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Advisors: Felten, Edward
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: Most researchers of Chinese cyberspace policy primarily focus on the censorship apparatus, often neglecting the economic considerations that motivate Chinese policy decisions. While maintaining stringent information control, China has also rapidly grown in relative power over the Internet, both through its swelling consumer base and through its increasingly successful domestic Internet service industry. American companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter have become hegemonic cornerstones of the international Internet landscape, but behind China’s Great Firewall most of America’s leading social media and Web 2.0 services are fully restricted, and Chinese Internet industries have been developing increasingly popular counterparts to fill their void. This thesis finds that many of these Chinese services are now at a point where they can expand internationally and become viable contenders in the Internet market. A survey component of this research shows that Chinese users continue to use Chinese social media services with no diminished frequency even when they have access to American options. Furthermore, they perceive specialization of usage between Chinese and American social media options. These developments are not spontaneous, but instead can be understood as the later results of China’s recent process of “Internet domestication.” This thesis argues that Internet domestication is the notion that the Chinese state deliberately creates policies to maintain information control by expelling foreign Internet companies, which simultaneously fosters a prosperous and easily regulated “domestic” Internet industry within the protected market. The chapters of this thesis trace the trajectory of China's domestic social media and Internet service development, while contextualizing it among a larger agenda of the Chinese Communist Party’s three goals: to improve the economic standing of the Chinese people, to maintain social and political stability through information control standards, and to replace foreign ICT reliance with domestic industry. Evidence for the feasibility of these goals include comparative analysis of Internet policy appeal in America and China, as well as survey-based data collection on behavior patterns and perceptions amongst Chinese social media services. This is an intriguing development, because Chinese service alternatives that can prove viable outside of China represent an assault on America’s de facto Internet hegemony, both economically, as American firms lose market share, and also ideologically, since Chinese social media functions from a fundamentally different framework than the liberal American ideology. The ambition and inertia within China portend significant disruptions to the international Internet service framework.
Extent: 140 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2020

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