Center for Urban and Global Studies
Special economic zones (SEZs) have been used as an important national development instrument around the world for the past several decades. While SEZs have continued to grow, they vary considerably across developing countries in form, function and effectiveness. This wide variation challenges development scholars and policymakers to probe factors that render some SEZs more successful than others and at certain stages of development than at others, and, second, allow some SEZs to sustain their success while triggering others to fail or become obsolete. China stands out not only in having created the largest number and variety of SEZs but also in building some SEZs in other developing countries. With this exceptional combination of inside and outside experience with SEZs, China presents a timely opportunity for reassessing the new global landscape of SEZs. This paper traces the evolution of SEZ development in China and draws out policy lessons.