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News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Chenchen Zhang (2020) Governing (through) trustworthiness: technologies of power and subjectification in China’s social credit system, Critical Asian Studies, DOI: 10.1080/14672715.2020.1822194

Open access


This article examines the technologies of power and subjectification in China’s social credit system through a theoretically informed analysis of policy and legal documents as well as the narratives of social credit practitioners, including local officials and representatives of business partners. The ongoing project is a heterogeneous ensemble of discourses, regulations, policies, and any number of programs aiming to govern social and economic activities through problematizing, assessing, and utilizing the “trustworthiness” of individuals, enterprises, organizations, and government agencies. Drawing on governmentality studies, the article explicates the operation of governmental and disciplinary-pastoral modalities of power in the project, which are interrelated in their logics and overlap in the tactics employed. Whereas the strategy of governmental/biopolitical power is centered on achieving effective economic governance and improving regulatory compliance through technological fixes, disciplinary-pastoral power aspires to shape individual behavior and the collective mores of a locality according to a mixture of market-oriented and socialist-traditional values. Social credit is envisioned to produce and channel homo economicus and homo moralis. However, the relationships between liberal and socialist subjectivities and between rationalization and moralization are by no means coherent. The assemblage of social credit government is characterized by contradictions and contestations.

Social credit system, governmentality, China, data-driven governance

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