Research Group for Digital Culture
Guest lecture

Jack Qiu: Data Power and Counterpower with Chinese Characteristics

Professor Jack Qiu is a leading scholar from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who has published several books on the state of technology in China. In this guest lecture he will discuss the current complexities of data power and counter power in China.

Portrait of Jack Qiu alongside the covers of his two most recent books.
Courtesy of Jack Qiu.

For more than six decades, actors in the People's Republic of China (PRC) have dreamed of and invested in various cybernetic futures: Maoist or neoliberal, postsocialist or postcapitalist. Yet, most of these dreams ended up in vain. The latest attempt of technological buildup, epitomized by the dispute centered on Huawei, seems to suggest that China has become a global "AI superpower" with sufficient prowess to challenge American dominance and the supremacy of Silicon Valley. From a historical and critical perspective, this talk questions the bi-polar elitist framework of China vis-a-vis the US by introducing the internal complexities of the Chinese data systems, particularly along the fault line of social class. The argument is that formations of data counterpower in China are diverse and dynamic, both on- and offline, within China proper and beyond. While Chinese data power routinely responds to external vectors (e.g., Silicon Valley, Wall Street), it is likely that its ultimate fate will hinge upon issues of domestic in/security and exceptional historical moments of internal structural realignments, as observed in the history of PRC since the 1950s.

Jack Linchuan Qiu is Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he directs the Centre for Chinese Media and Comparative Communication Research (C-Centre) and co-directs the Centre for Social Innovation Studies at the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies. Qiu has published more than 100 research articles and chapters and 10 books that deal with issues related to digital media, social class, globalization, and activism. Qiu is an elected Fellow of the International Communication Association (ICA) and recipient of the 2019 C. Edwin Baker Award for the Advancement of Scholarship on Media, Markets and Democracy. He also works with grassroots labor NGOs and provides consultancy services for international organizations, while serving as a co-founder of Platform Cooperativism Consortium Hong Kong (https://platformhk.coop/).