Modern China's Original Sin
Tiananmen Square's Legacy of Repression
The Tiananmen Papers
China: Erratic State, Frustrated Society
Long Time Coming
The Prospects for Democracy in China
The Life of the Party
The Post-Democratic Future Begins in China
Democratize or Die
Why China's Communists Face Reform or Revolution
How China Is Ruled
Why It's Getting Harder for Beijing to Govern
Chinese Dissidence From Tiananmen to Today
How the People's Grievances Have Grown
The Geography of Chinese Power
How Far Can Beijing Reach on Land and at Sea?
The Game Changer
Coping With China's Foreign Policy Revolution
How China Sees America
The Sum of Beijing’s Fears
Beijing's Brand Ambassador
A Conversation With Cui Tiankai
The Inevitable Superpower
Why China’s Dominance Is a Sure Thing
The Middling Kingdom
The Hype and the Reality of China’s Rise
The Risky Strategy Behind China's Construction Economy
Austerity with Chinese Characteristics
Why China's Belt-Tightening Has More To Do With Confucius Than Keynes
Where Have All the Workers Gone?
China's Labor Shortage and the End of the Panda Boom
After the Plenum
Why China Must Reshape the State
The Great Leap Backward?
In early November, as Beijing braced for the Communist Party’s Third Plenum, the high-level conference that would decide major policies for the next decade, President Xi Jinping appeared to deliberately raise expectations for major economic reforms. He spoke of a “comprehensive” reform plan and invoked Deng Xiaoping, the man who changed history by overhauling China’s economy and politics at an earlier Third Plenum, in 1978.
Yet no sooner had the plenum closed and the party released its initial communiqué than observers dismissed the meeting as a bust. Markets slumped. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 1.9 percent, to its lowest level in ten weeks. The Shanghai Composite lost 1.8 percent. Many commentators argued that China’s leaders, faced with their first big test, were disinclined -- or else too timid -- to undertake the sweeping economic reforms that Xi had promised.
But then the verdict abruptly shifted with the release of a follow-up 60-point decision document, which presented a sweeping economic reform agenda that included new commitments to financial liberalization, the repair of China’s social safety net, new protections for property rights, and greater reliance on market forces. Across Asia, the markets shot upward.
Several factors explain this quick swing from pessimism to exuberance, not least of which is a volatile combination of high expectations for China as the world’s second-largest economy and deep cynicism about the Chinese leadership’s intentions and political will to overcome vested interests that oppose reform. Many look to Beijing to change its investment-led growth model to one based on consumption and innovation. And many will continue, therefore, to see what they want to see in the plenum’s reform agenda -- both its promises and shortcomings.
But it is vital to assess the plenum’s commitment to reform against the realities of China’s political economy and the Chinese government’s own goals. And, on that score, the plenum has reinvigorated a reform process that will, in time, make the Chinese economy more
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