China’s digital footprint has been expanding rapidly in Latin America in the last two decades. Neither the U.S.-China tech war nor the U.S.-led global campaign aimed at Chinese tech firms seemed to be able to reverse the trend. Much of the policy discussion in the western media surrounding China’s digital expansion focuses on the supply side, emphasizing the potential risks of adopting Chinese technologies. Yet there remains scant research on the demand side—namely, how policymakers in developing countries perceive Chinese tech firms and how they maneuver amid the intensifying rivalry between the U.S. and China. Why did Chinese tech firms become key telecommunication equipment providers for Latin America despite geopolitical headwinds? To shed light on the issue, my research examines local stakeholders’ perceptions of Chinese tech firms and their choices between development and national security. Employing a case study of Huawei’s expansion in Brazil, I argue that corporate strategies (emphasizing quality, prices, services, and financing), as well as the pragmatic approaches of regulators and internet service providers (ISPs) enable Chinese tech firms to expand market shares in Brazil. Instead of securitizing Chinese technologies, Brazilian regulators and ISPs are eager to bridge the digital divide and benefit from the fierce competition among global tech firms.
About the Speaker
Jin (Julie) Zeng is Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University. Her primary research interests are Chinese investment in Latin America, agrarian studies in contemporary China, and political economy of development. She is the author of the book, State-Led Privatization in China—The Politics of Economic Reform (Routledge, 2013). Dr. Zeng has also published articles in scholarly journals such as The Journal of Peasant Studies, Third World Quarterly, Journal of Chinese Political Science, and Asian Perspective. Dr. Zeng is currently working on two research projects. 1) Chinese investment in Latin America, focusing on the internationalization strategies of Chinese multinationals operating in Latin America amid rising geopolitical tensions, and the social and economic impact of Chinese investment on recipient states. 2) a book project on rural land reform in contemporary China, focusing on rural land titling and land commercialization.
About the Discussant
Xue Gong is Assistant Professor in China Programme of S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She holds a PhD in International Political Economy at NTU. Her current research interests include International Political Economy, China’s economic diplomacy, regionalism and governance. She has contributed to peer-reviewed journals such as the International Affairs, the Pacific Review, Contemporary Southeast Asia, Harvard Asia Quarterly. She has one co-edited book in Securing the Belt and Road Initiative: Risk Assessment, Private Security and Special Insurances Along the New Wave of Chinese Outbound Investment (Palgrave Macmillan 2018). She has also contributed to several book chapters on China’s economic statecraft, China’s corporate social responsibility and Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast Asia. She has contributed various Op-Ed articles such as the South China Morning Post, The Diplomat, and so on.
About the Moderator
Adrian Ang holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the University of Calgary. Prior to joining RSIS, he was Assistant Professor at Florida International University (2008-2015) and also worked in the private sector as a research consultant (2016-2018). His research interests include American public opinion; political parties; elections, campaigns, and voting behaviour; and congressional politics.