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A Digital Empire in the Making: China’s Outbound Digital Platforms

Michael Keane; Haiqing Yu International Journal of Communications (2019 in press)

In this article, we use the example of e-commerce giant Alibaba and its outbound activities in the Asia Pacific to illustrate how China’s digital platforms have become part of a “digital empire in the making.” The article examines how this emergent digital empire is a manifestation of “going out,”the latter a term used by the Chinese government to rally the private sector, particularly platform capitalists, to internationalize; and how digital champions such as Alibaba have responded to, and embraced an outward-bound strategy. While the Asia-Pacific represents an important region for Chinese economic security, especially when one considers the established business interests there, extension of Chinese influence to central Asia conjures up a different kind of “great rejuvenation” (weida fuxing), one that evokes a great historical past, namely the Chinese empire.  Accordingly, we speculate on how digital technologies, platforms, and business mergers will facilitate Chinese influence along the digital silk roads.

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