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Bounding the Mekong

The Asian Development Bank, China, and Thailand

Jim Glassman

Publication Year: 2010

Transnational economic integration has been described by globalization boosters as a rising tide that will lift all boats, an opportunity for all participants to achieve greater prosperity through a combination of political cooperation and capitalist economic competition. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has championed such rhetoric in promoting the integration of China, Southeast Asia’s formerly socialist states, and Thailand into a regional project called the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). But while the GMS project is in fact hastening regional economic integration, Jim Glassman shows that the approach belies the ADB’s idealized description of "win-win" outcomes. The process of "actually existing globalization" in the GMS does provide varied opportunities for different actors, but it is less a rising tide that lifts all boats than an uneven flood of transnational capitalist development whose outcomes are determined by intense class struggles, market competition, and regulatory battles.

Glassman makes the case for adopting a class-based approach to analysis of GMS development, regionalization, and actually existing globalization. First he analyzes the interests and actions of various Thai participants in GMS development, then the roles of different Chinese actors in GMS integration. He next provides two cases illustrating the serious limits of any notion that GMS integration is a relatively egalitarian process—Laos’ participation in GMS development and the role of migrant Burmese workers in the production of the GMS. He finds that Burmese migrant workers, dam-displaced Chinese and Laotian villagers, and economically-stressed Thai farmers and small businesses are relative "losers" compared to the powerful business interests that shape GMS integration from locations like Bangkok and Kunming, as well as key sites outside the GMS like Beijing, Singapore, and Tokyo. The final chapter blends geographical-historical analysis with an assessment of uneven development and actually existing globalization in the GMS.

Cogent and persuasive, Bounding the Mekong will attract attention from the growing number of scholars analyzing globalization, neoliberalism, regionalization, and multiple scales of governance. It is suitable for graduate courses in geography, political science, and sociology as well as courses with a regional focus.

17 illus., 7 maps

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Title PAge, Copyright Page

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Figures, Maps, and Tables

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

As is always the case with a project of these dimensions, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to many people. While I won’t succeed in acknowledging everyone who has given me encouragement or help along the way, the following people deserve special mention. ...

Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-xvi

Note on Terminology

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pp. xvii-xviii

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Prologue May 2008

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pp. 1-2

In May 2008, two horrific events called international attention to the corner of the world that is the focus of this book. On May 2, Cyclone Nargis ripped through Burma, causing the immediate death of some 100,000 to 150,000 people and displacement and suffering for as many as 1.5 million more. ...

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Chapter 1. Approaching the Greater Mekong Subregion

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pp. 3-16

This is a book about the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), a unit originally comprising Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan province of China and expanded in 2005 to include Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China (Map 1.1). More accurately, it is a book that travels about the GMS—or at least a corner of it—to tell a story. ...

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Chapter 2. Thinking the Spaces and Places of Class

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pp. 17-36

To insist that class provides a useful lens on processes of regionalization and GMS development is perhaps to specify less than what might appear to be the case at first blush. Although mention of class usually connotes Marxism, there are in fact a wide array of approaches to class—associated in sociology, ...

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Chapter 3. Producing the Greater Mekong Subregion

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pp. 37-63

The Second Summit Meeting of the GMS was held during July 2005 in Kunming, in Yunnan province of China. Billboards posted around Kunming by the Yunnan provincial government announced themes such as “Strengthen GMS Cooperation for Economic Growth and Mutual Benefit” and “The River Links Six Countries.”1 ...

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Chapter 4. Turning Battlefields into Marketplace-Battlefields

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pp. 64-98

Thai capitalists are some of the most powerful and aggressive in promoting the development of the GMS, but they face considerable competition in the marketplace- battlefield. As noted in chapters 3 and 4, much of this competition comes from outside the GMS entirely, and much of it is also carried out on a geographic scale well beyond that of the GMS. ...

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Chapter 5. Going West, by Southwest

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pp. 99-135

Thai capitalists are some of the most powerful and aggressive in promoting the development of the GMS, but they face considerable competition in the marketplace- battlefield. As noted in chapters 3 and 4, much of this competition comes from outside the GMS entirely, and much of it is also carried out on a geographic scale well beyond that of the GMS. ...

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Chapter 6. Harnessing Resources and Labor

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pp. 136-158

In the previous two chapters I have delved beneath the data on GMS development presented in chapter 3 to unpack some of the class dynamics of uneven development and regionalization. I have focused especially on the two most powerful “national” actors in the GMS—capitalists and state agencies from Thailand and Yunnan/China. ...

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Chapter 7. Bounding the Mekong

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pp. 159-168

When using the term “capital” throughout my analysis of GMS projects, I have most frequently focused literally on capitalists, sometimes petty capitalists or entrepreneurial petty commodity producers, including their allies within state agencies. But “capital,” in Marx’s sense of the term, is neither a thing (e.g., money) ...

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Epilogue July 2008

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pp. 169-170

During July of 2008, a strange and nasty conflict evolved that pitted competing claims by Thai and Cambodian organizations against one another. The boundary line between the two countries—which did not exist as such in the late nineteenth century—had been drawn on a map by the French colonial state in 1904. ...

Notes

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pp. 171-176

Bibliography

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pp. 177-194

Index

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pp. 195-208


E-ISBN-13: 9780824837501
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824834449

Publication Year: 2010