Clément Renaud

New working paper about global history of computer seen from Shenzhen, China

The working paper is entitled: “Global entanglements in digital territories. The Huaqiangbei district in Shenzhen” and was published by The Cities and Digital Technology* Chair of Sciences Po’s Urban School.


This paper consider the recent history of personal computing as seen from the district of Huaqiangbei (华强北) in the city of Shenzhen, China. Part of the original design of China’s first Special Economic Zone, this area stands at the crossroad of two major global transformations : the raise of digital technology worldwide and the return of China at a main actor of the global economy. The paper provides an overview of the spatial history, industry and culture in the area known today as Huaqiangbei by following successive generations of consumer electronics such as whitebox computers of the 1990s/2000s, the mobile phones of 2000s/2010s and the integration of Internet into numerous objects around 2010s, often known as the Internet of Things. From an original state-owned factory, to a central hub in global electronics manufacturing to one of the flagship of China’s innovation policy today, the spatial history of this district demonstrates the prominent role played by local actors such as China policy makers or factory workers in shaping the digital world as we know it.


Shenzhen, Huaqiangbei, cultural practices, computer culture, computer history, electronics manufacturing, DIY movement, spatial analysis, urban policy

Special thanks to Florence Graezer-Bideau and Mac Laperrouza for all the inputs, ideas and discussions. Thanks to Antoine Courmont for the support and careful reviews and Mary Ann O’Donnel for the discussions.

Here is the original PDF file.