Wensi Shao

Title: Sustaining State Legitimacy in the Era of Digital Transformation: The case of China

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Erkki Karo

Opponent: Dr. Stefano Calzati

Defense: 22 January 2020


Abstract: Speaking of digital transformation studies, most of the contemporary mainstream scholars are focusing on western democratic countries as well as the technical aspects of the digital transformation itself. However, the west mainstream academic world has long neglected the innovating capacities reside within the resilient authoritarian regimes, as occurred previously and repeatedly in the near past. This thesis aimed at understanding the reason and motives behind the Chinese state self-initiated digital transformation from the theory of state legitimacy perspective. Though the originality of the state legitimacy theory resides in Max Weber. Nevertheless, the theory is in developing process ever since. This thesis adopted one of the latest modification from Dingxin Zhao, Sociology Docent at University of Chicago. He boldly analysed the ‘flaws’ in Weber and follow-up scholars’ induction and proposed three ideal-type set of state legitimacy: ideology legitimacy, performance legitimacy and procedural legitimacy. Especially, performance legitimacy and his re-discovery of the mandate of Heaven have been well and wide recognized in the academic circle of Chinese Studies. Base on the Zhao’s modifications of state legitimacy theory, the thesis will elaborate each legitimacy type in depth and will supplement it with China’s practice, and to some extent with additional scholar’s framework, such as Daniel Bell’s Political Meritocracy, Sebastian Heilmann’s Digital Leninism and Nick Couldry’s Cyber Colonialism.


Keywords: Max Weber, Dingxin Zhao, State Legitimacy Theory, China, Digital Transformation.