Research Dialogue on Ecommerce and Mobile Technology, Spring 2017
February 10, 2017

Research Dialogue on Ecommerce and Mobile Technology, Spring 2017

On February 10, 2017, the Georgetown Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues hosted a day-long exploratory workshop on critical issues at the intersection of ecommerce and mobile technology. Convened by Georgetown Vice President for Global Engagement Tom Banchoff and Dr. John Mayo of the McDonough School of Business, the meetings explored promising areas for research and policy collaboration around issues of common concern to the United States, China, and the global community. A group of 10 leading U.S. and Chinese scholars from Georgetown, Tsinghua, and other institutions, representing disciplines ranging from global governance and economics to cyber security and regulatory issues, focused on three key research themes: U.S.-China relations and implications for the governance of ecommerce and mobile technology, and emerging regulatory issues for both ecommerce and mobile technology, across national, bilateral, and multilateral platforms.

Developing Research Agenda and Topics

In their closed sessions, the working group developed several promising research themes for further exploration.

Global Cyberspace Governance

The rapid emergence of mobile technology and ecommerce has profoundly affected the global economic landscape.  As the world’s largest exporters of services in cyberspace, U.S. and Chinese firms will by virtue of market share alone set many of the international norms and standards.  Should there be an international regulatory organization or agreed ethos above “national sovereignty” that governs the worldwide web?  Can we develop an international agreement on the kinds of information that should flow freely across national boundaries on the worldwide web? Or a common understanding on protecting the privacy of individuals?   An area for research might be to analyze how government and businesses in both countries are, or can, work together to advance an effective governance that maximizes the global economic potential of cyberspace.

Comparing U.S. and Chinese Internet Ecosystems/ Regimes

Given the speed of technological developments, the rapid emergence of new products/services and industry players, and the uneven response of old and new regulators and political elites, is the concept of a national Internet regime or ecosystem a useful one? How might it be defined? Is there a definition of the concept that might hold for both the United States and China, enabling useful comparisons? Exploring these questions and examining why the US and Chinese ecosystems have diverged might help predict whether convergence is likely in the future, which has implications for each country’s economic growth, political stability, and international influence.

Emergent Regulatory Issues for Ecommerce and Mobile Technology

The pace of technological change and the persistence of contrasting national approaches make the construction of transparent and effective regulatory frameworks particularly difficult.  How are the United States and China responding to this challenge domestically? How should they improve their emerging policy frameworks in the context of wider efforts to promote bilateral trade in products and services? Business areas that might benefit from harmonization include electronic payments, currency convertibility, intellectual property protection, and cloud computing.

Next Steps

Over the coming months, participants from the workshop will develop a plan for a formal research group to develop and pursue research in this arena.

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