Bounding the MekongThe Asian Development Bank, China, and Thailand

Bounding the MekongThe Asian Development Bank, China, and Thailand

Jim Glassman

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824834449

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract

Transnational economic integration has been described as 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, the book 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. The book makes the case for adopting a class-based approach to analysis of GMS development, regionalization, and actually existing globalization. First it analyzes the interests and actions of various Thai participants in GMS development, then the roles of different Chinese actors in GMS integration. It 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. The final chapter blends geographical-historical analysis with an assessment of uneven development and actually existing globalization in the GMS.