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The 18th Chinese Internet Research Conference

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The 18th Chinese Internet Research Conference: The Internationalization of China's Digital and Communication Industries

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Led by RMIT University (Australia) and co-organised by QUT, Deakin, USC, and NUS, the 18th CIRC focuses on the prospects for, and critiques of, the internationalization strategies of China’s communication indu25stries. This conference was scheduled for 2020 at RMIT in Melbourne Australia and was suspended in light of the pandemic. We are pleased to announce that the conference will proceed in a virtual format, 25-27 June 2021, via Zoom.

We welcome panels and papers that examine new dynamics and emerging trends related to the globalised Chinese digital ecosystem that incorporates the Internet, digital communication and technology industries, and media culture.

In anticipation of an Asian century (Khanna, 2019), Chinese technology has become increasingly more assertive (Lee, 2018) if approximating a tech cold war. China’s internationalization strategies of their digital and communication industries are systematic and comprehensive as evidenced by their artificial intelligence ambitions and the “Digital Silk Road Initiative” (Shen, 2018: Fung et al, 2018; Keane & Yu, 2019; Shi, 2018). These policy interventions have helped advance Chinese tech, media, and digital platforms “over the wall”, if more often through parallel platform strategies, whether social media platforms (WeChat, Kuaishou, Douyin/TikTok), E-commerce models and online payment (Alipay, AliExpress, ‘Taobao Village’), digital and mobile technology (Xiaomi, Huawei), or its big data industry.

Yet, while promising a ‘fairer’ Internet and a ‘cyber community of shared destiny’ (to use Chinese President Xi’s words), these policies promote the interests of Chinese cyber sovereignty, if an alternative cyber order advanced by the Chinese Internet (Yang, 2003, 2012). China’s expansion of its digital footprint, advance in digital capacity and AI technology, and soft power ambition have caused unease among international competitors and are regarded as ‘threat’ by the US-led ‘Western’ alliance, as witnessed in the Huawei 5G ban in the U.S and Australia, forced sale of the gay dating app Grindr in the US, and accusation of TikTok violations of cultural norms and regulatory policies in India, Malaysia, and the U.S. Even as China’s media content has flourished domestically and among the Chinese diasporas, efforts to enter Western mainstream geo-cultural markets have proven challenging if not impossible (Sun 2015), even with more genre-driven fare (The Wandering Earth) or the delayed “soft launch” of video portals (Lotz 2019) like IQiyi into southeast Asian markets.

The 18th CIRC focuses on the prospects for, and critiques of, the internationalization strategies of China’s digital and communication industries. It invites papers and panels that examine the internationalization mission and geopolitical implication of China’s global digital strategies, their successes and challenges that are centered on and beyond the Internet. It also welcomes papers that examine new dynamics and emerging trends related to Chinese Internet and digital culture/economy/politics from a comparative perspective—both historically and horizontally (with other countries). 

The 18th CIRC 2021 conference brings CIRC virtually to the southern hemisphere for the first time in its history since its inception in 2003. It will be jointly hosted by media and/or communication studies programs and schools in some of Australia’s innovative tertiary institutions. The conference will continue the proud tradition of CIRC in stimulating international research into the Internet and China within the broader field of media and communication studies. It aims to create dialogues between conceptual and empirical researchers; between academia, civil society, and industry. It focuses on understanding the transformation of Chinese digital media, communication and technologies and seeks to identify key new directions for research, debate, policy and application, in the current global environment of contestations and uncertainties. A particular goal of the conference is to encourage collegial interaction between higher-degree students, early career researchers and leading thinkers in this field. We will foreground innovation in digital methods of research, transformative programs of critical and creative inquiry, and the importance of dialogue between government, industry and the academia.

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