Paradoxes of Prosperity in China’s New Capitalism

Tobias ten Brink


This article gives a broad characterization of China’s political economy, as well as specific aspects of its socio-economic instabilities. With a focus on China’s export-oriented industry sectors, concepts from comparative and international political economy are applied to show how the Chinese economy can be understood as a variegated form of state-permeated capitalism that at the same time is deeply integrated into world economic processes. The article goes on to portray the socio-economic dynamics, as well as the instabilities of China’s new capitalism, that are at the root of the state leadership’s attempts to turn away from a one-sided model of export and investment-driven growth. Thereby, a number of obstacles are revealed for the “rebalancing” of the economy: a continued dependence on exports, a lack of domestic consumer demand which impedes a significant “social” upgrading, the ongoing low-wage model for which there is no end in sight, the limits of the state’s steering capacity and the weaknesses of its fragmented, competition-driven structure.

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