China is rolling out a nationwide system of social control known as “grid management” in a revival of state presence in residential life that had receded as society liberalised during recent decades.
From smog-blanketed towns on the North China Plain to the politically sensitive Tibetan capital of Lhasa, small police booths and networks of citizens have been set up block by block to reduce neighbourhood disputes, enforce sanitation, reduce crime — and keep an eye on anyone deemed a troublemaker.
The rollout coincides with a broader tightening of state control over civil society and crackdown on dissent under President Xi Jinping.
“The grid management system is an attempt by the authorities to re-establish its control over individuals,” said Li Dun, an expert in public management at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “The aim is to reinstate the idea of upholding the party’s leadership.”