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The Politics of Digital East Asia


Admission requirements

This course is intended for students from a limited number of programmes. Because of the limited capacity available for each programme, all students who will enroll are placed on a waiting list. Students in the MA program in Asian Studies: Politics, Society and Economy (60 EC) and Chinese Studies (120 EC) will have priority. The definite admission (before September 5) will be made according to the position on the waiting list and the number of places that will be available after the priority students have been placed. In total there is room for 20 students in the seminar.


This semester this course focuses on Automation, Justice, and Governance in China and stands at the intersection between Chinese Studies, Law & Society Studies, and Law & Technology Studies. Starting from a multi-disciplinary approach, this course explores the implications and normative questions of a changing governance and justice landscape; where both the administration of justice and governance methods are increasingly digitised and automated. This course engages with state-of-field debates on the automation of justice, the use of Artificial Intelligence in governance, and surveillance of society, and its impact on the relation between state and society. The People’s Republic of China stands at the vanguard of global trends towards the increased quantification, digitisation, and automation of governance and justice. Therefore, this course also employs China as a lense for global normative questions about a range of topics such as justice and fairness, human rights, transparency, and digital authoritarianism.

Course objectives

  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the complex issues and processes related to Chinese politics, justice, and governance, and their digitization and automation.

  • Apply complex conceptual tools to analyze key events and developments related to automation and governance in China and the world.

  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative, and transferable skills, develop the capacity for independent learning, critique major texts and approaches on legal and technology issues, and lead class discussions.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Success in this course depends heavily on having done the readings and preparation for discussion. The main mode of instruction will primarily be moderated discussion between students with limited intervention from the coordinator.
Each week, two students will present one of the readings and their response paper. They will also prepare a few questions for guided discussion. Each student will have to do this twice during the semester.

Assessment method

In order to pass this module, students will nominally complete assignments in three different categories:
Analytical Element (response paper) - 30% of final grade.
Participatory element (presentation and guided discussions) - 30% of final grade.
Research Element (research paper 5,000 - 7,000 words) - 40% of final grade.


The course does not include a written exam, and it consequently does not requrie exam reviews or resits. Participants will receive the opportunity to submit a draft version and receive feedback on how to revise their research paper.
A resit is possible for the term paper (40%) only, and only if (1) the original submission constituted a serious attempt; and (2) the student failed both the paper and the full course.

Exam Review

Students may request an oral elucidation of the assessment within 30 days after publication of the grade.

Reading list

A reader will be made available before the start of the course, through Brightspace.
Those wishing to do some summer reading can choose from the following:

  • Scott (1998) Seeing like a State

  • Gueorguiev (2021) Retrofitting Leninism: Participation Without Democracy in China

  • Hoffman (2017) Programming China: the Communist Party’s autonomic approach to managing state security.

  • Ng and He (2017) Embedded Courts: Judicial Decision-Making in China.

  • Sapio (2017) Justice: The China Experience

  • Sourdin (2021) Judges, Technology and AI

  • Hildebrandt (2015) Smart Technologies and the End(s) of Law

  • Merry (2016) The Seductions of Quantification: Measuring Human Rights, Gender Violence, and Sex Trafficking

  • O’Neil (2016) Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy


MA Asian Studies students may enroll directly through MyStudyMap. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.

MA Asian Studies (research) students are strongly advised to opt for the Research MA version of the course, if available. They may enroll directly through uSis. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served. Students opting for the regular MA version should contact their Coordinator of Studies.

MA International Studies students should contact their Coordinator of Studies for information on the enrollment procedure.