China’s long game in techno-nationalism

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Citation: Shazeda Ahmed, Steven Weber (2018/05/07) China’s long game in techno-nationalism. First Monday (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.5210/fm.v23i5.8085
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.5210/fm.v23i5.8085
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.5210/fm.v23i5.8085
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): China’s long game in techno-nationalism


Analyzes 4 Chinese IT regulatory pushes:

  • State Encryption Management Commission (1999)
  • WAPI as a domestic technical standard (2004)
  • Green Dam-Youth Escort (2009)
  • China’s cybersecurity law (2014–present)

Finds each proceeds in 3 'acts':

  1. "the Chinese government proposes the adoption of a sweeping and somewhat vague piece of legislation in the name of national security, which would restrain foreign technology companies’ access to Chinese markets and place intellectual property at risk of theft. This prompts forceful negative responses, first from the companies, then from U.S. and other Western government trade representatives, and finally at times from the most senior government officials as well"
  2. "the Chinese government then suspends or postpones the implementation of the law, but keeps it on the books. Western media labels this (temporary) capitulation a victory for trade and competition, and government pressure subsides."
  3. "modified versions of the proposed law are later passed and partially implemented, as the issue fades from the spotlight and other conflicting interests come to the fore. That is ‘Act 3’. At the end of the story, techno-nationalist policies have not moved as far forward as was feared in Act 1. But they have moved forward in a way that has cumulated over time to shape the competitive environment — gradually, but with real impact."

Supports hypothesis that the "laws represent the evolution of an economic development strategy that is aimed at advancing the competitiveness of the Chinese domestic IT sector" with "national security strategy, narrowly defined, that is aimed at reducing the vulnerability of Chinese military, government, and commercial information systems to foreign technology intrusions and cybersecurity threats" as secondary.

Notes many multinational firms have cooperated, while regulations have harmed many domestic Chinese companies; this dynamic as well as China's emergence as a top technology creator need to be taken into account.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

No mention of open source or possibility of cooperating towards actually security-motivated regulation.