Shifting Sands for Tech Governance in China

2020 was a year of extreme highs and lows for the fortunes of technology platforms in China. From the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic they were central to sustaining economic activity during lockdown and maintaining a ‘new normal’ as the country re-opened. Their dominance over life in China seemed emphatic. By the end of the[…]

Who Believed in COVID-19 Conspiracies in China?

As COVID-19 quickly spread throughout the world since January 2020, the uncertainty concerning the origins and features of the virus provided a fertile ground for misinformation and conspiracy theories to thrive. Different from those popular COVID-19 conspiracy narratives in the West, on Chinese social media the conspiracies that gained traction were ones that faulted the[…]

[RSVP] When the Music’s Over – COVID, Conspiracies and Content Patterns: An India – China Conversation (September 18)

The pandemic triggered a new wave of misinformation and conspiracy theories, about everything from the source of the virus and its epidemiology, to containment measures, to the science behind prevention and treatment. This ‘infodemic’ has serious consequences for public health, with diverse strains playing on fears and prejudices in different contexts and countries. What can[…]

Pandemic strengthens China’s platforms as infrastructure providers

After strict lockdown measures went into place in China, nearly all commercial activity shifted online. E-commerce expanded its reach in the form of rural live-streaming (村播): farmers-turned-online-hosts selling fresh produce and the nostalgia of the countryside to tens of millions of urban consumers glued to their smartphones at home. The exchange is simple. Using apps[…]

All Carrots and No Sticks: A Case Study on Social Credit Scores in Xiamen and Fuzhou

In 2018 Xiamen and Fuzhou, two cities in Fujian province, a region on the coast in the southeast most famous for its historic trader links and global diaspora population, became one of just a handful of cities in China with their own city-level personal credit scores (个人信用评分). These are algorithmically created scores, using data gathered[…]

China’s Techno-Utilitarian Experiments with Artificial Intelligence

Any article talking about China’s journey with Artificial Intelligence (AI) has to begin with the board game Go. More specifically, the face-off between Lee Sedol, winner of 18 world titles and widely considered to be the greatest player of the past decade, and Google’s DeepMind-AI-powered Alpha Go. In a now landmark match, Alpha Go didn’t[…]

Interview with Dr. Rogier Creemers: AI + Social Credit + Algorithmic Governance + Cybersecurity + VPNs

It’s 2017. The world is increasingly looking eastwards for the latest technology and policy developments emerging out of Asia. When it comes to China, news of advances in AI and mobile payment systems battles for attention with thought pieces about social credit rating and circumvention tools. In July, a roadmap for AI development targeted China[…]

Lead Leapfrogger: Chinese O2O Commerce and The Nature Of Cultural Innovation

I. The Remarkable Story of Everyday O2O Commerce in China Let’s say you were planning to visit China ten years ago. You would have your visa and flights booked, perhaps even a hotel. But the preparations wouldn’t end there. You’d have withdrawn plenty of RMB in cash, which you’d need for just about everything, except[…]

Saving Face 2.0: 8 Simple Rules for Surviving China’s New Rating System

While China’s new surveillance policy purports to be a “credit system,” it in fact considers nearly every aspect of public and private behaviour in determining each citizen’s social score. These data points are not random, and have historical and cultural significance to the Chinese people, including the concept of “saving face,” or maintaining a good[…]

Chinese Apps Find Familiar Market in India

With years of experience catering to budget users with entry-level phones, Chinese app-makers are taking on the Indian smartphone market and its hundreds of millions of new customers. Ajinkya Kolwankar, 25 and self-employed in Mumbai, recently deleted the Facebook app on his phone in favour of UC Browser, an app made by a subsidiary of Chinese[…]