Han Tao

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About the talk:

Despite being a driving force in national economic and social development, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in China have long faced difficulties in obtaining bank loan financing. In this context, the government has recently introduced digital lending platforms like “Credit Easy Loan” under its developing social credit system to enable “creditworthy” microentrepreneurs to get bank loans without collateral. Banks’ digital lending platforms are envisioned by national and local authorities to collect and integrate social credit data, thus easing the information asymmetry between banks and private enterprises. The state thus expects banks to play a key role in technological innovation and financial inclusion. What are the actual practices of bank digital lending to micro/small businesses? This talk is rooted in 10-month ethnographic fieldwork in two Chinese cities. It investigates banks’ digital and non-digital methods of credit risk assessment, entrepreneur-applicants’ varied experiences of obtaining bank loans, and their relations with the private “packaging agencies” that assist loan applicants in “beautifying” their creditworthiness. This research finds that banks and microentrepreneurs may work with “packaging agencies” to fake credit data for the applicant and the enterprise in credit risk control for different purposes. Consequently, the state-initiated digital lending platforms risk becoming performative rather than inclusive. MSMEs, especially rural-to-urban migrant microentrepreneurs, still face difficulties and stereotypes when applying for bank credit loans. This research hopes to further our understanding of the social practice around digitalized credit and creditwortheiness, trust relationships between banks and businesses, and microentrepreneurship.

About the speaker:
Han Tao is a postdoctoral researcher at IT University of Copenhagen, affiliated with the 'Moving Data, Moving People' project within Technologies in Practice (TiP) research group. She received her Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Sussex. Her doctoral research examined the practices of queer intimacies, queer parenting, and family-making in urban China. This ethnographic study unpacks queer subjects’ experience of cultivating durable kinship relations through their negotiation with biological relatives, cultural conventions, and state legislation. It also provides new understandings of how assisted reproductive technologies engage with long-standing concerns such as parenthood, sexuality, transnational markets, and stratification. Han’s research interests centre around kinship, sexuality, migration, data, and technology. Currently, Han is documenting her fieldwork on credit 'beautification' agencies, bank digital lending, and the challenges of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in financing in Southern China. She is visiting with UCI’s Steckler Center for Responsible, Ethical, and Accessible Technology (CREATE).

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