China aims high

MIT Prof. Ed Steinfeld

Viewed from the West, China’s new Five-Year Plan, the 12th since the Communist Party took power, has an anachronistic feel.  The exercise itself evokes images of a heavy-handed, retrograde state and dour bureaucrats issuing orders from on high.

But beneath the dry, technical language of the document, which the National People’s Congress endorsed this month, is a plan for a socio-political transformation every bit as important and open-ended as the recent economic transformation in China.

Over the past decade, China has turned to exports to drive growth. Leaders have embraced a new kind of global production, in which goods are made of components produced in a variety of places by a variety of companies. For China, this has meant welcoming foreign manufacturers and becoming a global center for export processing.

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