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Accepted Paper:

Navigating Public Concerns, Promising High-Tech Futures: Chinese Digital Infrastructures in Switzerland  
Lena Kaufmann (University of Zurich)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper adopts a socio-technical lens on Chinese digital infrastructures in Switzerland. It explores how representatives of Chinese Information & Communication Technology companies and their Swiss partners address public concerns, emphasising Swissness and envisioning a high-tech future for all.

Paper Abstract:

Taking a socio-technical approach, this paper focuses on Chinese digital infrastructures, specifically fibre optic networks, in Switzerland and the Chinese and Swiss companies involved. Fibre optic networks, comprising internet cables, data centres, and various storage and switching components, form the foundation of digitalisation. In Switzerland, as elsewhere, Chinese technologies play a pivotal role in these networks. Despite Switzerland generally being more receptive to incorporating Chinese technologies compared to other Western countries, there is a growing scepticism within the Swiss public regarding potential future dependencies and cybersecurity concerns. This paper is based on ethnographic field research in Switzerland, including interviews with representatives of Chinese companies in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector and their Swiss partner companies, participant observation during industry events and data centre visits, and documentary analysis. It asks how Chinese and Swiss company representatives navigate these public concerns. I demonstrate how, in an increasingly tense geopolitical setting, they attempt to disassociate these technologies from their Chineseness. This is reinforced by employing European workers who advocate for the company, presenting their companies as European and highlighting their Swissness. Meanwhile, their Swiss partners often conceal their Chinese collaborations and technologies. Moreover, company representatives present their technologies as future-proof, promising an ever more digital and automated era, necessary for sustained innovation and economic power. These presentations are framed around hopeful narratives envisioning a sustainable and green high-tech future for all.

Panel P064
Temporal encounters with global China
  Session 2 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -