Infrastructuring Cyberspace: Exploring China’s Imaginary and Practices of Selective Connectivity

  • Ying Huang (Author)

    Dr. Ying Huang works as a research fellow at the Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies (CASSIS) of the University of Bonn. In the research project "Infrastructures of China's Modernity and Their Global Constitutive Effects", funded by the Minitry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalis, she currently leads the subproject on data infrastructures.

  • Nicolas Huppenbauer (Author)

    Nicolas is a PhD candidate and research fellow in the research group "Infrastructures of China's Modernity". 

  • Maximilian Mayer (Author)

    Dr. Maximilian Mayer is Junior-Professor of International Relations and Global Politics of Technology at University of Bonn.

Identifiers (Article)


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.


Type, method or approach
China, New IP, smart city, connectivity, cyberspace, sociotechnical imaginaries