China has launched an app allowing users to identify nearby debtors and report those who appear to be shirking the responsibility of paying back what they owe.

The Higher People's Court of Herbei in northern China released the software, called “a map of deadbeat debtors”, last week as an add-on to the popular WeChat messaging service.

Users are given an on-screen radar, which allows them to discover if there is anyone who owes money within a 500 metre radius, according to the state-owned China Daily newspaper.

Debtors' information is available to check through the app and individuals are encouraged to whistle-blow if they believe the person can afford to pay back what they owe but is refusing to do so.

“It's a part of our measures to enforce our rulings and create a socially credible environment,” a court spokesman said.

Chinese society generally frowns upon people in debt, with citizens who live a frugal existence viewed more favourably than those who live beyond their means.

Overall household debt as a percentage of GDP is lower in China than in most Western countries, although this is beginning to change.