Decentralising Data Collection and Centralising Information in the People’s Republic of China: Decentralise, Manage, and Service Reforms

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Surveillance and Society


Xi Jinping’s ascent to power as Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was accompanied by changes in national governance strategies in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that have progressively incorporated the use of big data. Shortly after, in May 2015, the Chinese State Council released a set of policy reforms under the abbreviation fang guan fu 放 管 服 (decentralise, manage, and service). These reforms promoted big data led (1) market regulation, (2) supervision and management systems, and (3) service provision processes. By applying a case study analytical approach, this paper explores how advancements in big data contributed to these reforms aimed at centralising information in China. Combining the joint knowledge of surveillance and China studies scholarship, this paper offers evidence of big data surveillance streamlining China’s fragmented intergovernmental policy system. We build on David Murakami Wood’s 2017 outline of a political theory of surveillance and argue that decentralisation of data collection points and centralisation of both bureaucratic and public access to information are key components of the Party-state’s regulatory governance strategy incorporating the use of big data and comprehensive surveillance. Our findings have implications for future analyses of the relationship between political organisations and surveillance within other nation-state contexts, particularly in situations where Chinese technologies and systems are being adopted and adapted.

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