Black Mirror is real: China bans citizens with bad ‘social credit’ from planes, trains

Millions of Chinese citizens had been banned from some form of travel, and there will be more to come. Source: Shutterstock.

THE Black Mirror-esque future is closer than we think as China is about to get its very own real-life Nosedive episode.

In 2014, the Chinese government announced it was developing a “social credit” system, a nationwide tracking system to rate the reputations of individuals, businesses, and even government officials.

Upon full implementation sometime in 2020, every Chinese citizen will be trailed by a file compiling data from public and private sources and searchable by fingerprints and other biometric characteristics.

The concept is simple: Everyone starts off with a baseline of a number of points. Most pilot cities started off with 100 points per person.

Do good (such as donating blood, recycling, charity work, volunteering) and your social credit score will increase. Do bad (such as incurring debt or criticizing the government) and you’ll be blacklisted from a score of things including buying property and taking out loans.

In Suzhou, a city west of Shanghai, one can earn six points for donating blood.

You could say that it sounds eerily similar to Nosedive.

Nosedive is set in a world where people can rate each other from one to five stars for every interaction they have, which can impact their socioeconomic status. The lead character becomes overly obsessed with getting her ratings up in order to score a discount for a luxury apartment.

However, several bad decisions and mishaps led to a rapid decrease in her ratings, rendering her unable book a flight ticket or rent a car.

The episode culminates in her melting down, landing her in prison.


Previously, the Chinese government has only restricted travel of people with massive amounts of debt. One such example is Le Eco and Faraday Future founder Jia Yueting, who made China’s Supreme People’s Court blacklist.

In 2017, China’s Supreme People’s Court said during a press conference that 6.15 million Chinese citizens had been banned from taking flights for social misdeeds.

However, starting this May, just about anyone who ranks low on China’s social credit system will have to deal with penalties and restrictions. Wrongdoers will be flagged and blocked from traveling on trains and planes.

Here are some of the ways Chinese citizens can lose social credit:

  • Not showing up to a restaurant without having canceled the reservation
  • Cheating in online games
  • Leaving false product reviews
  • Jaywalking
  • Spreading false information about terrorism
  • Caused trouble on flights
  • Used expired tickets
  • Not visiting aging parents regularly
  • Illegally dumping garbage
  • Caught smoking on trains

On the other hand, those with high social credit scores aka “model citizens” can enjoy perks such as free gym facilities, cheaper public transport, and shorter wait times in hospitals.

Source: Shutterstock.

The experiments with the system are set to continue until 2020 when it will be implemented nationwide.

A point to ponder, though: Does it make you shudder at the thought of the Chinese government someday selling this technology to other countries?