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Who will feed China in the 21st Century?

Will Martin's picture

A recent surge in China’s food imports has rekindled concerns about global food demand raised by Brown (1995) and about food self-sufficiency in China. According to UN Comtrade data, China’s trade in food was roughly balanced until 2008 but subsequently moved into deficit, with net imports rising to $38.7 billion in 2013. A key question is whether China will become a massive net food importer like Japan and the Republic of Korea, which rely on world markets for more than 70 percent of grain and soybean demand.
 
China’s rapid economic growth, at 8.5 percent average annual per capita in purchasing power parity terms since economic reform began in 1978, has dramatically changed Chinese diets. While China’s per capita calorie consumption appears likely to be approaching its peak, the composition of food demand seems likely to continue to change, as consumers shift away from basic staples and towards animal-based products. This shift to greater dietary diversity imposes greater burdens on agricultural resources since animal-based diets require much more agricultural resources than vegetable-based diets.

Light Manufacturing in Africa: Targeted Policies To Enhance Private Investment And Create Jobs

Hinh T. Dinh's picture

For many African countries, one important way to create productive jobs is to grow the labor-intensive light manufacturing sector, which would accelerate economic progress and lift workers from low-productivity agriculture and informal sectors into higher productivity activities.  

Sub-Saharan Africa’s low wage costs and abundant material base have the potential to allow light manufacturing to jump-start the region’s long-delayed structural transformation and over-reliance on low-productivity agriculture.  Moreover, as globalization advances and China evolves away from a comparative advantage in labor-intensive manufactured products toward more advanced industrial production, African economies such as Ethiopia and Tanzania are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.

Viewpoint on a rising dragon

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

As a counterpoint to grim forecasts coming out of Europe, I am hopeful that we can anticipate an Asian century where China will grow dynamically for another 20 years. Yet there are caveats to this optimistic scenario: Success in China will require a process of continual transformation and the wherewithal to tackle what I describe as a triple imbalance at the national level. I expound on this and other points in a BBC viewpoint piece published on November 23.

Questions from Germany: China Writ Large

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

I was in Berlin a few weeks ago and did an interview with Tagesspiegel and wanted to share it in English with readers, as interest in China is so strong these days. I think this Question and Answer session with the journalist Harald Schumann reflects well the questions many Europeans have on their minds...

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Der Tagesspiegel Interview by Harald Schumann
November 21, 2011

“Even China has to step on the breaks” // World Bank Chief Economist Justin Yifu Lin about the effect  of the debt crisis on the world economy, China’s reserves and the Communists’ flexibility.

Mr. Lin, as a result of the debt crisis in some euro-states, Europe risks to sink back into a recession. What effect will this have on the world economy?

How to Seize the 85 million Jobs Bonanza

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Remember the famous joke about an economist who believes so much in rational expectation theory that he would not pick up a $100 dollar bill off the sidewalk under the pretense that if it were actually there someone would have already picked it up? A similar excuse may be invoked to justify why low-income countries that are currently facing high underemployment are not organizing themselves to seize the extraordinary bonanza of the 85 million manufacturing jobs that China will have to shed in the coming years because of fast rising wages for unskilled workers.

Economic development is a process of continuous industrial and technological upgrading in which each country, regardless of its level of development, can succeed if it develops industries that are consistent with its comparative advantage, determined by its endowment structure. As I explained in an earlier blog post for China to maintain GDP growth of nearly 10 percent a year in the coming decades, it must keep moving up the value chain and relocate many of its existing labor-intensive manufacturing industries to countries where wage differentials are large enough to ensure competitiveness in global production networks.

Migration to cities can equalize household income in rural China

Xubei Luo's picture

With Nong Zhu

Migrant workers have been contributing to one-sixth of China’s GDP growth since the mid 1980s. The impact of rural migrants’ contribution is best seen in cities during the Chinese New Year, when they return to reunite with their families, leaving behind a massive urban labor shortage. This happens every year despite urban families and restaurant owners offering high bonuses.

There is a consensus that migration has contributed to increased rural income, but views differ on its impact on rural inequality. My view is that rural households with higher incomes are not more likely than poorer households to participate in migration or benefit disproportionately from it. Adding to my recent blog in People Move, I would like to discuss the reasons behind this.

Flying Geese, leading dragons and Africa’s potential

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

The “flying geese” pattern describes the sequential order of the catching-up process of industrialization of latecomer economies.The potential for expanding the industrial sectors of African countries is substantial – this was a message I delivered on a recent trip to Italy, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi. This can happen through an improved understanding of the mechanics of economic transformation as well as by focusing on how such countries can follow their comparative advantage in natural resources and labor supply. 

During my site visits and meetings with the private sector for the African segments of my trip, I became more convinced than ever of the strong untapped potential for private sector-led industrialization. Yet that can only happen when the government plays a facilitating role, such as by overcoming information asymmetries, coordination failures and externalities associated with first-mover actions. In Tanzania, initial experiments with industrial parks look promising, as do agricultural development projects and rural transport initiatives currently under way. In the case of industrial parks, it’s important to have a one-stop shop for registration and other administrative obligations, adequate electricity and water supply, and good transport/logistics links.

China’s Special Economic Zones and Industrial Clusters: Success and Challenges

Douglas Zhihua Zeng 曾智华's picture

In the past 30 years, China has achieved phenomenal economic growth, an unprecedented development “miracle” in human history. Since the institution of its reforms and Open Door policy in 1978, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) has been growing at an average annual rate of more than 9 percent (figure 1). In 2010, it has surpassed that of Japan and become the world’s second-largest economy.

Can service exports drive growth?

Saurabh Mishra's picture

Services can now be stored, traded digitally, and are not subject to many of the trade barriers that physical exports have to overcome. Services are no longer exclusively an input for trade in goods, but have instead become a “final export” for direct consumption. Importantly, services not only have become more tradable, but can also be increasingly unbundled: a single service task or an activity in the global supply chain can now be fragmented and done separately at different geographical locations. This has led to a new channel of growth, what we call sophistication in service exports.

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