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Global GDP is projected to expand at a 4 percent rate in , up from the 3. Stronger growth across the developed world should be good news for American businesses. Not only do wealthy European and Japanese consumers represent a large market for US exports, but the tapering of quantitative easing abroad is also expected to restore balance to currency exchange rates, making American goods more competitive overseas.

In the developing world, India is projected to grow faster than China for the first time in 25 years. This is a sign of the maturation of the Chinese economy, which is shifting away from export-focused manufacturing as a service-based consumer society emerges. Oil prices are stabilizing , and the resurgence of drilling should boost capital spending in American oil patch towns. Global vehicle sales reached 94 million in , suggesting strong future energy needs.

This year will see the implementation of far-reaching legislation that will overhaul almost every aspect of the federal tax code. This should support faster growth in the near term, adding possibly a full percentage point to the rate of GDP expansion this year. The longer-term effects of the legislation are more difficult to predict. If businesses accelerate the pace of capital investment in response to new incentives, the bill could have a substantial and lasting impact on economic growth.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanently reduces the corporate tax rate—from a structure that caps out at 35 percent to a single 21 percent rate—giving businesses a clearer picture of the policy outlook. This could lower the effective tax rate from 25 percent to near 21 percent. This should put more money in the hands of consumers in the coming year. Natural disasters may have shaved as much as half of a percentage point from GDP growth in , but the rebuilding efforts in Texas and Florida promise to generate a surge of activity in the coming months.

However, approximately 1. These workforce dropouts are slowly returning as opportunities arise, but the economy could sustain above-trend job creation for some time before the workforce participation rate for young people returns to its pre-recession norm. Due to slack in the economy and returning workforce dropouts, that rate could fall even lower in Much like in , the aging US population could continue to restrain the growth of the workforce in The forecast of faster growth over the next several years amid this slower-growing workforce should translate into faster labor productivity growth, breaking a decade-long spell of measured productivity.

This flies in the face of the consensus but would begin to explain why we see innovation everywhere but in the metrics. Overall, will undoubtedly bring surprises and unexpected headwinds. But the combination of strong global growth, low inflation and an accommodative monetary policy should support continued expansion. As the recovery nears completion, American households should enjoy the benefits of a competitive labor market and rising asset prices throughout the year. View our economic commentary disclaimer.

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Some of them, like Shenzhen, are still major poles of attraction for foreign investment. Investors were attracted by favourable policies, the nature of the labour force, and the Chinese market. In addition, the common language and cultural proximity, along with shared attitudes towards combining political connections with business, encouraged this source of investment.

During this phase, two-thirds of foreign investment was in the hands of small and medium-sized firms from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

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These made use of labour-intensive production to assemble imported parts and re-export them to supply the international market. This system received the blessing of local officials, since this economic gold also blessed them with great decision-making powers. The enterprises involved did not represent direct competition, either with the China-based township and village enterprises or with the private or state-owned ones. On the other, hand they contributed towards improving the trade balance and towards increasing employment and incomes.

Moreover, the demand arising from this poorly paid labour force was directed towards the low-quality products from the communal and the state-owned enterprises. These profited from the growth in domestic demand, and still do. That is why all these enterprises survived throughout this period, despite producing goods which were in many ways outdated See Figure 1.

But the Asian crisis of modified the underlying situation. The developed economies reduced their orders placed with Chinese enterprises, while the latter remained essentially geared to the supply of overseas markets.

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  7. Simultaneously, the new rates of exchange restored a degree of competitive advantage to the other Asian countries, by making their production costs attractive again So this second engine for growth no longer worked. The third phase of development began at this juncture, with the arrival of FDI funds from industrialised countries like the United States, Japan and Europe.

    The Chinese government reacted extremely fast, by adopting a whole range of measures to attract this foreign investment. The huge campaign in favour of entry into the WTO must be understood in this context. That is why WTO membership became the main objective of official policy. Forthcoming events like the Peking Olympic Games in , and the Shanghai Universal Exhibition in , provide an additional seductive appeal to international investors.

