Neoliberal governance or digitalized autocracy? The rising market for online opinion surveillance in China

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Rui Hou


Much recent attention referring to surveillance practice in China has been paid to Chinese authorities’ authoritarian strategies like hiring online inspectors and building the Internet Firewall. While this focus meets the conventional imagination of a non-democratic regime, it neglects the underlying policy changes and structural arrangements with which the Chinese government conducts its governance in the era of big data. My ongoing study demonstrates, there has appeared a market through which various for-profit institutions are selling data services to help the governments conduct domestic governance in China. Through purchasing the Internet information surveillance system which is based on technologies like data mining, sentiment analysis and cloud computing, most Chinese local governments have incorporated the surveillance of public online opinion into their daily work. This phenomenon implies that a neolibral form of governance which aims at monitoring and guiding public sentiment is taking shape in authoritarian China.

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Author Biography

Rui Hou, Queen's University

Rui Hou is a PhD candidate in department of sociology at Queen's University.


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