Andrew Wedeman argues that economic reform in China succeeded because government failed to prevent local officials from forcing prices to market levels. Reformers opted for a hybrid system of price controls in the 1980s, wherein commodities had both fixed and floating prices. Depressed fixed prices led to "resource wars," as localities vied for control over undervalued commodities while inflated prices fueled an investment boom that saturated markets and led to import barriers. Although local rent seeking and protectionism appeared to carve up the economy, they had actually cleared the way for sweeping reforms.
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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
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