China Just Launched the Most Frightening Game Ever — and Soon It Will Be Mandatory

December 21, 2015   |   Claire Bernish

Claire Bernish
December 21, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Oceania, China — As if further proof were needed Orwell’s dystopia is now upon us, China has now gamified obedience to the State. Though that is every bit as creepily terrifying as it sounds, citizens may still choose whether or not they wish to opt-in — that is, until the program becomes compulsory in 2020. “Going under the innocuous name of ‘Sesame Credit,’ China has created a score for how good a citizen you are,” explains Extra Credits’ video about the program. “The owners of China’s largest social networks have partnered with the government to create something akin to the U.S. credit score — but, instead of measuring how regularly you pay your bills, it measures how obediently you follow the party line.

In the works for years, China’s ‘social credit system’ aims to create a docile, compliant citizenry who are fiscally and morally responsible by employing a game-like format to create self-imposed, group social control. In other words, China gamified peer pressure to control its citizenry; and, though the scheme hasn’t been fully implemented yet, it’s already working — insidiously well.

Zheping Huang, a reporter for Quartz, chronicled his own experience with the social control tool in October, saying that “in the past few weeks I began to notice a mysterious new trend. Numbers were popping up on my social media feeds as my friends and strangers on Weibo [the Chinese equivalent to Twitter] and WeChat began to share their ‘Sesame Credit scores.’ The score is created by Ant Financial, an Alibaba-affiliated company that also runs Alipay, China’s popular third-party payment app with over 350 million users. Ant Financial claims that it evaluates one’s purchasing and spending habits in order to derive a figure that shows how creditworthy someone is.”

However, according to a translation of the “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System,” posted online by Oxford University’s China expert, Rogier Creemers, it’s nightmarishly clear the program is far more than just a credit-tracking method. As he described it, “The government wants to build a platform that leverages things like big data, mobile internet, and cloud computing to measure and evaluate different levels of people’s lives in order to create a gamified nudging for people to behave better.”

While Sesame Credit’s roll-out in January has been downplayed by many, the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, urges caution, saying:

“The system is run by two companies, Alibaba and Tencent, which run all the social networks in China and therefore have access to a vast amount of data about people’s social ties and activities and what they say. In addition to measuring your ability to pay, as in the United States, the scores serve as a measure of political compliance. Among the things that will hurt a citizen’s score are posting political opinions without prior permission, or posting information that the regime does not like, such as about the Tiananmen Square massacre that the government carried out to hold on to power, or the Shanghai stock market collapse. It will hurt your score not only if you do these things, but if any of your friends do them.” And, in what appears likely the goal of the entire program, added, “Imagine the social pressure against disobedience or dissent that this will create.”

Social pressure, of course, can be highly effective given the right circumstances. China seems to have found exactly that in the intricate linking of people’s scores to their contacts, which can be seen publicly by anyone — and then upping the ante through score-based incentives and rewards. Rick Falkvinge pointed out a startling comparison:

The KGB and the Stasi’s method of preventing dissent from taking hold was to plant so-called agents provocateurs in the general population, people who tried to make people agree with dissent, but who actually were arresting them as soon as they agreed with such dissent. As a result, nobody would dare agree that the government did anything bad, and this was very effective in preventing any large-scale resistance from taking hold. The Chinese way here is much more subtle, but probably more effective still.”

As Creemers described to Dutch news outlet, de Volkskrant, “With the help of the latest internet technologies, the government wants to exercise individual surveillance. The Chinese aim […] is clearly an attempt to create a new citizen.”

Chinese internet specialist at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Johan Lagerkvist, said the system is“very ambitious in scope, including scrutinizing individual behavior and what books people read. It’s Amazon’s consumer tracking with an Orwellian political twist.”

James Corbett has been tracking the implementation of Sesame Credit for some time. Introducing the ubiquitous tracking system for a recent episode of the Corbett Report, he mused:

“Coming soon to a New World Order near you: social credit! Earn points by behaving like the government wants you to behave! Get penalized if you don’t act like a doubleplusgood citizen! What could be more fun?”

Indeed, because mandatory enrollment in Sesame Credit is still a few years away, its true effectiveness won’t be measurable for some time. But even a reporter’s usual wariness appears knocked off-kilter, as Zheping Huang summarized his personal experience: “Even if my crappy credit score doesn’t mean much now, it’s in my best interest I suppose to make sure it doesn’t go too low.”

