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Tuesday, 2nd April 2013

Soaring Dragon, Stumbling Bear: China’s Rise in a Comparative Context

Source: Chatham House

Summary Points:

In a historic reversal of fortunes, China is overtaking the territory of the former Soviet Union in GDP per capita.

China’s rapid economic development has been driven by ‘regionally decentralized authoritarianism’ (RDA). But only the economy is decentralized. Political centralization, the objectives and patronage of the centre, and the centre’s relative performance evaluation are essential elements of the model.

China’s model of rapid economic development is best understood in a comparative context, but it is important to get the comparison right. It has been said that China’s advantage over the Soviet Union was that it carried out economic reforms while postponing political reforms. In reality, this is not true. The Soviet Union made reforms similar to China’s, but without the same success.

China’s success so far owes much to its unique circumstances: the great opportunities of initial poverty, exceptional economic size, and the commitment of its leaders, supported by long-standing traditions of RDA.

In future, sustained economic development requires continuous policy reform. While China’s existing model has encouraged this in the past, it is likely that obstacles will accumulate in the years ahead.

Current risks to the continuation of China’s economic modernization include two traps: complacency and conflict. These risks may become increasingly difficult to manage without strengthening the rule of law and enforcing governmental accountability.

+ Direct link to document (PDF; 235 KB)



Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »

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