Napoleon admonished the world to beware an awakened China. 200 years later, Lester Thurow traces the astonishing rise of this economic giant. In contrast to Russia, says Thurow, China solved the problem of moving from communism to capitalism in less than two decades. Starting in 1978, Chinese leaders ended communes and gave hectares of land to industrious peasants. Leaders also tested private enterprise in a succession of cities. By the mid 1990s, “the time had come to play the international game,” says Thurow. China sought technology and foreign investment. But “how do you sell a country”? According to Thurow, China decided, “We’re the cheapest place to make everything.” Foreign firms flooded in, selling equipment to China, or making products there and selling them back to the developed world. But now there are problems: China has no regulations for maintaining intellectual property rights, so Chinese companies pirate Western technology and products with impunity, and undersell the foreign firms that have invested in them. Also, Thurow believes tales of China’s phenomenal growth are often just that – fictions sold by bureaucrats to rate a promotion. “China is a great success but it’s not growing at 9 to 10% a year.” Finally, divisions between prosperous cities and stagnant rural areas threaten long-term stability in the People’s Republic.
About the Speaker
Lester Thurow HM
Lester Thurow has advised presidents and informed the American public on such critical issues as deficit reduction and unemployment for more than 30 years. He has been an economics columnist for many national and international publications including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, and Nikkei Business Japan, and published numerous best-selling books, of which Fortune Favors the Bold (HarperBusiness, 2003) is the latest.
Thurow is Coordinator of MIT Asia-Pacific Initiatives, and Chairman of both the Technion Institute of Management and The Lemelson-MIT Awards Program. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in 1962, where he received his M.A. and took first class honors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. In 1964, he received a Ph.D.in Economics from Harvard University.