How China Escaped Shock Therapy - Summary and Key Ideas

"How China Escaped Shock Therapy" explores the economic debates and decisions that shaped China's unique path of gradual marketization, avoiding the shock therapy approach that led to economic collapse in countries like Russia. It delves into the intellectual struggle between reform economists advocating for shock therapy and those arguing for experimental gradualism and the dual-track price system.

The target group for this book includes economists, scholars, and students interested in understanding the economic reforms and marketization process in China, as well as policy makers and business professionals seeking insights into China's economic model and its integration into the global economy.

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How China Escaped Shock Therapy

Key ideas


China's gradualist reform strategy upheld the structures of the old system while cautiously introducing market principles.

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The ancient Chinese economic concepts of price regulation and market management: The Guanzi and the Salt and Iron Debate.

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The Chinese Communist Party's stabilization of inflation in the newly formed PRC was a significant achievement

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The Starting Point: In the late 1970s, China was grappling with the challenge of reforming its Maoist economy, which was characterized by strict price controls.

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China entailed significant dialogue with international experts of varying ideologies.

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Bringing policy into practice: The Dual-Track Price System.

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The significant inflation crisis in 1988 was a critical turning point in the country's economic reform journey.

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The reform transformed China from a primarily agricultural society to a global manufacturing powerhouse.

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Summary & Review

Isabella M. Weber's "How China Escaped Shock Therapy" provides an in-depth analysis of China's economic transformation in the 1980s. The book explores the intellectual struggle between reform economists who were divided on how to approach marketization. While some advocated for shock therapy, a sudden and drastic shift to a market economy, others argued for a gradual transition using existing socialist structures. The book reveals how China managed to avoid shock therapy, instead opting for a gradual marketization that allowed it to rise economically without fully assimilating to global neoliberalism.

Isabella M. Weber

Isabella M. Weber is an economist and Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her research focuses on economic thought, policy, and development, particularly in relation to China's economic transformation.

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