The political economy of standards setting by newcomers: China's WAPI and South Korea's WIPI

Heejin Lee, Sangjo Oh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


In 2004, China attempted to set its national standard for mobile security (wireless LAN authentication and privacy infrastructure (WAPI)) which was to be used for wireless LAN. In 2005, Korea implemented a national standard for the mobile Internet platform (wireless Internet platform for interoperability (WIPI)). This paper examines and compares the two cases in terms of the role of government, characteristics of each standard and the process of standards setting. Despite some similarities of 'aiming for a de jure national standard', 'government-initiated' and 'anticipatory', the outcomes of the two efforts are different. WIPI was ratified in Korea, while WAPI was indefinitely postponed as the national standard and failed to be ratified as an international standard. It is contended here that the different outcomes are attributed to differences in the openness of the standards and of institutional processes of standardization, combined with the government role and the timing of market entry. In the cause of national security, China adhered to the original goal of WAPI; in the WIPI case, compromises were made to satisfy to some extent the various demands from many stakeholders despite the original goal being undermined. The findings from this comparison reinforce findings by previous studies on open standard and open standardization processes. This paper makes a unique contribution in that it first examines the international standards-setting attempts by newcomers, China and Korea, in the race for international standards. They used to be standard adopters but now want to become standard setters. Given the narrowing gap of technological capabilities at the global level and the huge size of markets in countries like China, these standards challenges from newcomers are not one-off episodes, but will happen repeatedly in the future. Further research is required in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-671
Number of pages10
JournalTelecommunications Policy
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Oct

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Information Systems
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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