Big Data in Early China: Population Surveillance in the early Chinese empires

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Contemporary China has one of the most extensive systems of population surveillance and control in the world, and it continues to increase its surveillance of the population through digital technologies. The ubiquity of CCTV cameras in China lets citizens and visitors know that they are always being watched, while facial recognition software, contactless payments, and other technologies leave a digital footprint of day-to-day activities of individuals. The scale of surveillance in contemporary China is made possible by the development and employment of digital technologies that allow the government to gather and analyse vast quantities of data. While the Qin and early Han governments were able to keep records of the population through the vast amounts of data collected by officials, scribes, and scribal assistants, the officials were not able to closely monitor the movements and actions of individuals on a day-to-day basis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistories of Surveillance from Antiquity to the Digital Erea
Subtitle of host publicationThe Eyes and Ears of Power
EditorsAndreas Marklund, Laura Skovig
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780429323751
ISBN (Print)9780367340698
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2021

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Modern History


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