Cashless China: Securitization of everyday life through Alipay’s social credit system—Sesame Credit

Pak Lei Gladys Chong*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    37 Citations (Scopus)


    This study on Alipay’s social credit system, Sesame Credit, examines the governmental practices that have evolved in the platform economy. Credit has grown exponentially in importance in post-socialist, consumption-driven China. Sesame Credit’s unique and massive consumer database is used to evaluate users’ credit trustworthiness. The social credit system formulated by Alipay aligns with the state’s long tradition of guiding and monitoring the population’s behavior. Diverging from earlier communist-style posters and banners as well as propaganda-style slogans, Alipay adapts, appropriates, and transforms technological trends by appealing to subjects’ self-interest. Alipay de-politicizes the system through gamified features and a loyalty-rewards program of rules, rewards, and penalties. Combining ethnographic observations and in-depth interviews with 39 young Chinese people in Beijing, this study examines the users’ perspectives, which have been significantly overlooked in examinations of corporate and state surveillance in the Chinese context. This article argues that market actors, such as Alibaba and Ant Financial, create interests, needs, and dependency among user–subjects by both responding to the pre-existing socio-economic desires for security, trust, and good government, and by navigating the socio-cultural and political conditions of privacy and surveillance practices in contemporary China.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)290-307
    Number of pages18
    JournalChinese Journal of Communication
    Issue number3
    Early online date12 Mar 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Communication

    User-Defined Keywords

    • (data) surveillance
    • Alipay
    • Chinese youth
    • credit
    • governmental practices
    • privacy
    • Sesame Credit


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