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  • Understanding China: Chinese Global Production Networks in ASEAN ed. by Young-Chan Kim
  • V.G.R. Chandran Govindaraju
Understanding China: Chinese Global Production Networks in ASEAN, edited by Young-Chan Kim. Switzerland: Springer, 2016. Pp. 288.

China’s success in globalization with its heavy interventionist strategy, including its current “Made in China 2025” programme, has attracted wide attention from policymakers and scholars. In fact, this topic has gained additional academic interest due to the recent U.S.–China trade war. The book Understanding China is a compilation of articles on China’s trade and investment policies and the respective implications [End Page 132] for ASEAN member states. While this is not the only book that discusses China’s relationship with the world, it differs from the rest in that it mainly focuses on the China–ASEAN ties, offering a macro/holistic perspective of this unique regional relationship. The authors also examine China’s involvement in selected free trade agreements and its political relationship with ASEAN. More importantly, specific empirical country-based case studies offer new insights on the subject.

Gao and Zhang’s opening chapter provides an overarching view of China’s integration within ASEAN. The authors engage in a painstaking exercise of decomposing the trade patterns between the economic giant and ASEAN member states, despite limitations in data availability. Trade in value added and currency swap agreements provide additional information for assessing the economic value of these ties. The editor, Kim, further provides a rich discussion and a historical as well as a comparative evaluation of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) from the perspective of the United States, followed by Japan’s involvement in the former agreement. The chapter also examines how China could potentially contribute to the agreements. In the subsequent chapter, Lean and Smyth offer general observations on trade and investment patterns in the context of Malaysia–China relations. This chapter, however, would have benefited from an in-depth analysis of the types of investment between both nations and their impact on Malaysia’s trade performance. In fact, some discussion on heavy Chinese presence in Malaysia’s construction, ICT and solar energy sectors would have provided an interesting perspective on the topic.

In the case of the trade relationship between Indonesia and China, Fukuoka and Verico use standard trade analysis tools to reveal, for example, their respective comparative advantages; notably, China enjoyed a comparative advantage in 77 per cent of the products traded in the primary sector. The authors also show that only certain sectors benefited from these trade ties. They point out the declining performance of the manufacturing sector in Indonesia, arguing that it can worsen due to large trade deficits with China. It is also claimed that this decline is caused by the influence that business elites have on policy and the lack of Indonesia’s institutional capability in implementing effective economic programmes.

In the case of China and Thailand, Liu and Jayanthakumaran note a significant increase in trade and investment between them, especially after the implementation of the China–ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). However, there has been no notable change in the comparative advantage at the sector level post-agreement. They conclude that CAFTA is still at its infancy stage. In the next chapter, Fujii adopts a comparative perspective to scrutinize the urban food demand function in the Philippines and China. He suggests that the food demand function has undergone structural changes in both countries. However, it is less clear how this chapter connects with the overall theme of the book, especially in understanding the dynamics of Chinese global production network in ASEAN.

Sophal Ear in the chapter titled “Greater China, Cambodia and the Garment Industry”, on the other hand, adopts a sectoral approach in examining Cambodia’s garment industry. This historical perspective helps the readers to understand the evolution of the industry and China’s involvement in this sector. The author sees this as a positive development, but cautions about the political and economic strings attached to such trade benefits enjoyed by Cambodia. The chapter is well analysed and provides useful insights on the global production network in the garment industry. Kivimaki then describes the...


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