China is set to expand the use of its social credit system by banning those with poor scores from taking trains and planes. The bans will only last for about a year each, but is a clear indication for the kind of social control the government seeks to impose on its citizens.
According to the announcement, those who have spread false information about terrorism, causing trouble on flights, use expired tickets, and smoke on trains will be affected. Those also covered by the ban would be those that failed to pay their fines.
While most of these are acts that would be reasonably banned from transportation systems, the definition of “false information” is wide enough to allow the government to apply it at will.
This announcement is in line with President Xi Jinping’s plan to implement a wider social credit system within the country. Ultimately, each individual will be scored according to his or her actions; providing them with a publicly visible score. Doing things that the government approves increases the score; while disobeying the strict public order provides penalties.
The end goal is to provide social benefits like easier bank loans and shopping discounts to those with good social scores; while punishing those who act poorly. In this case, it would appear that the punishment phase of the system is being tested with travel bans.
Reuters points out that while the official start date for the flight bans is supposedly 1 May 2018, it appears to have been used since early 2017. The Supreme People’s Court said during a press conference that 6.15 million Chinese citizens had already been banned for social misdeeds.