Transition, involution, or evolution: Rethinking the political economy of China’s industrial reform
Most conventional narratives on the political economy of China’s industrial reform depict a highly decentralized system which has become increasingly open, market-oriented, and based upon competitive, small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The institutional development of China’s industrial governance over the past three decades is often conceptualized as a single, uniform process of ‘transition’ which, from an idiosyncratic starting point, steadily converges towards the global standard practices, rules and governance forms. In this portrait, compared with the Soviet Union and East European pre-socialist countries, China’s ‘transition’ has been gradual and experimental, but it nonetheless adheres to the same principle of liberalization, marketization, and ultimately privatization. Above all, it has been argued, ‘one could be forgiven for believing that the Reagon or Thatcherite revolution found its truest adherents in socialist China’ (Steinfeld, 2010: 8).