Earlier this year the University of Michigan and LRCCS said goodbye to one of its great, longtime China experts, Robert F. Dernberger. As one of the Nation’s foremost experts on China’s economy, Dr. Dernberger made many friends in the field during his long career. In honor of his contributions to the field, LRCCS hosted a half-day symposium dedicated to just the kind of subject matter he cared so much about. The opening panel anchored the event with appearances by Yasheng Huang of MIT’s China Lab, Thomas Rawski from the University of Pittsburgh, Dwight Perkins of Harvard’s Kennedy School, and Kenneth Lieberthal of the Brookings Institute.
After each panelist had a chance to honor their departed friend, they set about discussing a Chinese economy that is already starting to look very different from anything in the last several decades. Talk of China’s slowing growth rate and shocks to its Shanghai stock index dominated the conversation, begging the question, what has happened and how will the Communist Party-led State respond?
The seated audience and those streaming online watched and occasionally asked questions as the panelists successively addressed overcapacity, challenges to entrepreneurship, the limitations of export-led growth, Xi’s leadership, and whether or not China’s economic future would look something like Japan today. However, the most dynamic discussion of the morning was fixated on the troublesome relationship between corruption and growth. According to Dr. Lieberthal, local officials have been “scared stiff” by Xi’s fierce corruption crackdown, in some cases neglecting to undertake massive construction projects that have been approved from above for fear of inviting too much scrutiny on past activities. Dr. Yasheng Huang added that, in China, incentives for corruption and incentives for growth are “deeply coupled,” with entire business models built around the expectation of corruption. Several years from now, he mused, it will be an interesting experiment to see whether corruption propels growth or the other way around in China today.
This post was graciously contributed by LRCCS MA student Ryan Etzcorn. Interested in posting your content on the LRCCS Blog? Click here for more info.
Did you miss the symposium? Do not fret! You can watch it in its entirety - click here.