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Social control 4.0

China's digital social credit system operates with a form of gamified control, which rewards users as they score points for behavior inside and outside the network. Within 2020, Chinese authorities are planning to establish a nationwide system. Western commentators react with disgust, but is our own social media really that much better?

While China's geopolitical ambitions are attracting most of the world's attention, the domestic politics of China's Communist Party (CCP) are relatively unnoticed. As it becomes clear, China is also undergoing a complete transformation internally: By 2020, the CCP has planned to introduce digital systems for social control across the country.

Through social credit systems (SKS) – some of which are already active – the goal is to create a score for each Chinese citizen based on his or her behavior. An enormous amount of data is collected to calculate this: payment practices, records, shopping habits, internet searches and messages as well as general social behavior. Conformity leads to rewards such as good credit terms, promotions and shortened processing time in security checks. Opposite can be unwanted behavior. . .

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Kúhnreich is a state scientist and sinologist. Originally written in German.

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