China’s ‘Social Credit’ System Has Banned People From Taking 11 Million Flights

China’s ‘social credit system’ monitors citizen behavior and punishes them with travel bans, bans from four and five star hotels, preventing them from sending children to expensive schools, and throttling internet speeds.

This system is slated for expansion in two years. A former official says this is so “discredited people become bankrupt.”

New data suggests that China has used this social credit system to block its citizens from taking:

  • 11.14 million airline flights
  • 4.25 million high speed train trips

2.5 million of these flights were blocked just in the last six months. Many people banned from travel have failed to pay debts,

The court publishes the names and ID numbers of debtors on its website. They are banned from plane and high-speed train travel, and can’t stay at four and five star hotels, send their children to expensive schools, book cheap hire cars, or make luxury purchases online.

Some provinces play a recorded message when someone tries to call a blacklisted debtor, informing the caller that the person they want to speak to has outstanding debts. And in May, a short cartoon with the photographs of debtors’ faces began playing at movie theatres, on buses, and on public noticeboards with a voiceover that said, “Come, come, look at these [debtors]. It’s a person who borrows money and doesn’t pay it back”.

Currently there are several separate credit systems under trial including one called ‘Sesame Credit’ linked to the Alibaba Group which has a points system. Whether a transparent score will be used in a China-wide system once rolled out in the coming years is unclear.

Credit: The Cover

Presumably listing Tibet as a country will cost points. And so will opening opening a plane’s emergency exist and popping the slide (even if you’re just looking for the lavatory or need some air).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The social credit system is a good way to promote harmony, which seems to be very important in Chinese culture and society. The communist system in China takes advantage of this.

  2. Ha, do you want a “transparent” system like the one we have here with the three rating agencies?

  3. I hope this never makes its way to the US, it is profoundly scary. For an example, see the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” from 2016.

  4. Would love such a system like this in the US. Make Fake President Trump’s face famous. Too bad cheating out your contractors and not paying your lenders isn’t a crime but hopefully Mueller can dig up something to send him behind bars where he belongs.

  5. Last night (5/22/18), the Washington Post, indicated that Amazon has been giving away facial recognition tools to law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Orlando, according to the ACLU. The software is called “Rekognition.”
    This reminds me of the movie “Minority Report.” Combining facial recognition technology with a Social Credit System would allow the government (or perhaps large social media company) to monitor everyone.

    In the spirit of free association, due to AA miles running (JFK-DFW-HKG), I have gone to Macau several times. One of the reasons I have not invested in gambling companies, such as Wynn Resorts, because many of those companies have major presence in Macau. If a senior person in the Chinese Communist Party decided to discourage gambling (ie, added it to the Social Credit Score System), Macau’s business could be impacted dramatically overnight. The Wynn casino, for example, in Macau could be worth nothing overnight.

  6. @ Other Just Saying, Cracking down on Chinese gambling might be about the only thing that could get Xi ousted.

  7. the problem with any foreign countries is we take “1 thing” from there & compare it to the “whole system” here and make judgement based on that, thinking we know everything. There are a million things different there, that 1 entity we looked at we dont know how it works in their system.

  8. @John. I know you are just correcting me because I am a conservative and you do not like my politics. However, I will comment on Wynn Resorts.

    I am not doing SNL’s John Belushi Samurai Stockbroker right now [ie. telling Americans to do bad investments so that they lose everything and commit suicide. In the skit, this bad advice is revenge for Americans for beating Japan in the World War 2]. As a Samurai stockbroker, I recommend Liberals buy Tesla and airline stocks.

    Since this is a travel blog, I should comment that I first became interested in Wynn Resorts when I was doing a miles run and stayed at the Wynn Casino in Macau. had a sale: Suite for about $150/night (great deal). The Wynn Casino in Macau is beautiful.

    Argus Research has a 4/25/18 report where they have Wynn as a 12 months “BUY” and an 5-Year “BUY” stating that ” results at the Wynn Palace in Macau, which opened in August 2016, have shown consistent improvement, with 1Q18 adjusted property EBITDA $9 million above consensus. In addition, gross gaming revenue in Macau has increased over the last seventeen months, reversing a prior decline.” In any case, if one believes that Macau revenues will continue to increase, then WYNN is a buy.

    However, I have not forgotten various crackdowns on so called “VIP Junkets” which allow wealthy gamblers to travel to Macau and gamble heavily, despite currency controls in China. Therefore, I personally will not buy, because I am afraid of additional crackdowns.

  9. Don’t show this to pricks like Trump or Hannity, or the most insufferable punk Matt Gaetz, who doesn’t know what real Republicanism is but thinks hes going to be President someday. This is dangerous stuff and we’re in dangerous times.

