We are hardly aware of the existence of technical standards; but technical standards are omnipresent product specifications. USB is a standard for cables, connectors and protocols that enables charging and the exchange of data on a wide range of devices regardless of manufacturer. The A4 paper format is standardized. Similarly, Wi-Fi is a family of radio technologies built upon technical standards that allow wireless local area networking of a wide range of technological equipment. A final example is the standardization of screws with far-reaching implications ranging from the production of screwdrivers to furniture. Without technical standards, we would not be able to call mobile phones of a different manufacturer than our own. More generally, globalization would be same because technical standards make sure we can use products and technology across national borders as well as across suppliers.
At first glance, technical standardization appears to be a non-political, consensual search for the technically most appropriate solution. Companies send technicians to meetings searching for the optimal technical solutions. However, the emerging political confict over technology challenges the commercial logic of liberal globalization. In this context, technical standardization is turning into a crucial arena for commercial, normative and political conflict. The capacity to influence standard-setting is a tool of power in itself, though largely overlooked.
This project aims to understand the changing role of technical standardization by tracing China’s increasing involvement in international standardization and how the West reacts. Empirically, I analyze three layers of China’s standardization policy, Western responses and implications for Europe.
China’s domestic standardization system is undergoing reform. I trace this transformation as it unfolds, describe the underlying rationale, and contrast China's state-permeated approach with Europe's private-driven public private partnership.
Recently, China has prioritized its engagement in the established international standardization organizations such as ISO, IEC, 3GPP, and ITU. The project maps Chinese activities and its growing influence in these institutions.
As part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China aims to internationalize its domestic technical standards. I analyze the general standardization policy of the BRI and exemplarily investigate the role of technical standards in selected BRI projects.
The project mainly focuses on technical standardization in strategic emerging technologies.
The goal of the project is not only to better understand China’s standardization policy but to carve out the political importance of standardization. I am particularly interested to understand the impact of the politicization of technical standardization.
As a result of this project, I was appointed a member of the European Standardization Organization's Task Force China and an observing member of the European Commission's High-Level European Forum on Standardization as well as its Sherpa on digital standardization.
Forthcoming (2024) , Technical standardization - a power source for rising China? in: Courtney Fung et al. (eds.): Conditioning China's Influence. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Forthcoming (2023): China’s technical standardization power – a challenge for NATO?, in: International Journal.
Publication: 2023: Transatlantic tech de-risking from China: The case of technical standard-setting. Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission. Hearing on “Europe, the United States and Relations with China: Convergence or Divergence?” Panel II: Technology, Standards/Data, and Trade. Washington D.C.: USCC.
Publication: 2022: Technical standardization and innovation in a changing geopolitical landscape, in: Deiaco, Enrico/Wernberg, Joakim (eds.): Rethinking boundaries and revisiting borders. Conditions for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic integration in an interconnected world. Stockholm: The Swedish Entrepreneurship Forum, pp. 105-132.
Publication (in German): 2022: Die neue technische Standardisiungsmacht China. Eine Herauforderung für Europa, in: Freimuth, Joachim/Schaedler, Monika (eds.): Die veränderte Rolle von Normung und Standardisierung in China und Indien – eine industriepolitische Perspektive und ihre Bedeutung für Europa und Deutschland. Spinger, pp. 461-484.
Publication (in German): 2022: Standardisierung. Deutschland ist am Zug. Berlin: DGAP Online Commentary.
Publication: 2022 (with Maja Björk): Power competition and China’s technical standardisation, in: Tim Rühlig (ed.): Assessing China's Digital Power and its Implications for the EU. Berlin: Digital Power China, pp. 77-91.
Publication: 2021: The Shape of Things to Come: The Race to Control Technical Standardisation. Beijing/Stockholm: European Union Chamber of Commerce in China/The Swedish Institute of International Affairs.
Publication: 2021: No harm, but how much good for the EU? Assessing the CAI's standardisation clause. Study commissioned and financed by Reinhard Bütikofer on behalf of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament. Brussels: Greens/EFA.