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  • Author: Simon Lester, Huan Zhu
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Donald Trump was a trade “hawk” long before he became president. In the late 1980s, he went on the Oprah Winfrey show and complained about Japan “beating the hell out of this country” on trade (Real Clear Politics 2019). As president, he has continued with the same rhetoric, using it against a wide range of U.S. trading partners, and he has followed it up with action (often in the form of tariffs). While many countries have found themselves threatened by Trump’s aggressive trade policy, his main focus has been China. As a result, the United States and China have been engaged in an escalating tariff, trade, and national security conflict since July 2018, when the first set of U.S. tariffs on China went into effect and China retaliated with tariffs of its own. In this article, we explore the U.S.-China economic conflict, from its origins to the trade war as it stands today. We then offer our thoughts on where this conflict is heading and when it might end.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Tariffs, Trade Wars, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: James A. Dorn
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: 1978 has been erratic, with many interruptions along the way. The end result, however, has been eye opening: the Middle Kingdom has become the world’s largest trading nation, the second largest economy, and more than 500 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty as economic liberalization removed barriers to trade. One of the enduring lessons from China’s rise as an economic giant is that once people are given greater economic freedom, more autonomy, and stronger property rights, they will have a better chance of creating a harmonious and prosperous society (see Dorn 2019). Nevertheless, China faces major challenges to its future development. There is still no genuine rule of law that effectively limits the power of government, no independent judiciary to enforce the rights promised in the nation’s constitution, no free market for ideas that is essential for innovation and for avoiding major policy errors, no competitive political system that fosters a diversity of views, and a large state sector that stifles private initiative and breeds corruption. China’s slowing growth rate, its increasing debt burden, environmental problems, and the increasing tension in U.S.-China relations compound the challenges facing Beijing.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, History, Trade Liberalization
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Yiping Huang, Tingting Ge
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: When China began economic reform in 1978, it had only one financial institution, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), which, at that time, served as both the central bank and a commercial bank and accounted for 93 percent of the country’s total financial assets. This was primarily because, in a centrally planned economy, transfer of funds was arranged by the state and there was little demand for financial intermediation. Once economic reform started, the authorities moved very quickly to establish a very large number of financial institutions and to create various financial markets. Forty years later, China is already an important player in the global financial system, including in the banking sector, direct investment, and bond and equity markets. However, government intervention in the financial system remains widespread and serious. The PBOC still guides commercial banks’ setting of deposit and lending rates through “window guidance,” although the final restriction on deposit rates was removed in 2015. Industry and other policies still play important roles influencing allocation of financial resources by banks and capital markets. The PBOC intervenes in the foreign exchange markets from time to time, through directly buying or selling foreign exchanges, setting the central parity, and determining the daily trading band. The regulators tightly manage cross-border capital flows, and the state still controls majority shares of most large financial institutions.
  • Topic: Economics, Foreign Exchange, Reform, Financial Markets, Banks
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Ning Wang
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The ultimate success of China’s search for economic prosperity, cultural renaissance, and a “peaceful rise” depends, in large part, on whether a free market for ideas can reemerge and flourish in China. The concept of the “market for ideas” (sixian shichang) was first introduced to a Chinese audience by Ronald Coase and myself in How China Became Capitalist (Coase and Wang 2012, see also Coase 1974). It quickly won acceptance among academics and the media. China is the only leading economy where the production and communication of ideas remains under strict state control. Universities, the primary venue where new ideas are produced, are run by the state. Newspapers, radio and TV stations, and publishers are all controlled by the state; ideas unwelcome by the state have a hard time to see the light of day. Because the freedom to supply ideas, choose ideas, and criticize ideas is severely limited, the creativity of the Chinese people is underutilized and their innovative potential undertapped.
  • Topic: Economics, History, Freedom of Press
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Weiying Zhang
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: History and casual observations suggest that ideas and leadership are the two most important forces in all institutional changes. However, they have been absent or downplayed in conventional economic analysis of institutional changes. Conventional economics has exclusively focused on the notion of “interest” in explaining almost everything, from consumers' choices to public choices to institutional changes. IN particular, institutional changes have been modeled as a game of interests between different groups (such as the ruling and the ruled), with the assumption that there is a well-defined mapping from interests into outcomes.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Chenggang Xu
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: After more than three decades of economic reform, China has transformed from being one of the poorest economies in the world to being the second-largest economy measured by nominal exchange rates, or the largest economy measured by purchasing power. As such, it is important to elucidate the determinants of China’s future development. This article will focus on China’s institutions. I argue that although the size of China’s economy is extremely important in terms of its impact on the global economy, it is misleading to ignore political and economic institutions. Indeed, forecasts based on extrapolating past trends could be erroneous (see Pritchett and Summers 2014). China was the largest economy in the world before the end of the 19th century but then lost ground to Western nations that established the rule of law and free trade. To understand China’s past and future development, one has to examine its institutions.
  • Topic: Economics, Reform, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Yukong Huang, Clare Lynch
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The last time a Chinese currency was used as an international medium of exchange was four centuries ago, when China's share of global GDP in PPP terms was nearly 30 percent (about twice its current level), the country was a major global trading power, and Chinese copper coins circulated throughout East Asia to India and even beyond (Horesh 2011). In the following centuries, silver dollars and paper bills replaced copper coins and China's share of external trade declined. Now, with China's return to the position of largest global trader and second-largest economy in the world, it is not surprising that discussion of internationalizing China's currency has resumed.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: China, East Asia
  • Author: Zhiwu Chen
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Since reforms started in 1978, China has made commendable progress in achieving capital freedom and individual liberty. Prior to 1978, private enterprises with more than eight employees were prohibited and there were no capital markets. Private entrepreneurs were labeled “Capitalist tails,” and political movements were launched frequently to “cut the capitalist tails.” For several decades, Chinese citizens could only obtain employment and economic means from government organizations and state-owned enterprises, which strictly limited individual liberty. Today there are more than 10 million privately owned enterprises, making up more than 80 percent of each year's employment growth. As a result of less regulation and more room for entrepreneurship, it is relatively easy to register and start a business. Public equity offering opportunities and bank financing are also increasingly available to private firms as well. Chinese, young and old, can choose among jobs provided by government organizations, SOEs, private businesses, and foreign-owned firms. As capital freedom has increased, the rise of the individual and liberty is one of the highlights achieved in China's development over the past 35 years.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: China