Baidu, Vietnam, and the Bordered World of Chinese Internet Companies

//CGCS Internet Policy Observatory affiliate Sarah Logan examines the international expansion of China’s search engine Baidu into Vietnam to explore if the relationship between the Chinese state and Chinese internet companies affect those companies’ international expansion. This project adds to studies of the ‘state’ in cyberspace, in this case by studying Chinese internet companies beyond Chinese borders—adding a geopolitical element to existing studies. This project is part of CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory (IPO).

Remember when cyberspace was borderless? A never-ending, utopian plane which heralded the dawn of a new age of global humanity?  These dreams have long been trampled underfoot – most recently by the Snowden revelations, but also the understanding we now have of the way states can manipulate the internet for domestic political goals. Research in the field now focuses on the implications of information technologies—symbolic, economic, and political. This means looking at the way states interact with the web, especially in the pursuit of political goals. Today, scholarly and policy attention focuses on the web as a bordered, sovereign space rather than the ‘placeless’ cyber domain which occupied the minds of early internet researchers.

For several years, China has featured prominently in such research, and the Great Firewall marked the pinnacle of state ambition to control online information access. Such control is exercised under the rubric of ‘internet sovereignty’, so that  ‘within Chinese territory the internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty.’  As is well described in the literature, especially in work by Jiang and MacKinnon, this means that the Chinese state manages citizens online by restricting access to certain sites, and controls the flow of online information within its borders in more subtle ways, using the internet as a tool of surveillancecensorship and information shaping. Chinese technology companies are inextricably linked with these practices of internet sovereignty via processes known as ‘networked authoritarianism’. Chinese networked authoritarianism cannot work without the active cooperation of private companies via a system of stringently enforced and wide-ranging intermediary liability.

Given this relationship, what happens when…

Click here to read more.