Referring to the four phases of the transformation of the zone, the third phase, the establishment of the SEZ in China, transformed the general understanding of the concept of an economic zone. The zone became a laboratory for economic and political change and explicitly political. The chapter on China SEZs by Apo Leong and Surendra Pratap captures the development of the zone in Chinafrom its earliest days to the latest political developments in 2011.
The paper traces the conception of the SEZ from December 1978 when the Communist Party of China announced a comprehensive economic, political, social and cultural reform agenda. Subsequently, as pointed in this paper, the reform programme opened a path where market mechanisms under government planning and control were allowed to operate. It took the form of the dismantling of the commune system and the acquisition of agricultural land, converting peasants into tenants on long-term leases. The authors argue that the systematic dispossession of the farmers of their land and the rising cost of education and healthcare accelerated the proletarianisation of the peasantry that later constituted the bulk of the nation’s reserve labour.