Insider takes us to almost all places

China's Economic Transformation. First edition

May 30, 2003

As an undergraduate textbook on China's economy, this volume does a thorough job on the whole, and parts of it could be used with students from other social-science disciplines who need to know about Chinese economic reform. There is a US bias in the illustrations, the questions provided for students at the end of each chapter, and the general tone and assumptions underlying some points, though the book is still relevant to UK students.

In places the author makes excellent use of his inside experience of Chinese economic policy-making (which was with the commission for restructuring the economic system in the 1980s and the Shandong provincial government in the 1990s). It is good to have a relative insider vouching for the quality of some of the personnel at both the policy-making and the enterprise-management levels in a book of this sort. The downside of this personal experience is a tendency to be uncritical of Chinese leadership and to be too sanguine about the problems it faces, for example the effects of World Trade Organisation membership on urban employment. Here, I would want students to be aware of the work of Dorothy Solinger and Shaoguang Wang and to compare their arguments with Chow's.

The value of the book is in its clear introductions to topics such as foreign trade and investment, state-enterprise behaviour, use and misuse of assets, the workings of the banking system, the labour market and the Shanghai stock exchange. Although Chow always takes an economist's perspective, he is interested in everything, and the book will repay thorough reading by teachers on contemporary China as there are intriguing sections on just about every question of importance to China (democratisation, the effects of disruptive events such as the Great Leap Forward, education and the importance of human capital).

Chow's historical-institutional approach pays dividends in the sections on the dual-pricing system and other features of the earlier stages of reform in China, and his potted history of the Asian financial crisis usefully reminds us that such crises are a well-known capitalist phenomenon and that there is no need to identify so-called Asian crony capitalism as its unique cause.

There are some incorrect dates and tendentious generalisations in the historical sections, but these are minor flaws when set against the value to teachers and students of the core sections of this text.

Jackie Sheehan is senior lecturer in contemporary Chinese studies, University of Nottingham.

China's Economic Transformation. First edition

Author - Gregory C. Chow
ISBN - 0 631 23329 6 and 23330 X
Publisher - Blackwell
Price - £60.00 and £19.99
Pages - 407

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