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How China Became Capitalist [Hardcover]

Ronald Coase
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Palgrave MacMillan (15 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230285511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230285514
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,414,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

How China Became Capitalist details the extraordinary, and often unanticipated, journey that China has taken over the past thirty five years in transforming itself from a closed agrarian socialist economy to an indomitable economic force in the international arena. The authors revitalise the debate around the rise of the Chinese economy through the use of primary sources, persuasively arguing that the reforms implemented by the Chinese leaders did not represent a concerted attempt to create a capitalist economy, and that it was 'marginal revolutions' that introduced the market and entrepreneurship back to China. Lessons from the West were guided by the traditional Chinese principle of 'seeking truth from facts'. By turning to capitalism, China re-embraced her own cultural roots. How China Became Capitalist challenges received wisdom about the future of the Chinese economy, warning that while China has enormous potential for further growth, the future is clouded by the government's monopoly of ideas and power. Coase and Wang argue that the development of a market for ideas - which has a long and revered tradition in China - would be integral in bringing about the Chinese dream of social harmony.

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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For realists, our human mind has the external world as its object and the objects of the material world subsist independently of this mind. The first act of our intelligence is to grasp being, to grasp "that which is". Being is the first notion of our intelligence. The first thing which falls in the intellect is being ("primo in intellectu cadit ens"), said Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274 A.D.). The notion of being is implied in any consequent notion. It is upon this notion of being - not upon practice - that truth is founded ("veritas supra ens fundatur"). Aquinas went on to define truth as ad-equation between the thing and the intellect ("adaequatio rei et intellectus"). (Thomas Aquinas, "On the Truth", ("De Veritate"), article 1).

The book which is hereby being reviewed quotes chairman Mao Zedong, the architect and founding father of the People's Republic of China from its establishment in 1949, who held authoritarian control over the nation until his death in 1976, as saying that a return to barter would eliminate economic inequality once and for all. (p. 81)

After the death of Mao, Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader of the People's Republic of China from 1978 to 1992, resolved the fundamental challenge of reconciling socialism with its policies of economic reform and opening up by returning to the traditional Chinese principle of "seeking truth from facts". Unimpeachable truth does not exist. Truth emerges only in an endless struggle against ignorance and bigotry and it rarely wins by a single, decisive, once-and-for-all battle. And it is only through this struggle that truth can be tested. The only truth which exists is testable truth and truth can only be tested in or through practice.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Titan of Economics 22 May 2012
By Rafael Limongi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Few scholars have changed the face of economics like Ronald Coase. His work brought a very rare commodity to the economics profession - clarity. His observations, based on empirical evidence and "old-fashioned" fact-finding, have unearthed a body of work that has transformed the way we think about simple, but crucial, facts. The ways individuals and firms organize and his work on property rights had a profound impact on how we comprehend issues from the inner working of organizations to the use of market tools to address environmental problems. On the latter, his work provide the academic underpinning for the establishment of the Acid Rain program in the United States in the early 1990s, which was so successful that it virtually wiped out the problem of acid rain in America.
At a 101 and not a man to avoid challenges, he now braces himself on an issue that many in the West are puzzled by -"How China Became Capitalist". Again, he brings clarity to a confused picture. Without embracing dogmas from either left or right, he traces the history of Chinese reforms from the rise of Deng Xiaoping to the present. In Coase and co-author Ning Wang's recounting and interpretation, we learn about the unleashing of China's experiment with capitalism. Rather than a top-down approach as many believe, the Chinese government fostered competition between cities and provinces; allowed for experiments and pilots to take place in certain sectors, industries and regions. China after Mao had a blank slate from which to experiment. Throughout this, Coase's work on property rights was critical to many Chinese policy makers. It is no coincidence that alongside Marx and Friedman, Coase is one of the most revered Western economists in China.

Coase is the finest of scholars. The Nobel committee (belatedly) understood his contribution as a thought leader, not just a servant of mathematical tools and creator of theorems. Teaching is much about pointing the obvious that surrounds us. That he has always done masterfully and does it again in "How China Became Capitalist". A must-read from anyone interested in economics, and in a clear analysis of Chinese political economy.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Economics: A Humane Science 12 Jun 2012
By FY - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Everyone knows Ronald Coase is a great economist, but "How China Became Capitalist" shows us that he is a great historian too. In his new book, Coase approaches history in the same manner he approaches economics. As an economist, Coase has always guarded against the tendency for grand, scintillating theories to overtake quantifiable facts. In writing about what is arguably one of the most turbulent periods in Chinese history, he again seems to relinquish all presumption by piecing together observable historical evidence and letting the conclusions emerge by themselves. The results were surprising but not altogether unintuitive.

