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World Politics

Vol. 64, No. 4

October 2012

Sino-Capitalism: China's Reemergence and the International Political Economy

By Christopher A. McNally

There is little doubt that China’s international reemergence represents one of the most significant events in modern history. As China’s political economy gains in importance, its interactions with other major political economies will shape global values, institutions, and policies, thereby restructuring the international political economy. Drawing on theories and concepts in comparative capitalism, the author envisages China’s reemergence as generating Sino-capitalism—a capitalist system that is already global in reach but one that differs from Anglo-American capitalism in important respects. Sino-capitalism relies more on informal business networks than legal codes and transparent rules. It also assigns the Chinese state a leading role in fostering and guiding capitalist accumulation. Sino-capitalism, ultimately, espouses less trust in free markets and more trust in unitary state rule and social norms of reciprocity, stability, and hierarchy.

After conceptualizing Sino-capitalism’s domestic political economy, the author uses the case of China’s efforts to internationalize its currency, the yuan or renminbi, to systematically illustrate the multifarious manner in which the domestic logic of Sino-capitalism is expressed at the global level. Rather than presenting a deterministic argument concerning the future international role of China, he argues that China’s stance and strategy in the international political economy hew quite closely to Sino-capitalism’s hybrid compensatory institutional arrangements on the domestic level: state guidance; flexible and entrepreneurial networks; and global integration. Sino-capitalism therefore represents an emerging system of global capitalism centered on China that is producing a dynamic mix of mutual dependence, symbiosis, competition, and friction with the still dominant Anglo-American model of capitalism.

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