ve previously written about what you need to know about Chinese friendships and romantic relationships. Now we will tell you how social rating in China affects your reputation and why you may be blacklisted.


What is social rating in China?

A frame from the TV series “Too”

During the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese government several times planned to implement a social rating consisting of three points: red (dangerous), yellow (moderate) and green (safe). True, as you might guess, the rating did not indicate social status, but how close a person was in contact with infected people.

So we figured it out, but is there a real social rating in China like in the TV series “Black Mirror”?

Actually, it has been around for a long time, but it would be more accurate to call it financial rating, which really affects people’s lives and their attitude towards you. In China, there is a mobile application for payments called Alipay, which is also a lending system and is part of the Ant group of companies (by the way, the same analogues operate in Russia, for example Yandex Money, SberPay, etc.). The feature is that Chinese citizens have access to certain bonuses and services depending on the number of points.

A still from the TV series “Shooting Star”

“What kind of discrimination?” – you will think. But not everything is as bad as it seems at first glance. The system was invented not to demonstrate social status, but to control malicious defaulters. Moreover, most of the time they are able to pay their debts, but they refuse to repay them. Previously, it was almost impossible to return the money if the debtor left the city.

“Whatever Happened to Secretary Kim?” a frame from the series

When more than 70 percent of Chinese people began avoiding loan payments from 2008 to 2012, the Chinese government found an effective way to deal with debtors. In 2013, a system was introduced that limits the purchase of luxury goods, expensive hotel bookings or plane tickets to another country if a person has outstanding debts. The logic is simple: if your salary allows you to buy expensive things, then you can also pay off your debts. Doesn’t look that scary, right? Big Brother isn’t watching you, but in practice things are more complicated.

The system itself cannot be said to be perfect, because in 2023 alone, Chinese authorities blacklisted more than 8.5 million citizens for overdue payments. According to local courts, this is a record figure since the beginning of the epidemic and indicates an economic slowdown in the country. The catch is that China does not have a personal bankruptcy law that could ease the impact of its debt burden. A person on the blacklist is prohibited from traveling on the high-speed train or even buying many things. Consumer demand is also falling due to debts and falling income levels, creating the preconditions for an economic crisis.


What awaits those who are blacklisted?

A frame from the TV series “Windy Place”

How does all this affect the quality of life? It’s pretty powerful because your financial score affects society’s attitude towards you, although not directly. For example, in show business, it is common for idols to display nice and decent behavior, but if your fans find out that one of your parents or relatives has a low social rating, you may be publicly shamed.

Of course, not all Chinese people seek fame and popularity, so let’s give a more realistic example. Education in China is very expensive and children’s well-being depends on it. If parents are on the list of debtors, their children will not be allowed to study in private schools; Here even less wealthy citizens send their children.

Historically, the best schools in China are located in urban centers, and getting there is not easy even for those who can afford it. The fact is that in this country a child can study only at the place of registration, so parents try at all costs to move to the city, or even to a certain region, to find a job and get the coveted document. However, this is not so easy to do. All apartments near good schools are sold for twice as much. And usually the rich buy them. Therefore, reputation plays an important role.

A still from the TV series “The Great Seducer”

It is almost impossible for Chinese people with low social scores to find a good, well-paying job. Moreover, the employer will also take into account your family’s reputation. Bad attitude towards you can be affected not only by debts, but also, for example, by divorce (not to mention a criminal record). True, this information is no longer recorded through the application, but in documents. Meanwhile, in one of the states, the highest court signed an agreement with mobile phone operators to set a special ringtone for debtors, which caused fierce discontent in Chinese society. In fact, in some regions, photos, names and addresses of those who have not paid their debts are shown before the movie starts and after it is shown in cinemas. If you consider that even criminals’ personal data is better protected, you can imagine the pressure experienced by people who find themselves on the debtor list.

A frame from the TV series “Secret Love”

Even so, the rating indirectly affects how you are treated in society. And of course every citizen tries to get the most points. At least to avoid suffering from slow internet and to be able to travel. Additionally, a high score indicates access to material goods, making the person more attractive to a romantic partner. Material well-being plays an important role, especially for men. Due to the gender imbalance caused by the one-child policy, women in China are more selective in choosing a spouse. At the same time, anyone can check your social rating using the app. Additionally, authorities in some provinces have developed a special map that shows the names and addresses of blacklisted debtors near you. This “exhibitionism” likely makes the person feel vulnerable to criticism. After all, even a silent rejection on a date or when applying for a job can be caused by insufficient confidence.

Source: People Talk

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