Zone Analog: The State–Market Problematic and Territorial Economies in China

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Journal Article
Critical Sociology, 2018, 44 (3), pp. 455 - 470
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© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017. The subject of economic zones has proliferated in scholarship on Asia and beyond as a relational approach to social and economic geographies linked to the world economy. Signifying co-locations and mobile capacities of labor and capital, ‘zone’ has circulated as a concept whose ‘exceptional’ conditions deterritorialize from national landscapes. This article contends that ‘zone’ and the territorial processes it represents have receded from critical analysis, and develops a state–market problematic to examine how analog circulation of ‘zone’ and ‘zoning technologies’ reproduces notional space of neoliberal marketization even where state capitalism defines territorial economies. The fundamental aporia emerges in the People’s Republic of China where a ‘zone’ is one and every type of subnational territory: the party-state guides economic development by changing the system of administrative territory to produce multiple types of jurisdictional units with varied state-defined rationales including the emblematic Shenzhen ‘zone’. Zone analog, drawing on models from spatial science, paradoxically reveals ‘zoning technologies’ to be not a general argument for neoliberalism as incremental marketization but rather state territorialization of the economy in general.
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