Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Transplanting the Chinese model of growth

Here is a response from Justin Lin:

“We can learn many lessons from other countries’ experiences. But I try never to expect to transplant other countries’ models to China, because the specific opportunities in China will be different from other countries. And you know, I think we cannot directly transplant China’s models to any other country, including other middle-income countries or developing countries, even less so in high-income countries. But there’s always something that we can learn from other people. As the Confucian saying goes, if you walk with two people, you can always draw inspiration from the successful one and avoid the mistakes of the unsuccessful one.”

On replicating the process of structural transformation in China:

“One is that economic development in any country is a process of continuous technological innovation, industrial upgrading and diversification, and structural transformation. Any country starts with more than 85 percent of its population living on agriculture when its income level is low. To become a high-income country, the population living on agriculture will reduce down to 10 percent or less. This structural transformation is inevitable. In this process, a well-functioning market will be necessary for improving resource allocation. But at the same time, the market alone will not be enough.

For example, at the agrarian stage, farmers produce mostly for their own consumption. Only a small amount of produce is traded in the nearby market with people known to each other. Under such a situation, the need for infrastructure—such as roads for transportation—is limited, and a legal system for contract enforcement is not required. When the production moves to manufacturing, the economies of scale become larger, and producers will mostly produce for other people and not for themselves any more. The market range will expand, and trading becomes arms-length. To facilitate the transaction, roads are needed for transportation, and legal contract enforcements are needed. Capital for equipment investment and maintaining operations will also increase with the improvement of technology and the increase in the size of the market. So to make the change in the structure of production feasible, the infrastructure, legal system, and financial system also need to be changed accordingly.”

And, the role of the state:

“No matter how smart they are, individual entrepreneurs will not be able to carry out all those changes by themselves. You need to have a state to help them—to coordinate those kinds of changes. The problem I see is that, to be successful in economic development, one needs to understand the nature of this process, and to allow the market to play a fundamental role. But at the same time you need to have a government to facilitate the workings of the market, in order to make this kind of technological innovation, as well as structural transformation, feasible—to help carry it out smoothly and rapidly. This is one lesson that we can learn from China.”