Early View Article - Perceptions of social credit systems in Southeast Asia: An external technology acceptance model

Perceptions of social credit systems in Southeast Asia: An external technology acceptance model

Digital data have become a valuable resource for autocratic governments seeking to influence societal behaviours. The rise of social credit systems in China has garnered a great deal of attention, with some even referring to them as ‘Orwellian’ surveillance systems. This study expands on previous research that has found surprisingly high levels of acceptance of social credit systems in China to the Southeast Asian region. Through an online opinion survey conducted in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, we discovered that citizens in these countries exhibit higher acceptance rates of social credit systems than opposition rates, although lower than those observed in China. Moreover, we find that acceptance rates would decline significantly if the technologies supporting these systems originated from China. By introducing an external technology acceptance model, we provide an explanation for these findings based on citizens' attitudes towards their domestic situation and their perceptions of China's potential benefits to their countries. Interestingly, most of the ‘China Threat’ perceptions do not translate into opposition against Chinese social credit system technologies, except for military risks. Instead, citizens' negative views are primarily influenced by specific technology-related risks. These findings contribute to the existing literature on the acceptance of government-run social credit systems and public perception in the context of international relations.

Policy implications

  • The implementation of data protection laws is vital to protect citizens from data misuse. This is particularly important as citizens generally have positive views of surveillance technologies, despite being aware of potential risks but often lacking detailed information.
  • China's military activities in the South China Sea, along with the potential negative environmental impacts of its economic involvement in the region, may influence Southeast Asian citizens' acceptance of Chinese technologies.
  • For countries aiming to enhance their economic and political presence in Southeast Asia, offering tangible benefits is crucial for gaining acceptance from citizens in the region.


Photo by Engin Akyurt