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  • 00:12

    NARRATOR: In China, one set of scorescould determine your fate.

  • 00:17


  • 00:21

    NARRATOR: By 2020, a nationwide surveillance systemcould be tracking the behavior of every single citizen.

  • 00:36

    NARRATOR: And all citizens could bescored based on their behavior.Get Real uncovers the truth about China's social creditsystem.Is it the cure to uncivilized behavior--

  • 00:50


  • 00:54

    NARRATOR: --or a tool to silence dissent?

  • 00:58


  • 01:02

    NARRATOR: And could it create a new chasm between the haves--

  • 01:05


  • 01:11

    NARRATOR: --and have nots?[MUSIC PLAYING]

  • 01:34

    NARRATOR [continued]: This is a village in Rongcheng.The streets are unusually spotless.Signboards placed around the villageremind residents of values like honesty and trustworthiness.And here, prominently displayed outside the village center,

  • 01:54

    NARRATOR [continued]: a billboard with the names of the most well-behaved residentsof the year.One of them is Wang Chao Xiang.His wife, Jinzheng is proud that her husbandis a five-star citizen.

  • 02:15

    NARRATOR [continued]: Only 6 of about 3,000 residents here carry that title.It's one he earned after returning a wallet,along with all its contents.In Rongcheng's Donghuotangzhai village,this is how residents are expected to behave.

  • 02:37


  • 02:59

    NARRATOR: All residents here are assigned a social credit score.It starts with a base of 1,000 points.From there, the maths begin."Chapter 2, evaluation criteria number five,help those in need who are not your blood relatives for more

  • 03:22

    NARRATOR [continued]: than six months, add 5 points.Regulation number 15, being a public nuisance,deduct 20 points."

  • 03:34


  • 04:05

    NARRATOR: Zhou Aini gets paid to recordthe deeds of her neighbors, both the good and bad.

  • 04:38

    NARRATOR: Zhou Aini is one of six information collectorshere.She took on this role three years agowhen the village started the social credit system.Since then, she's been keeping tabson more than 200 households.

  • 05:23

    NARRATOR: To satisfy her monthly quota,Zhou Aini sometimes resorts to recording her own good deeds.

  • 05:31


  • 06:25

    NARRATOR: Every month, Aini submits a record of everythingshe's seen and heard to her supervisor.

  • 06:50

    NARRATOR: Wang Fengbo is a party cadre.She's part of the village committeethat decides who should gain or lose points.

  • 07:39

    NARRATOR: It all started in 2015.The village was undergoing redevelopment.Residents were moving into this new government housing complex.The village committee decided theyneeded a system that could discourage bad rural habits

  • 07:60

    NARRATOR [continued]: and keep the new premises from degenerating into a slum.

  • 08:04


  • 08:41

    NARRATOR: It worked.The once-filthy streets are now spotless.Within three years, Donghuotangzhaibecame a model village in Rongcheng.Residents knew that every move they make is being watchedand tallied into their social credit score, a score

  • 09:03

    NARRATOR [continued]: with real repercussions.

  • 09:30

    NARRATOR: Rongcheng is just one of more than 40local governments across the country thathave begun experimenting with pilot versionsof the social credit system.In 2014, China's cabinet released a radical grand plan,to implement a nationwide social credit system by 2020.

  • 09:52

    NARRATOR [continued]: The system aims to rate not just individuals, but alsoa company's trustworthiness.Model citizens and companies make itto a publicly accessible Red List of the Trustworthy.They receive incentives for their good behavior.Those deemed untrustworthy are publicly

  • 10:15

    NARRATOR [continued]: blacklisted and subject to sanctions and inconveniencesimposed by the government.Professor Qu Wei is an expert on social governments in China.

  • 10:29


  • 10:39

    NARRATOR: In the past decade, a stringof appalling misdeeds by Chinese companies and citizens alikehave made world headlines.

  • 10:49

    SPEAKER: China has arrested 15 people over a scandalover vaccine safety.

  • 10:54

    NARRATOR: Some scandals had stunning consequences.

  • 10:58

    SPEAKER: The number of children affectedhas grown to 53,000, of which some 30,000--

  • 11:03

    NARRATOR: One shocking headline after anotherled many to question the state of moralitynot just among the people, but among Chinese companies.

  • 11:14

    SPEAKER: Fears are growing around the worldover the safety of Chinese-made products.

