While the notably liberal Unirule Institute (now closed for good) wished for more restrictions on these administrative monopolies, different state authorities struggled among themselves – and with SOEs often better connected politically.
We can safely say that this issue’s first two studies represent two trends of thought on Chinese economic policies. The first is technocratic and compatible with self-reliance: going upscale and expanding the social sphere are the answers to external headwinds and lower growth. The second is – implicitly only – a call for reform in response to external trade pressure, or gaiatsu as the Japanese called it during their era of difficult economic relations with the United States. This is also an answer to the growing dissatisfaction abroad about China’s state-led and subsidized economy, where private actors are less and less influential, unless they themselves become state-backed national champions.
Thus, foreign pressure could be a factor, although both Xi Jinping and the party-state system seem to have resistance as a priority. Indeed, our third study gives a hardline view of China’s posture throughout the trade conflict with the United States. Decoupling cannot happen, existing reforms provide room, and the Chinese economy is resilient. Our guest author, Jiakun Jack Zhang, rightly points out that this optimism leaves aside what is still a low share for domestic consumption inside the Chinese economy, and increasing debt levels that now place limits on future spending. Perhaps that is why some other Chinese experts still call for concessions to end the trade conflict.
Here too, there are two views, although one is granted a higher public profile.