Woesler - Society 5.0 in China

Martin Woesler 
Am Sande 5
21335 Lüneburg

Since 2015, Martin Woesler is Professor of Chinese Literature and Communication, Witten/Herdecke University. Before, he was professor with University Rome Three, Utah Valley University, the University of Applied Languages Munich, and he was visiting scholar/professor with Harvard University, Tongji University Shanghai, Peking Normal University, Nanking Normal University. Research interests: Contemporary China, Chinese Society, Transformations, Digitalization, Modern and Contemporary Chinese literature and politics, Political Literature. International conferences organized: World Conference of Chinese Studies, China’s Way, China and Europe, China’s Global Impact etc. Recent publications are: “Han Han Roughs Up the Literary Scene”, in: A New Literary History of Modern China, Harvard University Press 2017; “Online- und Blogliteratur in China“, in: Dianmo 4 (2011.7) 12:7-14


Society 5.0 in China

Chinese Society is strongly controlled: There is almost total surveillance, big data and algorithmic analysis, almost no privacy/data protection and disciplinary sanctions. The media characteristics go beyond Niklas Luhmann’s Media Epoch 4.0 (1997) and therefore maybe categorized “5.0”. Luhmann described the machine by surface and depth. In China, we are inside the machine, the communication moves from men to machines.

The individual is controlled with a Social Credit System (SCS, to be realized largely by 2020) digitally and externally. According to Warnke 2019, the SCS can partly be described as a protocol (Galloway 2004). It technically requires adherence to the rules, non-adherence results in non-participation (gamification logic). Since SCS is a creative and flexible combination of different data sources (which are not always available and may contradict each other), it can also partly be described as platform and stack (Bratton 2015).

This research project builds on and continues the earlier one of summer term 2019, which concentrated on the Chinese Social Credit System. This continuation asks: How is the Social Credit System been implemented until 2020? And in general: How far is the individual controllable? Behaviourism says largely (Skinner 1974), totalitarist ideologies try to control the thoughts with different means (see the “blank sheet” by Mao 1958). Neoliberalist Facebook knows the individual better than it knows itself and manipulates the individual. The SCS gets positive feedback due to brainwash, the unfree survey setting and the happiness of the simple-minded (with outbreaks of critique/violence).

The Chinese individual is educated and guided from preschool until after retirement with 10 percent of school classes, university courses and training-on-the-job being devoted to ideological indoctrination – starting from any leadership position – which is reinforced by personal tutors, psychological pressure and group dynamics. To go to university, one has to serve in the military first. Military camps are located close to university campuses.

China develops a Digital System for Society-Management (DSSM, to be realized largely by 2025): Algorithms take over decisions, which stands in the Chinese tradition of meritist and legalist ideas. The human factor is replaced by learning algorithms: From the rule of men to rule of law – however, the party is always first. The Chinese understanding is that the planned economy failed because of the human factor (mentality of fulfillment, sugarcoated figures), China’s Society is the third digital attempt to realize Socialism with digitalization, after Cybersin and TRAN failed.

The SCS also contains social components, like encouraging visiting ones parents and enhancing societal credibility.

While the transaction costs for this society are high (ca. 7% of the annual budget is spent on inner security), it is still economically more successful than (neo)liberal societies. The main resource for the future information economy is data. How far will neoliberalism use the totalitarian data and technologies and therefore support the system? How far will Western societies adapt to the Chinese model.

To control each process in reality, it is copied into a simulated reality. Predictive scenarios include avatars and group reactions. Chinese writers envision a future of endless technological progress.