The Dynamics of Sino-Capitalism: Theoretical Implications of China's Emergent Form of Capitalism

Friday, 3 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
CLM.3.07 (Clement House)
Christopher A McNally, Chaminade University, Honolulu, HI
This paper employs the analytical framework of Sino-capitalism to create a more conceptually precise understanding of the rapid evolution of a capitalist political economy in Reform China. In this manner, the case of China can serve to theorize about features of capitalist evolution that have posed problems for several major approaches in comparative political economy. These approaches include the varieties of capitalism literature, and more broadly oriented approaches in the comparative capitalisms or diversity of capitalisms perspectives.

The analytical framework of Sino-capitalism highlights how top-down state-centric modes of governance interacting with bottom-up networked modes of entrepreneurship and, at times, brutal market forces have created a unique dialectical dynamic in China’s capitalism. Evidently, the dialectical quality of Sino-capitalism stands in contrast to the more static comparative approaches in most of the comparative capitalisms literature. Several theoretical insights are highlighted: first, the case of Sino-capitalism demonstrates that our understanding of capitalist evolution must be opened up to go beyond a firm-centered perspective to include the character of international integration, state-capital dynamics, and contradictory/symbiotic politico-economic logics. Second, and following from the first point, this perspective does not view institutional complementarities as performing best when in a reinforcing equilibrium state. Rather, the unique dialectic of Sino-capitalism highlights constant frictions, clashes, power struggles, as well as adaptation and experimental change as basic qualities driving capitalist accumulation. Finally, Sino-capitalism’s dialectical perspective stresses the interplay of structure and agency in shaping the basic mechanics of capitalist evolution. While crises and critical junctures form important markers of historical discontinuity, the study of Sino-capitalism underlines how the interplay of top-down statist developmentalism and bottom-up disordered and networked entrepreneurialism have created tension-ridden, yet symbiotically stable evolutionary dynamics.