Olivia Yijian Liu is a doctoral research fellow in the Department of Cultural Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo. Her PhD was part of the Brokex project, funded by the European Research Council Starting Grant (Grant Agreement No. 802070). She conducted ethnographic fieldwork in 2020 and 2021 as part of her research on entrepreneurship and innovation in China. She holds an MSc from the University of Oxford and a BA from the University of Pisa.

China’s Maker Movement

What Is It and Why Does No-One Talk about It Anymore?

In 2015, the ‘maker culture’ of individual empowerment and open-source production was elevated as part of China’s national economic development strategy of mass entrepreneurship and innovation. Despite the hype, however, the top-down, government-promoted maker movement in China has been in decline since 2017. Drawing on seven months of participant observation as an intern in Shenzhen makerspaces and high-tech start-ups, as well as 95 semi-structured interviews conducted in 2020 and 2021, this essay examines recent developments in China’s maker movement and the perceptions, experiences, and negotiations of individual makers in this process, shedding light on the dynamics of entrepreneurship and innovation in China from the bottom up.

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