Can open economic borders break down national ones?

7 Nov

An interesting question posed by Aihwa Ong is that the close economic ties between mainland China and countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong is creating a scenario where, regardless of whether these countries are officially or politically united with China, their fates are so intertwined with the mainland that they may as well have become unified (as China seeks to do). It is undoubtedly a great example of pragmatic accomplishment: “you can say you are a separate country as much as you like, but our economic links will eventually lead to unification.” See the excerpt below.

“The Chinese axis is also an imaginary line of cultural sovereignty that runs along an ideological plane of the graduated geopolitical field. As technological and commercial networks and economic zones increasingly articulate along a Chinese axis, we see an emerging political archipelago that suggests the wider possibilities of an ‘imagined community.’ This loose alliance suggests a regional patterning anchored in China that is very different from Western discourses of regionalism such as the ‘Pacific Rim.’ Instead, regional narrative increasingly invoke ‘East Asia,’ a rhetorical term that signals the growing connections between the Sinic parts of Southeast Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines) with Taiwan, the Hong Kong SAR, and mainland China. For instance, overseas Chinese scholars have invoked a confluence of histories, languages, cultural, and kinship practices among widely dispersed sites to define an emerging field of Sino-Southeast Asian studies. Despite ongoing political tensions and opposition to Beijing leaders, ethnic Chinese in the Asia-Pacific take great cultural pride in the emergence of China as a global actor. The imagined axis also creates an ideological sphere of exception within the Asia-Pacific, marking off a space of rising China-centric hegemony. The Sinocentric discourses, further enhanced by the mainland and Hong Kong popular media, are growing even as the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China remain in a standoff. Meanwhile, the economic integration between Taiwan and the mainland, especially in Fujian Province, Shanghai, and the Yangtze Valley, is so advanced that a de facto absorption has taken place even before a formal political integration has begun. Thus, the emergence of a Chinese axis is based on Beijing’s very distinctive deployment of zoning technologies, which lay the groundwork for transnational market integration, making intelligible the political and cultural goals of variegated sovereignty in formation. As technologies of ruling, zoning mechanisms become an economic detour leading to broader political integration. It is therefore not unthinkable that the logic of the exception and zoning technologies have shown a path toward the reunification of divided nations.”

Ong, Aihwa. Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty. Durham and London: Duke Univ. Press, 2006, 115-116.

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