Infrastructuring Cyberspace: Exploring China’s Imaginary and Practices of Selective Connectivity
Connectivity and fragmentation coexist as two interlinked discourses on the relationship between infrastructures and societies. In response to the Digital Silk Road initiated by the Chinese government, Chinese companies have built numerous digital infrastructures globally. Simultaneously, China’s government seeks to strengthen domestic internet governance through laws and administrative regulations, such as the Cyber Security Law. This paper utilises the interpretive framework of “sociotechnical imaginaries” to explore the controversial tension between digital fragmentations and connectivity in cyberspace along technical, institutional and political dimensions. Scrutinising two cases studies – New IP and smart city – the study finds that China’s approach to infrastructuring cyberspace can be best understood as selective connectivity. China not only integrates into global cyber infrastructures to enhance its technological and regulatory capabilities, but also attempts to reshape global cyberspace governance to strengthen its political structures and enhance digital autonomy, seeking a balance between digital sovereignty, regime security and economic development. However, selective connectivity brings its own complexities and drawbacks.
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