“Globalization and the Rise of the Economic State: PRC and USA in Comparison”. by Professor Guoguang Wu, University of Victoria

4pm–5.30pm Wednesday 3 March 2021

Zoom Registration Required at:  https://uofglasgow.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYtc-yqqTwtGtaKZgu8NzPNmQ3vT0kyYYX3


Globalization involves virtually all states in the world being put into increasingly intensive economic competition on the global market. The state, as a political organization with a monopoly of coercive power, is, either forced or/and enticed, more and more engaged into attempts for delivering material benefits to its citizens. This indicates the rise of the economic state. One of its major political implications is the shift of state legitimacy from democratic procedures to economic performance. Democracy as a principle is thus undermined, and democratization of a non-democratic state is often retarded. This talk will first elaborate a theory of the economic state by identifying six features of the economic state, then conduct a comparative study of two country cases, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the United States of America (USA), for demonstrating how different types of the state follow some similar tracks in pursuing economic functions. As the most powerful economies in today’s world, these two countries have fundamentally different political systems and, traditionally, divergent state roles in economic affairs. The China case is exemplary for the economic state, where the authoritarian regime with strong state capacity remarkably promotes economic prosperity while effectively suppressing civic rights and democratic impulses. Its current Xi Jinping leadership explicitly defines its “China dream” in nationalistic economic terms. In the US, with Donald Trump’s slogan of “making America great again”, the traditional “American dream” for liberty and individualism has now turned to follow the spirit of a great business company. What Trump struggles to achieve, such as improvements of infrastructure and the creation of jobs, are more like the Chinese state programs than the US founding fathers’ imagination of their nation’s future. Why such similarities? Are such similarities also applicable to other states? The concluding section will draw the two cases together, outline a general trend in globalization, and highlight the explaining power of the theory of the economic state.

Speaker bio

Guoguang Wu is Professor of Political Science, Professor of History, and Chair in China & Asia-Pacific Relations at University of Victoria, Canada. He had an early career in China as an editorialist of the People’s Daily and a speechwriter to China’s Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang in the late 1980s, and, during the exile following Tiananmen, gained a PhD in politics from Princeton University. With research interests in China’s political institutions and political economy of global capitalism, he is author of four books, including China’s Party Congress: Power, Legitimacy, and Institutional Manipulation (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and Globalization against Democracy: A Political Economy of Capitalism after its Global Triumph (Cambridge University Press, 2017), and editor or co-editor of 6 volumes.


The Scottish Centre for China Research Seminar Programme gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the MacFie Bequest. 

First published: 28 January 2021

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