And that, of course, is precisely why gamifying State obedience is so terrifying.


This article (China Just Launched the Most Frightening Game Ever — and Soon It Will Be Mandatory) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Claire Bernish and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Author: Claire Bernish

Claire Bernish joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in May of 2015. Her topics of interest include thwarting war propaganda through education, the refugee crisis & related issues, 1st Amendment concerns, ending police brutality, and general government & corporate accountability. Born in North Carolina, she now lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Share This Post On

132 Comments

  1. i think this is borderline slavery, and could put the country into schizophrenia mode.

    Post a Reply
  2. At least they do it with grown ups. If you do it like the US and start in kindergarten with I pledge alliance to the flag and use credit scoring as a tool u end with fundamental U.S- Democracy!
    Hurray we been safed

    Post a Reply
  3. of course, any system can be gamed. and it can't be that difficult to create an online personality with a great score where in fact the individual is completely opposed. what it does do is make it more difficult to connect with birds of a feather, but only more difficult, not impossible… and if the state relies sufficiently on the new system they'll dismantle their more insiduous network of infiltrators

    Post a Reply
  4. of course, any system can be gamed. and it can't be that difficult to create an online personality with a great score where in fact the individual is completely opposed. what it does do is make it more difficult to connect with birds of a feather, but only more difficult, not impossible… and if the state relies sufficiently on the new system they'll dismantle their more insiduous network of infiltrators

    Post a Reply
  5. Human beings will not be controlled this way and china is full of them.

    Post a Reply
  6. I hear that if you press up, down, up, down, X, Y, X, R2, R2+R1 you get your mortgage paid. 🙂

    Post a Reply
  7. What is the graphics like ? Are there plugins ? Powerups ? A trailer, what about beta testing ? I need more details. What are the minimum specs ? I have a laptop and not sure if I'll need to bang in another gig of Ram or two.

    Post a Reply
  8. Hey what about just staying away from the internet apart from essential use (bill paying, train times, food shopping etc)? You don't have to play the game 😉

    Post a Reply
  9. The person who wrote this article has clearly never been to China so let me help you out. Being a member of the communist party is not mandatory. Many people already wear pins and identifying logos to show other party members that they are part of the group. You are making a mountain out of a mole hill here. But that's what antimedia does, makes people paranoid about bullshit. good job guys, A+ article.

    Post a Reply
  10. The older I get the more disgusting the pledge, and a lot of other things in the U.S., become.

    Post a Reply
  11. Apparently, whether Mr. Orwell knew it or not, he was writing a guide book…lay in your supplies now, the "Benevolent State" is coming…

    Post a Reply
  12. This is actually a brilliant idea. Ever heard of gamification? As someone who likes video games, this would be a great incentive to get a high score and see how well I'm doing against my opponents.

    Post a Reply
  13. No it does not. If you want the privilige of borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars you should be able to show you are responsible with money. Not the same.

    Post a Reply
  14. Exactly, how is this different from our combined credits scores and google habits. The article doesn't mention a punishment for low scores. Unless I missed it.

    Post a Reply
  15. Can you explain why this isn't as big a deal as presented here? I could see how this "game" could have real life implications for people, as more and more people see in insentive of early adopters. But I also see how antimedia drums up paranoia.

    Post a Reply
  16. I'm really glad I read another article on the same topic. Anti-media is streatching the truth about sesame credits at best, downright misrepresenting them is probably a more accurate description. Fox news of the left right here. .

    Post a Reply
  17. Christine Pennisi Daley The accompanying video said you will be penelised for having low scores by making it harder to travel, harder to get a loan, harder to get and/or hold some jobs not to mention societal pressures and the fear of being ostracised.

    Post a Reply
  18. Arash Abtahi I'm moving back to China because the U.S. stinks so bad. Good luck Arash!

    Post a Reply
  19. Bryan Miller i live in china and i've never heard about this shit. It is absurd. what's more its run mainly by "alibaba" whose product "zhifubao" is the biggest competitor of the state-owned banks in China. So I see no reason for the banks and the goverment to root for this in future

    Post a Reply
  20. This will be a great way to find, organize, and empower dissendents. Thanks China

    Post a Reply
  21. "Membership in the Party not mandatory"…LOL

    But if you know what's good for you, you won't diss The Party either or we'll go all Tinananmen over you.

