Variety Within and Without
The Political Economy of Chinese Regulation
MARGARET M. PEARSON
This chapter examines China’s emerging system of economic regulation— and more generally its system of economic governance—by comparing China to several other major capitalist economies. In so doing, the chapter attempts to characterize some of the basic foundations of China’s political economy as it has emerged since the late 1990s, as well as to shed light on a core question of this volume: How can we locate China’s political economy in reference to other capitalist countries? Empirically, the chapter focuses on the most strategic sectors of the Chinese economy. The chapter’s main themes key off the idea that, contrary to predictions of substantial convergence in forms of economic governance, there remain significant “varieties of capitalism.”1 But rather than just arguing that the Chinese case supports the idea of “varieties,” it goes further to argue that some key elements of China’s political economy in its strategic industries still must be considered to lie outside the rubric of “capitalism.” China is not sui generis, and it has traveled a long distance from the height of planned socialism, and yet its remaining differences must be kept center stage to properly understand the system.
More specifically, the chapter examines variance in China’s emerging regulatory state in two contexts. First, it discusses the commonsensical but underemphasized point that China does not have a singular political economy. Rather, China actually has several economic systems, or “tiers.” Each of these tiers is characterized by its own version of the “regulatory state.”