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Surveying Strategic Digital Politics

Options and Limitations of Digital Autonomy in Relation to Dependency and
Fragmentation through the Increasing Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)


The problematization of technological dependency and the quest for more autonomy has become a defining moment in the European and German debate on digitalization. The increasing use of AI is accelerating the political debates about "digital sovereignty". However, in understanding the possibilities and limitations of digital sovereignty, fundamental empirical data as well as a systematic comparative metric are often missing. Therefore, this project focuses on linking digital fragmentation and digital interdependence with the aim of improving the quantitative and qualitative measurement of the vulnerability/costs and the real scope for autonomy efforts. This should add a new facet to the German debate and broaden the empirical-methodological basis for the consideration of different options of action concerning the strategic digital policy between the technology powers China and the USA. Chinese companies in particular play a special role because of the specific circumstances surrounding the fragmentation of the internet and because of China's technological leadership in the AI field.

In the quantitative part, a database will be created, on the basis of which an index for dependency and fragmentation in the field of digital applications and technologies will be developed. The fragmentation index will determine the respective degree of access and usage restrictions for selected digital technologies in selected countries/markets, whereas the dependency index will represent the dependencies of the selected countries on foreign goods and services in the digital domain. The qualitative part compares how a number of "technology middle powers" (including Germany, Israel, South Korea, Taiwan, France, and Australia) deal with their varying degrees of vulnerability to China and the United States in the area of digital technologies. Discourses and actual actions to achieve digital autonomy in the context of Chinese-American digital geopolitics and "decoupling" will be analyzed as well as the observable structural limitations of digital political action through fragmentation and dependency.


Funding: supported by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, China/Shanghai Office.

Duration: December 2020 ─ June 2021




Anna-Lena Kramer

Yen-Chi Lu, MA, Co-Lead

Prof. Dr. Maximilian Mayer, Co-Lead

Philip Nock, MA

Sebastian Trautwein

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