    As a consequence of the spectacular take-off in international investment, capital inflow from Taiwan and Hong Kong has picked up again, and continues to be an important part of the overall FDI in China See Figure 2. In the s, income from exports stimulated domestic demand for basic consumer goods. In the s, exports gave a stimulus to the demand for sophisticated electronic consumer goods, particularly household equipment, making the export trade a major engine for growth.

    In the second half of the s, China set about stimulating demand in the sphere of tourism, real estate, and car production. In these ways, the reforms launched by Deng Xiaoping have paved the way for expansion in both consumption and production. He was commenting on a little-known article by Alwyn Young 14 and his article concludes that Asia has achieved remarkable growth rates without any corresponding increase in productivity. In his view, these growth rates were more the outcome of mobilising available resources than of increasing efficiency.

    Essentially, China has been following this model of accumulation, with variations of its own. Source: Zhongguo tongji nianjian , op. Figure 3: Industrial production by type of enterprises, Comparison between China and Guangdong billion of yuans. Secondly, given the size of the Chinese economy and the importance of regional disparities, a single wave of investment is simply not enough. Thirdly, the Chinese state has a powerful capacity for mobilising resources, and has been able to make use of the structures of production which were actually introduced to ensure social and political stability.

    This mode of economic organisation lies at the very heart of its current difficulties. Our view is that these causes are to be found in the systems of production. With each wave of resource mobilisation, there have arisen new enterprises with their own distinct systems of production. It is these which have engendered the growth in production and returns on investment. These enterprises grew up in the early s, and operate as private companies, but for reasons of ideological acceptability they are officially registered as collective enterprises They work with raw materials and employ low-cost labour, and are concentrated in various sectors of production, which they quickly came to dominate A good example of this is the Yueqing enterprise in Shuikou Guangdong province.

    Starting as a tap manufacturing plant, it modernised and became the organising centre of a myriad of small plumbing firms. Consequently, Shuikou township is now at the head of a whole industrial sector selling to the entire country. A large number of other enterprises have set themselves up along the same lines, both in Guangdong and in the rest of China.

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    Well known brand names like Legend, TCL, Hai'er, Konka and Galanz are similar enterprises that arose with the first phase of expansion, and prospered mostly because their status as collective enterprises gave them access to public funds see Figure 3. Galanz in Shunde, a town close to Canton, is typical. The Europeans made their own rapid calculations and accepted the offer.

    They transferred all their equipment and production lines to Shunde, including their assembly technology. How has that been possible? I took over their production techniques and set up a system of three eight-hour shifts, which works out at a hour week. The Galanz factories produce on behalf of two hundred multinational firms from every quarter of the globe. The Chinese enterprise takes care of the manufacturing end while the technology, brand name, and marketing remain in the hands of the foreign multinationals.

    It is striking how quickly the enterprise has grown, which is why it is a frequently cited example. The quest for increased turnover is a constant factor, with the enterprises taking advantage of their low production costs. In addition, such enterprises actively seek out foreign partners to ensure access to technology and market outlets.

    The “Three Reforms” in China: Progress and Outlook

    What the Chinese enterprises are looking for is this technology transfer, both material in the form of products, equipment, and processes and organisational quality control and management skills. Industries producing textiles and clothing, electronics and electrical household goods, were relocated to the Pearl River delta. These enterprises share some features with those of the first wave, but they also have some specifics of their own.

    Firstly, the investors not only established the enterprises, but brought with them their own networks of suppliers and customers. The Taiwanese and Hong Kong enterprises which set themselves up on the mainland to take advantage of low production costs, were backed by more than thirty years experience as suppliers to the multinationals. In addition, they have their own way of doing business, to which the entrepreneurs from Guangdong were quick to adapt.

