China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: The papers in this interdisciplinary panel seek to rethink the early history of China’s fateful “Reform and Opening” era (ca. 1979-1992), and we pay special attention to the conceptual question of how the reforms were connected to the conventional, Eurocentric story of global neoliberalism. In such accounts, the North Atlantic “center” spurred an intellectual and political movement towards market liberalization and deregulation that disseminated outward to “peripheries” such as China. But though China’s Reforms resembled the contours of Euro-U.S. neoliberal thought, they can also be fruitfully understood within dynamics specific to the region’s own history. Sociologist Xiaohong Xu situates the Reforms as the outcome of a split between economics and politics originating with the 1960s Cultural Revolution, culminating in an ideology he identifies as “ordoeconomism.” Looking forward, sociologist Yige Dong examines the fate of the Chinese textile industry in the Reform period, focusing on women’s labor and social reproduction and challenging the standard story of labor precarity and the end of the welfare state. Historian Andrew Liu argues that the 1980s “coastal development strategy” was an attempt by officials not to emulate Atlantic-style neoliberalism but rather the path of accumulation followed by the “tiger economies” of the “Asia-Pacific.” And economist Isabella Weber highlights the fierce debate over market reforms by economists in 1980s China, culminating in the rejection of neoliberal prescriptions for “shock therapy.” Together, these papers add comparative, geographical, and temporal depth to conventional state narratives of this massively pivotal moment in Chinese and world history.
Virtual Paper Presenter: Xiaohong Xu – University of Michigan
Virtual Paper Presenter: Yige Dong – State University of New York, Buffalo
Virtual Paper Presenter: Andrew B. Liu – Villanova University
Virtual Paper Presenter: Isabella Weber – University of Massachusetts, Amherst