Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

deng xiaoping billboard China Photos/Getty Images

China’s Four Traps

During its 40 years of reform, China has mastered learning by doing, engaged in bold policy experimentation, and become steadily more integrated into global economy. It will need to bring all of this experience to bear, as it attempts to avoid the pitfalls that could derail its effort to achieve high-income status.

HONG KONG – On the 40th anniversary of the launch of China’s “reform and opening up,” the country is well on its way to recapturing its former status as the world’s largest economy, having made substantial progress toward modernizing its agricultural sector, industry, defense systems, and scientific capabilities. But four major traps lie ahead.

The first is the middle-income trap. With a per capita annual income of around $9,000, China remains significantly below the threshold for high-income status, set at around $12,000-$13,000 by the World Bank. Only a few countries in history have managed this leap during the last half-century.

A major reason is that reaching high-income status demands a strong network of modern institutions that define individuals’ rights and obligations, enable market exchange and non-market interactions, and enforce the rule of law by resolving disputes fairly. While China has been working to develop its institutions for four decades, it still has a long way to go.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/YgDclTX;
  1. marin8_Bernd von Jutrczenkapicture alliance via Getty Images_germanyfinanceminister Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance via Getty Images

    Germany Can Reduce Its External Surplus

    Dalia Marin

    For years, Germany's ballooning current-account surplus has rankled the rest of the world, and German policymakers have thrown up their hands as if powerless to do anything about it. But the external imbalance is a result of policies that are fully within the government's power to change.

    0
  2. op_campanella7_Aurelien MeunierGetty Images_billgatesrichardbransonthumbsup Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

    Abolish the Billionaires?

    Edoardo Campanella

    Even many of the wealthiest Americans would agree that the United States needs to overhaul its tax policies to restore a sense of social justice. But, notes Edoardo Campanella, Future of the World Fellow at IE University's Center for the Governance of Change, such reforms would not be enough to restart the engines of social mobility and promote greater equality of opportunity.

    11