THAT CHINA has had decades of stellar growth is beyond doubt. More controversial is what can be learned from it. Does China prove that the basic tenets of developmental economics are right? Or does it argue for an overhaul? These questions brought together an august group of Chinese and foreign economists on December 9th in Beijing. They debated a new report that distils China’s experience into a handful of lessons which, the authors argue, belong in textbooks. But judging from the reaction, publishers will not be rushing to pulp current editions just yet.
The exercise, held at Tsinghua University, was a reflection on the start four decades ago of China’s “reform and opening” period, the rebirth of the economy following Mao’s disastrous rule. The anniversary is intensely political. Yet it is also a good moment to ask how China has done so well. Forty years ago, it had a 2% share of global GDP in terms of purchasing-power parity; now it has more than 18%.