China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
China’s sweeping transformations during the 1980s-1990s saw the world’s most populous country emerge from poverty and become a global economic power. Yet fundamental questions about this period remain the subject of significant debate: How did Chinese policymakers develop new policies for modernizing China—and did international experiences influence their approaches? By foregrounding the often-overlooked international exchanges that occurred throughout the 1980s-1990s, this interdisciplinary panel will offer new perspectives on that era's political conflicts, intellectual debates, and changes in economic organization, aiming to enlarge the important scholarly discussion about China’s rise.
This panel features new research from a diverse group of scholars. The historian Julian Gewirtz, author of a 2017 book on transnational exchanges of economic ideas, will assess how the Chinese leadership’s interest in American/European futurists shaped technology policies during the 1980s. The political scientist Wendy Leutert will examine how Chinese policymakers studied corporate models in Japan (zaibatsu) and South Korea (chaebols) as they sought to reform and revitalize the largest state-owned enterprises. The economist/economic historian Fan Shitao will investigate how Eastern-European experiences were applied to China’s economic reforms both before and after the Soviet Union's collapse. Using new source material, interviews, and archival research—and spanning the realms of economic policy, enterprise organization, and technology policy—these papers depict in previously unavailable detail how Chinese elites studied the world to modernize China during the 1980s-1990s. By highlighting the importance of international engagement as an input in the policymaking process, they also suggest the continuing relevance of this period for understanding China today.