China set to improve social credit system with blockchain

Blockchain will be used to link provincial data silos to one another, allowing authorities to seamlessly share information on social credit scores

Image of people walking in Shanghai
China has implemented a controversial social credit score system, with the goal of monitoring its citizens

China’s social credit system will soon be upgraded using blockchain technology. The new version would allow the system to seamlessly share data across platforms and provinces.

According to an article released by people.cn, the technology has been dubbed “Remin Chain” and is from Hangzhou’s Hyperchain Technology. It will be integrated into the People’s Daily Online Public Opinion Monitoring Center, the part of the government responsible for monitoring and analysing all comments that have been posted online by China’s 800 million netizens.

The center is run by People’s Daily, one of the outlets of the Communist Party.

Up until the release of this update, there has not been a nationwide social credit scoring system that links online comments to a score.

While China’s social credit system is not as invasive as many imagine it to be, it does attach a valid ID to the online handles of all netizens in the country so that social media users with a history of “problematic” comments can be tracked down and consulted.

A large portion of this system is currently managed at the provincial level, on separate platforms that are built by different tech companies. These provinces are responsible for tracking everything — from parking tickets, local infractions, payment history on utilities and debt, and online comments. This information is used to generate a score for each citizen.

The Remin Chain’s Super ID system will change this, centralising all these data silos into a national system for tracking social credit. While the application of the system covers individual ratings thus far, the company has also suggested implementing it on small and medium sized businesses. They reason that since these enterprises are often ignored by lenders, a similar social credit system set in place for them would help establish trust in their capabilities — thereby allowing them to access credit.

While it is believed that the use of blockchain in this setup would help bridge data silos and increase the overall quality of their data, many are also concerned about the capacity of blockchain to increase the efficiency of the Communist Party’s surveillance powers.

Authorities in Beijing are already encouraging startups and tech incumbents to research and develop surveillance technologies with accelerator funding and subsidies respectively. The application of blockchain technology within the country leaves many wary of its consequences, but the full impact and the direction of their actions remain to be seen.