China Seminar | 12 December 2019

China’s Social Credit System: Being Trustworthy is Glorious, Being Untrustworthy Is Disgraceful!

Lawrence C. Foster Lawrence C. Foster

China is building a national Social Credit System. What is it, how does it work, and what is its purpose? As is often the case in China, the initial, experimental efforts to build a Social Credit System have been taking place at the local level at least since 2014, before the system becomes a national program. The concept is also being expanded to include a Corporate Social Credit System. At present, at the local level, there is a great variety as to how the system works, e.g. what is your starting score, how many points do you lose/gain for various actions (e.g. in Shanghai, you lose points for failing to sort your trash), is the system objective or subjective, is it reliable, what are the incentives for having a good score and penalties for having a poor score, etc.? Western media has been largely critical of the system, often warning of a dystopian future for China, but to date, Chinese media and commentators have not had much to say about the new system until recently, perhaps spurred on by the negative western reports.

Lawrence Foster started to learn Chinese and made his first trip to Asia (Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong) in the 1960s. His education includes a Ph.D. in Chinese language and literature and a law degree. Larry’s professional career includes a professorship of Chinese language and literature, a lawyer, and Dean and professor of the UH Law School. From 2005 to 2013, while living in Shanghai, Larry was a Senior Consultant at a major international Chinese law firm and a mentor for young Chinese lawyers. He has also been an affiliate professor at Beijing University’s School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen, China. Larry has served as an elected member of the governing council of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association and President of the international alumni association of the EWC. He was a member of Law Asia and the American Bar Association’s China Law Committee, as well as a trustee for Tokai University. Although retired from UH Law School, he is still teaching courses and doing legal training programs on legal writing and analysis in China.