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date: 16 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes and analyses economic development planning in special economic zones (SEZs) since the end of World War II. The focus is on changing ideas about zone set-ups and the industrial ventures targeted for relocations to the zones. Using material from several years of global ethnographic and archival research in dozens of zones and national and international archives, the chapter reviews SEZ set-ups from the world’s first SEZ in late 1940s Puerto Rico via the Shannon Zone in Ireland in late 1950s and 1960s Asian SEZs to the 1970s’ consolidation of the concept that culminated in the opening of the first zones in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The changing geopolitical economy from the Cold War to the neoliberal world order, related changes in economic development policies, and the social and economic realities of super-exploitative and sexist labour regimes in SEZs are the main variables considered in the analysis.

Keywords: special economic zones, export processing zones, industrialization, development, Cold War, PR China, Africa, Asia, global history, economic history, capitalism

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