Fungible Borders and Informal Regionalism: Rethinking China’s International Relations

1 November 2006

The processes of informal or soft regionalism driving China’s engagement with the regional and global economy are resulting in nuanced understandings of state, security and the conduct of international relations in China. The paper looks at a set of three interrelated processes that made this engagement possible- the informal processes driving China’s engagement; the graduated manner in which China has re-engaged with the regional economy; and the process of decentralisation of decision-making powers aimed at providing local incentives for growth. The paper argues that these processes represent instances of domestic-external interlinkages and makes the case that although not state-led, the Chinese state has played a critical role in setting the direction, pace as well as nature of China’s external economic relations. The paper will then look at some of the inferences that can be drawn from China’s engagement process.