China’s integration into a global economy: A case of natural economic development or the deliberate outcome of political decisions to re-legitimise the leading role of the CCP?
When analysing the trajectory and pace of China’s integration into the global economy, it is of utmost importance to recognise the fundamental political project underlining this development. This is not to deny that economic considerations were of importance as well. Yet, the pressure on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to re-legitimise its dominant political position in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution as well as a dire economic situation, especially when compared with other parts of East Asia generated a formidable political challenge for the CCP by challenging the assumption that Socialism represent not only an alternative, but a more successful avenue of economic development. The ensuing leadership struggle in the mid-late 1970s and its implication for the reform/opening project provide further evidence for the essential political nature of the reform/opening policy. At around the same time we also witnessed an intensifying process of economic globalisation, which begun to undermine the state’s capacity to steer economic development. However, albeit the decline of state capabilities represents a rather general process, some states were more successful than others in responding to the challenges of economic globalisation. China’s case certainly represents a successful example in which various processes associated with globalisation – as, for example, global production networks – presented an opportunity for the national and regional leadership to exploit changes in the global economic system, for China’s own economic development. The success of some state and the failure of other states in dealing with the challenges globalisation represent clearly indicate that we cannot assume that states and the structure they embody are identical entities. Consequently we should be conscious of the speciﬁc nature of states and how best we can conceive them. We too should be aware that globalisation does not represent a single trajectory
and that there are various meanings attached to it, which in turn will inﬂuence the responses to it. In addressing and evaluating the proposition that China’s successful integration into the global economy represents a fundamental political project, I will start the investigation by ﬁrst addressing the nature of the state; this is followed by an evaluation of the various meanings globalisation can carry, an assessment of the nature of political legitimacy, and ﬁnally an evaluation of China’s reform/opening policy.