Shaping the Digital World Order: Norms and Agency along the Digital Silk Road in Southeast Asia (NORM)

Led by Ilaria Carrozza
Dec 2021 - Aug 2025
The Digital Silk Road (DSR) is the component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that aims to establish China as the global technological superpower. The potential contest to rewrite global rules could result in a technological and normative rift that will shape the geopolitics of the 21st century. Yet, despite the intrinsic political significance of China’s Digital Silk Road, we lack fundamental insights into its political and social consequences for recipient developing countries.

Recognising the imperative to fill this knowledge gap, NORM takes a comparative approach to examining how relevant stakeholders in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines navigate the opportunities and risks presented by China’s digital technology investments. In this interdisciplinary project, we focus our empirical analysis and theoretical development on the political and social consequences of DSR projects in recipient developing countries, as well as for the digital world order.

In Work Package 1, we develop a theoretical framework to analyse international norms governing cyberspace and how these are interpreted by actors along the Digital Silk Road.

In Work Package 2, we build comparative knowledge on how stakeholders from government, business and civil society in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines negotiate DSR investments to serve their interests and agendas.

In Work Package 3, we determine if the three countries align with the Chinese or the Western technological and normative model, or if they create their own, and what the implications are for the digital world order.

In Work Package 4, we manage communication activities through targeted channels to scholarly, policy and public audiences. In doing so we realise and communicate our objective of identifying how China’s Digital Silk Road shapes the digital world order and its norms.