Who Did What to Whom?:
Making Sense of the
Reform Process in China's
A CASE OF FOLLOWERS AND LEADERS?
Even if we accept that the international environment was a powerful influence in impelling certain changes in China's shipbuilding industry, we must still account for the response within China, just as we did with regard to the textile industry, and pose a similar set of questions. Did the reforms and other policy changes in the industry mainly reflect strategy made by the top leadership to cope with the exigencies of the world market in shipping and shipbuilding? Or were they fundamentally the result of bureaucratic intervention by CSSC Beijing? Or, finally, did the main impulse for change come from below as the yards reacted to changing market conditions at home and abroad? In other words, are the changes that occurred in the shipbuilding industry best conceptualized as the outcome of top-level strategy, mid-level intervention, or low-level demand?
Not surprisingly, actors at each level have tried to take credit for the success of the shipbuilding industry. For its part, CSSC Beijing has long maintained that it orchestrated reform in the industry, directing the yards to undertake various kinds of new responsibilities while simultaneously transforming its own role from a central decision-maker to a marketing agent and technical adviser. By contrast, the yards have claimed — rather predictably — that change was initiated largely from below, beginning with reforms taken at the unit-level. From this perspective, the yards led and CSSC Beijing followed. Although China's top leaders have made few public comments about the shipbuilding industry, usually only at ceremonial ship launchings and during inspection tours, they, too, appear to want some credit. Implicitly, at least, their statements have attributed the