China's Rise in Comparative Perspective

This course is designed as an overview China’s national trajectory since the 1970s, and to place its historic transformation and economic advance firmly in comparative perspective. We will examine the evolution of the economy from the days of its modified Soviet-style system to the present version of state-directed capitalism. Throughout, we will keep in mind how China’s trajectory compares with that of other countries that have departed from the Soviet model, as well as other economies in East Asia that have experienced similarly rapid economic growth in recent decades. We will consider the limits of the Chinese model and the anticipated changes that will be needed to keep up its momentum in the face of a rapidly aging population, shrinking labor force, rising labor costs, and rapidly accumulating corporate debt. Among the topics explored in depth are corporate restructuring and corporate governance; financial and banking reform; corruption and the fight against corruption; the “middle income trap”; and debt-based financing as a stimulus to economic expansion. We will conclude with an assessment of current ideas about the strengths and weaknesses of China’s economic model, and China’s possible futures.

The course is lecture based, but there will be ample time for structured discussion and debate of issues covered in each week’s readings. Students must come to class fully prepared to make arguments based on familiarity with the week’s readings. Grades will be based on two short take- home essays, limited to 1,200 words apiece, on topics assigned by the instructor. The essays will comprise 80 percent of the final grade. Attendance and class participation will count for 20 percent of the final grade. Attendance is mandatory and excessive absences will affect the final grade.

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