chapter  14
21 Pages

The disinterested government and economic growth in China

ByYANG Y AO

China has achieved an economic success since 1978. It has managed an average economic growth rate of 9.7 percent per annum and transformed its economy from planning to the market. Defying repeated warnings of an imminent collapse, the Chinese society has remained relatively stable yet dynamic. The last thirty years have been the best period of time for the majority of the Chinese people since China began to confront the aggression of the Western powers in the 1840s. To a large extent, China’s economic success can be attributed to China’s almost relentless reform drive toward a free market economy. Although its path of reform has been unconventional in much of its course, the end policies and institutions of China’s reform have been clearly converging toward what the standard economics teaches a country to do. If there are successful cases of the Washington Consensus, China must be counted as one of them. From this point of view, China’s high economic growth record has nothing miraculous in it (Perkins 2005). However, this view leaves an important question unanswered: if economic theories are so right, why have not most developing countries followed them? Or in other words, why has China been able to adopt the right growth recipes? This leads us to back down one step and study the political economy of China’s miraculous economic growth in the last thirty years. Central to this paper’s argument is that China’s success lies in its disinterested government. Here the word “disinterested” is being used in one of its three meanings in aesthetics, that is, a person is unbiased by personal interests when he makes judgment, inquiry, evaluation, and the like on objective existences.2 Therefore, a disinterested government is defined as a government that takes a neutral stand when conflicts of interests among different social and political groups arise. In other words, it is a government that does not consistently represent – and is not captured by – any social or political groups in the society. This does not mean that such a government is devoid of self interests; quite to the contrary. It may have not only its own interests, but also be predatory toward society at large. The key is that its predation is “identity-blind” in the sense it does not care about the social and political status of its particular prey. As a consequence, it is more likely to adopt growth-enhancing policies than is a government which consistently represents the interests of certain social or political groups.