  • 11:20

    NARRATOR: In a climate of low public trust,80% of Chinese netizens surveyed expressedapproval for social credit systems,believing it would enhance accountability and closeregulatory gaps, according to a pollof Chinese netizens conducted by a researchuniversity in Berlin.

  • 11:43


  • 12:25

    NARRATOR: The Chinese central governmenthas laid out the broad strokes of whatthe system should achieve.Local authorities are left to decidehow they should implement it.Rongcheng is lauded by Chinese officialsas one of the best examples of the social credit system.

  • 12:47

    NARRATOR [continued]: Yet for some villagers, the systemhas been nothing short of a dystopian nightmare.

  • 13:15

    NARRATOR: Just 20 minutes away from Donghuotangzhaivillage in Rongcheng, is Zhaojiashan village.It's been six months since the social creditsystem was rolled out here.[SPEAKING CHINESE]

  • 13:41

    NARRATOR [continued]: Ma Junfeng, an official with a local government,is the architect of the social credit system here.The sanitation of this village usedto be one of the worst in this district.So Junfeng designed the social credit system to change that.

  • 13:59


  • 14:28

    NARRATOR: Every villager here begins with a score of 1,000.Points are deducted for littering,and they can be earned either by donating money or volunteeringto clean the streets.[LAUGHTER]But everyone must earn at least two points every year

  • 14:52

    NARRATOR [continued]: or face the consequences.

  • 14:54


  • 15:27

    NARRATOR: This week, Junfeng is particularly anxious.The district management council's monthly sanitationinspection is just days away.Junfeng needs the village to look its best.

  • 16:02

    NARRATOR [continued]: Mu Decai is the branch secretary of the village.He is responsible for overseeing the system.

  • 16:26

    NARRATOR: But Decai, there are also selfish reasons involved.

  • 16:49

    NARRATOR: The hygiene standards of the villageis tied to Decai's salary.So today he's organized a group of volunteersto prepare for the inspection.57-year-old Yu Shu Qing is part of today's clean-up squad.

  • 17:11

    NARRATOR [continued]: This is her seventh day of volunteer labor.She's here to clock in eight hours.That would earn her two points.

  • 17:21


  • 17:28

    NARRATOR: Shu Qing has a family of five.That means her household needs to earn a total of at least10 points every year.Today she's volunteering on behalfof her 11-year-old grandson.

  • 17:47


  • 18:32

    NARRATOR: Shu Qing's husband has chronic asthma and stays in bedmost of the time.So Shu Qing takes care of everything.

  • 18:58

    NARRATOR [continued]: She is exhausted, but fear keeps her going.

  • 19:10

    NARRATOR: Earning less than 60 US dollars a month, Shu Qing'sfamily depends on government handouts to get by,handouts which could be cut if their score falls too low.

  • 19:34

    NARRATOR [continued]: [DOG BARKS]

  • 19:36

    NARRATOR: To make matters worse, her familylost five points, after a neighbor reported themto the village committee recently.The reason?An untidy goat pen.

  • 20:03

    NARRATOR [continued]: Despite the unhappiness, the villageis strict in its implementation of the system.Every week, Xiao Fenglan, a village committee member,inspects the households.

  • 20:17


  • 20:22

    NARRATOR: Every villager is expectedto keep their front yard neat and tidy.And she is rigorous in enforcing the rules.

  • 20:54

    NARRATOR: Fenglan makes no exceptions--

  • 20:59

    NARRATOR: --even for the elderly.

  • 21:40

    NARRATOR: Zou Lizhong is 84 this year.Although he's retired now, 20 years ago,he was a prominent deputy secretarymanaging this village.He's been a party member for more than half his life.But now he vehemently opposes the party's current methods.

  • 22:02


  • 22:37

    NARRATOR: Lizhong could afford to speak up because heis one of the lucky few.The cut-off age for the social credit system in this villageis 80.That means he will not lose his welfare benefits,even if he doesn't volunteer.But he's concerned about the rest of the residents.

  • 22:59

    NARRATOR [continued]: Most of them are elderly.

  • 23:02


  • 24:08

    NARRATOR: The social credit system hereis still in its infancy.But across China, one company has created its own systemof credit scoring.It already has over 40 million users and some half a billionpeople on its database.That's over a third of the country's population.

  • 24:46

    NARRATOR [continued]: China is implementing a social credit system, a frameworkto monitor and manipulate citizen behaviorusing punishments and rewards.Finance Professor, Dou Erxiang, believesit's a system China's financial markets sorely needs.

