CfP: Advancing Industrial Policy in the Era of Strategic Competition

In the aftermath of the covid-19 pandemic, the global disruptions on supply chains marked the end of efficiency-focused and least-cost approaches to supply chain management. This tendency is amplified by worldwide crises ranging from climate change to inter-state wars. Although without a clear alternative, the world is beginning to witness the return of national resilience, neo-mercantilism, and risk-averse strategies toward supply chain governance. In other words, we have entered a new phase of globalization, marked by strategic decoupling, de-bundling, and supply chain diversification worldwide.

While Development Studies and Political Economy have substantively moved away from narrow concerns on economic growth, the fundamental basis upon which poverty reduction has been achieved is through structural transformation of national economies. The success of broad-based economic growth led to higher standards of living, better social and poverty indicators, and greater prosperity to be shared among citizens in the successful latecomers. This was achieved through a systematic shift in the structure of value-added activities as well as sustained investments in capital, labor, and land use in ways that yielded to further capital accumulation and wealth generation.

In this context the conference aims to revisit, rethink, and reframe the intellectual debates on how states, firms, and citizens have responded to emerging grand challenges in the 21st century. To do this, we begin with a reflection on the success of industrial catch up that took place in the past century. From the mid-twentieth century onwards, “techno-nationalism” emerged as a response to what was then a highly uncertain post-war economic order. During this period, two strategies were adapted by many developing countries in their attempt to catch up with the industrialized world: firstly, some countries relied on foreign-owned subsidiaries of multinationals (FOEs) for technology transfer and firm learning, as seen in the sectoral policies in Latin America;  secondly, East Asian countries, known as the Asian Tigers, built private nationally owned enterprises (POEs) alongside strategic deployment of industrial policies to promote an export-oriented manufacturing growth model. Fifty years later, Alice Amsden (1992) compared what then became South Korea’s development strategy vis-à-vis those of the major Latin American economies. The empirical evidence suggests that South Korean industrial strategy was far more successful than all other strategies to be found in Latin America (and by extension, the global south). In her later work, Amsden (2009, 414, 416; 2001) makes two further claims: foreign investors neither created new industries (with the exception of raw materials extraction), nor did developing countries enter the orbit of modern world industry without pre-war manufacturing experiences. At the center of Amsden’s concern is how industrialization became the overarching driving force of change in East Asia, and the extent to which politics and institutions shaped the successful experiences of these countries.

Moving forward, the conference aims to understand how the new geopolitical context—which can be interpreted as a signal of the shifting gravity of the economic power away from the West—presents an opportunity for the revival of industrial policy and an evaluation of the analytical purchase of state capitalism as a response to grand challenges in this century. On the one hand, Chinese economic expansion points to the gradual weakening of neoliberal economic globalization and its attendant Washington Consensus model. The historical intersection of China’s rise to power and the return of industrial policy is no coincidence. China’s rapid economic growth became a critical juncture for national elites in Latin America to move away from neoliberalism and market fundamentalism as a development template (Jepson 2020; Nem Singh 2019; Nem Singh and Bourgouin 2013). After the 2008 financial crash in Europe and the US, it has become clear that Chinese capitalism has co-evolved between increasing state capacity and dynamic economic markets (Ang 2016; Tsai and Naughton 2015). On the other hand, varieties of industrial policies have emerged over the past five years across a range of sectors and countries, from China to the Global South and even to the West with completely different characteristics. However, political economy and cognate disciplines must grapple with the nature, mechanisms, and consequences of these new strategies not only in terms of their impacts on international politics but also on long-established questions around structural transformation and industrial competitiveness.

In this context, the conference seeks papers, across a range of cases, using multiple methods to explain the imperatives and consequences of various state capitalism, the emergence of economic globalization and extra-territory industrial policies, as well as the hard and soft power dynamics among engaging countries. Topics of special interest for potential participants include, though not exclusively limited to:

  • Principles and practices in industrial policymaking for the 21st century
  • Coalition-building and institutional innovations in industrial strategies
  • Opportunities and challenges associated with leveraging Chinese capital for new industrial projects
  • Sectoral perspectives on industrial development
  • “Green” industrial policy and clean energy transition 
  • Political economy of financing investments
  • Regional industrial development strategy
  • Inclusive growth and industrial policy

The conference will be held in Bangkok, Thailand which is co-sponsored by the Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy Institute (STIPI), King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), and the ERC Starting Grant research programme Green Industrial Policy in the Age of Rare Metals (GRIP-ARM) under Grant No. 9590056. 

To participate in the workshop, please send a 500-word (maximum) abstract by 28 April 2023 via google form in the link below. We will send individual emails of acceptance/rejection by 12 May 2023. Full papers between 5,000 – 7,000 words are expected to be submitted on 21 July 2023. We will release the final programme four weeks before the conference.