Chinese Internet Research Conference 2023
The Chinese Internet in the Global South: Flows, Frictions, and Futures
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Organised by Digital Asia Hub
with local hosts Chiang Mai University
The Digital Asia Hub and Chiang Mai University hosted the 20th Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC) – The Chinese Internet in the Global South: Flows, Frictions, and Futures.
The conference took place from 12-14 July 2023 at the Faculty of Mass Communication, Chiang Mai University, in a hybrid format, with in-person attendance and some online participation. CIRC 2023 hosted scholars from across disciplines to zoom in on the Global South as a geographic and epistemological site of inquiry, with a focus on South and Southeast Asia (but also including other developing regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America), to study the influence of the Chinese Internet.
Negotiating Chineseness on VR Chat
We invite you to browse short spotlights with some of the CIRC 2023 speakers.
Smartphones, Mobile Apps, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, Blockchain, Metaverse – The Chinese Internet has evolved into a multilayered stack of digital technologies and devices with embedded protocols, cultures, and norms, used by billions of people around the globe. The Global South is where Made-in-China digital technology meets the world, reconfiguring how billions live and China’s own relationship with the world.
Chinese smartphone manufacturers make up close to ⅓ of the global market share (and a dominant share in Southeast and South Asia). Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, and ByteDance, along with dozens of smaller companies, have invested several billions in local tech startups in India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia. TikTok, the world’s fastest growing social media platform, counts Indonesia, Brazil, and West Asia as central to its global success. Huawei is nearly universally present in the Global South, growing from a telecom supplier to a digital transformation partner. Within the past decade Chinese technologies, along with a supply chain of capital and people, have been deeply embedded in the Global South, reconfiguring the dynamics of economies and societies. This conference will examine the influence of the Chinese Internet in the Global South, especially highlighting the interplay and bi-directional linkages between local innovation and startup ecosystems, how they may compare with their Western peers, and how Western or other technology companies are learning from China’s approach.
Frictions and Futures
China has permeated public consciousness globally and brings new frictions as political rhetoric around China affects how Made-in-China digital technologies are perceived and consumed. India became the first country in the world to ban and block WeChat and TikTok alongside hundreds of other Chinese apps, having found them to “violate Indian sovereignty and security.” How countries in the Global South interpret and act against perceived influence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) deserves more study to help shed light on non-Western attitudes towards Chinese technology. Several countries, notably Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Vietnam, are introducing new laws and rules to more closely control the national Internet, regulate international platforms, and spur local innovation. Inquiry around how governments may be mirroring and building on the “China model” is timely as governments around the world are actively regulating digital spaces and data flows, another example of the multi-directional flows of knowledge and practices.
The globalisation of the Chinese Internet also includes values, norms, and legal frameworks for governing digital spaces. The landscape within the PRC is presently in a period of significant flux. The Data Security Law (数据安全法), the Personal Information Protection Law (个人信息保护法), and a more empowered “super regulator” the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), are reconfiguring the Chinese Internet. How these new changes affect global data flows, governance norms and rules, and even the culture of innovation in China need to be better understood to determine what the future of the Chinese Internet in the Global South will look like.
This conference will examine these frictions and the multidirectional nature of laws, values, and norms for digital spaces between China and the Global South.
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On the 20th anniversary of CIRC, we are delighted to bring the conference to Thailand for the first time. Historically, the Chinese diaspora community has played meaningful roles in shaping modern Thailand. Chiang Mai University will be an idyllic site to embrace the spirit of the Global South and foster a dialogue around the Chinese Internet. We hope to highlight fresh scholarship outside the traditional “China vs West” paradigm that dominates mainstream discourse. This interdisciplinary conference will highlight emerging scholars in a number of fields including law and policy, media and communications studies, political science, computer science, among other disciplines. As the first non-university co-host of CIRC, Digital Asia Hub will bring its own values of speculative thinking and policy-oriented, multistakeholder discourse to the conference. In the leadup to the conference, new institutions will be announced and added as CIRC 2023 partners and sponsor