We are pleased to publish this important article by Associate Professor Efe Can Gürcan, which sets out what he describes as the ‘Chinese miracle’, “that China has enjoyed unprecedented economic success in world history despite enormous historical, demographic, geographical and geopolitical adversities.” Despite this, he notes, “China has developed an exemplary model of economic development that inspires much of the developing world.” Therefore, “to decipher the formula behind China’s historic economic success” is to “offer fundamental hints to guide developing countries in their endeavours to reach an advanced stage of economic development.”
Professor Gürcan surveys the various stages of China’s socialist development under Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, noting that “the roots of the Chinese economic miracle can be traced back to the early phase of the Chinese revolution under the leadership of Mao,” who he sees as the real originator of the concept of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Deng Xiaoping developed this, including by digging deeper into Mao’s work, for example his, ‘A Critique of Soviet Economics’, and he highlights Deng’s view of the essence of socialism lying in the “liberation and development of the productive forces, elimination of exploitation and polarisation, and the ultimate achievement of prosperity for all.”
Professor Gürcan concludes by stating that: “In contrast to Western capitalism, the Chinese economic miracle does not originate from forced accumulation, wars, and colonialism. On the contrary, it springs from peaceful development and international cooperation. Understood as such, China’s model also constitutes the living example of the rising relevance and superiority of socialism over the capitalist system.”
This is an extremely important article that is worthy of careful study. It was originally published in Volume 3 Issue 2 of the Turkish journal Belt and Road Initiative Quarterly (BRIQ) and is reproduced with thanks. The article can be also be read/downloaded in PDF form.
Despite enormous historical, demographic, geographical, and geopolitical adversities, China has enjoyed unprecedented economic success in world history. This article aims to decipher the formula behind China’s historic economic success and distill policy lessons for developing countries in their endeavors to reach an advanced stage of economic development. Based on descriptive case study and statistics, the article suggests that the Chinese economic miracle can be explained by a four-fold formula: a) devising an autocentric economic model aspiring to improve national autonomy and cushion the impact of foreign interference, b) insisting on socialism and the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which allows for strategic coherence and long-term planning to overcome free-market anarchy, c) creating a state-driven industrial base fueled by national science and technology policies, and d) adopting a balanced approach to development centered on attaining a higher sociocultural and ecological quality of life. The findings also help to debunk the myths surrounding the Chinese miracle, particularly the “cheap labor thesis”, the “technology theft thesis”, the “foreign investment and capitalist integration theses”, the “imperialism thesis”, and the “Mao-the-monster thesis”.
Keywords: Chinese miracle,economic development, Mao Zedong Thought, socialism with Chinese characteristics, Xi Jinping Thought
Deciphering the Chinese Economic Miracle: Lessons for the Developing World
The “Chinese miracle” has become a widely used term in development studies, inspiring developing countries to achieve high levels of prosperity, living standards, and stability over the last decade. The popularity of this term can be explained in large part by the fact that China has enjoyed unprecedented economic success in world history (Zakaria, 2011; Gürcan 2021a), despite enormous historical, demographic, geographical, and geopolitical adversities. China was one of the world’s poorest countries before the socialist revolution in 1949. In the early revolutionary era, China struggled much to overcome its crippling semi-colonial legacy characterized by the medieval conditions of an agricultural economy and the weakness of its industrial base. History aside, China is the largest country by population size, which currently accounts for 22% of the world’s population. This goes hand in hand with China’s resource scarcity problem as a structural adversity constraining its development potential. China possesses only 7% of the world’s arable land and freshwater resources and 8% of the world’s natural resources. Furthermore, only 19% of its surface area is suitable for human habitation, and 65% of its surface area is rugged. This severely cripples China’s farming capabilities and facilitates ethnic heterogeneity as a potential impediment to political cohesion (Morton, 2006; Naughton, 2018). Another adversity threatening China’s economic development concerns geopolitical circumstances. Cases in point are how China’s membership in the United Nations was stalled until 1971, and the US resorted to military interventions in China’s neighboring regions to suffocate the revolution. The current geopolitical circumstances find their sharpest expression in the current US containment strategy and the US-led trade and technology war against China (Gürcan, 2019; Gürcan, Kahraman & Yanmaz, 2021).
Despite such adversities, China has developed an exemplary model of economic development that inspires much of the developing world. Since 1979, China is the only country that has remained untouched by any economic crisis. The 1979-2018 period testified to an average economic growth rate of 9.4% in the lead of the CPC, making China the world’s second-largest economy, top producer, and the leading exporter of technological goods (Hu, 2020). By 2015, China came to assume the global production of 40% of washing machines, 50% of textiles, 60% of buttons, 70% of shoes, 80% of televisions, and 90% of toys. Recently, China has made significant progress in producing higher-value added products in the computer, aviation, and medical technology sectors, among others. One should also note that China has risen to the world’s largest lender to the developing world, second-largest investor in foreign direct investment (FDI), and top leader in green bonds and credits. China’s contributions to green finance also bring to mind China’s global leadership in sustainable development. China has recently emerged as the world’s top leader in green transportation as the largest producer of electric buses and the largest market for electric vehicles and bikes. Similarly, China’s status as the world’s top producer of solar, wind, and hydroelectric power is closely related to its reputation as the world’s top investor in sustainable energy technology (Gürcan, 2021a). Besides China’s historic success in economic and environmental development, one should also note that the Chinese economic miracle is credited for 70% of global poverty eradication between 1990 and 2015 (Gardner, 2018).
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