From Frontier to Bridgehead: Cross‐border Regions and the Experience of Yunnan, China


Drawing on recent theoretical tenets regarding cross‐border regions, this article analyzes China’s state spatial policies that aim to transform Yunnan from a peripheral frontier into an economic bridgehead. The purposes of the present study are threefold: to contextualize the formation of Yunnan as China’s frontier; to examine why Yunnan has been strategically selected as a bridgehead to promote China’s transnational economies; and to explore the central–provincial alliance as an innovative institutional arrangement and look at how this alliance can convert Yunnan into a space of exception or new state space of development. This study finds that in order to convert regional assets into real competitiveness, the Chinese state (national, provincial and local) emphasizes transnational cooperation, endeavors to maximize Yunnan’s place‐specific locational advantages and promotes the differentiation of regional developmental trajectories across China’s national territory. The article contributes to studies of institutional arrangements for cross‐border cooperation in a non‐Western context and sheds light on China’s regional development policies in its hinterland.