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Demystifying the Chinese Economy Paperback – December 30, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"No one knows the Chinese economy better than Justin Lin, and there's no one better placed to describe its essential workings. A unique perspective on the Chinese miracle from a unique perch." - Barry Eichengreen, George C. Pardee and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Economics and Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

"Justin Lin's Demystifying the Chinese Economy is a tour de force. The book succeeds at many levels. It presents a broad historical perspective over two millennia of the rise, fall, and the dramatic resurgence of Chinese economic power. It presents an analytically informative study of the sources of Chinese economic growth and the prospects of growth for the future. Lin formalizes the successful pragmatic Chinese approach to economic development using his insightful notion of 'Comparative Advantage Following (CAF)' strategies. The book challenges many tenets of conventional neoclassical theory and shows how naive application of many of its principles had catastrophic consequences for many transition economies." - James J Heckman, Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, 2000 Nobel Prize in Economics, University of Chicago

"This book considers fundamental questions about the great transformation of China from a poor underdeveloped country to a global leader in modern economic growth. These are among the most important questions of our time, and Justin Lin has the best credentials to help us understand them. In this book, he offers a new and important perspective on the conditions for modern economic development in China and the world." - Roger Myerson, Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, 2007 Nobel Prize in Economics, University of Chicago

"This clear and insightful study of the origins of China's failures and, finally, its extraordinary success will be must-reading for anyone who wants to understand Chinese development. An important book and much overdue." - Edmund S. Phelps, McVickar Professor of Political Economy, 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics, Columbia University

"This is the best book on China's economy that I've read..." -James Pressley, Bloomberg

"...[one of] five recent titles from the Letter from China bookshelf that are surprising or entertaining or useful...when the history of China's economic boom is written, Lin's will be one of the clearest cases in defense of the Chinese way." -Evan Osnos, New

Book Description

Justin Yifu Lin provides an insightful account of why China was so advanced in pre-modern times, what caused it to become so poor, how it grew into a market economy, where its potential is for growth and what reforms are needed to complete the transition to a well-functioning market economy.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (December 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521181747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521181747
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #433,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 30 people found the following review helpful By James R. Maclean on January 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
What this book offers is a very brisk and plaintive summary of development economics, as "understood" by the World Bank (for which Lin was a chief economist). As such, the book does not assume knowledge or interest in the history of China; exposition of this is kept to an absolute minimum.

For example, he mentions that "...between 1000 and 1700 the West was basically a poor and backward agrarian economy while China was a rich and advanced industrial economy. Note that switching the subjects in that sentence depicts the picture today." Lin's knowledge of the comparative histories of "the West" and China is surely far more sophisticated than this, but he appears to prefer very broad-brush, snappy summaries. There's a place for this, but this is not that place.

For example, what would Lin regard as evidence of China's wealth? China is, after all, a huge country with a very large population; it's possible to have huge numbers of people with a few living in great opulence. Judging 1930s China by a contemporary aerial view of Shanghai's Bund would also convey an impression of amazing affluence in a country where there was mass starvation. One waits in vain for more detail, but Lin offers only snapshots. I'm guessing this is because a more comprehensive look would involve things like the challenges of comparing different economic epochs (even the data-rich USA, there are no GDP statistics prior to 1937). Lin wants to invite readers to think of the distant past in the same terms with which they might consider the present, but historical comparisons have inherent ambiguities that he never hints at.
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By Sam on January 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great historical background for someone looking to get a primer on the Chinese economy and how it has developed over time. Also strong analysis on all issues addressed. For me, it lacked charts and quantitative metrics. Also a bit too theoretical for me. I was looking for something abt contemporary chinese economics.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on March 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
Author Justin Yifu Lin is the founder of the China Center for Economic Research and former professor of economics at Peking University. He has a PdD in economics from the University of Chicago, and until recently was the chief economist at the World Bank.

China was the world's largest and most advanced economies before the 18th century (accounting for an estimated 1/3 of global GDP in 1820), then degenerated into one of the world's poorest by the late 19th century (about 5% prior to 1979 reforms). It did not reverse its fate until introducing market-oriented reforms in 1979; since then it has been the world's most dynamic economy and is forecast to regain its #1 position before 2020.

The book is based on Justin Lin's lecture notes for Peking University classes. He contends that in premodern times, technological inventions were came mostly from farmers and craftsmen, the rate of innovation was slow, and most lived on subsistence agriculture. China's advantage at the time derived from having a large number of farmers and craftsmen, a relatively advanced market system, Confucian philosophy, and a civil service examination system with improved resource allocation and facilitated unity.

When scientific experiment became the basis of invention, technological development in western countries accelerated, as did their economic development. China's civil service examination system, based on Confucian classics, repressed incentives to learn mathematics and how to conduct controlled experiments. China soon was no longer a leader.

Outside economists criticized Asia's export-oriented development strategy right from its 1950s beginnings. China received the same criticisms when it initiated forms in 1979.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul P. N. Tung on November 23, 2014
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By P. Chen on July 30, 2014
Format: Paperback
good book
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