Fostering Model Citizenship: Behavioral Responses to China’s Emerging Social Credit Systems
30 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2019
Date Written: December 15, 2018
A variety of social credit systems (SCSs) are being implemented in China in order to steer the behavior of Chinese individuals, businesses, social organizations, and government agencies. The architects of these SCSs – national and local governments, as well as commercial firms – claim such systems will eventually lead to more honest and law-abiding behavior in society and, thus, improve the quality of life among China’s citizenry. At present, however, very little is known about citizens’ experience with and responses to different types of SCS initiatives. This paper helps to address this gap. Based on a cross-regional survey and interviews with SCS participants, the study finds that a surprisingly high share of respondents report having changed their behavior at least once, and those changes are concentrated in a few categories. Citizens who were part of a mandatory government-run SCS pilot report have altered their behavior in more ways than citizens who joined a commercial SCS. Interestingly, behavioral responses are driven mainly by material or symbolic (i.e., social recognition) motivations to influence scores and assessments in a positive way, while punitive elements currently play less of a role in SCSs. Finally, our findings indicate that SCSs currently reach only specific citizen groups because not everyone is responsive to the incentives provided by commercial and government-run SCSs.
Keywords: Social credit system, rating systems, behavioral change, digital transformation, reputational systems, social scoring, China
JEL Classification: O31, O33, O39, P20
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