Hardening National Boundaries in a Globally-Connected World : Technology, Development, and Nationalism in China

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
Journal / PublicationJournal of Contemporary Asia
Online published17 Jan 2022
Publication statusOnline published - 17 Jan 2022


How do information and communication technologies (ICTs), which seemingly bring people to a boundless world, contribute to the reproduction of the imagined community of a nation? Challenging the conventional approach that sees ICTs as merely the channel through which nationalism or activism is expressed or mobilised, this article draws on anthropological and historical studies of technology to develop a conceptual mapping of the important factors that configure specific nation-bounded, ICT-centric socio-technical imaginaries. Taking as the entry point technological nationalism in the context of the Sino-American trade war in recent years and based on long-term fieldwork in the Pearl River Delta region, this ethnographic study explores how ICTs have become the lens through which educated professionals imagine China’s transition from sweat-shop modernity toward techno-modernity. This socio-technical imaginary is shaped by larger forces including the state discourse, political economy, material culture, and the platformised lifestyle, and mediated through work experience and consumer choices. Nationalism driven by this ICT-centric imaginary is subjected to state manipulation for the reproduction of political legitimacy. This study sheds light on larger conceptual questions on how ordinary citizens experience and make sense of ICTs and how such meaning-making processes sustain, challenge and reconfigure political processes.

Research Area(s)

  • socio-technical imaginaries, technology, development, nationalism, material culture, China

Bibliographic Note

Information for this record is supplemented by the author(s) concerned.