The Political Economy of China’s SEZs
China’s SEZs have had a short but checkered history. They have been held up as developmental models and castigated as dens of iniquity. They have attracted higher concentrations of foreign capital than any other locations in China but have been hampered by chronic economic problems. SEZs have had a fair share of political controversy. Latent opposition has periodically burst forth into active disapproval, only to be harnessed again by persistent advocacy. These dynamics are best expressed as variations in the salience of zone criticism. At the outset, in 1979, criticism was muted due to the uncertainty of zone objectives and strategy. Indeed, this may have been a studied vagueness. By making SEZs all things to all people, advocates could quiet potential opponents with promises of multifaceted national benefits. By at least 1981, however, skepticism, especially ideological concern, was gaining a voice.