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As a single party administration, the Chinese Government runs an opaque and authoritarian governance system with loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party sitting at its core. This state-centric structure stresses primacy of stability and enables a broad remit of surveillance and monitoring to ensure the pursuit of this goal above all others.

While governance, surveillance, monitoring and censorship in China make daily headlines, few understand the differences between these concepts and how they manifest in different parts of China in the everyday running of society.

The recent and damming UN report on human rights concerns for Uyghur people in Xinjiang, along with China’s intrusive social credit system, its strict censoring and extensive monitoring system, including around 500 million surveillance cameras, all paint an alarming picture for those sitting on the outside. What do those within China think about all of this? How does the social credit system and other forms of monitoring impact people’s lives? How does its enforcement vary across different regions and social spheres? What is the Chinese Government ultimately trying to achieve with these measures?

These and many more questions will be untangled by our panel of experts in this fascinating session on digital surveillance in China, including:

  • Are China’s surveillance practices in step with increased digital monitoring capabilities in other countries?
  • Why was the social credit system developed and how does it play out in society?
  • How do China’s digital citizens respond to censorship and monitoring of online spaces?
  • What level of surveillance are the Uyghur people experiencing in Xinjiang and what is behind the Chinese Government’s interventions in this region?

About the speakers

Dr Darren Byler, Assistant Professor, Simon Fraser University

Darren Byler is a sociocultural anthropologist whose teaching and research examines the dispossession of stateless populations through forms of contemporary capitalism and colonialism in China, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia.

His work regarding the crisis confronting the Uyghurs and others in Northwest China, has formed an advisory capacity alongside researchers at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University to build a Xinjiang Documentation Project featuring personal testimonies and archives, internal police reports, translations and other documents concerning the ongoing detention of Turkic Muslims in China and the erasure of their native knowledge.

He also writes a regular column on these issues for the journal SupChina, as well as essays for other public outlets such as the Guardian, Noema Magazine, and ChinaFile.

Darren has been asked to contribute expert witness testimony on Canadian and Australian foreign policy issues before the Canadian House of Commons and the Australian Parliament, and he has written policy papers on technology and policing for the Wilson International Center for Scholars and the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Study of Contemporary China. As part of his work in amplifying the voices of Uyghur cultural leaders he has co-translated a Uyghur language novel titled The Backstreets (Columbia University Press 2021). The novel is written by a leading modernist author Perhat Tursun who disappeared into the internment camp system in Northwest China 2018.

Adam Knight, Co-Founder, Tong

Adam Knight is cofounder of TONG, Europe’s largest consumer insights and advisory firm specialising in the Chinese market. TONG supports over 120 clients across luxury, retail and professional services, including Estee Lauder, The North Face, Alexander McQueen, Nespresso, Christie’s and Heathrow Airport. Adam is also cofounder of Kuai, a VC-backed Chinese ecommerce solution.

Adam studied Chinese at the University of Oxford, before completing an MSc in Social Science of the Internet at the Oxford Internet Institute. He is currently a PhD researcher at Leiden University, working on the Dutch government-funded project “The Smart State: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Law in China”. Adam’s particular research area concerns the conceptualisation, negotiation and implementation of China’s social credit system. His findings have featured in reporting by the BBC, Sunday Times, Economist, FT and SCMP.

In a previous life, Adam produced TV features on China for Al Jazeera English.

Dr Carwyn Morris, Lecturer on Digital China, Leiden University

Carwyn Morris is a University Lecturer (Assistant Professor) of Digital China. He is a Human Geographer who acquired a PhD from the London School of Economics and worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Manchester. Carwyn's research interests include migration, mobility, governance, territory, zines, and wanghong (internet fame). Carwyn explores all of these topics as hybrid phenomena that take place across 'digital' and 'physical' spaces. You can find Carwyn on Twitter @carwyn.

Dr Nisha Kapoor, Associate Professor in Sociology, University of Warwick

Nisha Kapoor is Associate Professor in Sociology and joined Warwick in December 2018. She previously worked at the University of York, UK and has held appointments at Duke University, US where she was 2012-13 Samuel DuBois Cook Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences (REGSS) and at Manchester Metropolitan University. She completed her PhD in Sociology at the University of Manchester, UK in 2010.

Her research interests are broadly concerned with racism and the security state covering topics relating to immigration, citizenship, criminalization, Islamophobia, segregation and authoritarianism. Theoretically, she draws on critical race, postcolonial, and political theory to assist in the undertaking of this work.

Her current research, still in its early stages, explores the role surveillance processes and technologies play in bordering practices in different national contexts (UK, India). This research will utilize a relational methodology to explore the role of Islamophobia in the promotion of surveillance cultures, the entrenchment of race, gender and class in surveillance regimes and the cross pollination of surveillance technologies and governmentalities between nation-states for policing borders. The relational nature of the project will allow for examination of the political-economy of surveillance and the role of state-corporate partnerships in the global context, alongside the borrowing and interaction between governments, and the circulation of populist and broader societal positions vis a vis surveillance.

Moderator: Dr Jane Hayward, Lecturer, Lau China Institute, King’s College London

Dr Jane Hayward has a PhD from the East Asian Studies Department of New York University. She has held post-doctoral positions at the Oxford University China Centre and the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University in Beijing, where she worked at the Institute for Contemporary China Studies.

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At this event

Jane Hayward

Lecturer in China and Global Affairs

Event details

8th Floor (North)
Bush House
Strand campus, 30 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BG