  • 25:10

    NARRATOR [continued]: Banks have been reluctant to give loansto individuals and small businessesbecause there hasn't been a hub to track credit histories.

  • 25:20


  • 25:49

    DOU ERXIANG [continued]: John

  • 25:54

    NARRATOR: Chloe Lei is an executive in a cosmetics firm.She has a solid credit history and a virtually unbrokenfinancial track record, thanks to Alipay.

  • 26:08


  • 26:25

    NARRATOR: Every transaction Chloe makesleaves a digital footprint.Alipay knows that she took a train from the nearby stationat 10:34 AM and got off four stops later,bought a cup of milk tea three minutes later,where and what she had for lunch at 2:15 PM.

  • 26:49

    NARRATOR [continued]: They even recognize her smile.

  • 27:02

    NARRATOR: Alipay is one of the largest online payment systemsin the country.The service has more than half a billion users.That's over a third of China's population.It's one of eight companies that the People's Bank of Chinahas authorized to experiment with credit scoring.

  • 27:25


  • 27:53

    NARRATOR: Chloe has gone one step further.She's even opted to be graded by Alipay.Her behavior preferences, spending, payment habits,and even academic qualifications areanalyzed to come up with a Sesame Credit score,a score between 350 and 950.

  • 28:15

    NARRATOR [continued]: Chloe is an 805.Anything above 700 is considered exceptionally high.Sesame Credit considers Chloe trustworthy.So she gets privileges that only someone with a high scorecan enjoy.

  • 28:35


  • 28:42

    NARRATOR: Deposit-free bike rentals is just one privilege.She also enjoys fast-track visa applications, higher loanamounts, and even easier access to public services,like quicker payment at the hospital.

  • 28:57


  • 29:30

    NARRATOR: And it's not just benefits for everyday life.A high Sesame Credit score also brings privilegesin the hunt for love.

  • 29:41


  • 30:20

    NARRATOR: Baihe is one of China's biggest online datingplatforms.It boasts more than 100 million users.Not only do they display photos, income bracket, and age,some profiles also feature their Sesame Credit scores.

  • 30:41


  • 31:37

    NARRATOR: Today, Chloe's meeting upwith a stranger she thinks she can trust.Her date has a Sesame Credit score of 760.

  • 31:48


  • 32:02


  • 32:57

    NARRATOR: Clearly, life is good for those with high creditscores.But what about those who don't?A quick online search uncovers forumsfull of netizens asking how to raise their Sesame Creditscores.And Get Real finds out there are people

  • 33:18

    NARRATOR [continued]: offering to do it for a fee.We go undercover to see how they beat the system.

  • 33:35

    NARRATOR: One man claims he could raise a Sesame Creditscore by up to 30 points for 40 US dollars.[SPEAKING CHINESE]

  • 34:14

    NARRATOR: After pressing further,the seller admits that there's no guarantee it would work.Instead he offers to give a loan.

  • 34:36

    NARRATOR [continued]: It turns out loan sharks are using the system as a meansto find potential victims, people with low credit scoreswho wouldn't qualify for bank loans.

  • 34:56

    NARRATOR [continued]: Access to loans, public services, and even love,in just four years, Sesame Credithas grown into an omnipotent scoring system.So while it isn't part of the state-run social creditproject, it gives a peek into what the future might hold.

  • 35:19

    NARRATOR [continued]: To social governance expert Qu Wei,the biggest worry is that such a scoring systemwould widen the class divide.

  • 35:29


  • 35:50

    NARRATOR: Already, China is seeing the beginningsof one country, two classes.On various Chinese government websites,there are two lists, a Red List of the most trustworthy peopleand a Black List of those who are not to be trusted.

  • 36:11

    NARRATOR [continued]: For those blacklisted, life in Chinacan come to a grinding halt.China's blacklists; people deemed untrustworthy

  • 36:33

    NARRATOR [continued]: by various state organs.Accessible online, it's one layer of the social creditsystem that's gone nationwide.Tao Mingjian is one of nearly 18 million names blacklisted.

  • 36:55


  • 37:10

    NARRATOR: Mingjian used to run a company thatproduced construction equipment until he got blacklisted.His crime?Defaulting on more than 100,000 US dollars in loans.

  • 37:52

    NARRATOR: Mingjian found out he was blacklistedwhen he tried to buy a high-speed train ticketand was denied.As of late 2018, the social credit systemhas already blocked a staggering 17 million flights and over 5million high-speed train rides.

