Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Rewiring the Techno-Nation

Presentation by Ya-Wen Lei (Harvard University) - Online Event

This talk describes and explains the Chinese techno-state’s seemingly sudden turn against the internet sector that it once cultivated and held dear. I argue that a combination of domestic and international factors led to this regulatory shift and crackdown. Domestically, China’s financial regulators detected the crossing of two red lines—systematic financial risks and national security. Internationally, the geopolitical tensions between China and the US have further amplified national security issues. And whereas previously the Chinese state encouraged and valued the boundary-spanning operation of China’s tech firms because boundary-spanning meant innovation and the global ascendence of China’s “national champions,” as domestic and international contexts have changed, boundary-spanning now threatens financial stability, market order, social stability, and national security. The Chinese state now appears to be questioning whether tech giants are indeed “national” champions and whether they serve the interests of the Chinese nation.

Ya-Wen Lei is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University, and is affiliated with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. She is the author of The Contentious Public Sphere: Law, Media and Authoritarian Rule in China (Princeton University Press, 2018). Her articles have appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, the American Sociological Review, The China Quarterly, Law & Society Review, Socius, Political Communication, and Work, Employment and Society.

The event is part of the Seminar Series “Platform Politics and Policy”.

Researchers from outside the WZB who would like to attend may email the organizer, robert.gorwa [at], to be put onto the seminar series mailing list.