China's Great Economic Transformation, edited by Loren Brandt and Thomas G. Rawski. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. xxii + 906 pp. £80.00/US$175.00 (hardcover), £40.00/US$70.00 (paperback), US$60.00 (eBook).
Last year's news is older for China's economy than for that of most countries. Any book that aims to sum up "China's great economic transformation" must find itself in a losing race with history, as China's economy barrels along year after year while transforming itself continuously along many dimensions. Despite this generic and unavoidable problem, China 's Great Economic Transformation is a fine, comprehensive set of discussions of China's economy from the late 1970s, when the reform period began, until around 2006.
This is a big book of some 900 pages. A long list of distinguished people has contributed to it. There are chapters on China as a transition economy (Jan Svejnar), the political economy of China's transition (Barry Naughton), the demographic aspect of the transition (Wang Feng and Andrew Mason), the labor market (Fang Cai, Albert Park, Yaohui Zhao), education (Emily Hannum, Jere Behrman, Meiyan Wang, Jihong Liu), environmental issues (James Roumasset, Kimberly Burnett, Hua Wang), science and technology (Albert G. Z. Hu, Gary Jefferson), private sector development (Stephen Haggard and Yasheng Huang), the role of law (Donald Clarke, Peter Murrell, Susan Whiting), the fiscal system (Christine Wong and Richard Bird), agriculture (Jikun Huang, Keijiro Otsuka, Scott Rozelle), the financial system (Franklin Allen, Jun Qian, Meijun Qian), industry (Brandt, Rawski and John Sutton), China and globalization (Lee Branstetter and Nicholas Lardy), growth and structural change (Brandt, Chang-tai Hsieh, Xiaodong Zhu), income inequality (Dwayne Benjamin, Brandt, John Giles and Sangui Wang), spatial dimensions of China's development (Kam Wing Chan, J. Vernon Henderson, Kai Yuen Tsui), and forecasting China's future growth (Dwight Perkins and Rawski).
A comprehensive list, indeed, and one that usefully extends the realm of the economic to embrace related areas, such as law, the environment, science and technology, and demography, that undoubtedly interact with economic development and transformation. Moreover, the chapters in this book are not quick summaries but rather lengthy and carefully thought out discussions, often containing new information, new insights or new analytic approaches to their topics.
What is left out? It would have been nice to include something more about the impact of political reform (or its absence) upon China's development (touched on briefly, for example, in Naughton' s chapter and that by Perkins and Rawski); the intersection between human rights and the economy (Clarke, Murrell and Whiting's chapter deals mainly with contracts, property rights and other aspects of law more directly related to economics); and the important elements of continuity - not just radical change - between the pre- and post-reform periods. …