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China’s Escape from the “Big Bang”: The 1980s Price Reform Debate in Historical Perspective

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China’s rise and Russia’s fall shape today’s global political economy. This new great divergence originates from the different policies pursued in the transition from a command economy. Russia applied a ‘big-bang’ doctrine with rapid price liberalisation at its core. In contrast, a policy of experimentalist gradualism manifested in the dual track price system laid the foundations for China’s economic success. But the Chinese reform approach was highly contested in its first decade, the 1980s, and China came close to implementing a big bang. My talk sheds light on this critical crossroads. The economic logic underlying the alternative pathways considered at the time will be evaluated and analyzed how China ultimately came to escape a ‘big bang’ in price reform.

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