  • 38:39

    NARRATOR: Blacklisted and broke, Mingjianwas forced to retrench more than 100 employees.

  • 38:47


  • 39:02

    NARRATOR: Cash strapped, Ming Jiang resortsto driving a taxi.His blacklist status makes it hard for him to get a jobor to restart his business.Now he sleeps just five hours a dayand drives through the night just to get by.

  • 39:39

    NARRATOR: Mingjian is desperate to pay offhis debt because being on the blacklistrestricts not just his finances, but his children's future aswell.

  • 40:11

    NARRATOR: As long as Mingjian remains on the blacklist,his son and daughter will be denied entryinto some good schools, the military, and eventhe civil service.

  • 40:38

    NARRATOR: Mingjian has been told that clearing all his debtswould get him off the blacklist.But for Liu Hu, who's also on the blacklist,there's no clear way out.

  • 40:53


  • 41:07

    NARRATOR: Liu Hu is an investigative journalist.

  • 41:29

    NARRATOR: In 2015, Liu Hu shared an articleon a microblogging site questioningthe earnings of a businessman.He was sued for defamation and lost the case.

  • 42:12

    NARRATOR: Being on the blacklist means Liu Hu can't buy a houseor get a loan.He eventually published an apology,but the judge refused to acknowledge it.

  • 42:32

    NARRATOR: For the past year, he'sbeen seeking redress through the courts and other channels.But nothing has worked.Liu Hu says this isn't the first time he's been wronged.In 2013, Liu Hu was arrested and accusedof fabricating and spreading rumors.

  • 42:56

    NARRATOR [continued]: He spent 346 days in detention.That year, he sat through 70 interrogation sessions,some lasting over 10 hours.His crime?Publishing details of misconduct by authorities.

  • 43:15


  • 43:29

    NARRATOR: The prosecution eventually dropped the charges.But Liu Hu believes he's still on the government's watch list.He fears the social credit systemcould become another tool for the governmentto silence dissent and tighten its grip on society.

  • 44:18

    NARRATOR: The social credit systemis part of China's growing surveillance apparatus.The country already has the world's biggest networkof CCTV cameras, and it could be used to keep tabson its 1.4 billion citizens.

  • 44:37

    JOSH CHIN: What this technology does, theoretically,is give them visibility into what'shappening all over the country.But the fundamental idea behind the social credit systemis to track and shame people into behavingin the correct ways, right?So surveillance technology will play a pretty important role

  • 45:03

    JOSH CHIN [continued]: in the social credit system going forward.

  • 45:07

    NARRATOR: Josh Chin is a political reporterwith The Wall Street Journal.

  • 45:12


  • 45:14

    NARRATOR: Two years ago, he began reporting extensivelyon surveillance in China.This surveillance network is yet another platformfor the government to collect datathat could eventually be fed back to the social creditsystem.

  • 45:31

    JOSH CHIN: Just at this one intersection hereyou have, like, 1, 2, 3, 4--you've got 11.There are 11 cameras just right here in this one intersection.

  • 45:43

    NARRATOR: China has been building a surveillance systemacross the country since 2005.170 million CCTV cameras are already in place,and an estimated 400 million moreare expected in the coming years.It's part of China's Sharp Eyes Project, an initiative that

  • 46:06

    NARRATOR [continued]: uses cameras, artificial intelligence,facial recognition, and big data to monitor its citizens.

  • 46:18

    JOSH CHIN: This is a sense-time camera.And you can see it's lower than most of the other surveillancecameras around here.And usually the cameras that are lower,they're set like this so that they can do facial recognition.So they can capture people walking.Yeah, I think it's reasonable to expectthat they will be relatively successful in trackinga large number of people, if not everyone in China.

  • 46:42

    NARRATOR: By 2020, China aims to havea comprehensive, nationwide surveillancenetwork that could supply data into the social credit system.It is uncertain if they would achieve their goal.But one thing's for sure.If the Chinese succeed, it would bethe largest social engineering experiment

  • 47:04

    NARRATOR [continued]: the world has ever seen.


A look at the development and implementation of China's social credit system, which is designed to monitor and manipulate citizen behavior using punishments and rewards.

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China's Social Credit Lab

A look at the development and implementation of China's social credit system, which is designed to monitor and manipulate citizen behavior using punishments and rewards.

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