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Urban China Series featuring Su Xiaobo: Urbanization and the Political Economy of Border Control in China
April 10 @ 8:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Photo by 瑞丽江的河水 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70263825 (License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)
Speaker: Su Xiaobo, University of Oregon
Border cities in hinterland China have been reshaped as hotbeds of investment ever since the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). They have become new economic centers to facilitate cross-border flows between China and neighboring countries. Meanwhile, border security remains a key political task to state authorities in these cities. Using Ruili in southern Yunnan as a case study, this paper examines urbanization at the edge of China’s national territory and how border control, transnational migrant management, and industrialization are integrated into this process. On the one hand, Ruili uses its geoeconomic advantages—proximity to Myanmar, and attractiveness to Myanmar migrant workers—to attract domestic investment from other Chinese cities for industrial production and cross-border trade. On the other hand, the Ruili municipal government is assigned responsibility for managing cross-border migrant flows and maintaining social stability. Economic development and border politics are intertwined to shape Ruili’s urbanization trajectory in which cross-border trade and border security play a significant role in shaping land use, development policies, and population management in border cities. Thus, an analysis of the political economy of border control can shed new light on China’s urbanization at the border.
Xiaobo Su is Professor and Head in the Department of Geography, University of Oregon. His research interest is in border politics, urban entrepreneurialism, and transnational regionalization in China.