China in Transition: Institutional Change and the Dilemmas of Growth under Hyperglobalisation


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date23 Apr 2020


This thesis poses and answers the question of how best to understand institutional transformation associated with innovation and technological upgrading in China. The thesis applies a political economy framework grounded in social conflict theory to argue that making sense of innovation and technological upgrading reforms in China demands focusing on state actors, which operate in relation to the confines and opportunities afforded by hyperglobalisation, in addition to the efforts of transnational and domestic capital to realise their interests. In a theoretical sense, the thesis challenges influential institutionalist approaches (including new institutional economics, historical institutionalism, and developmental state literature) in their explanations of institutional change, placing greater emphasis upon the power relationships and politics––including those extending beyond the nation-state––intrinsic to the evolution, form and function of institutions. Across detailed sectoral examinations of China’s internet, automotive, and pharmaceutical sectors, China’s industrial upgrading strategies and their real-existing outcomes are revealed to be the product of state-led late development efforts and political struggles between capitalists under hyperglobalisation, with the latter involving various pressures and opportunities for the interests concerned. The varied outcomes of reforms in and across sectors can be explained by the relative strength of corporate interests (domestic and foreign) to maximise gains through leveraging emerging technologies, economic resources, and political influence at both the national and international levels.