State-led embeddedness : Analyzing the discursive construction of platforms and social good in Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen

Ngai Keung CHAN, Chi KWOK

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Drawing on Polanyi’s concept of embeddedness, this article introduces the concept of “state-led embeddedness” to theorize non-competitive and subordinating state-platform relations in China. Under state-led embeddedness, platforms are not conceived first and foremost as private economic actors but as instruments for providing social good and resolving social problems. This article presents a qualitative thematic analysis of the official discourses about platforms for and against social good in four major cities that represent key technology and innovation hubs in China: Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. The analysis reveals how platforms are discursively portrayed as emerging providers of social good, both nationally and locally. This discursive construction of platforms in conjunction with social good, in turn, encourages the state to legitimize collaborative governance and surveillance practices in cities like Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Finally, this study affords opportunities to regionalize platform studies in China by considering how diverse forms of intergovernmental relationships might result in diverse interpretations of a “platform for social good” in practical scenarios.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Media and China
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank research assistants Minwei Ai, Lyon You, Scarlett Shuaishuai Sun, and Fangyu Qing for their work and support at various stages of this research. A previous version of the article was presented at the 80th Annual Midwest Political Science Association Conference and the Canadian Political Science Association 2023 Annual Conference. We would like to thank the discussants and audience for their valuable feedback. We would also like to thank the editors and the anonymous reviewers for their productive recommendations.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • China
  • platformization
  • platforms
  • social good
  • state-led embeddedness


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