Technical standards, long treated as a non-political issue of private self-regulation, has recently been discussed as a subject of geoeconomic rivalry. This paper explores how technical standards translate into state power.
Technical standards, which have long been treated as non-political product specifications, are be-coming the subject of power rivalry. This is the result of: (a) broader competition between China and the United States over key enabling technologies; (b) a more state-directed approach to technical standards in China; and (c) the often-overlooked power potential inherent in technical standards. Technical standardization’s transformation into an arena for power competition has challenged the European Union (EU), which has traditionally punched above its economic weight and held and still holds enormous influence over international technical standards. This paper unpacks the growing power rivalry over technical standards, develops a concept of “technical standardization power” and explains how China has successfully utilized its party-state-permeated economy to increase its technical standardization power. Finally, it summarizes the implications for the EU, outlines a number of scenarios and makes recommendations for Europe. Download the full paper here.
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