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Recent claims of China's economic exceptionalism: Reflections inspired by WTO accession


  • Woo, Wing Thye


The desirability of WTO membership for China depends on whether its economic successes have been the result of its discovery of new institutional forms (e.g. dual track pricing, SOE contracts, and fiscal contracts) that are optimal for China''s particular economic circumstances, or have been the result of the convergence of its economic institutions to those of a typical advanced member of WTO. If the experimentalist interpretation of China''s phenomenal growth is correct, then WTO membership is a negative development because it could be a straitjacket for WTO-enforced institutional harmonisation that would constrain China''s scope for experimentation. But if the experimentalist interpretation is wrong, then WTO membership is a positive development that will lock China on to the path of deepening economic reform. We assess several recent claims of China''s economic exceptionalism, and conclude that they neglected the considerable costs associated with the use of these innovative mechanisms (which have led to the repeal of every one of these ""optimal"" mechanisms) and that these mechanisms were unlikely to have produced positive results in the transition economies in Europe. Because a major reason for the failure of Gorbachev''s reforms was opposition from the entrenched interests within the ruling structure, China''s forthcoming WTO accession could be seen as an attempt by reformers to lock economic policies on to a market-oriented course that is costly to reverse.
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Suggested Citation

  • Woo, Wing Thye, 2001. "Recent claims of China's economic exceptionalism: Reflections inspired by WTO accession," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 107-136.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:chieco:v:12:y:2001:i:2-3:p:107-136

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Wing Thye Woo, 2000. "Understanding china's economic performance," Journal of Economic Policy Reform, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(1), pages 1-50.
    2. Woo Wing Thye, 1994. "The Art of Reforming Centrally Planned Economies: Comparing China, Poland, and Russia," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 276-308, June.
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    17. Wing Thye Woo, "undated". "Chinese Economic Growth: Sources And Prospects," Department of Economics 96-08, California Davis - Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wing Thye Woo, 2003. "The Travails of Current Macroeconomic and Exchange Rate Management in China: The Complications of Switching to a New Growth Engine," Development and Comp Systems 0310001, EconWPA.
    2. Wing Thye Woo, 2007. "The Challenges of Governance Structure, Trade Disputes and Natural Environment to China's Growth," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 49(4), pages 572-602, December.
    3. Jeffrey Sachs & Wing Thye Woo, 2003. "China's Economic Growth After WTO Membership," Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(1), pages 1-31.
    4. Shuming Bao & Wing Thye Woo, 2015. "China: Case study on Human Development Progress towards the Millennium Developmental Goals at the Sub-National Level," Working Papers id:7301, eSocialSciences.
    5. Yuan Zi, 2016. "Trade Liberalization and the Great Labor Reallocation," IHEID Working Papers 18-2016, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.
    6. Yu, Miaojie, 2009. "Revaluation of the Chinese Yuan and triad trade: A gravity assessment," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 655-668, November.
    7. Yeung, Godfrey & Mok, Vincent, 2005. "What are the impacts of implementing ISOs on the competitiveness of manufacturing industry in China?," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 139-157, May.
    8. Wing Thye Woo and Shuming Bao, 2003. "China: Case study on Human Development Progress towards the Millennium Developmental Goals at the Sub-National Level," Human Development Occasional Papers (1992-2007) HDOCPA-2003-14, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
    9. Peter Drysdale & Xinpeng Xu, 2007. "Taiwan's Role in the Economic Architecture of East Asia and the Pacific," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Economic Reform And Cross-Strait Relations Taiwan and China in the WTO, chapter 5, pages 149-185 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    10. Demurger, Sylvie & Sachs, Jeffrey D. & Woo, Wing Thye & BAO, Shuming & Chang, Gene, 2002. "The relative contributions of location and preferential policies in China's regional development: being in the right place and having the right incentives," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 444-465, December.
    11. Wing Thye Woo, 2006. "The Structural Nature of Internal and External Imbalances in China," Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(1), pages 1-19.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East
    • P20 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - General
    • P22 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Prices
    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy
    • P31 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Socialist Enterprises and Their Transitions
    • P52 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Studies of Particular Economies


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