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BOOK REVIEW: Manipulating Globalization
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Manipulating Globalization:
The Influence of Bureaucrats on Business in China
Author: Ling Chen

BT 201807 BOOK 01


      我国各地区政府在地区商贸发展方面一直发挥着积极作用。作者Ling Chen的书 《Manipulating Globalization: The Influence of Bureaucrats on Business in China》通过对比论述诸如深圳与苏州电子产业发展状况等向我们展示了政府机关对贸易发展的重大影响。鉴于中国近年来受政策推动的商贸成就硕果累累,我们不可忽视这一支中国经济发展中的独特力量。更多相关内容,尚需您亲自阅读发现。

Bureaucrats and civil servants might not seem the stuff of an enthralling book. But their centrality to state action and proximity to key issues of the day mean books revealing their hidden influence can be fantastically interesting; they are the secret wiring of the state. Peter Hennessey’s Whitehall (1989) remains in my opinion the single best book on British government and politics ever written. So it is with Ling Chen’s book Manipulating Globalization: The Influence of Bureaucrats on Business in China. Analyzing how Chinese officials work to manage the local economy in a global system, Chen shows how the Chinese state is far from monolithic, and explores “the roots of substantial variation in implementing economic policies across this continent-sized economy”.

How does she do this? She takes the reader through the various key tasks of city, prefecture and village-level bureaucracy, emphasizing their roles and contingencies. What may be possible in one place may be not be applicable elsewhere, sometimes through geography, sometimes through precedent and existing relationships. The primary factor to Chen is the ability to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). Indeed, she argues that “the campaign of FDI attraction in the 1990s was a critical juncture for the subsequent campaign of industrial upgrading in the 2000s, as the type of foreign firms with which the local government forged alliances shaped the coalitional politics of decision making at the city level and laid the structural foundation for policy implementation at the firm level”.

Chen moves through the various policy areas - chasing foreign capital, promoting domestic competitiveness, local policy making and relationship building, and ensuring effectiveness of policies and state actions. Perhaps the most pertinent is the last. Machinery of the state is a remarkably under examined political topic, given the huge development in the tasks and functions of the modern state since 1914. Chen compares how the electronics industry was developed in Shenzhen and Suzhou, noting how the latter city had a huge head-start at the start of the reform period, with “at least 25 domestic electronics enterprises” while “Shenzhen had only one”. She suggests that large global firms inhibit the effective upgrading of domestic ones, thus requiring the state choose partners near the domestic level to ensure a fairer basis for policy implementation.

Manipulating Globalization certainly isn’t a light holiday read; it is in-depth, analytical, and rigorous. But it is also well-organized, well-signposted (there’s rarely more than a page of solid text), and jargon free. Alongside Yukon Huang’s The China Conundrum, it is one of the best books on the Chinese economy in the last twelve months, and with its laser focus on local political effects on economic outcomes, it goes further in this field than any I have ever seen. It is strongly recommended.

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