Dai_Towards a digital economy

Dai_Towards a digital economy - new media society Copyright...

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THEMED SECTION: THE INTERNET IN CHINA Towards a digital economy with Chinese characteristics? ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ XIUDIAN DAI University of Hull ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ Abstract There are two opposing views when considering economic development strategies in the digital age: some insist that the ‘new economy’ applies mainly to the industrialized countries and are doubtful that new information and communications technologies (ICTs) will allow developing countries to leapfrog to higher levels of development; others argue that ‘jump-starting’ development may not be as difficult as the pessimists think. Through a case study on China’s ‘twin-track strategy’ for economic development, which involves merging industrialization and informatization, this article aims to investigate whether developing countries are able to play a significant role in shaping the digital revolution and the global ‘new economy’. The evidence presented in this article suggests that China’s status as a poor and developing country has not prevented its government from making effective preparations to embrace the opportunities and challenges associated with new ICTs in ways that are compatible with indigenous socioeconomic factors. Key words China • digital divide • economic development • globalization • industrialization and informatization • information and communications technologies (ICTs) • internet • new economy • telecommunications new media & society Copyright © 2002 SAGE Publications London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi Vol4(2):141–162 [1461–4448(200206)4:2;141–162;023410] ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 141
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While the social, economic and political implications of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) in general, and the internet 1 in particular, are widely recognized as important subjects for research in the cases of the Western industrialized states, the impact of new media technologies in the developing world remains less well understood. This situation corresponds to the fact that most accounts of globalization also tend to examine their subject from the perspective of the advanced industrialized economies (Madon, 1997). In this light, it is not surprising that theoretical and policy discussions about the ‘new economy’ 2 are largely focused on the industrialized world, and on the United States in particular, with there still being little understanding of the ways in which governments in developing states cope with the phenomenon. However, while the Western industrialized economies maintain a definite leadership in the emergent global information economy, a growing number of developing countries have embarked upon economic policies aimed at catching up through a kind of technological ‘leapfrogging’ process. Among these, China is a particularly interesting case because it has adopted a ‘twin- track strategy’ for development that combines industrialization with informatization. While it would be foolhardy to deny that a global divide between the information-rich and the information-poor does exist, China’s
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