AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 710

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Session 710: The Development of Local China in Comparison

Organizer: Jae Ho Chung, , South Korea

Discussant: Jae Ho Chung, , South Korea

Political, economic and social development in China has consistently varied by region and locality. This panel seeks to take stock of some of these interesting changes by way of comparing them with similar examples, either local or international. For this purpose, the panel covers a range of issues that include local governance reforms (comparing two county-level cities in Zhejiang Province), urbanization (comparing Hong Kong and Shenzhen), the state’s developmental role (comparing the Yangtze River Delta with Taiwan), the modernization of agribusiness (comparing rural China and India), and the income advantage of being local officials (comparing across China’s regions). The panel features a multidisciplinary range of Asia-based scholars who have long conducted extensive fieldwork, interviews and other forms of research and analysis in China and elsewhere. The themes covered by the papers for this panel share two characteristics: (1) local China – a key clue to understanding the “national China”; and (2) comparison – an essential method of inference-making.

Diverse Pathways of Sustainable Local Governance Reforms in China: Comparing the Cases of Wenling and Yiwu in Zhejiang Province
S. Philip Hsu, National Taiwan University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Governance reforms have in recent years proliferated at the sub-provincial level in China, spanning across the spheres of the party-state, the market, and social organizations. Few of them, however, can be reasonably conceived as sustainable, as many of them are short-lived. Because sustainable local governance reforms are more likely to rest on sufficiently advantageous local conditions and to generate cross-jurisdictional consequences in the long run, they warrant a careful analysis of those factors that facilitate their emergence and those that foster their persistence. To this end, this paper will compare two such cases in the province of Zhejiang in China: the growth of the Democratic Consultation Assembly (minzhu kentanhui) in the county-level city of Wenling, and the transformation of the official trade union in the county-level city of Yiwu. As both localities are in Zhejiang province and share many common socioeconomic characteristics, the basic research design is a most-similar-case study. These similar areas differ fundamentally in one key aspect: the Wenling case embodies an extra-establishment (tizhiwai) reform and the Yiwu case manifests an intra-establishment (tizhinei) reform. The two diverse pathways, however, both point to viable approaches to the enhancement of the core values integral to desirable governance reforms widely pursued in China, such as grassroots participation, accountability, and social equity and justice. The empirical comparison of the dynamics that trigger and sustain the two models, therefore, is expected to yield broader implications for the fulfillment of such values throughout China in the long run.

The Administrative Origins of Urbanization: Comparing Hong Kong and Shenzhen
Tao-chiu Lam, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

This paper studies the different characters of urbanization and the reasons for the variations in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Although both cities are highly urbanized and are rapidly integrated socially and economically, Hong Kong and Shenzhen have experienced radically different types of urbanization. Urbanization has occurred in a relatively controlled and restrained manner in Hong Kong. Shenzhen has experienced a breakneck pace of urbanization. Shenzhen has seen the creation and development of a sprawling city, which, in a sharp contrast to Hong Kong’s experience, has enveloped almost the entire area – more than twice the size of Hong Kong – governed by the special economic zone. However, urbanization in Shenzhen has been marked not only with the grand planning of the local state, but also with haphazard development taking place at the grass roots level. Behind the different modes of urbanization in Hong Kong and Shenzhen lie the different philosophies of urbanization and urban life. These variations are also linked to the roles of governments in the urbanization process and economic management in these two cities. Although the laissez-faire philosophy of the Hong Kong government has not prevented the government from assuming a role in urban planning and development, it has limited the kind of government involvement in the urbanization process. This is a sharp contrast to Shenzhen where the government is nearly unlimited (and faces few limits in reality) in its ambition to construct a world class city.

The Chinese Model and the Developmental State in Transition: Comparing the Yangtze River Delta Region and Taiwan
Tse-Kang Leng, Academia Sinica, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

This paper supports the argument that the developmental path of the Yangtze River delta region in China since 1978 matches and even exceeds the “developmental state model” that Taiwan adopted in the 1970s. Salient characteristics of the developmental state, such as an authoritarian political system, strong state capacities, and strategic choices of key industries, are found in the developmental experiences in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces of China. A comparative study of these Chinese provinces with Taiwan’s experience can shed additional light on the continuity and change of the party state system. This paper analyzes a number of dynamics during transitions: (1) the interaction between the local state and society, and the penetration process of authoritarianism to develop state corporatism; (2) comparing traditional instruments of the developmental state with new momentum of governed interdependence to cope with bottom-up forces of innovation; (3) policies to cope with environmental changes and transformation to green developmental states; and (4) new policy initiatives to embrace global governance. The transformation process of Taiwan and the Yangtze River delta region juxtaposes conflicts and cooperation among different state and social actors in their attempts to address international, national and local problems.

The Modernization of Agriculture in India and China and their Effects on Rural Life
John A. Donaldson, Singapore Management University, Singapore

What are the social, political and economic effects of the modernization of agriculture in developing countries on farmers and rural life? While many changes in rural life (including rapid migration and urbanization) in China and India are well studied, the impact of the scaling-up of agriculture, the mechanization of production and the growing involvement of agribusiness remain poorly understood. India and China are similar in many ways. The rapidly growing economies in both countries have greatly affected rural life, but until recent years have had surprisingly little effect on the forms of agriculture production itself. Both countries share huge continental-size populations with decreasing – though still staggeringly high – volumes of rural poverty, and employ hundreds of millions of people in (often subsistence) agricultural production. The role of agribusiness is growing in both countries, and agricultural production is modernizing. Yet the two countries have strikingly different political systems, cultures, economic policies and land institutions. This study adopts a theoretical structure of scaling-up of agriculture based on different relationships between farmer and agribusiness firm, and utilizes extensive fieldwork to compare and contrast the recent experiences of these two countries. While China’s agriculture is generally more advanced than India’s, both countries have much to learn from each other’s experiences regarding how to scale up agricultural production while ensuring that farmers benefit.

Comparing Local Models of Agrarian Transition in China
Forrest Q. Zhang, Singapore Management University, Singapore

In recent years, development of markets and penetration of capital into agriculture has started the agrarian transition in rural China, which is transforming the smallholding, household-based peasant agriculture into various forms of capitalistic agricultural production. In this transition, a range of new forms of agricultural production emerged in local China, engaging direct producers and agribusinesses in various relationships. In this paper, I try to first conceptually identify key factors in shaping agrarian transition at the local level and then empirically compare the diverse local models that are observed in rural China. I emphasize the availability of land and access to capital, skill and market in shaping local paths of agrarian transition. Using these two dimensions, I identify four major models of capitalistic agriculture: entrepreneurial farming, corporate farming, commercial farming and contract farming. While all these forms usually co-exist at the local level, I suggest that, in a given province, thanks to its natural endowment, development history, state policies and economic context, one form tends to take a dominant role. I use data collected from fieldwork and secondary sources to show how the four models identified above emerged as the dominant form in four provinces – Heilongjiang, Yunnan, Fujian and Shandong – respectively.