Now Reading
PARPCC #9 To watch (a lot) and serve (A little) : the one-stop-shop of the Chinese administration at your doorstep

PARPCC #9 To watch (a lot) and serve (A little) : the one-stop-shop of the Chinese administration at your doorstep

Panda, Rice Alcohol and PCC

Panda, Rice Alcohol and PCC is a column of Camille Brugier, aimed at introducing scientific articles to a wider audience. His publications can be found on his thread Twitter.

It has existed for over twenty years and has talked a lot about her during the Covid-19 pandemic: the “networking” of the Chinese administration – understand the presence of contact persons representing the State in your neighborhood – made an impression. We will remember these people putting locks on the doors of buildings to confine their occupants and sending SMS messages indicating the extension of health measures. Much criticized on social networks in China, this “networked management” system, if it makes it possible to bring public services closer to the population, above all promotes increased surveillance of individuals.

To watch (a lot) and serve (A little) : the one-stop-shop of the Chinese administration at your doorstep

For almost 20 ans, China is building a new model of state-citizen relations : "network management" (Grid management, or « grid management system " in English). It appoints State contact persons closest to citizens, whether to resolve a neighborhood problem, find a school for a child, etc.

This system has been tested since 2004, but it was only with the Covid-19 pandemic that the Party realized its a means of surveillance.

“Network management” divides China into sections of approximately 10 000m2 (that's almost two football pitches) which include on average 700 people (i.e. the population of Pont l’Evêque, capital of street art in the Oise). It is therefore a vast network : not less than 300 000 contacts for Jiangsu province, who counts 80 millions of inhabitants !

Network members are recruited for their knowledge of the administrative system, their loyalty and place of residence (they will preferably be “local”). Gathered as a team, they make administrations work (police, justice, social Security…) which usually operate in silos, and seek to promote exchanges between levels of government, in particular via information sharing platforms.

“Networking” is like a one-stop shop on steroids : its members must carry out surveillance and help the population access public services. Contact persons organize police patrols, collect data on user satisfaction, etc. A job description even mentions 135 tasks to be performed !

With this system, Beijing wants to govern on the basis of “fine” data (geolocated, etc). The central state barely veils the “intelligence” objectives of the network : a job description mentions among the assigned tasks “the identification of hidden dangers” for example.

So, Good or bad idea ? Mittelstaedt does not decide, but highlights two characteristics of this system :

See Also

2) while everywhere we innovate in terms of participatory democracy, the Chinese system shows that governing locally does not mean governing with the locals, the residents. The network adds to the existing administration but does not rely on civil society or residents. For the author, we are therefore talking about a new management localized, and not at all governance locale.

2) As in all local Chinese politics (we can never say it enough), no two “networks” are the same. Originally, two pilot projects (in Dongcheng and Zhoushan) placed emphasis on safety, the other on public services for families.

And bref, the CCP reinvents the way it deals with its citizens. But when we create something, the result may be very different from what was expected. Even in an authoritarian regime.

Reference: Mittelstaedt, Jean Christopher (2022), “The grid management system in contemporary China: Grass-roots governance in social surveillance and service provision”, China Information, 36(1), pp. 3-22.

Scroll To Top