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UBC Theses and Dissertations

State rescaling, experimental reforms and institutional continuity : the shifting spatial logics of socioeconomic regulation in post-1949 China Lim, Kean Fan


Drawing on the literature on state rescaling, this dissertation investigates how post-1978 layers of policy shifts interact with regulatory logics of Mao Zedong-era policies, and in turn how this reproduces what the Chinese state now deems to be ‘necessary’ forms of uneven development. It proceeds on the premise that the shifting regulatory geographies of the Chinese state constitute a prism through which to evaluate socioeconomic change in China. The analysis is presented in two parts. First, it questions the logics and implications of designating specific territories – Hengqin and Qianhai in the Pearl River Delta and Liangjiang in Chongqing – into “nationally strategic new areas” after the 2008 global financial crisis. These logics were assessed through triangulating three primary empirical sources: policy documents, published comments by state actors and interviews with planners and scholars in China. The contemporary cases are presented in two segments, each comprising two chapters (Chapters 6 to 9). The first chapter of each segment explores how the geo-historical context and key actors enabled the national designation, the second examines the implications of key policy experimentation in the areas. Working from these empirical findings, the dissertation revisited historical sources (memoirs from different state actors of the Mao era, statistics extending back to 1949, academic articles in China, etc.) and developed a geographical-historical narrative that evaluates how the spatial logics of socioeconomic regulation have evolved during and after the Mao era (Chapters 4 and 5). The outcome is a two-pronged, mutually-reinforcing attempt to theorize the past from the lens of the present, and to conceptualize the present through ascertaining the impacts of policies inherited from past regimes. In so doing, the dissertation problematizes simple ‘transition’ models that portray a unidirectional, epochal change in the post-1978 Chinese political economy, a change characterized by decentralized governance and intensified economic-geographical inequality. It emphasizes, instead, a more deeply sedimented pattern of development that is marked simultaneously by significant (and enduring) forms of uneven socioeconomic development and experimental (and capricious) attempts to transcend these forms.

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