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Organised Informality and Suitcase Trading in the Pearl River Delta Region
Eva P. W. Hung1; Tak-Wing Ngo2

Suitcase trade is a common activity along state borders in Asia. Existing scholarship has often viewed such suitcase trade as locally embedded activities characterised by informality. This article contends that this perception underestimates the diversity and complexity of suitcase trade. This is illustrated with a case study of the Pearl River Delta region of southern China, where thousands of suitcase traders carry goods across the borders between mainland China and its two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao. Several patterns of operation run in parallel, ranging from petty traders working alone to highly-organised group operators. While each individual transaction is small scale and based on informal networks, the entire chain of operations is run by syndicates that are highly organised, commercial, with well-defined divisions of labour, and on a large scale. We describe such a combination of organisational competence and informal networks as “organised informality.” The concept allows us to expand the analytical horizon to cover those cross-border exchanges that incorporate modern commercial practices in otherwise non-formal settings. It also bridges the oft-criticised dichotomies of formal-informal and licit-illicit.

KeywordOrganised Informality Suitcase Trading Crossborder Exchanges Checkpoint Politics China Hong Kong
Indexed BySSCI
WOS Research AreaArea Studies
WOS SubjectArea Studies
WOS IDWOS:000460526300003
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Cited Times [WOS]:3   [WOS Record]     [Related Records in WOS]
Document TypeJournal article
CollectionFaculty of Social Sciences
Corresponding AuthorEva P. W. Hung
Affiliation1.Department of Social Science, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
2.Department of Government and Public Administration, University of Macau, Macau, China
Recommended Citation
GB/T 7714
Eva P. W. Hung,Tak-Wing Ngo. Organised Informality and Suitcase Trading in the Pearl River Delta Region[J]. JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY ASIA,2019,49(2):233-253.
APA Eva P. W. Hung,&Tak-Wing Ngo.(2019).Organised Informality and Suitcase Trading in the Pearl River Delta Region.JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY ASIA,49(2),233-253.
MLA Eva P. W. Hung,et al."Organised Informality and Suitcase Trading in the Pearl River Delta Region".JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY ASIA 49.2(2019):233-253.
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