Prof. Dr. Martin Woesler

Martin Woesler 
Am Sande 5
21335 Lüneburg 

During his time at Leuphana University, Martin Woesler was 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

In 2023/2024 he is the Chinese Studies academic supervisor (“chinawissenschaftliche Fachaufsicht”) of the BMBF research project SCORING on the social credit system in China (since 2021, joint project of Leuphana and Witten/Herdecke universities), since 2019 he is Distinguished Professor at Hunan Normal University and member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, Salzburg. In 2020, he became EU Jean Monnet Chair Professor and in 2023 Director of an EU Jean Monnet Excellence Centre at Hunan Normal University. Also in 2023, he was awarded the prize “Friend of Chinese Literature” by the Chinese Writers’ Association. His current books are "Early Reception of the Red Chamber Dreams", Berlin: LIT 2024, and with Martin Warnke "Sozialkybernetik in statu nascendi. Die Entstehungsgeschichte des chinesischen Sozialkreditsystems – Quellentexte zum chinesischen SCS", Berlin: Matthes & Seitz 2024.


Society 5.0 by China’s “Digital System for Society-Management” and its Computer Simulation Aspects 

Martin Woesler

The Chinese government currently is setting up a software system to rule the nation (Digital System for Society-Management DSSM, officially called “social management”).

This project compares DSSM structurally with the old socialist system of a planned economy, which failed in real existing socialism, thus aiming at the difference between planning and simulating. It sketches the computer simulative aspects of the program and makes available Chinese sources not yet available to non-Chinese speakers. The simulation is taken as a narrative strategy and by this the project contributes to the duality of simulation and fiction. The investigation includes current Chinese Science Fiction writing, e. g. by Liu Cixin and Hao Jingfang.

The project identifies factors of the failure (e.g. mentality of fulfillment, sugarcoated figures). It discusses (speculatively) the chance for a success of DSSM and possible consequences, both domestically and internationally. The main resource for the coming information economy is data. The project compares the societal system with Western systems and asks, how far Western data companies will buy data from China and therefore support the Chinese system. It also asks, how far Western societies may orient themselves towards the Chinese model.

Preliminary research shows that DSSM consists out of:

  1. 1. surveillance system and central data collection including movement profile, identity recognition, payments, communication (preferences, wishes, dreams, values and ideally thoughts – brain scanner experiments have started),
  2. 2. algorithmic and big data analysis,
  3. 3. an information system to inform (and manipulate) the citizens,
  4. 4. a motivating system (unconscious advertisement, sesame credit points for regime loyalty) and
  5. 5. a sanctionizing system including automatic censorship, detention, forced confessions/gag orders and death penalty (estimates of up to 10.000 executions per year) etc.

DSSM contains several simulations, especially to predict developments in the imminent future. It is a conscious advancement of the concept “Industry 4.0” (or, in the communication area Digitalization 4.0 (its economic part called “Made in China 2025”), following the media epochs of Oral Communication (1.0), Written (2.0), Book Print (3.0); cf. Luhmann, Baecker). It has the following characteristics:

  1. 1. artificially intelligent,
  2. 2. (ideally) completely automatic, decisions are made by algorithms based mostly on correlations, less on causes,
  3. 3. optimizes itself through learning,
  4. 4. communicates with users indirectly (system works best if unknown to the user, e.g. illness-probabilities are only discovered through correlation, not communicated), and
  5. 5. non-explicit, man-machine, machine-machine communication.

The legal framework in China and the centralization under party control fit massive data collection. DSSM is supported by education (incl. ideological warfare/propaganda) and guidance of citizens from preschool to death, including 10 percent of school classes, university courses and work time (at Party schools even for non-party-members starting from the rank of dean) being devoted to ideological indoctrination. Citizens are digitally externally controlled by means of pedagogy, psychological pressure and group dynamics (patriotism, competition to collecting points).

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.