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China’s Growing Digital Reach

Mar 04, 2022 | 04:00 PM - 05:00 PM

East Asia Seminar Series by University of Toronto

Digital technologies are rapidly transforming our social, economic and political lives. This is especially true in the case of China, where city governments have begun to experiment with digital technologies to harness the power of big data analytics for governing society. From using biometric checkpoints to track Muslim minorities, to using AI for intelligent traffic management, big data driven applications are mushrooming quickly in Chinese cities. What are China’s digital and big data ambitions and actual local realities? Are these digital experiments more ‘buzz and hype’ or real game changing? Do these technologies alter digital governance practices in authoritarian China and if so, how? Top-down or bottom-up mobilized state-led digitalization? Are digital technologies tools for convenience or control? And how does it alter state-society relations in China? Drawing from interviews, surveys, and a database of local digital initiatives across China, this talk will shed light on the intended and unintended consequences of incorporating digital technologies into local governance processes in Chinese cities.


  • Genia Kostka (speaker), Professor of Chinese Politics, Freie Universität Berlin)
  • Lokman Tsui (discussant), Research Fellow, Citizen Lab, Munk School, University of Toronto
  • Diana Fu (moderator), Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy; Director of the East Asia Seminar Series at the Asian Institute, Munk School, University of Toronto

Program (Berlin Time):

15:40 – 16:00  Participants log in via Zoom for tech. set-up with the Munk School’s event manager Daria Dumbadze and A/V coordinator Adam Bell

16:00 – 16:03 The webinar goes live. Diana gives welcome remarks, introduces the speaker and the discussant, and announces that audience may submit questions via the Zoom Q&A chat

16:03 – 16:33 Presentation by Professor Genia Kostka

16:33 – 16:43 Commentary by Lokman Tsui

16:43 – 17:00 Q&A session moderated by Diana

17:00 Closing remarks by Diana


Participants’ Biographies

Genia Kostka is a Professor of Chinese Politics at the Freie Universität Berlin. Her research focuses on digital transformation, environmental politics, and political economy with a regional focus on China. Her most recent research project explores how digital technologies are integrated into local decision-making and governance structures in China (ERC Starting Grant 2020-2025).

Lokman Tsui is a Research Fellow with the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. He was formerly an assistant professor at the School of Journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He received his Ph.D degree from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

Diana Fu is Associate Professor of Political Science and the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto, and Director of the East Asia Seminar Series at the Asian Institute, Munk School. She is a non-resident fellow at Brookings and a public intellectuals fellow at the National Committee on US-China Relations. She is also a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. Her research examines popular contention, state control, civil society, and authoritarian citizenship, with a focus on contemporary China. She is author of the award-winning book “Mobilizing Without the Masses: Control and Contention in China” (2018, Cambridge University Press and Columbia Weatherhead Series).

Time & Location

Mar 04, 2022 | 04:00 PM - 05:00 PM

Zoom webinar (login credentials to follow via email one day before the event)

Further Information

The participants log in for technical set-up at 15:40 (Berlin Time)

REGISTER: https://bit.ly/3uPGYm6