Must-Read: Ian Johnson: Xi’s China: The Illusion of Change

Lights of Shanghai” by David Almeida, flickr, cc

Must-Read: Ian Johnson: Xi’s China: The Illusion of Change: “Xi[‘s]… goal has been to recreate the early years of Communist rule…

…in the early to mid-1950s when his father was part of the ruling elite. Back then, according to official mythology, the party was clean and officials were upright, and the populace was content. Returning to this imagined past means strengthening, not weakening party control. If we briefly survey Xi’s actions… we can see this as the primary goal of his reforms. Most obvious and probably the most disappointing for optimists is the economy…. Most of Xi’s changes—such as incremental bank rate liberalizations or opening the stock market a bit wider to foreign investors—can more properly be viewed as technocratic tinkering. It’s true that a lot of small repairs can lead to an overhaul, but only if the changes are part of a broader plan with a clear goal. There has been no indication that such a plan exists—at least not one that would lead to a more open economy. It is possible that Xi might reverse course… but signs are not promising. A recent, outstanding piece of fly-on-the-wall reporting in The Wall Street Journal shows that despite Xi’s anger about the slowing economy, the slow growth itself has made him cautious and even less willing to push reforms…

November 25, 2015


Brad DeLong
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