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China’s techno-political progress is particularly visible in the digital sector, where the success of Chinese platform companies raises attention and concerns alike. The international expansion of Huawei, ByteDance, Tencent, Alibaba, SenseTime and others prompts economic, geopolitical and ethical questions, most of which are discussed with reference to the global systemic competition. Conceptually, however, a further step is needed in order to characterize the dual nature of their global effects more systematically. How to understand the relationship between the contradictory dynamics of integration and fragmentation without winding up at digital orientalism? This project focuses on the influence of Chinese data infrastructures, such as the “Great Firewall” and “Digital Silk Road” on the changing Internet governance as a whole as well as on individual digital applications. How are states, societies and companies affected by flourishing practices of “data localization”, the development of new technological standards, and intensifying digital geopolitics? To what extent does the diffusion of Chinese governance discourses (e.g. “digital sovereignty”) not only shape the fragmented nature of data streams and product innovations, but also impact the connectivity created by technological globalization across both authoritarian and democratic political systems? What are the consequences and policy options from a European perspective? And could the strength of Chinese platform companies lead to China’s “digital hegemony”?

Dr. Ying Huang (Lead)
Nicolas Huppenbauer, MSc




Europe’s Digital Autonomy and Potentials of a U.S.-German Alignment toward China – AICGS.jpgMayer, M. (2020, December 16). Europe’s Digital Autonomy and Potentials of a U.S.-German Alignment toward China. AICGS.

A concerted response to China’s growing digital power is one of the most critical policy issues requiring U.S.-German coordination during the Biden administration. While approaches to cybersecurity are largely overlapping, and U.S. digital espionage in Germany has not led to concrete countermeasures, Europe’s ambitions for “digital autonomy” recently widened the gap of perceptions between German and U.S. policymakers. In particular, with regard to 5G networks, interests and outlook diverge to a degree that questions the ability to form a common approach to the global expansion of Chinese platform and digital equipment companies... more


Mayer Digital Orientalism.pngMayer, M. (2020). China’s Authoritarian Internet and Digital Orientalism. In D. Feldner (Ed.), Redesigning Organizations (pp. 177–192). Springer International Publishing.

China’s authoritarian digitalization poses a great challenge for data protection, privacy, the development of Industry 4.0 and the sovereignty of countries in other parts of the world. Seeking a deeper understanding of the Chinese Internet revolution is important in order to weigh the risks and benefits of new digital technologies and avoid the trap of moralization. The latter frames the Chinese case in terms of European techno-skepticism rather than gaining a comprehensive evaluation of digital realities. Taking a comparative perspective helps to situate China’s digitalization within general global digital trends. This approach indicates obstacles for Sino-German economic relations, especially with respect to the data economy, emerging AI and digitalized industrial production... more

Donald Trump’s campaign against Huawei is a symptom of digital orientalism, ignoring similarities in.jpgMahoney, J. G., & Mayer, M. (2020, January 18). Donald Trump’s campaign against Huawei is a symptom of digital orientalism, ignoring similarities in Chinese and Western surveillance. South China Morning Post.

Britain’s counter-intelligence chief recently said he believes the United Kingdom’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the US will not be hit if Britain adopts Huawei technology in its 5G mobile phone network. This is the latest twist in a deepening saga with major implications for Huawei, US-China relations and global technological progress. In Germany, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has been criticised for comparing Chinese with US surveillance capabilities, as the European Union laments its lack of digital autonomy and being at the mercy of American and Chinese firms... more

Gu et al. - 2019 - Geopolitics and the Global Race for 5G.jpgGu, X., Heidbrink, C., Huang, Y., Nock, P., Ohnesorge, H. W., & Pustovitovskij, A. (2019). Geopolitics and the Global Race for 5G (CGS Global Focus). Center for Global Studies.

The debate on the 5th generation of mobile communications technology (5G) is currently both politically charged and controversial. It has thus far lacked, however, a scientifically sound and in-depth study on the geopolitical dimension of 5G technology. This prompted us to carefully examine 5G technology expressly from a geopolitical viewpoint. The results of this investigation are now available... more




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