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 journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication

User-Defined Keywords

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

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