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International Conference on Automated Decision-Making and Chinese Societies

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Event description

China’s rise as a digital superpower has been part of the story about the country’s second coming as the “Central Kingdom” and of Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream”. Beijing’s digital strategy is multi-dimensional. It is technological—automated decision-making (ADM) technologies and systems, comprising an array of intelligent and emerging technologies from artificial intelligence, machine learning, to blockchain, are used to innovate social governance, service provision, transport/mobility, and knowledge production across many sectors. It is also beyond the technological to encompass a wide range of areas in social, institutional, cultural, legal and ethical domains. The imperative for COVID-19 pandemic control provides the perfect pretext for the expansive use of ADM by the bio-surveillance Party-state.

The ramification of the digital revolution is not bound by any geographic boundaries, even though it is constrained by the geopolitics of China’s rise as the new technological superpower. New forms of ADM systems are experimented in China—often pioneered by its tech giants like Huawei, DJI, Hikvision, and BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent) with the state’s support—such as the social credit system (and associated technological systems) in a gigantic social experiment with digital governance, often in combination with and implemented through low-tech or non-tech means. A new global digital architecture and order is taking shape, as exemplified by the many infrastructural projects through the digital silk road initiative, from undersea cables and 5G equipment and networks to communications satellites (China’s version of SpaceX’s Starlink). China has seized the opportunity to leapfrog from being a follower to a competitor and leader in the design, control, and use of ADM technologies and systems. It is also competing with Western (American) powers to control huge amount of data internationally, and by extension resources, ideas, intelligence, and power.

The international conference on Automated Decision-Making and Chinese Societies (ADM & CS) encourages people to look beyond “China” as a singular, unified entity, which can be “sliced” along human, geographical, political, or economic variables. Similarly, “Chinese” can mean different things to different Chinese diasporic communities around the world, often defined and redefined along the routes (instead of roots) of Chinese migrants (of generations), visitors, investors, entrepreneurs, engineers, and workers. Hence, the conference encourages an expansive interpretation of “Chinese societies” in their plural, evolving, and diverse forms, who are sometimes centrifugal and other times centripetal in relation to the People’s Republic of China.

This event will be held in-person at RMIT University, Melbourne and online.


The ADM & CS conference will address the following thematic questions:

  • How is ADMS understood in the Chinese context? And who are the key players/stakeholders?
  • What are its key features and trajectories?
  • What is China’s ambition in the area of ADM, domestically and internationally?
  • How are ADM technologies and systems used in different settings and institutions in Chinese societies?
  • How are ADM systems governed? For example, will China’s Personal Information Protection Law set a global standard in regulating Internet platforms conducting automated decision-making through algorithms?
  • What’s China’s role in the current debates on frameworks in governing data security, rights or ownership, ethics, and transactions?
  • What are the new, emerging or hidden dynamics and politics in Chinese communities around the world as they encounter or engage with ADM technologies and systems in their everyday life and businesses?
  • How do people—Chinese, non-Chinese, or foreign citizens of Chinese cultural heritage —view or interpret China’s roles in ADM? And why?
  • What do Western anxieties about digital China and its ADM systems like the social credit system tell us about the new geopolitics between China and the West/US?
  • What roles Chinese societies can play in ensuring fair, inclusive, responsible, and ethical ADM systems that benefit the people rather than the few with power, money and knowledge?


The ADM & CS conference will include a mix of keynote plenary sessions, regular panels and workshops. The plenary sessions feature keynote speakers and discussants, all distinguished scholars in their specific fields in and beyond digital China related research. The keynotes will provide framing, provocations and questions from different disciplinary backgrounds to kick off the event, while the plenary speakers and discussants will bring their deep expertise towards unpacking specific tracks and topics.

The full event program is available on the conference website:


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