Classification and Quantification

In progress

Governance in the name of trust: Examination of a Social Credit System Infrastructure in China. Presenting at Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Boston. {abstract}

In this study, I examine the infrastructure of one of the most radical and well-recognized Social Credit System model in China and its change from 2016 to 2019 to identify the master narrative and hidden assumptions of it. This SCS is a quantified system with 389 indicators in its metric. Each indicator is associated with a specific rewardable or punishable behavior that may influence one’s SCS score. I find that this SCS has been evolving to cover more social aspects of life and has been used as a governance tool for more political issues. It also attempts to blur the boundary between governmental agencies and non-governmental actors in the name of social governance. However, unlike the commonly exaggerated conceptualization of SCS, it is still only largely an aggregation of existing law and regulations. Meanwhile, governmental and military staff, not laypeople, is the population that under the most discipline by the system. Although claiming to be objective in translating social behaviors into quantified trustworthiness, we identify several systematical biases in this system that may reinforce the disadvantage of certain social groups and raise problems of corruption.

2019

Multiple Social Credit Systems in China. Economic Sociology: the European Electronic Newsletter. 21(1): 22-32.  {abstract}

In 2014, the Chinese government proposed to build a social credit system (SCS) to better collect and evaluate citizens’ creditworthiness, and grant rewards and punishments based on one’s social credit. Since then, various SCS pilots have been enacted. While current media and scholars often perceive SCS as a single and unified system, this paper argues that there are in fact multiple SCSs in China. I identify four main types of SCS and articulate the relationships among them. Each SCS has different assumptions, operationalizations, and implementations. China's central bank, People's Bank of China and the macroeconomic management agency National Development and Reform Commission are the two most important actors in the design and implementation of the multiple SCSs. Yet their distinctive views about what a "credit" is and what an SCS should be produced great tensions on the SCS landscape. I also historize current SCSs and show that many elements and assumptions of SCSs can be traced back to a broader People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) political history. At last, I propose an alternative theoretical framework to understand Chinese SCSs as a symbolic system with performative power that is more than a simple repressive and direct political project.

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