Re-Combinant Property and Modes of Regulation in China's Emergent Capitalism Insights from Core Manufacturing Industries

Friday, 3 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
CLM.3.07 (Clement House)
Boy C Luethje, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China; Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Frankfurt, Germany
The paper contributes to the debate on China’s emergent capitalism as a new variety of capitalism in Asia. It will draw upon concepts of recombinant property, as developed by David Stark and his colleagues, and on regulation theory in order to develop an analytical framework to understand the characteristics of Sino-capitalism and its internal institutional diversity. The paper will analyze regimes of accumulation and modes of regulation in key manufacturing industries in China, in order to better understand the structural impediments to socio-economic rebalancing of China’s economy.

The focus is on the question of whether and how China is making a transition from “extensive” to “intensive” regimes of accumulation, and how capital- and labor-intensive modes of accumulation are interwoven within the accumulation regimes of major manufacturing industries. The generic forms of capital accumulation are to be explained from the complex recombination of property relations in the context of China’s capitalist transformation and the historic position of specific industries within that process. This approach includes a systematic analysis of the regimes of production and labor relations, and their segmentations along the production networks of those industries (cf. Lüthje, Luo and Zhang 2013).

To better understand institutional diversity and dynamics of change across industries and regions, a taxonomy of three different modes regulations within Sino-capitalism will be developed. These modes of regulation are called state capitalist, network capitalist and market despotist. Those concepts relate to the forms of government-industry relationships prevalent in specific industries and regions, and their linkages with regimes of production and regulation of the wage relation.

They comprise strong government dominance in predominantly state-owned industries, networks of highly organized private and hybrid companies supported by activist local governments, and market despotism with minimalist government intervention and frequent violations of existing legal, social, and environmental standards in sweatshop-type industries. Industry- and region-specific modes of regulation can be conceptualized as specific combinations of state-, network- and market-capitalist regulation.

Empirically, the paper is based on extensive research on the automotive, information technology and clothing sectors, China’s largest manufacturing industries. The research has been conducted in a joint project with researchers at the East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, and the International Center for Joint Labor Research at Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China, with funding from the German Research Foundation DFG. Insights from this research will be presented to illustrate our conceptual approach. Our goal is to gain a theoretically based understanding of the structural impediments to socially and ecologically sustainable rebalancing of China’s economy, and to discuss perspectives of “negotiated involvement” of key social actors in this process.