Silvia Lindtner, an associate professor at U-M’s School of Information, is the author of the new book Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation, which tells the story of China’s shifting place in global geopolitics and its contested place in the global tech industry. It is the culmination of nearly a decade of research Lindtner conducted in China, Silicon Valley, Singapore, Taiwan, Ghana and Europe.
For decades, Westerners saw China’s role in manufacturing as a place for cheap labor and copycat technology. Today, the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen is often described as the Silicon Valley of hardware. The book unpacks how it happened that China’s mass manufacturing and “copycat” production were portrayed not any longer as what holds the nation back, but as its key asset.