A Cultural Political Economy of Financial Imaginaries: the (Re-)Making of ‘BRIC’ and the Case of China

Ngai-Ling Sum


This article explores the role of economic/financial imaginaries (e.g., BRIC) from a cultural political economy (CPE) perspective. It is divided into four parts. Part one identifies some key questions from a CPE entry-point regarding the construction of economic imaginaries. Part two examines the role of (trans-)national forces in making and remaking the ‘BRIC’ (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as a ‘growth’ and ‘hope’ object over three overlapping stages. It notes that the national and transnational resonance of the BRIC imaginaries depends not only on developments in the financial and real economies but also on specific discourses, practices, and knowledge technologies. Part three examines how the ‘BRIC’ discourses are recontextualized in the Sinophone world as ‘four golden brick countries’ to signify ‘strength’ and ‘greatest at last’. Part four investigates how China, as one of the ‘golden bricks’, was eager to showcase its strength following the 2007 financial crisis, which led to a fall in China’s exports and rise in unemployment.. It promoted a vast stimulus package that has posed tremendous fiscal challenges, especially to its regional-local authorities, which increasingly rely on land as collateral for loans and source of revenue. This intensified land-based accumulation, inflating the ‘property bubble’ and stimulating land clearance/dispossession. In turn this has had very uneven effects on the ‘subaltern south’, illustrated here through impact on the aspirant middle class and migrant workers’ children. Though some measures have been taken to dampen the property market, they have been rather limited and social unrest continues. Part five ends with some comments on the contribution of the cultural political economy approach in understanding the role of ‘BRIC’ as well as other new acronyms such as ‘MINT’ and ‘MIST’ as economic imaginaries.
Key Words: Cultural Political Economy, Financial Imaginaries, BRIC, China

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