Beijing Bubble, Beijing Bust: Inequality, Trade, and Capital Inflow into China

James K. Galbraith, Sara Hsu, Wenjie Zhang


This paper explores the relationships between inequality, trade, and capital flows into China since the early 1990s and particularly in the first years of the present decade. We show that the rise in economic inequality in China has more to do directly with the activities associated with China’s financial and building boom, notably in Beijing, than with the massive growth in manufacturing employment and in Chinese exports since China joined the WTO in 2001. Nevertheless, it is likely that a flow of profits from the export boom did feed the speculative fires in the capital and elsewhere, and therefore it should be no surprise that the fall of one should be linked to the fall of the other, in a particularly painful reduction of economic inequality.

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