    Post a Reply
  22. this article is stupid, as far as i know, your Sesame Credit relies on a product named "zhifubao". This product is kind of similar to paypal.
    For this account you need nothing but a cellphone number and your name and bank account. I've used this product for about 5 times and now i get my score 597. I don't see this has anything to do with how I'm obedient to the party line. And friend? for fuck's sake who need a social network for a paypal account !!!

    Post a Reply
  23. Roxanne Hancock LOL you have no idea what you are talking about, but keep talking. 🙂

    Post a Reply
  24. There's already BILLIONS of very well controlled people over there that can overturn this regime in a day if they want to, and are too brainwashed, impoverished, or repressed to do so.

    Post a Reply
  25. Zac Collins Yea how dare you pledge alliegence to the country you live in! How dare you! Fucking moron.

    Post a Reply
  26. Zac Collins Yea how dare you pledge alliegence to the country you live in! How dare you! Fucking moron.

    Post a Reply
  27. Eric Christensen You're not doing it to the country but to the FLAG. There is a difference, also the pledge has been modifyed. How bout we take that UNDER GOD part….since you know we're a secular nation. If you say otherwise then you do not understand what this country is suppose to be about.

    Post a Reply
  28. If having kids say the Pledge is brainwashing, then so is making kids pray in church; so is letting them learn lyrics to pop music (which is *gasp* controlled by the media!); so is allowing martial arts schools to teach a student creed….

    Half the kids in my classes didn't even say the pledge and no one got put in detention over it. No penalty == no disincetive :: not brainwashing. When they start whipping children for not saying the pledge, let me know.

    Post a Reply
  29. Zac, you sound just like any unintelligent, mal-informed putz that complains about Anti-media or other non-FOX media outlets. If your brain is too small to filter out the fluff and bullshit out news content, then don't come crying to the comments section about it because you sound like an idiot.

    Ofcourse they are making a big deal about something, it's news, it's meant to keep your attention.

    Use common sense and logic (which you clearly lack) to take the facts from the article and come to your own conclusion. This game can have some seriously implications, and if you don't see it, then you are a simple sheeple.

    Post a Reply
  30. The book 1984 was about a hundred years off it will be 2084 who could ask for more!!

    Post a Reply
  31. Zac Collins Oh yeah, I'm sure China smells SOOOOOOOO much better. Your lungs will be thanking you in no time.

    Post a Reply
  32. Gov. sponsored peer shaming. Forcing citizens to become RATS. Proud part of their national identity? Guess tianamen square was a waste of life, and effort. Didn't some Canadian bitches come up with this garbage program a while ago? Now all China has to do is get electricity to the remaining 600 million, and make sure they have Bell internet! Trump should run there LOL

    Post a Reply
  33. Roxanne Hancock Sounds like you've never stepped foot in China or spoken to anyone who has.

    Post a Reply
  34. Dallas Mi you are right. hen so is making kids pray in church; church in of itself is brainwashing and a cult. But you are 100% right.

    Post a Reply
  35. Katherine Minor If you want to take apart every little piece and critisize every word of the pledge then go ahead. You can look as deep as you want into the pledge and have your own opinions on it. I for one will continue saying the pledge when needed because I love this country and I will pledge allegience to the country, to the flag, to the president or whatever/whoever else as long as I live. I don't feel the need to pick apart the pledge and say oh this is actually this! And this is horrible! And we need to change this! Who really gives a shit.

    Post a Reply
  36. Dallas Mi Yes making kids pray in church is indead brainwashing. Dont pary = you're a bad Christian = being a bad Christian can lead to hell in the after life. So pray and be a good christan and you will have enernal life. Using your equation above there is a penalty and insentive to praying. Using religion as an example of non-brainwashing is not the best idea. It's one of the oldest formes of brainwashing in the books.

    Even some of the kids in your class don't say the pledge they are still hearing the pledge everyday. That will stick with them forever in the back of their brain. I can recite at the drop of a hat and I haven't said it in years. How is that not brainwashing? You dont have to have a penalty to be brainwashed.

    Post a Reply
  37. Dallas Mi Yes making kids pray in church is indead brainwashing. Dont pary = you're a bad Christian = being a bad Christian can lead to hell in the after life. So pray and be a good christan and you will have enernal life. Using your equation above there is a penalty and insentive to praying. Using religion as an example of non-brainwashing is not the best idea. It's one of the oldest formes of brainwashing in the books.

