This paper aims to provide an analytical account of the process by which China has developed its complex and infrastructural information and communication technology (ICT) systems over the last three decades, with the result that today it has become a key player in the global ICT sector. This paper discusses the role of the Chinese government in supporting and coordinating large-scale ICT system deployments and implementation, by-passing dilemmas that have beset more laissez-faire economies.
This paper is based on two case studies in China: public digital switching systems in the 1990s and 3G mobile standards recently. The former is a typical complex system and the latter exemplifies infrastructural technology. From the tradition of science and technology studies, it incorporates historical approach into a socio-technical discourse of the process and examines the operational practices of the Chinese government in different stages.
The paper demonstrates the pivotal role of government in the case of a latecomer country like China in developing and implementing complex and infrastructural ICT systems. While development of such socio-technical systems has presented challenges in many countries, the findings show the transition of socio-technical context in China has provided the best operational platform for the government to perform its roles.
Most research into innovation capabilities focuses on technological matters, while this paper also addresses the social context, institutional mechanisms and roles for coordinating different resources and players involved. In this way, it raises questions for conventional thinking in the West that market systems can perform the best in innovation.
Shen, X. and J. Naughton, B. (2013), "The power of “a visible hand” to the building of innovation capabilities", Journal of Science and Technology Policy in China, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 195-213. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSTPC-11-2011-0014Download as .RIS
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