‘The Role of Practice Diffusion in China’s Engagement in Global Standardization’

Over the past decade, the influence of Chinese actors in global technical standard-setting has grown substantially. In parallel to a thorough reform of the domestic standard-setting system, the central government set the goal of becoming a ‘world standards power’ by working through bodies such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as well as leveraging the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to promote Chinese standards abroad. Our research focuses on the role of what we term ‘practice diffusion’ in China’s efforts to become a world standards power. Drawing from the IR ‘practice turn’ literature, we view practice – the ‘inarticulate know-how’ about ‘what it is to be done’* – as an important, and underappreciated, feature of how latecomers encounter global governance. While existing literature has focused primarily on the role of practice in binding together communities of practice, practice also serves as a barrier to entry for members outside, or on the margins, of such groups. Building on our case study of the Sino-German Technical Standardization Partnership on Industrie 4.0, we argue that formal and informal linkages between community insiders and outsiders are crucial mechanisms of practice diffusion. We also explore the role of practice diffusion in China’s nascent efforts to lay the groundwork for China-oriented standardization bodies. (*V. Pouliot, ‘The Logic of Practicality: A Theory of Practice of Security Communities. International Organization62(2) (2008), pp. 257-288)