The grid management system in contemporary China: Grass-roots governance in social surveillance and service provision


How should we understand the formation of the grid management system (网格化管理) of grass-roots governance in China? In this article, I argue that the grid system is an extension of existing governance structures. Facing conflicting central messaging, local grid development encountered isomorphic pressures, leading grids to resemble higher-level administration and to inherit a top–down and stability-focused mode of operation. To support this argument, I analyse five aspects: shifts in elite-level discourse, the proliferation of the grid system, recruitment standards for grid members, grid members’ tasks, and their assessment. Showcasing wide local variety, the grid system retains a managerial approach while collapsing service provision into security.


Another much shorter read: China reverts to ‘grid management’ to monitor citizens’ lives.

These two articles describe the granular level of Chinese state control and why it is so easy for the state to lockdown entire cities for many months. Coupled with QR code passports, the Chinese grid management system gives the state total, inescapable control of each and every member of society. This is the kind of technological control many of us fear is creeping into Western societies. Once established, a system like this may be impossible to overcome. Incidentally, this kind of totalitarian control is a major reason American second amendment rights must not be infringed. ABN

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