China’s “deadbeat” list is a running tracker of people who failed to meet court-ordered obligations — being on the list means being barred from flights, high-speed trains, and luxury hotels, among other things. In an interesting development this past week, the list now includes Luo Yonghao, high-profile CEO of smartphone company Smartisan.
Luo, who is known throughout China for his impassioned Weibo posts bashing tech companies like Apple and his unique smartphone product launches, had accumulated as much as 60 million RMB in debt trying to keep Smartisan in competition with China’s many other smartphone companies. After Smartisan failed to honor a previous contract with an outside firm, a court in Danyang ordered him to be placed on the public “deadbeat” list.
Is this the infamous “social credit” system? Well, no, not really. China’s social credit system may have a distinctly Orwellian ring to it, but the real thing is a lot more nuanced. Looking more closely, the system is at its core “a policy project that aims to incentivize lawful, honest behavior.”
Sesame Credit, a service that gives people “credit scores” based on user data and the biggest financial component of the wider social credit system, is a third-party, opt-in program that actually has no negative consequences for people with low scores. The “blacklist” that condemned Luo Yonghao is not associated with the overall social credit system, but rather operates independently within China’s courts for people who default on their loans.
Still, this high-profile addition to China’s blacklist shows that these systems aren’t messing around. And new developments like an app where people can snitch on debtors in their area and special ringtones for laolai (“deadbeats”) are pretty compelling incentives for people to stay in China’s good books.