MRI Forum 23

"China and Capitalism: A Reflection"

by Christopher A. McNally


Summary of the Presentation

In the academic literature, China's stunning economic ascent has been variedly compared with the histories of the East Asian developmental states, the experiences of post-socialist transformation in Eastern Europe, or just as a case of crony capitalism. Less attention has been paid to synthesizing aspects of China's transition and relating it to the process of capitalist development in general. This presentation will apply the capitalist lens to study China and hold that such a reinterpretation provides new insights on China's present and future. Put differently, I will use the originally Eurocentric concept of capitalism, conceive of it in neutral terms as a socio-economic system, and then apply it to interpret the massive transformations occurring in contemporary China. To proceed, I will first work towards a definition of capitalism and with this a measuring stick to judge whether capitalism is really emerging in China. I will then note several of the most prominent institutional characteristics of China's political economy and end with exploring the implications of China's capitalist transition.

Profile of the Speaker

Dr. Christopher A. McNally is a Research Fellow in Politics, Governance and Security Studies at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. As a political economist studying the institutions, interests and ideas underlying formations of capitalism, his primary research focuses on the nature and logic of China's capitalist transition; China's economic, financial and enterprise reforms with an emphasis on the rapid development of Chinese private firms; and the implications of China's growing economic power on East Asia's regional order. Dr. McNally has held fellowships conducting fieldwork and research at the Asia Research Centre in West Australia, the Institute of Asia Pacific Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Washington in Seattle and has authored numerous publications, including most recently in The China Quarterly , Business and Politics and Comparative Social Research . He is now editing the volume, Capitalism in the Dragon's Lair — China's Emergent Political Economy .