Academic journal article Global Governance

Globalization and the Paradox of Participation: The Chinese Case

Academic journal article Global Governance

Globalization and the Paradox of Participation: The Chinese Case

Article excerpt

An important current in the study of globalization [1] and its impacts holds that the global spread of economic liberalism and the concept of human rights have eventuated in new notions of citizenship. In one view, what has been termed a "postnational" citizenship, granted "on the basis of personhood," has increasingly offered immigrants the rights and privileges once granted only to nationals. Whether the mechanism at work is ideational, as by "changes in the institutional and discursive order of rights at the global level," [2] or ideational-cum-material, as in the words of another author, through the dissemination of notions of social justice and human rights, the analysis in these works claims to see a new "extension of rights to individuals who are not full members of the societies in which they reside." [3]

In a similar formulation, the proliferation of international human rights law that "recognizes the individual as an object of rights regardless of national affiliations or associations with a territorially defined people" has in recent years meant that "states [have] had to take account of persons qua persons as opposed to limiting their responsibilities to their own citizens." [4] And yet, as I demonstrate in this article, globalization has probably done as much to minimize citizenship and membership rights and privileges to individuals as to extend it.

Specifically, I propose that a political paradox resides at the core of globalization, which can thus be seen as a two-level, double-edged process: State-level efforts to become accepted within the dominant, one might say hegemonic , global economic society have at the same time worked to exclude large numbers of immigrants and would-be citizens from genuine membership in the national community. I illustrate my analysis by referring to France and Mexico, but focus on the case of China.

As these three countries have prepared to join the global economy and become members of supranational economic organizations, unemployment rates have risen, directly affecting both residents and migrants. France has joined the European Monetary System, Mexico has become a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and China has attempted to meet the qualifications of membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). [5] France and Mexico engineered massive turnarounds in their economic strategies, both in the early 1980s, from seeming necessity and external international pressures (most crucially, crushing debt for Mexico and severe balance of trade problems for France). [6] China's leaders, arguably, confronted no such specific external pressure at least until around 1999.

Instead, beginning in 1979, China restructured its economy in part to gain new domestic legitimacy after the death of Mao Zedong and the misery of the Cultural Revolution. The restructuring was also, in large part, under the influence of a process I term "virtual globalization." According to this logic, before attaining full-scale global economic membership and not primarily in response to the dictates of external material forces, a domestic economy mimics the effects presented among the major participants. By a partial "opening to the world," the Chinese leadership subjected the country to the dynamic of globalization but without the usual accoutrements of foreign guest workers, economic stagnation, serious national indebtedness, and menacing external competition. In China, because of its heritage of specific socialist institutions, the paradox of participation is, if anything, even more pronounced than elsewhere.

China's rates of unemployment and downsizing, corporate mergers, and bankruptcy since 1997 [7] are the result not of foreign debts but of public enterprise indebtedness to domestic banks and other Chinese firms--that is, internal arrears at the plant level. They are the result of the pressure of competition not so much from abroad as from nonstate firms in China itself. …

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