Andrew Wedemen argues that China succeeded in moving from a Maoist command economy to a market economy because the central government failed to prevent local governments from forcing prices to market levels. Having partially decontrolled the economy in the early 1980s, economic reformers baulked at price reform, opting instead for a hybrid system wherein commodities had two prices, one fixed and one floating. Depressed fixed prices led to 'resource wars', as localities battled each other for control over undervalued commodities while inflated consumer goods prices fuelled a headlong investment boom that saturated markets and led to the erection of import barriers. Although local rent seeking and protectionism appeared to carve up the economy, in reality they had not only pushed prices to market levels and cleared the way for sweeping reforms in the 1980s, they had also pushed China past the 'pitfalls' of reform that entrapped other socialist economies.
• Reinterprets the 'economic crisis' of 1989–1990, demonstration that it was actually the basis for the reforms of the 1990s • Explains why reform in China succeeded when it should have failed according to standard theories • Provides a rich and nuanced account of the process by which 'dysfunctional' rent seeking and local protectionism reshaped the Chinese economy
1. The pitfalls of reform; 2. Policy and institutional change; 3. Rent seeking and local protectionism; 4. Export protectionism; 5. Import protectionism; 6. Marketisation; 7. Escaping from the pitfalls.
Review of the hardback: 'The book sheds light on an important political-economy issue in China under reform, namely, origins and effects of local protectionism … This book excels in filling this void … Rigour and logic carry the analysis in this book to a level few future works on local protectionism may achieve … The writing is succinct, lively, yet remarkably concise. It helps deliver logical argument with clarity and rigour … one will find this study of local protectionism insightful, elaborate, and informative.' Journal of Political Science
Review of the hardback: 'Wedeman's book provides a nuanced explanation for why Chinese bureaucrats failed to stall the reform process. … first-rate analysis … a highly accessible style. Wedeman's account also provides a sophisticated analysis of the impact of the economic reforms on the role of the central state. Wedeman's clear exposition and vigorous analysis are major contributions to the scholarship on market transition and institutional change. Wedeman's good use of a rationality paradigm in his analysis, combined with his meticulous reading of published materials, helps shed new light on the political economy of China's economic development. This is essential reading for all students of China's reforms.' The China Journal