The Domestic Constituents of Economic Statecraft: Uneven Development, Strategic Coupling and Path Dependency

The intensifying state-led foreign investment by BRICS countries (e.g., China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union) signifies the rise of economic statecraft as a prominent force (re)shaping globalization. Research on economic statecraft has primarily focused on the means and effects of geo-economic expansion overseas. This politically realist approach is invariably state-centric and territorially-reductionistic: it focuses on inter-state interactions (e.g., the use of coercive tools to ‘discipline’ one another in bilateral and/or multilateral trade wars, or the offer of ‘soft loans’ to secure guarantees on resource supplies) and assumes state territories to be static and timeless. Less studied, though no less important, are the domestic processes that produced, reconfigured, and responded to this statecraft. While economic statecraft appears to be a coherent national strategy, the extent to which it is constituted by uneven territorial development domestically is unclear. First, uneven territorial development may have engendered different modes of strategic coupling with global production networks (GPNs) across the country, which complicates the rollout of this statecraft given that it may negatively impact on subnational regions’ developmental outcomes. Whether stakeholders in these regions respond positively to nationally-focused economic statecraft could thus be contingent on whether they can enhance their mode of coupling with GPNs. Secondly, such territorial unevenness extends to regions hosting the projects of economic statecraft: the negotiation and realignment of place-specific interests by subnational actors could directly affect the implementation of economic statecraft. Third, path-dependencies may have developed in the past developmental processes, and vested interest groups could affect both the capacity and outcome of subnational regions’ participation in economic statecraft.

In view of these three interrelated gaps in existing knowledge on economic statecraft, we invite papers that assess, both theoretically and empirically, the domestic constituents and subnational processes that underpin the formulation and implementation of economic statecraft. The session welcomes presentations on topics including but not limited to: