The Arc of Chinese Economy

CSCC 9th Annual Conference
Mar 31, 2023 - Apr 1, 2023 at 9:00am - 4:00pm | 2nd Floor Forum, Perelman Center for Policy Science & Economics, 133 S. 36th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Support of this conference by the China Research and Engagement Fund of the University of Pennsylvania is gratefully acknowledged.

Conference Papers Download Link (for authors and discussants only; password protected)

China’s economy has been viewed as wildly successful with nearly uninterrupted double-digit GDP growth from the 1970s until the Global Financial Crisis with more modest growth since. Today, the World Bank classifies China as an upper-middle income country that may soon move into the ranks of high-income countries. Yet, there are strong headwinds. COVID-19 lockdowns and the abrupt reversal of the zero-COVID policy have triggered a contraction in manufacturing. Household consumption remains stubbornly low in proportion to GDP. Longer term trends and factors including an aging population, flat or declining productivity, a marked slowdown in real estate and greater government and Party presence in the private sector may bode poorly for China’s long-term growth. A key question is whether the arc of China’s economy has approached an inflection point and the heady optimism of William Overholt’s 1993 The Rise of China has given way to the more somber assessment of a Lowy Institute report released in March 2022 under the title “Revising Down the Rise of China.”

This conference will address three broad sets of issues. First are macroeconomic issues. These include: the sustainability of China’s growth models given its reliance on capital formation and exports; whether investment-driven growth and industrial policy can ultimately drive innovation and productivity; and whether China’s demography—an aging population and shrinking workforce—can sustain growth.

Micro issues at the industry, firm and household levels follow. These include: the extension of state ownership and control into private firms; the crackdown on high-profile entrepreneurs in the tech sector and the 2021 “summer storm” of regulation (and the partial relaxation of these controls); policies aimed at de-risking the real estate sector that led to the near-bankruptcy of China Evergrande (and their subsequent reversal); and the impact of policies whose aim is “common prosperity,” reducing the wealth gap between the rich and poor.

The third set of issues is forward-looking. Among them are: the climate for foreign trade and investment in China; the digitalization and internationalization of the RMB; and whether China’s era of rapid growth is coming to a close and if so with a soft or hard readjustment.

To address these questions, the conference will convene a group of leading China scholars to share their expertise and insights. Eleven papers will be presented by leading scholars and followed by comments from expert discussants and open Q&A. The conference is free and open to all. 

Conference Agenda


8:45AM Opening Remarks


China’s GDP Growth

Justin Lin, Peking University (via video)

Lant Pritchett, Oxford University (via video)

Tom Rawski, University of Pittsburgh (via video)

Michael Song, Chinese University of Hong Kong (via video)

Chenggang Xu, Stanford University (via Zoom)

Discussants: Daniel Rosen, Rhodium Group

Marshall Meyer, University of Pennsylvania


The Political Economy of Common Prosperity

Yasheng Huang, MIT (via Zoom)

Discussants: Shi Li, Zhejiang University (via Zoom)

Yue Hou, University of Pennsylvania (via Zoom)

11:15- 11:30AM Coffee Break


Derisking Real Estate in China’s Hybrid Economy

Wei Xiong, Princeton University

Discussants: Susan Wachter, University of Pennsylvania

Joe Gyourko, University of Pennsylvania


Innovation in China: Drivers, Challenges, and Future Directions

Kevin Zheng Zhou, University of Hong Kong

Discussants: Nan Jia, University of Southern California

Minyuan Zhao, Washington University in St. Louis


China's Productivity Challenge

Xiaodong Zhu, University of Hong Kong

Discussants: Hongxin Zhao, Saint Louis University

Nan Jia, University of Southern California

3:15-3:30PM Coffee Break


The “Summer of 2021” and the Trajectory of the Chinese Economic System

Barry Naughton, UC San Diego

Discussants: Margaret Pearson, University of Maryland

Minyuan Zhao, Washington University in St. Louis


When the Abundance Ends: Economic Transformation, Population Aging, and Shrinking Lifecycle Surplus in China, 2000-2020

Feng Wang, UC Irvine; Shen Ke, Fudan University

Discussants: Cai Yong, University of North Carolina

Emily Hanuum, University of Pennsylvania

5:00-5:30PM Publication Planning (paper authors and discussants only)



Centralization or Decentralization? The Evolution of State-Ownership in China

Linda Zhao, University of Pennsylvania; Jeff Cai, University of Notre Dame

Discussants: Margaret Pearson, University of Maryland

Hongxin Zhao, Saint Louis University


China’s Journey in Embracing Economic Openness: Four Perspectives

Shang-Jin Wei, Columbia University

Discussants: David Dollar, Brookings Institution

Jacques deLisle, University of Pennsylvania

10:15-10:30AM Coffee Break


RMB Internationalization and Digitization

Vivian Zhanwei Yue, Emory University

Discussants: Hanming Fang, University of Pennsylvania

Hui Tong, IMF (via Zoom)


China’s Long-term Economic Prospects

William Overholt, Harvard University

Panel Discussion: Daniel Rosen, Rhodium Group

David Dollar, Brookings Institution

Hanming Fang, University of Pennsylvania