- - Thursday, December 31, 2015

If you admire efficiency, you have to respect the Communists in China. They’re a step or two ahead of American liberals in their drive to mold and manipulate the peasants and sheep to do their bidding. American liberals only demonize (so far) those who disagree with them; the Chinese demonstrate that it’s possible to consign such idolatrous types to outer darkness with neither arrest nor beating.

An American version of Mao’s cultural revolution sweeps the university campuses here, enabling sophomores and others to destroy the reputations and careers of those not sufficiently committed to the latest fad, craze or cause. Swallowing goldfish and panty raiding are so 20th century. The Chinese, like American sophomores, have moved on.

China still locks up counter-revolutionaries and suppresses the free exercise of speech, assembly and religion, but they’re into high tech and have discovered a way to mold their people into the new men and new women to populate the brave new world without dispatching tanks and troops to Tiananmen Square.

When they aren’t hacking into the secrets here, the Chinese are high-tech wizards figuring out how to use tools Mao never dreamed of, all to keep the masses in line. Their latest weapon is the credit score. The government has politicized the credit score in ways that would make an Obama bureaucrat drool.

Everyone knows how crucial a good credit score is to the good life. Such a score determines who gets a new-car loan or mortgage. There are dozens of companies promising prospective consumers how to improve or clean up a bad score. Usually the advice is good enough but hardly reflects authentic wisdom, such as pay your bills on time, scrutinize every line of a sales contract and get incorrect items removed, go and sin no more, and you can watch your credit score rise.

But in China such advisers will soon be telling their customers that the way to improve credit is to say nicer things about their commissars, stop complaining about the suppression of freedoms, avoid all books and magazines critical of the Communist Party, and stop hanging out with questionable friends who are a bad influence. The new scoring system is operated by two high-tech firms in partnership with the government. It’s called “Sesame Credit.” Customers are scored not just on their history of timely bill paying, but on their “political compliance” with the nation’s “behavioral norms.”

They’re testing the system now, and it’s expected to be rolled out on a mandatory basis soon enough. It will enable the regime not only to use high tech to track a citizen’s activities and purchases, but to automatically grade them on the basis of their “political reliability.” Civil-liberties organizations here are concerned that something similar might one day be deployed in the United States.

It would require a brave new world indeed if one day Americans couldn’t get a new car or a mortgage because a credit score had been downgraded because of the applicant’s skepticism of global warming (or cooling), criticism of health-care schemes or even reading questionable newspapers, perhaps like the one you’re reading now, all monitored by the IRS. But pshaw! Would a government do a thing like that?

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