Digital business governance in China: The algorithm design of Tik Tok

All Abstracts > Digital business governance in China: The algorithm design of Tik Tok

Digital business governance in China: The algorithm design of Tik Tok

Author | Affiliation:
Altman Yuzhu Peng | Newcastle University

Presenting at:
2D | China’s Internet Governance: Domestic Issues and Global Aspirations


Digital governance has become ubiquitous, amid the widespread penetration of the Internet in today’s Chinese society. A large amount of existing literature has explored the political dimension of digital governance, focusing on the interplay between the Chinese government and Chinese Internet users. Yet, today’s Chinese social media platforms are almost all provided by private-owned giant Chinese high-tech companies. Research shows that the private ownership of high-tech companies has paved the way for a new form of digital governance, namely digital business governance. The institutions behind digital business governance are not state governments but giant high-tech companies, which designed the social media applications used by Internet users. Different from digital political governance, digital business governance involves no written laws or legislations. The regulation of Internet users’ everyday practice is enhanced by the designing features of the Internet services that giant high-tech companies launched on the market. This paper uses Tik Tok as a case study to address how giant Chinese high-tech companies regulate Chinese Internet users’ everyday practice through the designing features of social media applications. As a social media application, Tik Tok is primarily designed to enable Internet users to share and view short videos. With a particular algorithm design that feeds users with customised content, Tik Tok becomes the most popular of its kind in Chinese society today and its popularity is arguably based on these unique designing features. In this way, a case study of Tik Tok underlines how high-tech companies engage in profitable digital business governance in the contemporary Chinese context. The outcomes of the discussion contribute to orchestrated thinking in the East Asian rising power by articulating the entangled relationships between users, capitalism, and authoritarianism in Chinese society today.


digital business governance; high-tech company; algorithm; authoritarianism; capitalism; social media application; Tik Tok

About the author

Altman Yuzhu Peng


Altman Yuzhu Peng (PhD, Newcastle University, UK) is currently a Lecturer in PR & Global Communications in the subject area of Media Culture & Heritage at Newcastle University (UK). Altman’s research interests lie at the intersections of Feminism and Media & Cultural Studies. He is currently writing a research monograph, entitled A Feminist Reading of China’s Digital Public Sphere, for Palgrave Macmillan. He has published in international peer-reviewed journals, such as Feminist Media StudiesChinese Journal of Communication, and Social Identities.

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