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Digital China and Central Asia 
Oyuna Baldakova (King's College London)
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Elisa Oreglia (King's College London)
Elisa Oreglia (King's College London)
Political Science, International Relations, and Law


By actively engaging in bilateral collaborations and facilitating the expansion of its technological giants, China has become a key player in shaping Central Asia's information and communication technology (ICT) sector. The proposed panel seeks to explore the impact of Chinese technology on the evolving socio-technological fabric of Central Asia. The four papers provide insights into China's digital influence, shedding light on its role in smart city development, technological influence, and electronic hardware production. Together, these contributions illuminate China's growing role in shaping the technological, economic, and policy landscapes of Central Asia.

The first paper explores the implications of smart city technologies in China and Central Asia, focusing on personal data collection, use, and protection. It provides insights into the facets of smart city infrastructure, highlighting how various technologies contribute to urban development goals. The examination of regulatory frameworks and privacy safeguards addresses the challenges associated with the intersection of smart cities and personal data in both regions. The second paper concentrates on China's expanding technological influence in Uzbekistan and explores partnerships and agreements in the ICT sector. By examining the establishment of a 'safe city' and the integration of Chinese technological brands, it offers a deeper understanding of how China employs technology as a tool of 'soft power' in Central Asia.

The third paper presents an exploration of Kazakhstan's electronic hardware industry, examining historical roots, current status, and global dependencies. It examines technological sovereignty and high-tech development goals in Kazakhstan, specifically addressing China's significant role in the country's electronics sector. The analysis of partnerships between Kazakhstani hardware producers and Chinese counterparts contributes to the overall narrative of technological (inter)dependence. The final paper delves into China's digital economy and its influence on Central Asia. It emphasizes China's attempts to set the rules for the operation of the entire digital infrastructure. Highlighting China as a model for digitalization, the paper aims to explore the potential borrowing of China's experience in the Kazakhstani digitalization journey.

Interrelated themes across the papers include the role of Chinese tech companies, the impact of digitalization on urban and economic development, and the intricate relationships between Central Asian countries and China in the technological domain. By presenting these papers together, the panel will provide a better understanding of China's digital influence and the multifaceted transformations occurring in Central Asia, sparking insightful discussions on the region's evolving socio-technological dynamics.

Accepted papers: