China’s digital transformation: Data-empowered state capitalism and social governmentality




China, state capitalism, data silos, digital government, identity infrastructure, social big data


The article scrutinises the trajectory of China’s establishment of a digital state, rooted in a “whole-of-nation” system—or aptly termed (party–)state capitalism. The author illustrates the path of formulating and enforcing strategies to digitalise public services—including, importantly, the digital identity infrastructure—via institutional concentration that exemplifies both the positive and the exclusionary nature of social big data in streamlining administrative procedures. Two catalysts are spotlighted in China’s digital transformation: quasi-neoliberal market processes, and technology’s social change spillover effects. The author points to the fact that, since its inception, the contemporary Chinese state has created a cybernetic justification for “social governmentality”, as a means to redress potential informational imbalances in the process of ruling the state polity. For the Chinese administrative hierarchy, data provides the means to execute a top-down correctivist paradigm for steering societal conduct, a paradigm integrated into (but also to some extent in tension with) data- empowered state capitalism.



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How to Cite

Wang, W. W. (2023) “China’s digital transformation: Data-empowered state capitalism and social governmentality”, The African Journal of Information and Communication (AJIC). South Africa, (31). doi: 10.23962/ajic.i31.16296.



Critical Intervention