Zhima Credit, the age of social credit

After the creation of FICO in the US and its incredible success with the three-digit credit score, China has been working on evolutions of a similar model to create a credit score for its citizens which can be in charge not only for their credit value but also their value as citizens and how to control them. From the use of social media to a medium of social manipulation; Chinese companies, Ant Financial and Alipay developed a comprehensive app tracking all the payments, movements, beliefs and actions, and ranking every individual by their daily routine and activities. The idea of using big data for tracking and ranking opened a new journey of social credit where privacy is obsolete.

The creation of the Zhima Credit started in 2014 when the Chinese government established the necessity of having a tracking system to rank the reputation of individuals, businesses, and officials. The aim is to create a file compiling data from public and private sources of each individual by 2020. The goal is to push people to a standard behavior in order to create a safe and balanced environment within the country and on an international basis.


The revelation of an individual tracking software creates confusion on how communities have developed since its beginnings. The evolution of smarts cities brought new behavior to our communities. Cities have always changed and with them, their people, but some growths have been bigger than others in some decades. The use of big data as a behavioral measurement is, no doubt, one of the biggest steps in community trustworthiness. It also creates a personal challenge where each person develops a competition for reaching the best potential on their score. Have you helped someone on the streets today? did you get into a fight with the supermarket person? Everything will be recorded and will increase or decrease the score. It is also not only a personal issue but one with your personal network. The creation of a personal score based on good and bad could create a social gap in some communities. Since the score belongs to the public domain everybody is aware of your rank which could decrease or increases your status in your community and even more with your friends.

As we analyze the social credit score every personal and social aspect of a person life.  On a big scale, this could help to create a safer environment and an enjoyable community. In a city where people do anything but good actions, people will dispose of bad people and bad behaviors. So, if having friends with a low score will bring down a person’s score, they will try to be surrounded by people similar to them, with their same interests and same scores. It will not only clean communities but will make them smart and extraordinary.

Credit: Kevin Hong, taken from Wired.com

With Zhima Credit everything counts. From grocery payments to the school kids attend. And for this to engage more people it also offers rewards as a form of gamification. Since the score is basically a personal ranking in each society this will help people to upgrade their status and become more trustworthy. From renting cars or hotels without a security deposit, to travel to a foreign country without needing a visa. Each point counts, in the same way, that by having a bad behavior will lower the score decreasing the chances to buy some plane tickets, reserve luxury hotels and taking them to the blacklist.

As we see the importance of the Zhima Credit is estimated to cover every aspect of the Chinese culture and making people just a number. Although it is intended to cover every corner and change the way we understand privacy there are some loops which are still uncovered and hardly sorted out. As in today, the Zhima Credit is only a prototype, which probably wouldn’t affect people’s scores too much and can help the users to understand better every aspect it covers (which is basically everything). But since the project is intended to be a nationwide system by 2020 they still have a lot of spaces that need to be fixed.

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In a country like China, where people are used to the constant evolution and have the biggest population, a project with this impact could be exactly what they need in order to keep control and balance. Since Alipay and WeChat pay came to business people agreed on losing what was left of the personal privacy they had. There’s still no conclusions on how Zhima Credit will work. Actual subscribers will suffer a contrast of lifestyles and will surely find the advantages to this system. Until it becomes a regulatory program people should enjoy what they have left of freedom and privacy.

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