Zhima credit: big brother on steroids

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Just back from China where I had a very interesting talk with a friend about Zhima credit. I had heard about it, but it’s becoming really scary, what he explained left me astonished…

We went to a posh restaurant in Shanghai and we got a really nice table, and he explained it was because he had a good Zhima credit number. So he explained about all the benefits he had because of his good Zhima rating.

If you have been to China lately, you will have noticed that everybody pays using the mobile phone. It’s the QR country. You buy a train ticket, scan the QR code to pay. Want to give a tip to a waiter, scan the QR on his shirt to do so. Go to a restaurant, scan the QR on the bill to pay. You will see beggars on the street with QR codes printed on a paper. And so on.

They talk about Nordic countries, but it’s China that is quickly becoming a cashless society (don’t worry nordic people, in China there is much more corruption, so cash will always be there). There are mainly two apps that control the payment market: Alibaba’s Alipay, and Tencent’s Wechat (yes, the messaging app that many people in the West uses now)

If you have seen Alipay, you click on the icon and a screen opens with several icons. So, there are apps within Alipay app, and you can use them to pay but also to book appointments with doctors, rent a car, book plane tickets, take a bike, call a taxi, get groceries delivered, book a tennis court… So all this is done with apps that exist within the Alipay app, which gives Alibaba (Alipay’s parent company) a lot of information about your life.

One of the killer apps is Zhima credit. Basically, Alipay is telling you that they will use all the info they have about you to assign you a credit number. The higher the number, the more benefits you get. They calculate the number based on everything you do, and based too on who are your friends.

So he told me, because he has a good number, when he rents a car, an apartment, go to a hotel… he does not need to pay any deposit. He gets better seats at restaurants. He gets more upgrades when he travels. He gets more invited to parties and has more chances to make guanxi with important people. So he really gets a lot of benefits in real life.

Problem comes when you do something “wrong“. Your rating goes down. So you make your contacts’ rating go down, nobody wants to have a contact with a low rating. So they unfriend you. Which makes your rating go even more down…

Also, it’s not clear how much of this info goes to the government (but in China, you can imagine). And Chinese government said in 2014 that on 2020 they wanted to have a social score for each Chinese citizen, which is exactly what Alibaba is doing.

When I came back I checked for more info and I found the article below, a little long but  so good that when I finished reading it I gave it a standing ovation. I highly recommend reading it to get an idea of the kind of orwellian society we are becoming. Big brother on steroids… be good! (and good luck that good means the same to you as to the person or algorithm that is making decisions about your life uffffff…….)

Marc Torras

Recommended article: https://www.wired.com/story/age-of-social-credit/