Fostering Model Citizenship: Behavioral Responses to China’s Emerging Social Credit Systems
Genia Kostka, Lukas Antoine – 2020
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 government and industry architects of these SCSs claim that such systems will eventually lead to more honest and law-abiding behavior, thus improving the quality of life among China’s citizenry. However, very little is known about citizens’ experience with and responses to different types of SCS initiatives. This article helps to address this gap. On the basis of a cross-regional survey and interviews with SCS participants, we find that a surprisingly high share of respondents changed their behavior at least once, with changes concentrated in a few categories, including changing shopping behavior and following traffic regulations. Citizens who were part of a mandatory government-run SCS pilot report 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 in a positive way, with punitive elements playing less of a role. Finally, we find that SCSs currently reach only specific citizen groups due to variable responsiveness to the incentives provided by commercial and government-run SCSs.