Economy and Technology
China’s Economy Bounces Back, But to Which Growth Path?
Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Available open sources indicate that in their domestic handling of the COVID-19 virus, the central Chinese authorities generally followed, ultimately to good effect, established crisis management processes and procedures as well as post-SARS regulations for dealing with a health emergency. A major exception to this record occurred with regard to the initial reporting on the virus by both local and central authorities, where the pre-existing network reporting system was not utilized early enough and both local and initial central expert teams sent to Wuhan failed to detect the seriousness of the outbreak. Once the top leadership clearly recognized the gravity of the situation, it moved with at times ruthless efficiency to combat the virus. Although Xi Jinping and other senior officials subsequently acknowledged that mistakes were made, the center only punished local officials, in an apparent attempt to deflect blame from the top, as was also the case during the SARS epidemic. Available open sources provide no clear proof that the more extreme charge of a deliberate cover-up of a known deadly and highly contagious outbreak is accurate. However, they do indicate that the Chinese system remains excessively bureaucratic and consensus-driven, often prizing political criteria over expert-based information and reflexively suppressing unauthorized communications.
The Chinese Reassessment of Interdependence
Monday, June 1, 2020
This essay analyzes trends in Chinese views of U.S.-China interdependence from Xi Jinping’s rise to the COVID-19 pandemic. It shows how Xi Jinping put forward an expansive vision of national security that highlights the risks of interdependence, while also expanding China’s use of its leverage in interdependent relationships to coerce others. These efforts have intensified significantly due to the Trump administration’s coercive actions on trade and technology. Xi’s and Trump’s shifts also accelerated a reassessment of the risks and benefits of interdependence among a broader set of Chinese elites. Most significantly, many former officials and prominent thinkers appear to be newly convinced that longstanding forms of interdependence with the United States pose intolerable risks to China. This essay concludes by assessing the evolution of elite Chinese views of U.S.-China interdependence in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which many see as a potential opportunity for China to reset its interdependence with other countries on more favorable terms for China.
Financial Liberalization in China: The Contradiction Between Opening and Guaranteed Outcomes
Sunday, March 1, 2020
In recent months, the Chinese leadership has trumpeted the opening of its financial sectors, including President Xi Jinping’s expansive promise at the 2018 Bo’ao Forum. However, because the government continues to place a heavy priority on financial stability and the funding of key government objectives, developing liquid and transparent markets have taken a back seat. In fact, across the credit market, the bond market, and the stock market, financing debt roll-over in an orderly manner and minimizing volatility have led to an increasing degree of state intervention in these markets, rendering them increasingly illiquid and non-transparent. For investors interested either in attractive pricing or greater transparency, the Chinese financial market continues to hold less profitable potentials than other emerging market economies. Even with granting foreign institutions more licenses to operate in China, foreign participation in China’s financial market will continue to stagnate.
The Relocation of Supply Chains from China and the Impact on the Chinese Economy
Sunday, December 1, 2019
The U.S.-China trade war has had a huge impact on the supply chains in China, accelerating their relocation that had already begun due to rising taxes, costs of labor, and other input factors. The exodus reported in the past year is only the tip of the iceberg, as more serious effects will not become apparent immediately. A major effect of the relocation on China is job losses, which may reach as many as 5 million in the coming years. Given the unlikeliness of a quick end to the trade war and the reluctance of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to make structural changes, the long-term prospects for supply chains in China are not promising because not only will existing firms gradually reduce their exposure to political and economic uncertainties, but also potential newcomers are likely to avoid China. Although the CCP rolled out some policies that may help alleviate the shock, it has yet to come up with specific policies to effectively address the problem.
Seizing Core Technologies: China Responds to U.S. Technology Competition
Saturday, June 1, 2019
Chinese analysts and policy makers have interpreted U.S. efforts to prevent the flow critical technologies through limits on investment, blocks on the operations of Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies in the U.S. and other markets, and new export control laws, as part of a strategy of containment designed to slow China’s rise as a science and technology power. In response, a newly emerging strategy consists of: a doubling down on indigenous innovation and developing “core technologies”; protection of supply chains; diversification of access to foreign technology; diplomatic efforts that stress the shared benefits of Chinese technology development; and continued cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property. Even though both sides are likely to lose the efficiencies that came from the globalization of innovation, such a strategy may also energize American and Chinese policy makers to mobilize even greater resources for scientific competition.
The Private Sector: Challenges and Opportunities During Xi’s Second Term
Friday, March 1, 2019
The ongoing trade feud with the United States, combined with an internal economic slowdown and the party’s tightening grip on the economy, presented China’s private sector with unprecedented challenges as President Xi began his second term in 2018. Beijing has responded to the frustrated private sector with promises of substantial tax cuts and an expansion of credit, together with a pledge to further deepen structural reforms and to double down on spurring indigenous innovation. What will Xi’s second term mean for the private sector? Some worry that he will further roll back the market-oriented reforms; a more hopeful scenario is that the hostile international environment and the mounting domestic pressures will counteract any anti-market trends and provide the party’s reform-leaning politicians with a rare opportunity to push forward market reforms and to create a true level playing field for the private sector.
Cracks in China’s Statist Consensus?
Saturday, December 1, 2018
In recent months, scholars in China have taken advantage of the trade tensions and the fortieth anniversary of reform and opening to voice their dissatisfaction with the status quo and to advocate major economic changes. Some very established figures, either directly or indirectly, criticized China’s political system. The main participants were economists who came of age in the 1980s, who perhaps saw this as their last chance before retirement to make a major push for reform. However, the reaction has ranged from lip service to policies that introduce even more distortion to the economy. Meanwhile, it is notable that the younger generation of economists and scholars has largely stayed out of the debate, which does not bode well for internal reform pressures in the future.