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Automation, Justice and Governance in China


Admission requirements

The course “Automation, Justice, and Governance in China” 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), East Asian Studies: China track (60EC) 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 course 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 Chinese law and courts, the use of algorithms and other digital technologies in governance, 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 avalable through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Success in this course depends heavily on having done the readings and preparation for discussion based on questions provided in the syllabus. Students are expected to come prepared.

Seminars will exist out of two components:

  • An interactive lecture on the lesson material

  • Short introduction of the readings by a student

  • Class discussion of articles, questions, and student reflection papers

Assessment method


In order to pass this module, students will nominally complete assignments in three different categories:

  • Engagement element (attendance, presentation, and discussion) - 25% of final grade.

  • Analytical element (reflection papers) - 25% of final grade.

  • Research element (research paper 5,000 words) - 50% of final grade


Not applicable


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 (50%) only, and only if (1) the original submission constituted a serious attempt; and (2) the student failed both the paper and the full course.

Inspection and feedback

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


Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.
Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: VRIESHOF


All other information.