Experts Debate Policy Options for China’s Transition

  • Workshop focuses on China’s economy at a critical juncture
  • China’s economy combines dynamism and distortions
  • Continued growth will depend on a more open, competitive economy
  • The country is now at a critical juncture, a group of world-class researchers said at the First Research Workshop on China’s Economy, organized jointly by the IMF and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on April 28-29.

    While investment and exports have been a motor for growth, China is increasingly experiencing structural issues: widening inequality, overcapacity as a consequence of policy distortions, unsustainable environmental costs, volatile financial markets, and rising systemic risk.

    The workshop, held at the IMF’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., explored a series of questions that have emerged as China shifts toward a new growth model. Is this the end of the growth miracle? Will the Chinese renminbi one day be as important as the U.S. dollar? Should the rapidly increasing shadow banking activity in China be a source of concern? How worrisome is the rapid rise in China’s housing prices?

    Panelists shared their views on these and other issues facing the world’s second largest economy (or largest, if measured on a purchasing-power-parity basis).

    Is China’s economic growth sustainable?

    Understanding the source of China’s tremendous growth was a recurring theme at the workshop. “China’s economy combines enormous dynamism with huge distortions,” observed Loren Brandt (University of Toronto). Brandt described his research based on China’s firm-level data and emphasized that firm dynamics (entry and exit), especially firm entry, have been the main source of the productivity growth in the manufacturing sector.

    Echoing Brandt’s message, Kjetil Storesletten (University of Oslo) discussed regional growth disparities and showed that barriers preventing firms from entering an industry account for most of the disparities. Such barriers are more severe for privately owned firms in regions in which state-owned enterprises (SOE) dominate, he said.

    In his keynote speech, Nicholas Lardy (Peterson Institute for International Economics) offered an upbeat view on China’s transition to a new growth model, one in which the service sector plays a larger role than manufacturing. The bright side of the service sector, he noted, is its continued strong productivity growth. The development of financial deepening and the stronger social safety net are contributing to increased...

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