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What Next for the Chinese Model?

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s consolidation of power and crackdown on dissent amid an economic slowdown have refocused attention on China's hybrid development model. Will strengthening that model’s statist component help or harm the country’s economic prospects?

In this Big Picture, Stephen S. Roach refutes the popular argument that China’s latest troubles presage the dreaded “middle-income trap” that has ensnared so many other developing economies. And Dani Rodrik notes that China’s 40-year-old system of “pragmatic experimentalism” has proven effective in meeting new economic challenges many times before.

On the other hand, Michael Spence warns that uncertainty surrounding the ever-changing role of the Chinese state in the economy is bad for business, and could undercut the country’s ambitions. And Barry Eichengreen argues that political autocracy means economic fragility, because it implies a lack of democratic feedback and “course-correction mechanisms.” In fact, Arvind Subramanian and Josh Felman suspect that Xi’s veer toward authoritarianism may soon be reflected in a sharp economic correction.

Yet, according to Andrew Sheng and Xiao Geng, China’s political system still includes mechanisms for ensuring accountability in policymaking, even if this are not obvious to Western observers. And Zhang Junpoints out that China's highly decentralized bureaucracy means that it is far more flexible than other statist economies to which it is often compared.

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