Most of our discussions about how “technology will change the world” focus on the global cities that drive the world economy. Even when we talk about China, we focus on its major cities: Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Xiaowei Wang corrects this metronormativity in their recent book Blockchain Chicken Farm: And Other Stories of Tech in China's Countryside (FSG Originals: 2020), which explores how rural China is not just adapting the technology used around the world, but innovating on it.
In this interview, we talk about the frontiers of technology that are being charted in rural China, and why China’s countryside may be the best place to understand how technology, capitalism and society will intersect in the coming years — often in not altogether positive ways. We also talk about some of the more recent developments in how Chinese technology is treated in the United States, with reference to their recent articles: "WeChat Has Both Connected Families and Torn Them Apart" in Slate and "How the Theatrics of Banning TikTok Enables Repression at Home" in The Nation.
Xiaowei Wang is the creative director at Logic Magazine, whose work encompasses community-based and public art projects, data visualization, technology, ecology, and education. Their projects have been featured in The New York Times, the BBC, CNN, VICE, and elsewhere. You can follow them on Twitter at @xrw.
Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.