Infrastructures of Manipulation

Digitalization in China has advanced rapidly and comprehensively. It has fundamentally changed the relationship between citizens and the state. Today, the combination between authoritarianism and ubiquitous digital ecosystems is considered typical for the Chinese-style surveillance state. But China can also be seen as a laboratory, in which new institutional arrangements and norms of technological societies are experimentally developed. The research of this project focuses on “manipulation infrastructures” – including the social credit system, private mega-apps, digitalized payment systems and the national crypto currency – through which individual reasoning, emotions, and behavior are more or less openly manipulated. Which practices of “digital citizenship” emerge from the interplay of censorship, nudging, and total datafication of everyday life? For instance, after China’s successful containment of the Covid-19 pandemic, will corporeal data become the foundation of a physically measurable definition of a healthy citizen? What are the similarities between commercial manipulation infrastructures in China and elsewhere? Can China succeed in having its model copied and accepted in other societies through smart city projects worldwide and the export of digital technologies such as automated facial recognition and health codes? Do we globally experience the convergence and consolidation a new socio-technical constitution at nexus of subjectivity, state and platforms?

Project start: 2021



Frontpage Publication
© Harvard Kennedy School

China: Comparative Covid Response: Crisis, Knowledge, Politics

Interim Report, Harvard Kennedy School, 12 January, 2021

Media Contributions

Recorded Events

Chinas Reaktion auf die Corona-Pandemie: Lehren für Europa?

Modernisierung und Minderheiten in China

Chinas Reaktion auf die Corona-Pandemie: Lehren für Europa?

Parteistaat und Ideologie: Wie entziffert man Chinas moderne Herrschaftspraktiken?

Chinesische Globalisierung und moderne Metropolen

Chinesische Globalisierung und moderne Metropolen

Spielarten des Kapitalismus und Ordnungspolitik in China

Spielarten des Kapitalismus und Ordnungspolitik in China

Further Events

Internal Workshop_Zhu & Chen
© Xiangming Chen & Ningjie Zhu

Institutionalized Digital Platforms and City-Regional Development: The Case of and Insights from the Chinese City of Guiyang

Internal Workshop | 5 July, 2022

This workshop discussed the impact of digitalization on regional development, with a focus on Guiyang, China. Guiyang is building a significant Big-Data complex to advance local and regional development, guided by central state policies. By analyzing the interplay of key actors such as the central state, local government, and the digital platform economy clusters, Prof. Dr. Xiangming Chen, Visiting Fellow at CASSIS, and Ningjie Zhu uncovered how digitalization stages impact the region, offering insights into how cities can use digital platforms for catch-up development.

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