“Hardening National Boundaries in a Globally-Connected World: Technology, Development and Nationalism in China” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.2001841) is a new article by Jun Zhang of the Department of Asian and International Studies at the City University of Hong Kong.
The abstract for the article is:
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.