Former Polish PM explains the success of "Chinism"

Editor's Note: Poland's former Deputy Prime Minister and distinguished professor of economics Grzegorz W. Kołodko regards China's development over the last four decades as "the greatest economic success story in the history of mankind." As the scholar who coined the term "Chinism", he concludes that China's system of meritocracy and accountability can provide answers to new global challenges.

Wang Guan: I would like to begin by asking a very straight-forward question. I mean, you have demonstrated genuine interest in China’s development model, its path. You wrote articles and sold bestsellers on China. You also taught in a various universities in the country. What in your opinion made the China story so appealing and interesting?

Grzegorz W. Kołodko: I consider China to be the greatest economic success in the history of the mankind. Never ever in such a short period of time, just one generation, so many people, standard of living was upgraded so much. Therefore whoever is interested in development, social changes and advances must take a look into China and try to understand what's going on there. Why? And are there any lessons for other parts of our volatile world?

Wang Guan: Right. From an economist's perspective, what are the most striking features in China's development over the past, let's say ten years?

Grzegorz W. Kołodko: I'm very much impressed by the way the Chinese authorities, following the great contribution of the late Deng Xiaoping, were able to combine the power of invisible hand of market with the very visible hand of government. This is the fine art of microeconomic management and social economic policy of development. There is also a process of permanent experiment. So one may say that Chinese changes of the last three, four decades are the greatest social and economic experiment in the history of the mankind. So it is not only the case of 1.4 billion people in China, but it is followed with a great attention by many other countries.

Wang Guan: I want to move on, Professor Kołodko, and talk about globalization. As we know globalization has been facing a major backlash in the past decade or so and really got a bad name. In your book, “China and the Future of Globalization”, you blamed new nationalism and populism. What do you mean by new nationalism?

Grzegorz W. Kołodko: You may see that very clearly of the last three, four decades in the United States and elsewhere, that labor productivity is growing, but income of very many people is not growing because the cream from economic advancement is being taken off by the financial and political and business elites, so inequality is growing. And now the social answer, people are getting angry, they go to the streets, they demonstrate, etc. So their anger has changed into populism and now we are looking for an answer. So the countries like say Indonesia or Tanzania or Brazil, they are taking a look into China. Why China is successful? This is not Western time liberal democracy with the priority to whatsoever to private property and commercialization of everything, healthcare, education, even security. This is the hybrid economic and political system, which I called Chinism.

Wang Guan: It is very interesting. How would you define Chinism? You wrote a book about it. 

Grzegorz W. Kołodko: If one is taking a closer, deep, comprehensive look into the social, political and economic structure, in culture of the people, the business culture, one see that it is in my opinion, not anymore a socialism and definitely not yet and maybe never capitalism. So this alternative black and white, A or B is just the wrong approach. This is the new, another quality I nickname Chinism. Meritocracy-based combination of power of government regulation and power of market spontaneity. Each and every country has to answer the question how to combine the market regulation with the government intervention. I think that China has proved over the years that it has managed to address this challenge much better than very many other countries.

Wang Guan: Very interesting indeed. Finally, Professor Kołodko, you once wrote and I quote, that China should not be feared, they should be counted on. But under the circumstances and at the age of the time that we live in right now, how receptive do you think the Western elites and the Western policymakers will be to your argument?  

Grzegorz W. Kołodko: I stay with my claim, China should not be feared, China must be counted for. And this is a very short-sighted and unintelligent response of some leaders of the West, which are making China a foe, an enemy, which started the first Trade War and now even a (new) Cold War. Because the march of China towards mighty is unstoppable. So there is no solution to very many global problems without cooperation with China. The business people, I think all over the world, most of them, they are in favor of engagement in China. Because of the monumental market in China, because of Chinese technologies, know-how, business opportunities and so on. But the political logic, if it is a logic, it's a different one. China has emancipated already, and that is a great success. And that makes unfortunately some people in the West, ill-advised people envy and angry. But this is also an example for developing countries.

Wang Guan: Professor Grzegorz Kołodko, thank you so much for your perspectives.

Grzegorz W. Kołodko: Thank you. My pleasure.

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