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The Architecture of Illegal MarketsTowards an Economic Sociology of Illegality in the Economy$
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Jens Beckert and Matías Dewey

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198794974

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198794974.001.0001

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Shoddy, Fake, or Harmful

Shoddy, Fake, or Harmful

Smuggled Goods and Entangled Illegalities in a Vietnamese Border Market

Chapter:
(p.141) 8 Shoddy, Fake, or Harmful
Source:
The Architecture of Illegal Markets
Author(s):

Kirsten W. Endres

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198794974.003.0008

In the late 1980s, after more than ten years of hostility, Vietnam and China resumed normal relations and reopened their border for trade. New livelihood opportunities opened up, drawing many lowland settlers to the region. This chapter details the illegal, semi-legal, and informal flow of goods across the Vietnam–China border and how Kinh small-scale traders and market vendors in Lào Cai City perceive and legitimize their smuggling and selling of contraband. It argues that the “illegal” economic pursuits of Lào Cai small traders must be seen as deeply entrenched in the imperatives of systemic corruption through which local state officials feel invested with the discretionary power to grant exceptions to the law in exchange for bribes. These arrangements ultimately trap traders within a “grey space” of uncertainty between the “light” of free trade, economic opportunity, and self-advancement, and the “darkness” of illegality, corruption, and arbitrary exercise of power.

Keywords:   Vietnam–China border, Lào Cai, Hekou, cross-border trade, markets, illegality, smuggling, corruption

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