China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
In the context of an increasingly global China, this panel is premised on the need for a different approach to understanding the underlying basis of the ‘China model’ of infrastructure development currently being exported throughout much of the global south under the ubiquitous catch-all label of the ‘Belt & Road Initiative.’ The presentations collected here suggest three key arguments underlying this need. First, the academic focus on geopolitical strategies and international-relations aspects of the model detracts from an analysis of the infrastructures themselves, and, more specifically, their materialities and techno-political dimensions. We thus explore everyday infrastructural technologies as a nuanced lens for capturing less apparent aspects of state formation and reproduction in and beyond China. Second, when infrastructures have been considered, they are typically large-scale projects that convey state power in highly visible ways. But the China model also produces less visible everyday infrastructures that are still deployed in ways meant to enhance state control and social governability. Third, rather than viewing initiatives like the BRI solely as products of China’s engagement with global capitalism, we approach the infrastructural emphasis of the China model as emerging from a legacy of socialist state-making and distinct institutional formations that continue to shape development in China today. This panel will demonstrate different approaches to the techno-politics and materialities of Chinese infrastructure development at the scale of everyday technologies, offering a collective case for how an infrastructural lens can help us understanding state formation and politics in the context of global China.