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China's Social Credit Tool to Monitor Companies Sparks Alarm

Economy Aug 27, 2019 10:48PM ET
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(Bloomberg) -- China’s new tool to monitor companies will be the most comprehensive system created by any government and could put some companies out of business, according to the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

The so-called corporate social credit system for companies will use real-time monitoring and processing to collect and interpret data, helping to immediately detect actions that raise or lower a company’s score, the EU Chamber of Commerce said in a report on Wednesday. Keeping on its good side will raise compliance costs and could impact companies’ earnings, it said.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the Corporate SCS will be the most comprehensive system created by any government to impose a self-regulating marketplace,” the report said. “Nor is it inconceivable that the Corporate SCS could mean life or death for individual companies.”

Under the system, the behavior of companies will be assessed through topic-specific regulatory ratings. A good rating will lead to rewards and a negative performance will mean sanctions. China is also piloting a parallel social credit system for individuals, which critics say is heavy-handed and intrusive and supporters say will make for a more considerate and law-abiding society.

There is no guarantee, however, that the ratings won’t be used at some point to target specific companies with greater scrutiny, the chamber said. The system that China wants to fully implement by next year is seen by some as a way to keep an eye on foreign firms as the country eases investment restrictions in some industries.

“The vision of the Corporate SCS as an automated regulatory system does not lend itself to discriminatory practices against foreign companies,” the report said. "However, this may be an overly optimistic interpretation, as the system does have the potential for discriminatory use towards international companies.”

The ongoing U.S.-China trade war has raised questions about the system’s application with the People’s Daily saying Tuesday that U.S. shouldn’t misjudge China’s will to retaliate. The country has already launched an investigation of U.S. delivery company FedEx Corp (NYSE:FDX). rebuffing its claims that it mistakenly rerouted some Huawei Technologies Co. packages to the U.S.

The case has stoked concerns that Beijing is starting to crack down on U.S. companies -- a Ford Motor (NYSE:F) Co. venture was recently fined -- in retaliation for Washington placing curbs on Huawei.

"Overall, targeting specific companies is not what the system is designed for. The envisioned level of automation makes it in principle more fair for foreign companies," said Björn Conrad, one of the lead authors of the report and the chief executive officer of Sinolytics -- a Berlin-based consultancy specialized on China. "However, it is still possible to use the system against them."

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Dandan Li in Beijing at dli395@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Jon Herskovitz, Sharon Chen

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

China's Social Credit Tool to Monitor Companies Sparks Alarm
 

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Comments (1)
Mark Hoffman
Mark Hoffman Aug 27, 2019 11:26PM ET
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Communist country that brutalizes it's dissidents and critics, enforces blind obedience to the Communist Party then rolls out system to impose it's will on companies...and this surprises anyone?
David David
David9 Aug 27, 2019 11:26PM ET
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You watch and you might learn something useful. Let China try it out, and maybe it is so good that other nations maybe adopt it. This is like your FICO score. People who have high FICO scores are very liable and helps determine if they are a risk or not for many things.
 
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