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Li, Pengfei. “Conceptualizing China’s Spatial Lockdown during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Neo-Liberal Society or a Pre-Liberal One?” Social Transformations in Chinese Societies 17, no. 2 (June 30, 2021): 1871–2673.


The draconian measures to lock down communities and cities in China during the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented in human history. First the mega-city of Wuhan, then the province of Hubei, and eventually the whole nation of China, were shut down, surveilled and governed in a way that was identical to the 17th century plague-stricken European town re-portrayed and analyzed by Foucault. Instead of categorizing China’s COVID-19-triggered spatial and social governance as an ad hoc and hence abnormal disciplinary mechanism, this essay argues that the spatial lockdown and social control in China during the COVID-19 pandemic express the long existing and well-established governance model of China: that of a pre-liberal disciplinary society.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.