February 26, 2011 at 1:34 am | Posted in Asia, Books, China, Development, Economics, Financial, Globalization, History, Research | Leave a comment









Minxin Pei is a China-watcher who fled China after Tiananmen 1989 and got his degree at the Kennedy School at Harvard and is now at Carnegie.

He is against the “China euphoria” crowd and a China pessimist.

Can one argue now that Pei must be wrong given that China sailed through the current crisis better than anyone else?

China‘s Trapped Transition:

The Limits of Developmental Autocracy

Minxin Pei (Author)


Minxin Pei is unquestionably one of this country’s best informed and most insightful analysts of contemporary Chinese politics. This well-written, provocative book­-a sobering picture of a China beset by severe social problems yet resistant to the political reforms needed to resolve them-­directly challenges much of the conventional wisdom about the rise of China. It is certain to be welcomed by scholars, policymakers, and general readers alike.
–Elizabeth J. Perry, author of Patrolling the Revolution (20060531)

In this superb work, Pei asks penetrating questions about the course of China’s development. He offers a very effective critique of the gradualist approach to reform, explaining that the problems China faces are not incidental to but an integral part of that approach. Powerfully argued, this is a major contribution sure to stir debate.
–Joseph Fewsmith, author of China since Tiananmen (20060612)

Pei’s notion of a ‘trapped transition’ will prove valuable­-and not just for its application to China. It serves to challenge the deterministic and evolutionary assumptions behind much of the literature on democratization.
–Philippe C. Schmitter, European University Institute (20060901)

Not only does Minxin Pei make the case that the Chinese reforms are partial and self-limiting, but he also calls into question the hopeful view that rapid growth will ultimately generate political reform. His important book has implications for current debates about the United States-China relationship, but will also force a rethinking of the broader comparative literature on the developmental state.
–Stephan Haggard, co-author of The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions (20061001)

Thought-provoking…Mr. Pei argues, persuasively, that China’s gradualism, often favourably contrasted with the former Soviet Union’s flirtation with radical reforms, is as much a political as an economic strategy.
–Martin Wolf (Financial Times )

Pei does not have much time for the optimistic assumption that democracy in China is just around the corner…For Pei, there is little chance of dethroning the Communist party behemoth in spite of the heroic efforts of the dissidents and democracy campaigners.
–Chris Patten (Financial Times )

As Pei sees it, big trouble looms [for China]. Continued progress toward a more modern economy will require the establishment of a true rule of law, which in turn will require ‘institutional curbs’ on governmental action. These two limitations on power are incompatible with the party’s insistence on dominating society. So long as the current political framework remains in place, then, China is effectively, and perhaps fatally, trapped in its state of transition…China’s Trapped Transition presents a] comprehensive and, I believe, compelling understanding of present-day China.
–Gordon G. Chang (Commentary )

[An] acute and insightful examination of China’s ongoing transition.
–Chris Hunter (China Economic Review )

Pei’s most significant contribution lies in his lucid exposition of the causal links between the structural logic of China’s “illiberal adaptation” and its manifest socio-economic and political consequences…He has arguably–like Elvin before him–raised the level of debate and altered the terms of engagement.
–Richard Baum (China Journal )

Product Description

The rise of China as a great power is one of the most important developments in the twenty-first century. But despite dramatic economic progress, China’s prospects remain uncertain. In a book sure to provoke debate, Minxin Pei examines the sustainability of the Chinese Communist Party’s reform strategy—pursuing pro-market economic policies under one-party rule.

Pei casts doubt on three central explanations for why China’s strategy works: sustained economic development will lead to political liberalization and democratization; gradualist economic transition is a strategy superior to the “shock therapy” prescribed for the former Soviet Union; and a neo-authoritarian developmental state is essential to economic take-off. Pei argues that because the Communist Party must retain significant economic control to ensure its political survival, gradualism will ultimately fail.

The lack of democratic reforms in China has led to pervasive corruption and a breakdown in political accountability. What has emerged is a decentralized predatory state in which local party bosses have effectively privatized the state’s authority. Collusive corruption is widespread and governance is deteriorating. Instead of evolving toward a full market economy, China is trapped in partial economic and political reforms.

Combining powerful insights with empirical research, China’s Trapped Transition offers a provocative assessment of China’s future as a great power.

Product Details:

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • March 31, 2006
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674021959
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674021952

Pei is well known is his field for writing about the political divide between the CCP and the Chinese people. This book does an excellent job in covering the realities of the economic and political situations within China. The vast majority of the book is actually quite an easy read, but the beginning of the book can be challenging for those that aren’t use to conceptual models (hence 4 stars).

I highly recommend that those interested in China read this book. While I do not agree with specific points, Pei’s general ideas are sound and provide lots to think about. China’s government (read the CCP) must withdraw from the market if the economic reforms laid down by Deng Xiaoping are to continue and be successful. However, as Pei points out, by withdrawing from the markets, the CCP will lose a lot of its hard power.

For those who’s never been to China or lived there, this book might be a little out of their scope. After all, the only things you hear in the news are how if Walmart were a country, it’d be China’s 7th biggest trading partner, or how Intel is building their fabs in China (away from Shanghai towards inland to further reduce cost). For those people, go read on how China will take over the world economically by the middle of this century and believe what you want.

For those who have any clue about China’s political system are keenly aware that the entire Chinese economy is still tied into the political system, and that is just a time bomb waiting to explode. If the CCP were to collapse, half of the country’s wealth will be exported and rest will go down with the defunct banking system. This book digs into the depth of the current geo-political situation, and is so accurate that the People’s Congress is taking note and implementing changes (albeit slowly) previously pointed out by the author. If you want to know the REAL story behind the Chinese economic system and where it’ll truly head in the next several decades, this is THE book to read. Not some “economic model that projects blah, blah, blah and threatens US’s position in the world,” where the author is totally clueless of all fundamentals of the Chinese economy other than published economic numbers.

This book is a highly intelligent, in-depth and convincing analysis of China as a dysfunctional, ‘predatory’ state. It is highly unlikely it will evolve in positive directions of increasing democracy. While it may collapse, the future may instead be that of a corrupt, stagnating failed state which exports its problems to the rest of the world – failure to control drugs, arms sales to dangerous regimes, aids, illegal immigration, etc etc. An important antidote to all the self-serving business propaganda on China’s economic miracle.


Author: Minxin Pei

Looming stagnation.

(The Color of China) (economy):

An article from: The National Interest

Product Description

This digital document is an article from The National Interest, published by The National Interest, Inc. on March 1, 2009. The length of the article is 3465 words.

Citation Details
Title: Looming stagnation. (The Color of China)(economy)
Minxin Pei
The National Interest (Magazine/Journal)
March 1, 2009
The National Interest, Inc.

Forecasters of the fortunes of nations are no different from Wall Street analysts: they all rely on the past to predict the future. So it is no surprise that China’s rapid economic growth in the last thirty years has led many to believe that the country will be able to continue to grow at this astounding rate for another two to three decades.

Optimism about China’s future is justified by the state’s apparently strong economic fundamentals–such as a high savings rate, a large and increasingly integrated domestic market, urbanization and deep integration into the global trading system. More importantly, China has achieved its stunning performance in spite of the many daunting economic, social and political difficulties that doomsayers emphasize…and yet Minxin Pei doubts the adaptability of the Chinese system.

China‘s Trapped Transition:

The Limits of Developmental Autocracy

Minxin Pei (Author)

Publisher: Harvard University Press

March 31, 2006


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