    Even some of the kids in your class don't say the pledge they are still hearing the pledge everyday. That will stick with them forever in the back of their brain. I can recite at the drop of a hat and I haven't said it in years. How is that not brainwashing? You dont have to have a penalty to be brainwashed.

    Post a Reply
  38. So Austria does not have a pledge? or a national song? or any love of it's own country?

    Post a Reply
  39. So Austria does not have a pledge? or a national song? or any love of it's own country?

    Post a Reply
  40. I appreciate the fear response but how else do you keep control of 1.3bn people? It's in everybodie's interest that the government keeps control isn't it?

    Post a Reply
  41. Katherine Minor "and to the republic for which it stands". It's very clearly indoctranation. You're literally having kids pledge their allegiance to the state every morning.

    Post a Reply
  42. Every society does this already to some degree, china is just making it more explicit. I'm curious as to how this will turn out

    Post a Reply
  43. If most of this is based on the Extra Credits video, it's definiltey infused with sensationalistic panic. The video gets things wrong, and you can cross check with the article from Zheping Huang.

    Post a Reply
  44. If most of this is based on the Extra Credits video, it's definiltey infused with sensationalistic panic. The video gets things wrong, and you can cross check with the article from Zheping Huang.

    Post a Reply
  45. Roxanne Hancock There is "only" ca 1,5 billion in China. I agree that the public can overturn the government, just like any other dictatorship can be overturned by its people. The biggest threat for the Communist party of China and the biggest hope for China at the same time , is the Chinese people. May them succeed in breaking up their dragonian communist system and create a real democracy instead. God bless all

    Post a Reply
  46. Roxanne Hancock There is "only" ca 1,5 billion in China. I agree that the public can overturn the government, just like any other dictatorship can be overturned by its people. The biggest threat for the Communist party of China and the biggest hope for China at the same time , is the Chinese people. May them succeed in breaking up their dragonian communist system and create a real democracy instead. God bless all

    Post a Reply
  47. Arash Abtahi , neither the Pledge of Allegiance nor credit scores were around when America was founded — actually, The Pledge wasn't even around for the first half of its life and credit scores are an even more recent phenomenon. Personally, I see the utility of credit scores, but hating either or both of them isn't "un-American" by any stretch. That said, making young kids say The Pledge before school every day when they are too young to understand the gravity of what it means is basically brainwashing, in my opinion.

    And funnily enough, if every country were like the US, Rene would have quite a problem emmigrating wouldn't he?

    Post a Reply
  48. Unless we change something fairly fast, this is exactly where the USG is headed. Well, we're about halfway there right now (see the person below). More and more individuals just shrug at the prospect of an ever-growing national security state. Sadly, I and other intelligent people are trapped in the same society with these morons (those who aren't disinfo agents).

    Post a Reply
  49. /me signs up andposts about Tiananmen Square massacre

    THATS A -50 SCP MINUS!!!!

    Post a Reply
  50. Stop posting this nonsense. China Credit is not Sesame or Tencent Credit. The Extra Credits video is wrong and you are all a bunch of idiots for not doing research. How the hell is a Youtube video your source for an article? Antimedia indeed.

    Alibaba and Tencent are creating customer loyalty programs, much like any big retailer. China Credit, the system which will be mandatory in 2020, is a wholly separate system and is intended to be a financial credit system.

    https://www.techinasia.com/china-citizen-scores-credit-system-orwellian

    Post a Reply
  51. Adam Alkouri You should do some of your own research before calling out people about their news sources. The Anti Media is using a Youtube video as their information source without doing any of their own research, how is that credible?

    As for the information itself, it is wrong. Alibaba and Tencent are creating customer loyalty programs like any major retailer does. The perks that Alibaba was giving their customers have already been denounced by the government, which is making them stop.

    The system that will become mandatory in 2020 is China Credit, a government financial system. Here's a singapore based media source that actually did some of its own research:

    https://www.techinasia.com/china-citizen-scores-credit-system-orwellian

    Post a Reply
  52. Frankly speaking I can't see anything much different from the mass brainwashing through the controlled mainstream media that the rest of the countries in the world are doing for so long.

    Post a Reply
  53. I am tired of games. I´m tired of lottery tickets. I'm tired of competitions. I am tired of traffick and parking fines. I am tired of airport searches. I am tired of giving away my social rights like free expression, intimacy and having a dignified life. I am tired that everything is valued with money. In fact I am tired of the whole svcking system.

    Post a Reply
  54. are you high? what if you were getting your pension based on how loyal you are to your governament??

