Social Credit Regulation in China: ‘Civilizing’ a Society in the Digital Age

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Event Details

25 July 2019 at 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Meeting Room, Level 3 Building S, Caulfield Campus
Business Law and Taxation


Building on centuries of social engineering, the Chinese government is currently developing a social credit regulatory system that aims to create a ‘civilised’ society. What is distinctive about this project is not so much the use of digital metrics (although this is highly sophisticated and controversial)—rather it is the ambition of its regulatory objectives. Social credit regulation aims to curb ‘uncivilised’ behaviour such as littering and credit default, and it also aims to inculcate ‘civilised’ behaviour such as good work practices and political loyalty. This seminar explores social credit regulation from two perspectives. Associate Professor Ching-Fu Lin and Dr Han Wei Lui examine the regulation of ‘trust’ and ‘trust-breaking’ and the implications this form of governance has for the ‘rule of law’ in China. Dr Alice De Jong then approaches social credit regulation from the perspective of social capital theory. She investigates how digital regulation based on metrics can influence the development of reciprocity, social networks and trust between people that constitute social capital. Dr Yu-Jie Chen will discuss and critique the presentations.

Presentation one: 'Rule of Trust': The Power and Perils of China's Social Credit Megaproject"

Associate Professor Ching-Fu Lin, Tsing Hua University (Taiwan) and Dr Han Wei Lui, Department Business Law and Taxation.

China has attempted to, through the “Social Credit System” (SCS), promote the norms of “trust” in its society by rewarding behaviours that are considered “trust-keeping” and punishing those considered “trust-breaking.” We discuss the trajectory of the regulatory regime and correct misunderstandings popularized in the international media. We argue that the SCS features a new governance mode—what we call the “rule of trust”—that relies on the fuzzy notion of “trust” and wide-ranging arbitrary and disproportionate punishments. It derogates from the notion of “governing the country in accordance with the law” enshrined in China's Constitution. We conclude with a caution that, with considerable sophistication, China is preparing a much more sweeping version of SCS reinforced by artificial intelligence tools like facial recognition and predictive policing. Those developments will further perpetuate authoritarianism.

Presentation two: Using social capital theory to analyse China’s social credit system

Dr Alice de Jong, Department Business Law and Taxation

This paper explores if, how and to what extent recent theoretical developments in social capital scholarship are useful for analysing and understanding China’s social credit system. In particular it discusses the application of China's social credit system to firms and business operations, and contrasts developments in corporate social capital with the social credit regulatory system.

Discussant: Dr Yu-Jie Chen, Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Institutum Iurisprudentiae of Academia Sinica and an Affiliated Scholar at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute of NYU School of Law

Biographical details

Ching-Fu Lin is Associate Professor of Law at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU), where he teaches law and technology, international health law, and global governance. Professor Lin received his LL.M. and S.J.D. from Harvard Law School receiving the John Gallup Laylin Memorial Prize and Yong K. Kim Memorial Prize. He has been a visiting researcher/fellow at Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Dr Han Wei Liu is a lecturer in the Department of Business Law and Taxation. He joined Monash from the National Tsing Hua University where he was Assistant Professor of Law. Having received his law degrees from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Oxford, Columbia, and Taiwan, Dr. Liu’s research focuses on international economic law, global governance, and law and technology and his papers appear in leading journals in the field. Dr. Liu held visiting posts at Harvard and Columbia Law Schools between 2013-15.

Dr Alice de Jonge is a senior lecturer in the Department of Business Law and Taxation, where she lectures in aspects of international law relevant to transnational corporations, with a focus on ethics and human rights due diligence. She holds an SJD from the University of Melbourne and a PhD from Monash University and has authored 3 books and over 50 journal articles and book chapters.

Dr Yu-Jie Chen is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Institutum Iurisprudentiae of Academia Sinica and an Affiliated Scholar at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute of NYU School of Law. Her research has focused on human rights and the rule of law in China, Taiwan and cross-strait relations. She received her JSD and LLM degrees from NYU School of Law. She also holds an LLM and LLB from National Chengchi University in Taiwan. Dr. Chen has had extensive experience as a research scholar at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute. Prior to that, she served as a researcher and advocate for the non-governmental organization Human Rights in China. She earlier practiced in the Taipei-based international law firm Lee and Li.

Please send queries to Professor John Gillespie, Director Asia Pacific Business Regulation Group ( and RSVP to Sharyon Van Dijk executive assistant, Department of Business Law Monash Business School (

Sharyon Van Dijk