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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr David Kerr

Kerr, David (2007). 'Has China abandoned self-reliance?'. Review of International Political Economy 14(1): 77-104.

Author(s) from Durham


China is commonly seen as having abandoned the national route to development in favour of one centred on global integration. Zili gengsheng - conventionally translated as self-reliance - is viewed now as a historical term relevant only to the Maoist years. Instead China's increasing economic interdependence with the global economy is held to imply that China's capacity to retain the initiative for its own development is receding: China is being 'internationalised'. This paper questions this assumption in three ways. It argues that there has been a greater degree of continuity in China's development strategy between the 'revolutionary' and 'reform' eras than is commonly recognized, and that in particular China has not yet made a significant shift from growth driven by factor accumulation to growth driven by technological renewal. Secondly, it suggests that China's capacity to use global integration to engineer technological convergence is constrained by the nature of global production systems, WTO intellectual property regulations, and the strategic perceptions of the lead economies to China's rise. Lastly, it argues that, if China's drive for technological renewal, evident since the 1990s, is not automatically correlated to either internal or external structural change, then it is best explained by calculations that are strategic and nationalist, rather than pragmatic and internationalist. In this way, if technological convergence is understood as the factor which binds national to international and economic to political, interdependence does not relieve China of the responsibility to develop by its own efforts but arguably enhances this.


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