David Harvey in ‘A Brief History of Neoliberalism’, includes China as a country embarking on the course of neoliberalism, but points out that the historic moments of neoliberalization initiated by Deng Xiaoping, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan are purely coincidental. He identifies China as a ‘strange case’, describing it elsewhere as an outcome of a particular kind of neoliberalism interdigitated with authoritarian centralized control. The presence of ‘authoritarian centralized control’ seems to mean that China has deviated from the neoliberalism model and Ong rightly detects a tension between Chinese reality and neoliberal ideology, arguing that ‘Harvey has trouble fitting China into his “neoliberal template\"’ and ‘China is deviant because neoliberal policies are combined with state authoritarianism’. This article aims to dispel some of the mysterious cloud surrounding the “strange Chinese case” by showing that neoliberalization does capture some basic features of market re-orientation in China and that authoritarian control is not a legacy of previous institutional forms, but rather a reaction to marketization. The Chinese case may in fact show that under some specific conditions neoliberalization may have to consolidate rather than reduce control, and that neoliberalization is the trajectory to establishing a market society, a direction of greater market re-orientation in the world, notwithstanding the fact that different routes are followed in different countries.
Fulong Wu. China’s great transformation: Neoliberalization as establishing a market society. Geoforum (2008) 39 (3) 1093-1096. [DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2008.01.007]