Chinese finance and the future
The jury is very much out on how epiphenomenal the West’s post1800 advantage will be.
Kenneth Pomeranz (2009)
Reevaluating China’s financial development in historical comparative context challenges existing ways of thinking about the
dynamics of global order and China’s place within it. This global
order is in a deep state of flux and uncertainty, yet our posing of
questions surrounding the fate of the liberal world order occlude
the possibility that China is constructing its own version of capitalist
Over more than thirty years of reform and opening, the Chinese Communist Party has pursued the gradual marketization of China’s economy alongside the preservation of a resiliently authoritarian political system, defying long-standing predictions that ‘transition’ to a market economy would catalyse deeper political transformation. In an era of deepening synergy between authoritarian politics and finance capitalism, Communists constructing capitalism offers a novel and important perspective on this central dilemma of contemporary Chinese development. This book challenges existing state–market paradigms of political economy and reveals the Eurocentric assumptions of liberal scepticism towards Chinese authoritarian resilience. It works with an alternative conceptual vocabulary for analysing the political economy of financial development as both the management and exploitation of socio-economic uncertainty. Drawing upon extensive fieldwork and over sixty interviews with policymakers, bankers, and former party and state officials, the book delves into the role of China’s state-owned banking system since 1989. It shows how political control over capital has been central to China’s experience of capitalist development, enabling both rapid economic growth whilst preserving macroeconomic and political stability. Communists constructing capitalism will be of academic interest to scholars and graduate students in the fields of Chinese studies, social studies of finance, and international and comparative political economy. Beyond academia, it will be essential reading for anyone interested in the evolution of Chinese capitalism and its implications for an increasingly central issue in contemporary global politics: the financial foundations of illiberal capitalism.
attracted 40 per cent of the American
electronics investment into Europe. A similar but smaller agglomeration
of pharmaceutical companies occurred during the same period.12
Taiwan’s BDS approach to economic modernisation emerged through
top-down directives within a system of authoritariancapitalism. During
the period of martial law between 1948 and 1988 strikes were illegal
and labour was organised into a government-controlled union.13 The
policy-making processes of the ruling Kuomintang party and the
state were effectively indistinguishable.14 Later, during the 1980s
system. It points to some of the ways in which the arguments developed in the book are important to future research into
the reshaping of China’s political economy and the global political
economy in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Finally, it
draws out some of the book’s implications for the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological ways in which we approach the ‘China
question’ and the future of authoritariancapitalism in an era of flux
and change in the global capitalist order.
1 See further Hu et al. (2012).
2 Interview 28 November 2012
rebellion” (13). 2 Economist John Weeks has also pointed to the connection between de-democratization and neoliberalism, wherein the state is understood to have been both actively constrained from limiting capital mobility, and recruited to enforce “free markets.” Rather than government being democratically enlisted to ameliorate the social strains resulting from capitalism, as it was in the New Deal, for example, or in postwar social democratic Europe, Weeks argues that it is now capital that regulates the state, ushering in an era of authoritariancapitalism (Weeks
and capacity for government was too risky, and so he wrote in his
introduction: ‘The message of this book to these people is simple:
Get out while the going is good.’ 29
Much of the language of Hicks’s essays is far from
catastrophist: the demise of British culture and values in Hong Kong
will lead to a gradual deterioration of civil liberties as an
authoritariancapitalism is ensconced; Hong Kong will
On the relation between law, politics, and other social systems in modern
the contributors to Catriona McKinnon and
Iain Hampsher-Monk (eds), The Demands of Citizenship (London: Continuum, 2000),
Part II. See also Drucilla Cornell, The Philosophy of the Limit (London: Routledge,
1992), chapters 1 and 5.
24 J. A. G. Griffith, The Politics of the Judiciary (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins, 1977), Part II,
chapter 4, and Brunkhorst, Critical Theory of Legal Revolutions, pp. 54–6 and 132–5.
On the case of the media, see Christian Fuchs, Digital Demagogue: AuthoritarianCapitalism in the Age of Trump and Twitter (London: Pluto, 2018). Chapter