Taiwan has been depicted as an island facing the incessant threat of forcible unification with the People's Republic of China. Why, then, has Taiwan spent more than three decades pouring capital and talent into China?
In award-winning Rival Partners, Wu Jieh-min follows the development of Taiwanese enterprises in China over twenty-five years and provides fresh insights. The geopolitical shift in Asia beginning in the 1970s and the global restructuring of value chains since the 1980s created strong incentives for Taiwanese entrepreneurs to rush into China despite high political risks and insecure property rights. Taiwanese investment, in conjunction with Hong Kong capital, laid the foundation for the world’s factory to flourish in the southern province of Guangdong, but official Chinese narratives play down Taiwan’s vital contribution. It is hard to imagine the Guangdong model without Taiwanese investment, and, without the Guangdong model, China’s rise could not have occurred. Going beyond the received wisdom of the “China miracle” and “Taiwan factor,” Wu delineates how Taiwanese businesspeople, with the cooperation of local officials, ushered global capitalism into China. By partnering with its political archrival, Taiwan has benefited enormously, while helping to cultivate an economic superpower that increasingly exerts its influence around the world.
Wu has written a superb book that deserves the attention of historians, sociologists, political scientists, and scholars from other disciplines interested in the nuances and paradoxes of China’s post-Mao opening, its global effects, and cross-strait relations.
Anyone wishing to go beyond simplistic formulae summarizing the narrative of China’s so-called economic miracle will have to read this detailed, nuanced, yet overarching research.
Wu Jieh-min opens a new door by studying the experience of Taiwanese businesspeople (‘Taishang’) who played a critical role in the early stages of China’s reforms.
Rival Partners is a major contribution to the study of Chinese development and global capitalism. Weaving together rich materials on Taiwanese manufacturers, local Chinese officials, and migrant labor, Wu details how China’s export manufacturing model thrived and unraveled, leading to today’s crisis and transformation. It is a meticulous study of the rent-seeking and developmental dual characters of the Chinese state.
Based on decades of theoretically informed and expertly crafted empirical research, this book is an intellectual feast connecting shop-floor realities and local citizenship regimes to cross-strait relations and global political economy. A rare and singularly insightful Taiwan perspective on China’s rise.
Wu has written a magnificent monograph on the collaborative construction of development between two seemingly rivaling actors: Guangdong officials and Taiwanese entrepreneurs. It points to the significance of invisible coalitions in developmental theory.
Rival Partners explores export-oriented industrialization in China as a chapter of the post-war capitalist development of Taiwan. With its sharp research question and original argument combined with solid fieldwork, meticulous analysis, and comprehensive theoretical dialogue, Rival Partners is a milestone in our understanding of China as the world factory since the 1980s.
- 2019, Winner of the Sun Yun-Suan Academic Prize
- 2020, Winner of the Most Influential Books in Humanities and Social Sciences
- 2020, Winner of the Humanities and Social Sciences Book
- 2023, Winner of the Global and Transnational Sociology Best Scholarly Book Award
- 532 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Asia Center
- Foreword by Elizabeth J. Perry
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