    Post a Reply
  55. Adam Alkouri Zac lives in China. He's more of an authority than anyone commenting on this story.

    Post a Reply
  56. Actually, the US already has this, but the difference is that your 'scores' are hidden, and when you get denied for a job/bank loan or whatever, you may never know why.

    Post a Reply
  57. Adam Alkouri I see someone is working on their Sesame score in the comments section here!

    Post a Reply
  58. Matt Rush that happens here…just ask a few boomers..once you make a mistake, like lose a job, it will be a long time and very expensive, maybe for the rest of one's lot.

    Post a Reply
  59. For the sake of journalism, I just opted myself in. Got a score of 731, extremely well credit. Hahahaha… The Sesame Credit is just a boring credit gadget from Alipay, the payal in China, with very limited evaluation scope. Half a billion people in China don't have a credit card, let along tracking their credit through bills or social media. But once again, this is a great example of making people paranoid about bullshit.

    Post a Reply
  60. I wonder how many people on this thread have earned the parties 50 cents by now. Probably quite a few.

    Post a Reply
  61. "Yea how dare you pledge alliegence to the country you live in!"

    The country doesn't have ears. The country doesn't have feelings.

    Post a Reply
  62. 张路尧 chinese here to support you ,i am surprised to find this article .it is nonsense.

    Post a Reply
  63. Jonathan Chan Calling out wumao? Typical circlejerk. There are facts presented in this chain of comments to disprove the misinformation. I'm surprised you were able to get this far without being able to read.

    Post a Reply
  64. Only 45% of China's population uses the internet. Looks like the writer even failed to check BASIC facts before writing this bullshit article. Stop the China bashing and focus on the US please.

    Post a Reply
  65. This is where you are wrong. Yes…China if full of human beings…but…they will totally be controlled this way. No problem.

    Post a Reply
  66. Dallas Mi Making kids pray in church is very definitely brainwashing. Child brainwashing is literally the only way Religion gets perpetuated, because to any unbiased adult with an overall knowledge of the world its extremely obvious that all religious texts are simply the way ancient civilisations without access to modern technology/medicine sought to control, protect and expand their populations. Very useful carrot and stick technique where you don't have to actually provide any carrot or use any stick.

    Post a Reply
  67. Robert Sothmann I have to have more faith in the human spirit because I have children. And i love Chinnese food more than Mc Donalds, Its the only thing i know about the future. Unless Mc D's cleans up its act, which its under pressure to do, then it wont matter what the chinnese are cooking or not cooking, they might even see the beauty and deliciuosness of Mc D's and start to eat it to. Wonderfull possibilities and not at all dark and scarey.

    Post a Reply
  68. Thank you this website I've never heard of. You just showed the CCP a way to make life worse in China. And I hope they don't listen to your evil agenda.

    Post a Reply
  69. If you really understood anarchy you wouldn't be knocking it, fore legs good- two legs bad. Left right left right, march in place long enough you still go nowhere.

    Post a Reply
  70. If I want the state's opinion of how good a citizen I am, I will give it to them.

    Post a Reply
  71. This is the kind of shit we really need to be careful of and be thankful we don't live in a country that does such overarching control measures we must also ensure our own countries don't go down the same path

    Post a Reply
  72. Zac Collins It's fairly easy to see that you didn't read the article, and doing that ole two step shuffle, of misdirecting the conversation. No where did the article state, that the person was being forced to join the communist party. It stated that by 2020, a person would be forced to use the application…

    Perhaps Sir, when your reading comprehension improves, we all can take your statements seriously.

    Post a Reply
  73. I lived in Guangzhou the last two years and never heard of this, but it certainly wouldnt surpise me if this was a real implemented thing in the years to come.

    Post a Reply
  74. Zac Collins Did you even read the article? Because either you didn't or your reading compehension is really low. Anyway I wouldn't trust anyone who lives INSIDE China's dictatorship or are you gonna tell me China is a model for personal freedom and civil rights, too?

    Post a Reply
  75. Michael Aronson People living in China are the last people I'd ask about it. Don't diss The Party. Don't say anything about The Party. Don't buck against The Party. Don't anger The party, and The Party will take care of you, good devoted citizen!

    Post a Reply
  76. Carlos Ignacio Ortega the increase of people lately on the Internet I see literally selling China as an ideal government where everyone is "free" and anyone can prosper is flat out terrifying.

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *