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Accepted Paper:

Manufacturing urbanism: improvising policy mobilities through Chinese economic zones in Africa  
Tom Goodfellow (University of Sheffield) Zhengli Huang (Tongji University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the activities of entrepreneurial but inexperienced Chinese industrialists developing urban industrial zones in Africa. In contrast to formal attempts at ‘policy transfer’, these forms of engagement are largely improvised, with implications for emergent urban-industrial forms.

Paper long abstract:

Amid growing excitement about Chinese investment stimulating a manufacturing boom across Africa, including through industrial zones, there has been little attention to what forms of policy transfer this might involve and how these processes affect rapidly evolving processes of urban development. We examine how Chinese zones in Africa are influencing the relationship between industrialization and urbanization: a neglected theme in the literature on China’s role in Africa, despite its centrality in China’s own experience. Through research in Ethiopia and Uganda, we argue that Chinese zones are key emerging sites for the making of an urban-industrial nexus.

However, these new urban dynamics are not driven by the government officials and consultants that dominate the ‘policy mobilities’ literature, nor by the State-Owned Enterprises usually associated with Chinese activity overseas. Rather, they are emerging through the activities of inexperienced private Chinese actors who do not even operate in the worlds of urban policy. Conventional forms of ‘policy transfer’ in this context have actually been very limited, and sometimes ineffective. Faced with government histories and capacities that vastly differ from China’s, efforts to directly replicate Chinese experience is virtually impossible. Yet the tentative relationships between Chinese firms and government authorities at different levels, and the ways in which this play out in territories characterized by institutions that are still in flux, are gradually moulding new improvised urban-industrial forms into shape.

Panel P31b
The global politics and local practices of policy transfer in an unsettled world II
  Session 1 Friday 2 July, 2021, -