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

Alibaba auto vending machine starts in Guangzhou Chen Jimin/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

The Next Step for Chinese Economic Policy

Now that it has risen to the top of the global economy, China must adopt the necessary reforms to become fully compliant with the international rules that it accepted upon joining the World Trade Organization in 2001. Its current policy will only lead to a serious trade conflict with the US.

CAMBRIDGE – I am a great admirer of China and its ability to adjust its economic policies to maintain rapid growth. But now that it has risen to the top of the global economy, it must adopt the necessary reforms to become fully compliant with the international rules that it accepted upon joining the World Trade Organization in 2001.

When I first went to China in 1982, it was a very poor country governed by a thoroughly communist regime. Agriculture was completely collectivized. Because peasants had lost the right to farm their own land, agricultural output was extremely low. Beyond agriculture, individual ownership of the means of production was outlawed. A Chinese family could own a sewing machine for its own use, but it could not own two sewing machines or hire a neighbor to help produce garments.

Under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, this began to change. Plots of land were returned to their previous owners, who were allowed to keep any output exceeding the government’s mandatory quota. As a result, agricultural output soared, and farmers produced a range of additional crops, like flowers and vegetables, to sell directly to the public. Restrictions on ownership of productive assets and on hiring workers were gradually relaxed, such that the private sector now accounts for the majority of economic activity in China.

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/PcrXSOt;

Handpicked to read next

  1. mahroum18_HAIDAR HAMDANIAFP via Getty Images_iraqprotestfire Haidar Hamdani/AFP via Getty Images

    The Arab World Needs a Brexit Debate

    Sami Mahroum

    The Arab world has witnessed at least one big Brexit-like event every decade since 1948 – and these political, economic, and social ruptures never seem to heal. The impact of these self-inflicted disasters is now painfully evident, and ongoing street protests in several countries suggest that a moment of reckoning may have arrived.

    0
  2. lhatheway7_Claudio Santistebanpicture alliance via Getty Images_ECBFedLagardePowell Claudio Santisteban/picture alliance via Getty Images

    Restoring Central Banks’ Credibility

    Larry Hatheway

    The old central-bank playbook of slashing interest rates to spur consumption, investment, and employment has become less effective since the 2008 financial crisis. Yet without effective tools and the public's confidence, central banks will be unable to rise to the occasion when the next recession arrives.

    0
  3. fischer163_action press-PoolGetty Images_natoflagsoldiers Action Press-Pool/Getty Images

    The Day After NATO

    Joschka Fischer

    French President Emmanuel Macron has drawn criticism for describing NATO as brain dead and pursuing a rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But now that a wayward America could abandon the continent at any moment, Macron's argument for European defense autonomy is difficult to refute.

    9