What do young Chinese think about social credit? It’s complicated

Marc Oliver Rieger (University of Trier), Mei Wang (WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management), Mareike Ohlberg (MERICS)

  • China’s emerging social credit system should be understood not as a single unified system but as a package or policy framework combining many different policies.
  • Results of our student survey at three Chinese universities between December 2018 and April 2019 suggest that no easy conclusions about broad-based approval of such policies can be drawn. We also surveyed Taiwanese and German students for comparison.
  • Our survey sought their responses to four policies associated with the social credit system mega-project. Students from China rated the measures more positively, with approval rates between 41 and 57 percent, than their German counterparts, who gave a maximum of 19 percent approval. However, approval rates from students in China were lower than the 80 percent approval rates found in a previous study by researchers at Freie Universität Berlin.
  • Our results also show a complex picture of how Chinese respondents think about social credit and the associated risks: e.g. government surveillance was rated as a higher risk in China than abuse of data by private companies, although media discussions related to “privacy protection” in China’s official media has focused predominantly on the latter.