Two Duke professors, one an expert on Chinese cultural studies and the other a cultural anthropologist, present a nuanced theory of contemporary China's hybrid political economy, situating China's development at the juncture between the world as experienced and the world as imagined. Even as China is central to the contemporary global economy, its socialist past continues to shape its capitalist present.
Contemporary China is seen as haunted by the promises of capitalism, the institutional legacy of the Maoist regime, and the spirit of Marxist resistance. China's development does not result from historical imperatives or deliberate economic strategies, but from the effects of discrete practices the contributors call protocols, which stem from an overlapping mix of socialist and capitalist institutional strategies, political procedures, legal regulations, religious rituals, and everyday practices. Analyzing the process of urbanization and the ways marginalized communities and migrant workers are positioned in relation to the transforming social landscape, the contributors show how these protocols constitute the Chinese national imaginary while opening spaces for new emancipatory possibilities.