Prototype Nation: Silvia Lindtner on what drives Chinese tech innovation, and how tech drives Chinese statecraft


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This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser chats with Silvia Lindtner of the University of Michigan about her book Prototype Nation. In a wide-ranging conversation, they discuss how China’s maker movement inspired the Party leadership to encourage tech entrepreneurship, how Shenzhen rose to such prominence in technology production, the fetishization of the shanzhai movement, and much more.

5:29 – How narratives on Chinese tech innovation have shifted

14:10 – What made China’s technological innovation possible?

20:37 – State support for the maker movement and mass innovation

29:52 – The technocratic and entrepreneurial mindset of the CCP

38:45 – Techno-optimism in China versus the West

45:57 – Shenzhen’s “hacker paradise” as a transnational project

50:02 – Orientalism in the West’s fascination with shanzhai, or copycat, culture

A complete transcript of this podcast is available at


Silvia: In This Moment, We Are Happy by Chen Qiufan and Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures by Kalindi Vora and Neda Atanasoski

Kaiser: Sarmat Archery based in Kiev, Ukraine