Online Seminar: The Social Credit System in China

On 17 November 2022, the Finnish China Law Center will hold an online seminar on the topic of ‘The Social Credit System in China ‘. The event is part of the Center’s new mini seminar series on topical issues of Chinese law.

The speakers include Björn Ahl, Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne and President of the European China Law Studies Association, and Marianne von Blomberg, Research Associate at the Chair of Chinese Legal Culture, University of Cologne. The event will discuss the legality of social credit in China and reputational regulation through the social credit system.

The seminar programme can be found here.

The event is free and open to all. Zoom link for the event will be sent to registered participants.

We kindly ask you to register by 15 November by completing the following electronic form: 

Background of the presentations

Debating the Legality of Social Credit in China – A Review of Chinese Legal Scholarship

Though there is a vast amount of critical English language literature on the Chinese social credit system (社会信用体系, ‘SCS’) that implies violations of legal principles and rights of private actors, Chinese legal scholarship that analyses the legality of SCS practices has so far not been a focal point of the international literature investigating the SCS. The presentation attempts to fill this gap and demonstrates that the Chinese legal debate is resolutely critical of certain aspects of the SCS. Further, the legal debate provides substantial input to SCS development and to related future legal reforms. In some cases, legal discussions even go beyond doctrinal legality analysis as they identify an emerging data-driven mode of behavioural regulation that may supersede, set aside or replace the law.

Reputational Regulation through the Social Credit System

China’s Social Credit System (SCS) formalizes reputational regulation, thereby challenging traditional remedial paths. The SCS adds trust assessments and their dissemination to the regulatory repertoire of Chinese state agencies across all realms. This use of adverse publicity, however, entails the loss of the agency’s control over the scope and intensity of the punishment as the punitive action is realized by information recipients, rather than the agency itself. However, traditional legal controls are not fit for shaming. Legal remedies for social credit shaming measures are regularly denied, as their position in the law is unclear. Other existing remedial channels likewise do not consider the particularities of shame sanctions such as irreversibility. Social credit reputational regulation might best be controlled by formulating an agency practice that retains the control over the scope of punishment.

About the speakers

Björn Ahl is Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne. Currently, he is a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law of Helsinki University. His research in Chinese law focuses on constitutional development, in particular on judicial reforms and rights litigation. Chinese practice of public international law, comparative law, legal transfers and legal culture, which are related to Greater China and Chinese legal development are further areas of his research. He is President of the European China Law Studies Association. He received a Ph.D. in Law from Heidelberg University and studied law and Chinese language at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Nanjing. 

Marianne von Blomberg is a Research Associate and PhD candidate at the Chair of Chinese Legal Culture where she explores how the evolving Social Credit Systems strengthen, transform, and challenge the law. Her current research focuses on reputational sanctions in social credit systems and social credit’s genealogy. In her dissertation, she observes the case of China’s Social Credit System to unearth how trust assessment systems in both governance and the market affect the functioning and role of traditional legalities. Marianne holds an LL.M degree from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, a BA in Communication and Cultural Studies from Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen and previously spent a year at the Law School of City University of Hong Kong as a visiting researcher.