    Secondly, they had more complex production techniques, even in the case of less sophisticated industries like shoes, clothing and basic electrical goods. Thirdly, these overseas Chinese established strong ties with mainland officials and local government bodies. They brought the local power structures into the very operations of their own systems of production. More effectively still, in an increasing number of cases, the local authorities appealed to them to help strengthen technological development and to launch technical education initiatives such as practical demonstrations, technical training, and apprenticeship schemes.

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    There were also centres to promote technological innovation, aimed at providing technical know-how to enterprises in a particular sector of production for example, shoes and underwear in Nanhai. In the industrialised world such centres are usually organised by the chambers of commerce or public education bodies. In China, they are handled by the joint enterprises, to which a foreign partner brings both its expertise and its market.

    There are reckoned to be another thirty million potential migrants in the inland provinces, which guarantees continuing low labour costs. The foreign enterprises have easily been able to make use of this situation, turning the whole area into one huge factory, with intense local concentrations according to the type of products. Shunde is the main centre in China for the manufacture of electrical household goods, Ronggui is the largest centre in the world for air-conditioning unit production, Shaxi is the centre for leisure wear, Humen Dongguan for clothing, etc.

    Dongguan is a relatively small town which serves as a centre of production for a great number of specialised products: coffee, computer mice, and other computer components. The industrialisation of Dongguan began in the early s, well ahead of the surge in the second wave of investment in the rest of the country, thanks to the relocation of industries from Hong Kong The driving force behind its growth has been the manufacture of OEM products for its clients.

    Since , Dongguan has attracted numerous Taiwanese enterprises specialising in information technology and shoes, and these have built up a network of local suppliers to reduce the time and cost expended in purchasing raw materials and parts, while meeting the standards set by the needs of international clients.

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    The supply networks provide a link between local and foreign enterprises. They are all members of a single constituted system of production: customers, suppliers and manufacturing units are all closely integrated, and the whole system benefits from the comparative advantage of cheap labour. The parameters are set by the global market, and contributions from the local authorities in terms of innovations or technical support are minimal.

    The key question confronting these systems of production is how to move on from the stage of providing low-cost assembly to foreign customers, to become complete OEM suppliers, or even achieve ODM Own Design Manufacture status Production costs were relatively high in comparison with other regions of China. Foreign enterprises were being set up in China with their own supplier networks, and some regions were becoming direct competitors.

    In Suzhou, close to Shanghai, a number of firms have taken advantage of the cheaper local labour and the availability of direct links with the multinationals. The Shanghai and Zhejiang region has entered into direct competition with Guangdong The exhaustion of the model of production in Dongguan is due to the difficulty in upgrading the systems of production.

    This illustrates a key point in the theory of industrial development, namely that the creation of enterprises is a process quite distinct from their development see Figure 1 The four hundred largest of these have investments in China. These investments are often focused on the Shanghai region.

    Table 1: Basic indicators of foreign companies. Even those foreign firms which are already established are still finding it difficult to make any profit. For a foreign firm everything is more expensive in China, from land purchase to building costs, installations, employee recruitment and training, communications with headquarters, relations with government offices handling labour and the environment, and commercial dealings with suppliers. It is more expensive to set up an integral system of production than to collaborate with a local supplier see Figure 5.

    Their difficulties arise solely from their relations with their social environment. It is still too early to make a full assessment of this third wave, and of the eventual outcome of the super-imposition of these three different systems of production on top of each other. This system of production, namely the state sector, plays a very important role in the economic ethos of the country. The different newly emergent systems of production have established themselves on top of this underlying economic and political basis of society. For over twenty years now, the reforms have been seeking to improve the operations and achievements of the state enterprises, while also making their property rights and management powers more transparent, but without dismantling the enterprises themselves, along with the political and administrative apparatus of which they are a part.

