China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Concerns over the emergence of a Chinese “state capitalism”, and commentary pointing to an “advancing” state and a “retreating” private sector, have generated a growing consensus that reform in China has stalled, or even reversed. To what extent are we observing the “end of an era” (Minzner 2018; Lardy 2018) of reforms? This panel contributes new theoretical insights into the timing, dimensions and politics behind China’s reform reversal, across different arenas. In the financial sector, Rithmire and Chen find that the entry of state capital into the private sector occurred over a decade earlier than commonly described, and unpack the logic and consequences behind this turning point. Chen examines changing tensions between capitalism and state control, arguing that the expansion of urban capitalism in the 1990s separated liberalization from political control, while Xi-era developments have led to greater co-mingling of the two spheres. In contrast, Huang’s paper argues that the reversal occurred in the 1990s, and in the political rather than economic sphere. Xi-era events therefore represent a continuation of longstanding trends. Examining industrial policy, Tan dates the reversal to the mid-2000s and explains why the shift towards an assertive industrial policy rested on a combination of weakening WTO commitments and a party leadership unable to discipline its bureaucracy. Together, the papers push back against linear narratives pointing to a single “reversal” in Chinese economic policy. They offer new insights into the politics behind these various reversals, and highlight important questions to revisit regarding our understanding of Chinese political economy.