Project SyndicateProject Syndicate

How to kill Chinese dynamism

By Yasheng Huang

18 Aug 2023 · 8 min read

informed Summary

  1. China's high-tech sector has flourished, despite the country's lack of rule of law and market-based finance — a situation that contradicts the widely held belief that autocracy is antithetical to innovation.

BOSTON – In Lonely Ideas: Can Russia Compete?, MIT historian of science Loren Graham shows that many technologies pioneered by Soviet and post-Soviet Russia – including various weapons, improved railroads, and lasers – nonetheless failed to benefit the national economy in any substantial way. The reason for this abysmal failure, he concludes, is Russia’s lack of entrepreneurship.

The same insight can be applied to Imperial China. Many ideas that originated there were lonely orphans and brought little to no benefit to the Chinese economy. By contrast, the China of the post-1978 reform era moved in an altogether different direction from both Russia and China’s own past. As the reforms took root and blossomed, China began to develop a large, dynamic private sector with many entrepreneurs who were highly motivated and capable of bringing technologies to scale.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content