Better jobs, higher salaries and improved access to basic services – the bright lights of cities seem to promise these and more.
Forty years ago in December, Deng Xiaoping delivered his historic speech "Emancipate the mind, seeking truth from facts and unite as one to face the future." This triggered four decades of reforms that have transformed China into the world’s second largest economy. By some time in the next decade, China will be among the few countries in the world that will have transitioned from low income to high income status since World War II.
Understanding the path China traveled, the circumstances under which historical decisions were made, and their effects on the course of China’s economy will inform future decision makers. Increasingly, this reflection is important to the rest of the world as more and more countries see China as an example to emulate. At the 19th Party Congress in November 2017, China accepted this mantle for the first time since the onset of reforms.
In some ways, China’s reforms were fairly mainstream. The country opened up for trade and foreign investment, liberalized prices, diversified ownership, strengthened property rights, kept inflation under control, and maintained high savings and investment. But this is simplifying the reforms and obfuscates the essence of China’s reforms: the unique steps China took reforming its system are what makes its experience of interest (see the Annex). Its gradual approach to reform was in sharp contrast to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Although often compared, China and other transition countries were simply too different in terms of initial economic conditions, political development, and external environment.
Predominantly rural and among the poorest nations on earth, China was marred by the failure of the Great Leap Forward and the political disruptions during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Integration into the global economy was minimal. Industry was inefficient, but also far less concentrated than in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Perhaps most importantly, because China retained political continuity, the country could focus on an economic and social transition instead of a political one.
Comparison with much of the Latin American reforms also seems out of place. Brazil, Mexico and Argentina were far closer to a market-based system than China, and their reforms—liberalization and macroeconomic stability—were focused on macroeconomic stabilization, whereas China’s reforms aimed for a transformation of the economic system as a whole. So there is no need to juxtapose the “Washington Consensus” with a “Beijing Consensus:” the approaches taken served very different purposes indeed.
The responsibilities have radically changed from that of an administrative service function to a proactive and strategic one. Unfortunately, in most jurisdictions the procurement function is still not considered a specific profession and consequently, building procurement professional expertise to meet development challenges remains an unfinished agenda.
Since our days in school, we have often been told to first define our terms before doing anything else. China is a country that does not shy away from acronyms, and “TOD,” or transit-oriented development—a concept that merges land use and transport planning—is one such acronym that has become wildly popular within the field of urban development.
So, recently, when government officials from seven Chinese cities and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development gathered to launch the China Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot Project on the topic of TOD, it was clear that they all had the same definition of this three-letter acronym.
Or did they?
Migrants represent 15% of Malaysia’s workforce, making the country home to the fourth largest number of migrants in the East Asia Pacific region. The migrant population is diverse, made up of workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, China and India, among many other countries.
Places with cold climates need access to a reliable and efficient heat supply for the health of their population. But in developing countries, the majority of rural and peri-urban households do not have access to centralized heating or gas networks. Instead, they use traditional heating stoves that use solid fuels like coal, wood, and dung for heating. These stoves are often inefficient (with thermal efficiency as low as 25%-40% compared to 70% or above for efficient stoves) and emit large amounts of pollutants (e.g., CO and PM2.5), causing indoor and outdoor air pollution with negative health and environmental impacts.
Over the past three decades, China’s unprecedented pace of urbanization has allowed more than 260 million migrants to move from agriculture to more productive activities. This has helped 500 million people escape poverty and for China to grow at an average 10 percent a year for three consecutive decades. At the same time, between 2000 and 2014, weather-related disasters caused more than RMB 4.645 trillion ($749 billion) in damages.
There is strong evidence that climate change is altering the profile of hazards. The observed frequency and severity of extremely heavy rain storms since the 1950s in China have significantly increased and future climate scenarios suggest that interannual variability in rainfall may increase further, aggravating the risk of flooding and as well as severe lack of water.
Over the past two decades, the city of Lishui in Zhejiang Province of China suffered from devastating floods, landslides, as well as heat waves. Today, the over 2 million people of Lishui have a lot to be proud of. Their city is recognized as China’s “top ecological, picturesque paradise for healthy life and home of longevity”. This is the result of close attention from city and provincial officials in understanding the root causes of the problems caused by the changing climate. This has been followed by inclusive planning, design and implementation of technically sound projects that are in harmony with the rivers flowing through the city in concert with the surrounding hilly terrain’s natural and city-wide storm water drainage systems.
In 1950, the average working-age person in the world had almost three years of education, but in East Asia and Pacific (EAP), the average person had less than half that amount. Around this time, countries in the EAP region put themselves on a path that focused on growth driven by human capital. They made significant and steady investments in schooling to close the educational attainment gap with the rest of the world. While improving their school systems, they also put their human capital to work in labor markets. As a result, economic growth has been stellar: for four decades EAP has grown at roughly twice the pace of the global average. What is more, no slowdown is in sight for rising prosperity.
High economic growth and strong human capital accumulation are deeply intertwined. In a recent paper, Daron Acemoglu and David Autor explore the way skills and labor markets interact: Human capital is the central determinant of economic growth and is the main—and very likely the only—means to achieve shared growth when technology is changing quickly and raising the demand for skills. Skills promote productivity and growth, but if there are not enough skilled workers, growth soon chokes off. If, by contrast, skills are abundant and average skill-levels keep rising, technological change can drive productivity and growth without stoking inequality.
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- Knowledge and Skills
- job market
- job creation
- Social Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- East Asia and Pacific
- Solomon Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- Micronesia, Federated States of
- Marshall Islands
- Lao People's Democratic Republic
- Korea, Republic of