China is developing a new high-tech system of mass surveillance and coercion aimed suppressing political dissent among its 1.4 billion people, while forcing American and Western businesses to conform to the government’s communist policies if they want to operate there.
The system that critics call an Orwellian national-level control system has been dubbed the Social Credit System (SCS) and was set for launch in the coming year, although recent reports from China now say the rollout could be delayed until 2021.
The massive system has been tested in several major Chinese cities and uses millions of surveillance cameras linked to supercomputers containing massive databases. Face and voice recognition technology then identifies and monitors people with the goal of controlling behaviors that range from dissident political activity to jaywalking, ostensibly as part of a financial credit monitoring system similar to those used in the West.
Vice President Mike Pence called out the program in a recent speech, warning that China’s surveillance state is “growing more expansive and intrusive — often with the help of U.S. technology.”
“By 2020, China’s rulers aim to implement an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life — the so-called social credit score,” Mr. Pence said. “In the words of that program’s official blueprint, it will ‘allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven, while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.’”
Facial recognition tools are widely used now in China bolstered by cameras deployed along streets, on buildings, in train stations, in classrooms and subway lines. With the emergence of next-generation 5G telecommunications technology, the reach of the surveillance networks is only expected to increase.
As part of the stepped-up surveillance, the Chinese government announced this month that all who purchase SIM cards for mobile phones must first produce a facial recognition print.