The Sesame Credit system recently announced in China is making the rounds on social media, being touted as a tool of gamified government thought control.

For example, this privateinternetaccess.com's article begins with the bold statement:

China just introduced a universal credit score, where everybody is measured as a number between 350 and 950. But this credit score isn’t just affected by how well you manage credit – it also reflects how well your political opinions are in line with Chinese official opinions, and whether your friends’ are, too.

Game design show Extra Credits has released an episode concluding similarly:

China has gamified being an obedient citizen with the creation of Sesame Credit. The game links to your social network and gives you a score for doing things that the government approves of, but it also reduces that score for doing things the government disapproves of.

Some other sources are more reserved, acknowledging the system's existence, but not concluding any political motivation behind it.

This BBC article mentions that the scoring algorithm is secret, and that the company was reluctant to speak to foreign media due to fears of government punishment:

However, Sesame Credit will not divulge exactly how it calculates its credit scores, explaining that it is a "complex algorithm".

The company refused to give an interview to the BBC, citing concerns that the government would refuse to grant a permanent licence to issue credit scores if it engaged with the foreign media.

This Quartz article states:

While it’s true that the Chinese government intends to create what it calls a “social credit system,” Sesame Credit and its competitors (of which there will soon be several) have little to do with such plans—at least for now.

To what extent is the Chinese government involved in Sesame Credit?

Is there evidence Sesame Credit was designed with political goals in mind?

I cannot read Chinese, so I am having difficulty finding primary sources that I can process. The closest I can get is this translation of a densely-worded supposed Chinese government document. I've noticed nothing fishy in it, but I doubt its accuracy and relevance.

  • 2
    To some extent, every responsible government kinda do that with their social financing systems. An example from Brazil: You have a national credit score. Doing something that is "bad" in the eyes of the government, e.x.: not paying bills, fines, etc hurts your score and tells every other business in the country that you had issues with money in the past. Your score is kept lowered until you pay the bills. This is a simplification, of course.
    – T. Sar
    Dec 18, 2015 at 19:06


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