China’s approaches to standardisation should be understood as an element of its broader industrial and technology strategies that are aimed at multiple goals: increasing self sufficiency and therefore independence from foreign-developed and owned technology, boosting Chinese industries’ competitiveness in global markets and returns from global usage of Chinese intellectual property, and creating path dependencies that bias future technological development in favour of Chinese actors.

John Lee, Eric Zhang, Rogier Creemers, “China’s Standardisation System – trends, implications and case studies in emerging technologies,” Leiden Asia Centre, April 21, 2022

I just finished reading this thoughtful, well researched, and well written (a great read actually) paper on China’s standards governance – ICYMI. It’s well worth your time.

Ok, I’ll admit it. I find reading about standards a bit dry. But if you are like me, don’t let the title fool you.

I’ll start by saying it’s the clearest, most readable breakdown of the evolution, goals, and conflicting policy orientations inside China on standards governance that I’ve seen. That in itself makes it worth your time.

And the writers also make it clear why we should care: “In globally integrated technological ecosystems, relative influence in standards setting shapes the potential for rival states to ‘weaponize’ technological interdependence.”

OK, I can’t stop. There’s also interesting case studies (6G and IA) and a very useful look at BRI and how we might set a framework for understanding its role in China’s standards governance. I’ll be citing it in the future.

And if that’s not enough for you, read this quote, closely: “Even if a united front towards China does emerge among the advanced US-allied economies, this would not solve the geopolitical and economic challenges linked to China’s technological rise.”

Anyways, with this paper and a handful of others, it has been a very good week for some fine academic writing on the “digital” in Digital China.  Just as important, it’s been a great week for increasing layman knowledge (of folks like me) on the “digital” as well. All super important.

What we are going to work on in this blog is a bit different: pulling all of these important pieces of the “digital” puzzle together, as the Party does with its theory, initiatives, and strategy, into “Digital China.” And we do this, most of all, to better understand strategic intent.