    So even though the planned economy may have disappeared, this economic and political system still remains. As the new millennium dawns, this system still includes government administrative offices and Party organs, both central and local, along with social organisations, and state monopolies like banking, radio and TV, and the other media. Although they have lost many of their markets to the new systems of production, they still enjoy privileged access to the financial resources of the country.

    Since , the share of the state enterprises in overall industrial production has continued to decline, but their investments have been increasing by 1. In the s, the government transferred considerable resources to the state enterprises by reducing the taxes on their returns. Next, in order to continue its financial support to the state sector, in the early s the government introduced the sale of public debt in the form of bond issues, and then, in the second half of the decade, it organised support through bank loans, making it easy for the state enterprises to obtain credit at preferential rates.

    More recently, the government has set up and supported the stock markets with the same goal of financing the state sector. At the present time, the policy of supporting industrial giants zhuada fangxiao , which is still far from successful, is centred on several very large-scale public enterprises Over the last two decades, a large part of their investments have gone into housing their employees, and into funding social security payments and pensions, that is to say, into the social benefits needed to maintain social stability. There is no question of entirely privatising the state sector, but rather of selling off certain parts of it to procure new sources of finance.

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    But the offers of shares for management buy-out did not deliver the promised results, and they have since become the focus of intense debates over the chances for personal gain which they afford. A large proportion of these systems of production are in decline, and their future depends on the ability of the government to keep up the flow of investment towards them. The banks and the stock exchange seem only to exist to channel this flow in their direction. And despite everything, these public enterprises still enjoy easier access to other major resources, of a technological nature, than the other kinds of enterprise So, to a large extent, the challenge facing the state enterprises is to improve their ability to produce more and to innovate.

    And how long can the present structure of the Chinese economy be sustained? These persistent questions dominate all the debates about China.


    To answer them, a fundamental reflection on the nature of the market economy is unavoidable Figure 5: Investments in fixed assets China left and Guangdong right billion of yuans. It has become commonly acknowledged since the work of Karl Polyani and the economic anthropologists 34 , that this latter form of trust is an indispensable component of any economic system. This non-material element is a necessary supplement to capital and labour. Mutual trust is the basis for the long-term development of systems of production. Does this trust between the agents themselves, and towards the economic system as a whole, exist in China today?

    Have the new systems of production contributed towards its emergence? Has the arrival of a private ownership economy promoted those rules in the operations of the market which respect the rights of the different actors, consumers, enterprises and workers alike? Their argument is that the gradual introduction of private enterprise is forcing the economic system to adopt the contractual rules necessary for its satisfactory functioning.

    And indeed, the sheer number of economic reforms, and the massive redrawing of legal provisions, give some grounds for believing in the progressive adoption of new rules which will pay greater respect to the rights of others, and will be less arbitrary in the application of legal sanctions If this proves to be the case, China will have found the magic formula for moving from a socialist economy to a market-based one, without any noticeable crisis, and within a political continuum free from upsets on the scale of those which Russia encountered at the time of the implosion of the socialist system there.

    In sum, the idea is that progress will be the fruit of economic success. Paradoxically, this idea is supported by the legacy from the old socialist ideology which proclaimed a strong belief in economic determinism. Developments in other domains are supposed to come as a result of economic changes 36 , so most intellectuals seek economic explanations for social and political developments Firstly, only the success stories are highlighted in connection with the emergent systems of production, and only the strengthening of the private sector is given any consideration, not its failures Secondly, the state enterprise system and the overall political structure, which remain firmly under the operational control of the rules governing the Party and the state, are forgotten.

    Simultaneously with the appearance of the new systems of production, there was a decentralisation of political power to enable greater flexibility in the chains of command, and this was accompanied by an increase in the personnel employed within the new structure At the provincial and municipal levels, the political structures involved saw the birth of a greater freedom of action and a lessening of disciplinary control from the central government.

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    The actors on the lower rungs of the ladder were able to work in their own interests Following the reforms, the fiscal powers of the state were reduced, and the commercialisation of the public administration and services was a response to this new situation.