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Special Feature

Editorial - Beyond E-Commerce

The Social Case of China’s Digital Economy
Haiqing Yu
p. 3-8


This special feature brings together three original articles on Internet finance, grassroots programmers, and an e-psychotherapy platform, respectively, to engage in the ongoing debate on China’s e-commerce and digital economy. The three authors contribute to a rethinking of the Chinese digital capitalism from the perspective of sociology (Nicholas Loubere), anthropology (Ping Sun), and social psychology (Hsuan-Ying Huang). They pinpoint the role of commercial activities as vehicles to highlight human agency and diversity in China’s transformations. The three articles— “China’s Internet Finance and Tyrannies of Inclusion” by Loubere, “Programming Practices of Chinese Code Farmers” by Sun, and “Therapy Made Easy” by Huang—not only provide empirical studies of particular grassroots players or makers in China’s e-commerce and digital economy, but also critically discuss their role and agency in negotiating the complicated network of power and knowledge to create a politics of difference in people’s daily lives.

The special feature contributes to the debates on Chinese digital economy from a micro and meso-level analysis that is rooted in the humanities and social sciences. It examines the grassroots participants and makers of China’s e-commerce boom, and at the same time moves beyond the discussion on e-commerce to critique the paradoxes of Chinese digital capitalism, as experienced by poor and disadvantaged individuals engulfed by entrepreneurial digital loan sharks and systems of social surveillance (Loubere), the second-generation-migrant grassroots programmers or code farmers in small software companies in Shenzhen (Sun), and an entrepreneurial psychotherapist whose online platform has taken on the mission of constructing a psychotherapy infrastructure for an under-developed profession (Huang). Together the three articles aim to redefine the “who” of digital economy as an unlikely collection of unimagined individuals and underrepresented groups; the “what” of digital economy as measured by its social and cultural impact rather than its volume of business and transaction; and the “how” of digital economy in terms of the implication of and impact on grassroots players in their strategies for survival.

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Bibliographical reference

Haiqing Yu, « Editorial - Beyond E-Commerce », China Perspectives, 2017/4 | 2017, 3-8.

Electronic reference

Haiqing Yu, « Editorial - Beyond E-Commerce », China Perspectives [Online], 2017/4 | 2017, Online since 01 December 2017, connection on 16 January 2019. URL :

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About the author

Haiqing Yu

Haiqing Yu is Associate Professor of Chinese media and culture at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.UNSW Kensington campus, High Street, Kensington NSW Australia 2052 (

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