Core team members Karin Dean and Alessandro Rippa published this past spring the article “‘We don’t eat those bananas’: Chinese plantation expansions and bordering on Northern Myanmar’s Kachin borderlands”. It is available from the Tailor & Francis Online website here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15387216.2023.2215802
Over the past two decades, the Yunnan-Myanmar borderlands in Kachin State have become a major investment frontier for large-scale agribusiness. Chinese private capital, supported by state-led opium substitution programs, has turned thousands of hectares of forests into plantations. As in many such cases across Southeast Asia and beyond, this rapid development has come at the expense of local communities and displaced persons relying on these lands for their livelihoods and refuge. Caught between Chinese market expansion, and an ongoing war between the Myanmar Army and the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA), plantations have become sites of often overlooked confrontations, compromise, and conflict operating behind the more spectacular politics of the grand infrastructures like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in this region. Moving across plantation sites, armed bases and border markets; and building on interviews with Chinese entrepreneurs, Kachin leaders, and farmers, the paper explores how plantations have transformed not only environmental space but also social-political dynamics of Kachin State in ways, we argue, that are more difficult to reverse than previous or ongoing military territorialization. In doing so, we aim to localize and contextualize the plantation as a key force rapidly transforming Asian borderworlds, over which broader socio-political struggles, environmental transformations, nature loss, connectivity and developmental become imbricated with bordering space.