The 2007-8 global financial crisis and the waves of mass rebellions in Eastern Europe and the Arab world around the same time marked a major turning point in China’s strategies of development and domination. While the drastic shrinkage in foreign demand spelled the end of China’s export-led high growth era, presenting a crisis of accumulation, global popular revolts that toppled or destabilized autocratic regimes raised the spectre of a potential crisis of governance. The Chinese Communist regime responded with two grand projects—global expansion (officially labelled Going Out, Belt and Road Initiative, Made in China 2025, China Dream) and digital authoritarianism (platform economy and rule by high-tech surveillance). Ching Kwan Lee analyses the practices of these elite strategies and assesses their effectiveness for maintaining economic growth and political control amidst a “new cold war” and a global pandemic.
Ching Kwan Lee is professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has published three multiple award-winning monographs on China, forming a trilogy of Chinese capitalism through the lens of labor and working class experiences. Gender and the South China Miracle: Two Worlds of Factory Women (1998) documents the organization of gender and work in factory regimes in Hong Kong and Shenzhen when South China first emerged as the workshop of the world. Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt (2007) chronicles the unmaking and making of the Chinese working class in two regional economies experiencing the death of socialism and the rise of capitalism respectively in one country. The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa (2017) follows the footsteps of Chinese state investors to Zambia and compares its relation with African state and labor to other global private investors.
Kristin Shi-Kupfer is Professor of Sinology at the University of Trier and Senior Research Fellow at the Mercator Institute for Chinese Studies.