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Chinese ICT on the digital Silk Road: A case study of infrastructure building in Pakistan

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China’s increasing efforts for establishing a digital silk road under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are bound to conflict with the global hegemony and geopolitical interests of U.S. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Pakistan, as a crucial BRI-partner country, is a prime case to study such a conflict in the global communications field. By using extensive literature analysis and drawing from a political economy of communication approach, this study explores China’s ICT in Pakistan. I argue that China is reshaping and challenging the U.S.-centered ICT infrastructure in three ways: by building all-weather communication channels, extracting and controlling data, and creating a safe and stable social environment for its ruling elites. Are these initiatives made by China exacerbating Pakistan’s pre-existing authoritarian and military power relations? Are they also relevant to the imperialist expansion of a resurgent China in the South Asian region and beyond? But at the same time, we can also see how the China-led digital infrastructures in Pakistan also translates to the potential to counter-balance the dominance of the US-led digital platforms in this region.
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