Decentralization, Globalisation and China's Partial Re-Engagement with the Global Economy

Essay by supersaadiUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 2008

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IntroductionThere is a tendency for research on processes of regional economic integration to be built on national-based paradigms and levels of analysis. Even those approaches that move away from intergovernmental processes of state-led regionalism and instead emphasise non-state directed regionalisation are often concerned with integration between two or more national economies. But, in many cases, real integration is taking place below the national scale. This is reflected in the growing number of formal agreements between subnational political administrations, and also by the uneven geographic spread of international economic relations in many states.

This notion of partial or microregional(n1) economic integration is particularly important in understanding the processes and implications of China's re-engagement with the global economy. Indeed, national-based perspectives of regional integration are all but inapplicable in the Chinese context. This article assesses two case studies of microregional integration involving subnational territories of the People's Republic of China (PRC)--growing economic integration across the border between Guangdong Province and Hong Kong in the south, and the development of the North East Asian microregion (NEA) in the Chinese northeast.

Using wider theoretical concepts and approaches not only facilitates our understanding of the political economy of specific case studies, but also allows us to test the validity of those concepts and approaches themselves. Thus this article has two main aims. On a domestic level, it aims to assess both the importance and implications of microregional integration for economic governance within China. The dual processes of decentralisation and globalisation are reconfiguring loci of decision making and authority and, in combination, are simultaneously strengthening and weakening the relevance of political administratively defined territories for economic activity. This apparently contradictory statement is explained by distinguishing between local and national political administrative boundaries. On the one hand, decentralisation has consolidated the importance of provincial(n2) boundaries as...