Overcoming Modernity? How China’s Splinternet Reinforces the Impact of Geography in Global Internet Governance

Author(s): Bogen, Cornelia

According to the Chinese philosopher and information scientist Yuk Hui, China's rapid modernization within the last decades put China on equal footing with the West not only regarding its technological level, but also concerning people's technological unconsciousness (i.e., ignorance of the fact that our existence is conditioned by technology), belief in progress, and destructive relation to nature. At the same time, with the emergence of the Anthropocene, humankind has gradually come to realize that our modern ontological interpretations of the cosmos have distanced us from our environment. The ongoing platformization of societies and datafication follows the rule of natural laws in every area of life and poses the risk that humans are losing control over new technologies. Against that backdrop, this paper seeks to explore whether China’s past and present policy approach to domestic and global internet governance has enabled it to “adopt the global time axis as [its] own” to overcome modernity, without relapsing into a modern dualism between human beings and nature (cf. Hui 2020). First, I will show that China’s national digital policy and cyber sovereignty approach to internet development has led to a “splinternet” that a) shifts the burden of social governance from state authorities to other stakeholders, b) introduces market economy principles to digital capitalism and c) instills socialist values into internet regulation. However, none of these measures have helped to cultivate a technological consciousness that resists the pressures of technological modernization and worldwide military and economic competition. Second, while reconstructing the Chinese perspective on global internet governance, I will demonstrate how China currently aims at reforming the internet through its expansion of high-tech products and infrastructure abroad, and active participation in international cyberspace regulation. Third, I depict what a splinternet divided along geographic, political and economic boundaries might look like, if China and the US continue to instrumentalize global internet governance as a technological and ideological competition between two different political systems. Hence, while Hui considers modernity and de-modernization from the perspective of a global axis of time, I argue that it is also a question of space: the two cyber powers seek to return geography to the global cyberspace, which may risk further splintering the internet. To create a genuine community and shared future in both physical and cyber space, further development of digital technologies must overcome the ideological contest, address the most urgent questions of the twenty- first century, and consider different cosmotechnics to ensure a morally and ethically sound technology governance.

Download icon

Published in:

Preferred Citation
Bogen, Cornelia: Overcoming Modernity? How China’s Splinternet Reinforces the Impact of Geography in Global Internet Governance. In: Navigationen - Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturwissenschaften, Jg. 23 (2023), Nr. 2, S. 104-145. DOI:
 author = {Bogen, Cornelia},
 title = {Overcoming Modernity? How China’s Splinternet Reinforces the Impact of Geography in Global Internet Governance},
 year = 2023,
 doi = "\url{}",
 volume = 23,
 address = {Siegen},
 journal = {Navigationen - Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturwissenschaften},
 number = 2,
 pages = {104--145},
license icon

As long as there is no further specification, the item is under the following license: Creative Commons - Namensnennung - Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen