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Modern China Lecture Series featuring Taomo Zhou – Leveraging Liminality: Shenzhen and the Origins of China’s Reform and Opening

April 13, 2021 @ 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Speaker: Taomo Zhou, Assistant Professor of History, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Immediately north of Hong Kong, Shenzhen is China’s most successful Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Commonly known as the “social laboratory” of reform and opening, Shenzhen was the foremost frontier for the People’s Republic’s adoption of market principles and entrance into the world economy in the late 1970s. This talk examines prototypes of the SEZ in Bao’an County, the precursor of Shenzhen during the Mao era (1949-1976). Between 1949 and 1978, Bao’an was a liminal space where state endeavors to establish a socialist economy were challenged by capitalist influences from the adjacent British Crown Colony. To create an enclave of exception to socialism, communist cadres in Bao’an promoted individualized, duty-free cross-border trade and informal foreign investment schemes as early as 1961. Although beholden to the inward-looking planned economy and stymied by radical leftist campaigns, these local improvisations formed the foundation for the SEZ—the very hallmark of Deng Xiaoping’s economic statecraft.

Taomo Zhou is an Assistant Professor of History at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, specializing in modern Chinese and Southeast Asian history. Taomo’s first book, Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia and the Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2019), was selected as one of the Best Books of 2020 by Foreign Affairs. Taomo is working on a new research project on Shenzhen—the first Special Economic Zone of China—and its connections with the Export Processing Zones and free ports across Southeast Asia. This research is funded by a Tier 1 grant from the Ministry of Education, Singapore.

Part of the Modern China Lecture Series

Presented via Zoom Webinar


April 13, 2021
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Event Category:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

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