China’s Developmental State in Transition: In Light of the East Asian Experiences

  • Wei Chen
  • Shu Keng


In the second half of 2016, a heated debate attracted widespread attention in China. Two eminent economists, Prof. Justin Yi-Fu Lin, former Chief Economist of the World Bank, and Prof. Wei-Ying Zhang, former Dean of the Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, thoroughly debated the effectiveness of industrial policy (reports). Putting this debate in a larger context, it originates from the growing concerns with China’s development strategy. Looking back, China’s economic success has greatly benefited from its heavy state intervention. But looking forward, China is likely to be caught in the “middle-income trap,” given the slowdown in growth rates and draining in production factors in recent years. So, shall China stick to its old state-led development strategy (Lin’s suggestion) or shift to the market-enhancing approach (Zhang’s point)?


  1. Amsden, A., Asia’s Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization, New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.Google Scholar
  2. Baum, R., Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping, Princeton University Press, 1996.Google Scholar
  3. Blecher, M. J., & V. Shue, Tethered Deer: Government and Economy in a Chinese County, Stanford University Press, 1996.Google Scholar
  4. Breslin, S. G., “China: Developmental State or Dysfunctional Development?” Third World Quarterly 17, No. 4 (1996): 689–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cherry, J., “‘Big Deal’ or Big Disappointment? The Continuing Evolution of the South Korean Developmental State,” Pacific Review 18, No. 3 (2005): 327–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chu, Yin-wah, “Eclipse or Reconfigured? South Korea’s Developmental State and Challenges of the Global Knowledge Economy,” Economy and Society 38, No. 2 (2009): 278–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Evans, P., Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  8. Harding, H., China’s Second Revolution: Reform after Mao, Brookings Institution Press, 1987.Google Scholar
  9. Huff, W. G., “The Developmental State, Government, and Singapore’s Economic Development since 1960,” World Development 23, No. 8 (1995): 1421–1438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Johnson, C., MITI and The Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925–1975, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1982.Google Scholar
  11. Krugman, P., “The myth of Asia’s miracle.” Foreign Affairs 73, No. 6 (1994): 62–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Leftwich, A., “Bringing Politics Back In: Towards a Model of the Developmental State,” Journal of Development Studies 31, No. 3 (1995): 400–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Li, Hongbin, & Li-An Zhou, “Political Turnover and Economic Performance: The Incentive Role of Personnel Control in China”, Journal of Public Economics 89 (2005): 1743–1762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lin, Justin Yifu, Fang Cai, & Zhou Li, The China miracle: Development strategy and economic reform. Chinese University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
  15. List, Friedrich, National system of political economy: The Two Narratives of Political Economy. New York: Wiley, 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Minns, J., “Of Miracles and Models: The Rise and Decline of the Developmental State in South Korea”, Third World Quarterly 22, No. 6 (2001): 1025–1043.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Oi, J. C., “The Role of the Local State in China’s Transitional Economy,” China Quarterly 144 (1995): 1132–1149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Öniş, Ziya, “The Logic of the Developmental State,” Comparative Politics 24, No. 1 (1991): 109–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pirie, I., The Korean Developmental State: From Dirigisme to Neo-Liberalism. Routledge, 2007.Google Scholar
  20. Radice, H., “The Developmental State under Global Neo-Liberalism,” Third World Quarterly 29, No. 6 (2008): 1153–1174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Stubbs, R., “What Ever Happened to the East Asian Developmental State? The Unfolding Debate,” Pacific Review 22, No. 1 (2009): 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tsai, K.S., “Off Balance: The Unintended Consequences of Fiscal Federalism in China,” Journal of Chinese Political Science 9, No. 2 (2004): 7–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Unger, J., & A. Chan, “Corporatism in China: A Developmental State in an East Asian Context,” in Jonathan Unger & Anita Chan eds., China after Socialism: In the Footsteps of Eastern Europe or East Asia, M. E. Sharpe (1996): 95–129.Google Scholar
  24. Vestal, J., Planning for Change: Industrial Policy and Japanese Economic Development, 1945–1990, Oxford: Clarendon, 1993.Google Scholar
  25. Wade, R., Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian Industrialization, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  26. White, G., “Developmental State and socialist Industrialization in the Third World”, Journal of Development Studies 21, No. 1 (1984): 97–120.Google Scholar
  27. White, G., ed., Developmental States in East Asia, Springer, 1988.Google Scholar
  28. White, G., ed., The Chinese State in the Era of Economic Reform: The Road to Crisis, Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1991.Google Scholar
  29. Whittaker, D. Hugh, et al., “Compressed development,” Studies in Comparative International Development 45, No. 4 (2010): 439–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Woo-Cumings, Meredith, ed., The Developmental State, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991.Google Scholar
  31. Zhu, Tianbiao, “Compressed development, flexible practices, and multiple traditions in China’s rise.” Sinicization and the rise of China: Civilizational processes beyond East and West (2012): 99–119.Google Scholar
  32. Zweig, D., Internationalizing China: Domestic Interests and Global Linkages, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2002.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wei Chen
    • 1
  • Shu Keng
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Social Work and Social PolicyEast China University of Science and TechnologyShanghaiChina
  2. 2.School of Public AffairsZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

Personalised recommendations