With a clear vision of the significance of information and communications technology for economic development and modernization, China has been heavily investing in the cloud industry and increasingly gaining global importance. In response, long considered as a remote area, Guizhou is constructing the nation’s first national pilot zone for big data industry. And, it is making the most of its natural advantages— mild climate, abundant hydraulic power and lack of earthquakes—to grow a big data industry.
Focusing on the construction projects of data centers by Tencent and Huawei in Guizhou, this paper shows that the ongoing development in the province defies the common techno-utopian claim that technology connects and overcomes marginality; in effect, technological connectivity works through and entrenches marginality in Guizhou. Such marginality is explored by tracing and describing how Guizhou as a place has been imagined throughout Chinese history, and discuss how these imaginaries have rendered Guizhou available for certain kinds of state intervention. Central to the legacy of these imaginaries is the construction of Guizhou as a marginalized and backward place. These imaginaries of Guizhou play a key role in the emerging data center industry there today. The main argument is that the emerging data center industry in Guizhou represents not only a specific kind of place-making work that is contingent on policies and feeds on the historical imaginaries of the place, but also leads to further entrenchment of its marginalized position, which runs counter to the vision of connectivity often promised by technology.