Many regard China's transformation from a communist economy to a capitalist one as one of the greatest paradoxes in the 20th century. The authors, however, are able to provide a persuasive account of how this came to be. The general theory is that the capitalist transformation in China is the product of marginal, or fringe, revolutions that occurred independently of the machinations of the Chinese government. This is not to say that the Chinese government did not play a role in fostering these developments. As illustrated by the authors, in many cases the Chinese government fostered the environment conducive to the flourishing of capitalism without intending to. The emergence of private farming in the 1960s is a good example. Private farming was encouraged by the Chinese government as a temporary measure to quell grain shortages after the failure of the Great Leap Forward became apparent. Such an ad hoc measure however, had lasting, albeit unintended, implications for China's economic development.

The argument is more nuanced than this. What this book does particularly well is its portrayal of the government's persistent attempt to reconcile the conflict between ideology and pragmatism. Far from being blinded by ideological fervor, the Chinese government was cognizant of the benefits of a capitalist economy. This prompted them to create entities like the Special Economic Zones- market development that can still be controlled by a communist state. In doing so, they hoped to enjoy the perks of capitalism without having to adopt the supposed values of a capitalist state.

The last point is given the reflection it deserves in the closing paragraphs,

"The stupendous loss in the depth and richness of human nature is noticeable part of the price we have paid in transforming economics from a moral science of man creating wealth to a cold logic of choice in resource allocation...As a result modern economists are hard pressed to say much that is coherent and insightful..."

We are reminded here that the creation of wealth is merely a means to attain human goals of creativity and happiness. Accordingly, Economics should be used to cultivate all that is best in human nature: compassion, appreciation of beauty, or the ability to empathize with others. Richard Sandor, whose book Good Derivatives: A Story of Financial and Environmental Innovation I had read recently is a fine example. Modern economics has enabled us to think on the behalf of many generations to come. It does so by providing us with the tools to stop global warming.

"How China Became Capitalist" is a story of many threads, all of which are based on sound historical evidence and sober economic reasoning. It is a book that can be read by a wide audience, as it avoids of technical industry jargon. Instead, it demonstrates many economic principles with real world examples- whether it is asymmetric information caused by a centralized government and decentralized townships, allocative inefficiency induced by subsidizing incompetent manufacturing plants or structural employment through migration laws.

It may surprise you that a book that discusses such a complex issue so effectively is only 207 pages- a feat that is no doubt made possible by the mastery of the authors.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important but difficult book 14 May 2013
By etienne53 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a book about an important topic, and the authors know their material. There are few books out there with this much substance this well analyzed, and the lessons the authors teach, and probably more importantly the false lessons they refute, need to be understood by policy makers.

Unfortunately, it is almost impenetrable, and I have a strong background in economics and am so old that I lived through the Cultural Revolution, Nixon going to China, et. al. The story is not told chronological order and there are quite literally dozens of names that are introduced, often with no background. I found that I had to make a list of characters, look many of them up in Wikipedia, and then make chronological notes as I read.

There is also a strong tendency to draw conclusions without citing much evidence within the text, which weakens their arguments. This is especially unfortunate because I think they draw the right conclusions.

Coase and Ning Wang needed a better editor.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Story Told by a Great Economist 11 July 2012
By De-Xing Guan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
That a socialist economy such as China became capitalist is an amazing story in economic history. As a great economist next only to Adam Smith (my opinion), Ronald Coase has given a wonderful economic interpretation in this book coauthored with Ning Wang. The authors emphasize that the success in China in the past 30 years has been the result of the autonomous fight for survival from numerous starving peasants. Then the household responsibility system replaced the stupid commune system in the early 1980s, which laid the foundation of other three marginal revolutions in the coming years: the rises of township and village enterprises, the individual economy, and the special economic zone. But the marginal revolutions themselves were not enough to support the rise of a well-functioning price system because the price of productive factors was still controlled by the central government and the state-owned enterprises. The second-round reforms came in the 1990s. Two of them were the most important: the 1992 price reform, which gave up the dual-track pricing system for most products, and the 1994 tax reform, which imposed a 17% value-added tax on all enterprises and therefore reduced the negotiating and searching costs between central and local governments. These two reforms strengthened the price system and helped establish the market economy in China. But not all developments in China were good for becoming capitalist. Coase and Wang picked one of them which China has failed to accomplish: an open and free market for ideas, including the freedom of speech, thought, and the exchange of ideas. This is the last as well as the most important problem China has to face in the next decades if it wishes to go further in the way towards capitalism, even the one with Chinese characteristics.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important but difficult book 14 May 2013
By etienne53 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a book about an important topic, and the authors know their material. There are few books out there with this much substance this well analyzed, and the lessons the authors teach, and probably more importantly the false lessons they refute, need to be understood by policy makers.

Unfortunately, it is almost impenetrable, and I have a strong background in economics and am so old that I lived through the Cultural Revolution, Nixon going to China, et. al. The story is not told chronological order and there are quite literally dozens of names that are introduced, often with no background. I found that I had to make a list of characters, look many of them up in Wikipedia, and then make chronological notes as I read.

There is also a strong tendency to draw conclusions without citing much evidence within the text, which weakens their arguments. This is especially unfortunate because I think they draw the right conclusions.

Coase and Ning Wang needed a better editor.
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