Ep. 5: China's Economic Challenges, Explained

China Books

Feb 6 2024 • 1 hr 9 mins

The sizzle has come off of China's decades of economic growth, as the country contends with deflation, slumping consumer confidence, plummeting foreign investment, a cratered urban property sector, high local government debt, overcapacity in manufacturing, and a private sector cowed by government crackdowns, as well as a shrinking workforce and an aging population.

For all that, China is still the world's second largest economy, the largest trading partner of most of the world's countries, and one of the world's biggest bilateral lenders. And China listed its economic growth rate in 2023 as a respectable 5.2 percent, causing more than one economist to raise a eyebrow.

How to make sense of all this, and get an idea of what China's options are to sustain a future path of comfortable economic growth?  Settle back, put your earbuds in, and listen as the two respected China-born economists in this episode lay out the challenges, choices, and possibilities that could shape China's future.

Tao Wang, author of Making Sense of China's Economy (2023) is chief China economist, managing director, and Head of Asia Economic Research at UBS Investment Bank in Hong Kong, and was formerly an economist at the International Monetary Fund.  Her research on China covers a wide range of topics including monetary policy, the debt problem, shadow banking, local government finance, US-China trade disputes, supply chain shifts, RMB internationalization, the property bubble, the demographic challenge, the urban-rural divide, and the long-term growth potential. Dr. Wang has been consistently ranked as one of the top China economists by institutional investors. She is an invited fellow of the China Finance (CF) 40 Forum and a member of the China Global Economic Governance 50 Forum.

Yasheng Huang, author of Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics: Entrepreneurship and the State (2008, now being updated), The Rise and Fall of the East: How Exams, Autocracy, Stability and Technology Brought China Success, and Why They Might Lead to Its Decline (2023) , and nine other books in English and in Chinese, holds the Epoch Foundation Professorship of Global Economics and Management at MIT Sloan School of Management, and founded and runs MIT's China Lab, India Lab, and ASEAN Lab.  Dr. Huang is a 2023-24 visiting fellow at the Kissinger Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC. The National Asia Research Program named him one of the most outstanding scholars in the United States conducting research on issues of policy importance to the United States. He has served as a consultant at World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and OECD.


The China Books podcast is hosted and produced by Mary Kay Magistad, a former award-winning China correspondent for NPR and PRI/BBC's The World, now a senior fellow at Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations. This podcast is a companion of the China Books Review, which offers incisive essays, interviews, and reviews on all things China books-related. Co-publishers are Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations, headed by Orville Schell, and The Wire China, co-founded by David Barboza, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times China correspondent. The Review's editor is Alec Ash, who can be reached at editor@chinabooksreview.com.

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