Call for Paper - International Conference of Checkpoint Politics and the Control of Resource Flow in Chinese Borders (Hong Kong)

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Call for Papers
August 13, 2020 to August 14, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Borderlands, Area Studies, Political Science, Social Sciences, Chinese History / Studies

Type: Call for Papers

Date: November 1, 2019 to February 15, 2020

Location: Hong Kong, China


This conference focuses on the checkpoints as gateways regulating resource flow across borders. Border checkpoint is a state institution common to all nation-states. In most instances it is highly securitized if not militarized. It is the prime establishment responsible for regulating trans-boundary movements and enforcing the selective permeability of borders. As border crossings are allowed only at sanctioned points of entry and exit, checkpoints are therefore the point of power negotiation among state and non-state actors in the maintenance and modification of borders as an institution of inclusion/exclusion. Different types of border crossings are guarded by different state agencies such as customs, immigration, border police and military. Oftentimes, a significant difference can be found between the two sides of a border in terms of strictness of checkpoint control. At the local level, it is the immigration and customs officials who constantly negotiate the application of laws and exercise the discretion to decide on which kinds of goods/people to let go, in what quantities, by whom, at which checkpoints, and in what moments. In this sense, repeated negotiation of the licitness of social and commodity movements is a key activity revolve around the checkpoints.


More specifically, this Conference looks at checkpoint politics in Chinese borders. China shares land borders with 14 nations and institutes numerous control points along its borders. For instance, in Heilongjiang alone there are four land (two of them rail) and 14 maritime (river) checkpoints bordering Russia. In Xinjiang, there are land checkpoints bordering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. These control points differ in the nature of the border landscape, the institutional arrangement of checkpoints, as well as the relationships between neighboring territories. They present the idiosyncrasy of each border crossing even within a single country. What are the instrumental roles played by checkpoint in shaping border dynamics? In what ways do checkpoints configure the cross-border flow of goods and people? How do border-crossers – brokers and petty traders alike – negotiate their crossings with border officials at the checkpoint? What are the navigating strategies and tactics? The case of Chinese checkpoints should offer rich comparative cases that could reveal the commonalities as well as peculiarities characterizing checkpoint politics and trans-border shadow exchanges.


Objectives of the Conference

This conference seeks to build on three previous workshops on related themes: the first one on Cross-border Exchanges and the Shadow Economy held at IIAS in Leiden, December 2015; the second one on the Shadow Silk Road: Non-state Flow of Commodity, Capital, and People across Asia and Eurasia held at The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, May 2017; and the third one In the Shadow of the New Silk Road held as an ICAS 11 Workshop, Leiden, July 2019. Selected papers of the first and second workshops have already been published in a special issue on “Checkpoint Politics in Cross-border Exchanges,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, vo. 49, no. 2 (2019) and as an edited volume Shadow Economies along the New Silk Roads (forthcoming in 2020) by Amsterdam University Press respectively. This fourth conference in the series aims to explore how checkpoint politics allows different state and non-state actors to negotiate and take advantage of the border opportunity in trafficking, smuggling, and parallel trading and as such engage in the process of constructing, manipulating, or undermining borders. It shall also highlight the distinctive role of checkpoints in shaping the forms of organization and social networks that broker cross-border flow of goods and people. Specifically, the conference seeks to address the following questions:


  • The institutional setup of checkpoints: What are the constitutive elements of the checkpoint regime? How might the specific border landscape shape the actual set up of the checkpoint regime? In what ways are the institutional setup and regulatory mechanism of Chinese checkpoints similar or different from each other and/or vis-à-vis its neighboring territories?
  • Regulation and governance of checkpoints: How are checkpoints regulated and governed? To what extent the checkpoint represents the reach of the state at the frontier? In what ways checkpoints play out the gatekeeping procedure of sovereign command? What are the roles played by various state actors in the implementation of checkpoint control and in the enforcement and negotiation of selective border passage?
  • Subversion and adaptation to checkpoint control: How do border-crossers navigate and negotiate their crossings? How does the coordination of cross-border resource flow and the associated brokering practices vary with respect to the regulatory mechanism of the checkpoint? Conversely, in what ways do checkpoints also adapt to the brokering of resource flow?


Submission Instructions

Abstract proposal (max. 300 words) should be submitted via this form by 15 February 2020. Selected submission will be notified by 29 February 2020 and will be required to send a full paper (max. 8000 words) by 31 July 2020.


The conference will take place in The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China. The organizer will provide hotel accommodation for three nights (12 – 14 August 2020). Participants are expected to take care of their own travel expenses. A limited number of travel subsidies are available to junior scholars and colleagues from developing countries. Applicants should indicate in their submission whether they would like to be considered for funding support.



Dr HUNG Po Wah, Eva (Department of Social Science, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Professor NGO Tak-Wing (Department of Government and Public Administration, University of Macau, Macau)


Contact Info: 

For enquiries about the conference and submission of abstracts, please contact Eva Hung at For more details, please refer to this website.


The conference is fully supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No.: UGC/IDS14/17).

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