Rising China and Internet governance: Multistakeholderism, fragmentation and the Liberal Order in the age of digital sovereignty

Nanni, Riccardo (2022) Rising China and Internet governance: Multistakeholderism, fragmentation and the Liberal Order in the age of digital sovereignty, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Scienze politiche e sociali, 34 Ciclo. DOI 10.48676/unibo/amsdottorato/10371.
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In its open and private-based dimension, the Internet is the epitome of the Liberal International Order in its global spatial dimension. Therefore, normative questions arise from the emergence of powerful non-liberal actors such as China in Internet governance. In particular, China has supported a UN-based multilateral Internet governance model based on state sovereignty aimed at replacing the existing ICANN-based multistakeholder model. While persistent, this debate has become less dualistic through time. However, fear of Internet fragmentation has increased as the US-China technological competition grew harsher. This thesis inquires “(To what extent) are Chinese stakeholders reshaping the rules of Global Internet Governance?”. This is further unpacked in three smaller questions: (i) (To what extent) are Chinese stakeholders contributing to increased state influence in multistakeholder fora?; (ii) (how) is China contributing to Internet fragmentation?; and (iii) what are the main drivers of Chinese stakeholders’ stances? To answer these questions, Chinese stakeholders’ actions are observed in the making and management of critical Internet resources at the IETF and ICANN respectively, and in mobile connectivity standard-making at 3GPP. Through the lens of norm entrepreneurship in regime complexes, this thesis interprets changes and persistence in the Internet governance normative order and Chinese attitudes towards it. Three research methods are employed: network analysis, semi-structured expert interviews, and thematic document analysis. While China has enhanced state intervention in several technological fields, fostering debates on digital sovereignty, this research finds that the Chinese government does not exert full control on its domestic private actors and concludes that Chinese stakeholders have increasingly adapted to multistakeholder Internet governance as they grew influential within it. To enhance control over Internet-based activities, the Chinese government resorted to regulatory and technical control domestically rather than establishing a splinternet. This is due to Chinese stakeholders’ interest in retaining the network benefits of global interconnectivity.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Nanni, Riccardo
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
China; Liberal International Order; Internet governance; Regime Complexity; Digital Sovereignty.
Data di discussione
17 Giugno 2022

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