From the Heavens to the Markets: Governing Agricultural Drought under Chinese Fragmented Authoritarianism

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Abstract

The applicability of liberal governance models in authoritarian contexts has been widely debated. This study contributes to this debate by using a Foucauldian analytic of apparatuses of security to understand how Chinese state actors used the liberalization of agricultural markets to indirectly mitigate against the risk of droughts. Apparatuses of security, which rely on indirect governance through market and biopolitical mechanisms, were proposed by Foucault to explain the emergence of governmentality in liberal states. The Chinese state has been described as a system of fragmented authoritarianism, wherein state actors are isolated from and compete with one another. Food policy in the early People’s Republic of China extended this isolation to the point of encouraging local autarky at the county level. Around the year 2000, local officials in northwest China began promoting the replacement of subsistence agriculture with drought-resistant commercial agriculture as a means of mitigating against drought. This shifted the source of risk of food shortfalls from an environmental risk of drought to a state-mediated market risk and displaced the long-standing model of local autarky providing food security. By illustrating the dynamics of how Chinese state actors govern nature through market mechanisms, this study contributes to theorizations of how liberalization can function to govern nature in authoritarian contexts. Key Words: apparatuses of security, China, drought, governmentality, water–food security.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-464
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Volume109
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 4 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was financially supported by: the U.S. Department of Education’s Fulbright Hays program (award P022A090013), the National Science Foundation (award 0927391), the Political Geography Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers, the University of Colorado’s Beverly Sears program, and the University of Delaware Global Scholars Program.

Funding Information:
This research was financially supported by: the U.S. Department of Education?s Fulbright Hays program (award P022A090013), the National Science Foundation (award 0927391), the Political Geography Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers, the University of Colorado?s Beverly Sears program, and the University of Delaware Global Scholars Program.

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