  10. Are you politicos nuts? The original article (above) is commenting on some interesting policies (that affect travel) of a communist country. And all of you lefties apparently decide that republicans are closer to communists than democrats?

    As @ktc says above you can’t just take “1 thing” from a country and compare it to another in a vacuum. For example, when I was in Australia I loved the “no tipping” policy because the service did not suffer and it felt like we were paying the service industry a living wage. France has the same “no tipping” policy and I hate it. They are rude, don’t care about service, and can barely be bothered to bring you your bill. But comparing these two in a vacuum would be ridiculous, because there are many other things in play as opposed to just the “no tipping policy.”

  11. @Kira. It is my opinion that the left is fine with implementing a China style social credit system as long as it is used to shut down and/or vilify Donald Trump, Matt Gaetz (whoever he is), Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh. . . . .Christians, most large corporations, definitely oil and natural gas, coal, chemical companies, and all right wing media outlets. Actually, the enemies’ list of the left is pretty long.

  12. Disallowing debtors unnecessary luxury expenses makes total sense to me. Pay off your debt and you’ll be fine. Chinese system sounds pretty mild and fair comparing to the debt prisons.

  13. @ Other Just Saying, Your politics has nothing to do with facts. Chinese love gambling and casinos. Cracking down on gambling in a meaningful way would be hugely unpopular. Therefore, the possibility is remote that Xi, even though he is anointed President for life, would do it. Wynn and the other casino owners know this. There are other pitfalls to doing business in China, like no real rule of law (the communist party gets the last word on legal issues not the courts) that are much more relevant to an investment decision. American companies, though, salivate over the prospect of getting into that market. And when they do, they wind up doing things like firing employees for tweets deemed by the party to be offensive to the Chinese people and renaming all of their maps.

  14. @John. I am sorry, but WTH are you talking about. (1) China bans gambling everywhere except for Macau, a former Portuguese colony and Hong Kong, a former United Kingdom colony. (2) President Xi has cracked down on Macau in various anti-corruption campaigns a number of times. It has made gambling stocks volatile. (3) China maintain capital (ie money) controls to prevent significant outflows of capital. These capital controls include Macau. (4) This is a problem for rich people in China who want to spend lots of cash gambling in Macau. The work-around using the so called Junket operators. These operators arrange tours to Macau for the wealthy and give them a line of credit in Macau. The wealthy gamble and pay the junket operator for their losses when they get back in the mainland. (5) There have also been reports that wealthy gamblers in Macau, take their winnings (or more likely what is left over after losses in HK or US dollars (ie. cash) and invest in offshore properties or tax havens. In other words, gamble with USD$1MM and lose 40%, you can send USD$600,000 with your kids to another country to protect against a change in fortunes. Not a bad deal to obtain money free and clear.

    Also, did I read a previous post correct, that you think opposing Trump is like the second Civil War. In that case, I am sure you would consider it an honor if I called you Soldier John.

  15. @Red Such system already exists in the US, and it’s called bankruptcy. While bankrupt, a person will not have money to spare on things like this, barring very extraordinary circumstances. FYI China does not have personal bankruptcy.

  16. @Other Just Saying, you are mistaken here! It’s the “Right” who has joined the lost cause in the past 20-30 years or so, rehashing a second Civil War forgetting that such cause was defeated 1 1/2 centuries ago.

    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
    He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
    He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
    His truth is marching on.

    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on.

  17. There are only three scenarios under which Chinese officials use what they term “Social Credit” databases to deny certain travel restrictions. In terms of numbers, they are:

    1. Debtors:
    If you don’t pay your bills, they make it difficult for you to spend money on nonessentials. At the same time, debtors are often listed in the newspapers and on community bulletin boards.

    2. Civil Servants:
    They have this idea that government employees in positions of trust should not be on gambling junkets.

    3. Parolees:
    They like to keep tabs on parolees and criminal defendants.

    Actually, these seem like good policies.

  18. @Kalboz. The Left believes in Godless Socialism. The social contract rather than God. Ir you are quoting God, you are in the wrong party.

  19. @JC. I was a little more interested in the rapid growth of Macau since I have been there. Also, if Macau grows rapidly; then major casino companies would be a buy.

    On the social credit score, I have read many articles about the dystopian nature of such scores in mainstream media. However, such stories are probable more speculative than current.

  20. All numbers in China sound big naturally. But has anyone done a comparison to the US no-fly list, in percentages per national population?

    In any case, the social credit system is something you can actively change, by paying off loans, and being honest in business and daily dealings. Not so with the secretive no-fly list, there’s no recourse.

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