0

Review of Justin Yifu Lin’s Demystifying the Chinese Economy / 解读林毅夫的《解密中国经济》


Author: Alf Hickey
Date: January 31, 2014

Review of Justin Yifu Lin’s Demystifying the Chinese Economy

The emergence of China as a major economic force has been the most important economic phenomenon of the past 30 years. Since Deng Xiaoping put the reform and opening up policy in motion in 1978, there has been no shortage of people trying to explain how this miracle happened, and predict which direction it will go in the future. However, China has continued to confound conventional analysis and has consistently out-performed forecasts.

As the title says, Demystifying the Chinese Economy by Justin Yifu Lin, the Founding Director of the China Center for Economic Research of Beijing University and former Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank, is an attempt to explain the underlying economic causes of China economic development. A few of the many questions addressed include: Why did China, formally the biggest economy in the world, fall behind Europe after the industrial revolution? What explains the slow and uneven pattern of development during the Mao era? Why did the economy grow so quickly after Deng’s reforms in 1978, particularly when compared to other post-Communist economies? What economic challenges does China face as it enters the fourth decade of the reform era?

Justin Yifu Lin inhabits the fuzzy borderland between academic economists and government policy makers. His American counterparts include people like Larry Summers, the Director of the White House National Economic Council for President Barack Obama and Gregory Mankiw, Harvard professor and the Chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. Though Lin has led a more interesting life than these two men. Born in Taiwan, he was a standout economics student and after graduation he enlisted in the Taiwanese military. In 1979 he defected to the PRC by swimming from a Taiwanese controlled island to nearby Xiamen. He became one of the first Chinese citizens to go to the University of Chicago for a PhD in economics, which he completed in 1986. In 1994 he founded the China Center for Economic Research and was involved in advising the government on economic issues. He was The World Bank Chief Economist from 2008 until 2012, the first Chinese citizen to hold such a senior post.

Some may feel that since Lin has directly advised the Chinese government and has held important official posts, we should disregard what he says because he will be too biased towards repeating the politically correct line about China’s economic development. However, after reading Demystifying the Chinese Economy, I felt that his background was an actual strength of the book rather than a weakness. Most analysis of the Chinese economy (in the English Language press) are written by people outside of China, and like government communications everywhere, the government reports on the economy are generally driven by short term political considerations rather than deep economic analysis. So it is very valuable to have a book written by someone like Lin, who can provide rigorous and original economic thinking, and can give the reader a window into the kind of economic analysis the top Chinese decision makers are reading.

The book is laid out in two sections; the first is an overview of the economic history of China from the industrial revolution up to the current global financial crisis, though most of the focus is on developments since the foundation of the PRC, and the second section analyses and offers solutions to several current issues in the Chinese economy, including rural issues, SOE reform and financial sector reform.

Lin’s take on the failure of China to industrialize in the 19th century is interesting, but I felt that it was not fleshed out enough to be fully convincing. He basically proposes that the Confucian system discouraged Chinese intellectuals from developing a commitment to scientific experimentation, which he claims was an essential ingredient in the European industrial revolution. This is an intriguing hypothesis, but it is not fleshed out with enough evidence to back it up. Readers who want a more in depth look at a comparison between China and Europe during the industrial revolution are better served reading a book like Kenneth Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy.

The heart of the book is Lin’s theory on the development of China after the foundation of the PRC and the change that happened after the implementation of the reform and opening policies. I found his arguments to be simple, original, and convincing. After reading them I really felt that the economic development of China was “demystified”. Lin’s argument is based on the theory of Ricardian comparative advantage. A country will be most efficient at producing products that use a factor that it has a comparatively large amount of. Generally developing countries will have an advantage in labor and developed countries will have an advantage in capital. Lin then describes different developmental strategies as either “comparative advantage defying” (CAD) or “comparative advantage following” (CAF) depending on if they take advantage of a countries factor endowments.

After the foundation of the PRC, China followed the Soviet Union’s development strategy of focusing on heavy industry. This was done because the Soviet strategy was largely seen as successful and it seemed to be the fastest way for China to catch up to the west. It was also largely in line with western economic theory at the time, which promoted the use of import substitution policies that were widely adopted in Latin America and India. Though this policy can lead to fast growth at first, this growth will quickly slow down and be accompanied by a severely unbalanced economy. Because heavy industries are capital intensive, they do not provide good sources of employment leading to too many people working in agriculture and urban workers being unemployed. Lin describes how following this CAD strategy also forces governments to intervene heavily in the economy,

“For the government of a fledgling developing economy, whether socialist or capitalist, to prioritize capital-intensive industries implies that its most pressing task is to suppress the interest rate well below the market through administrative measures [in order to ensure enterprises can obtain cheap financing]. Meanwhile, to solve the problem of expensive machinery imports, the government also has to directly and artificially intervene in its exchange rates – to overvalue its currency and undervalue foreign currencies so that the imports are affordable. And to mobilize a surplus for capital accumulation, the silver bullet is to guarantee that the existing enterprises enjoy handsome profits and use them in the next round of production”

I find this explanation to be a very useful way of looking at developmental failures in the developing world. Rather than pushing a theory based on left or right ideology, it shows that if country choses to follow a CAD development model it will be forced to intervene in the economy in predictable ways. The similar developmental paths of diverse groups of countries like India, Latin America, China and the Soviet Bloc and the success of the East Asian “Tigers” who did not follow a CAD model, are convincing evidence that Lin’s explanation is correct.

Clearly for Lin, the reason why China was able to develop so quickly after 1978 was that it switched to a comparative advantage following model. To explain how China was able to make this change successfully Lin introduces the concept of enterprise viability, “the capacity of a normally managed enterprise to earn a socially acceptable normal profit in an open, free and competitive market.” He uses this concept to explain why China’s reforms were largely successful, while the “shock therapy” reforms in former Soviet Bloc countries based on the Washington consensus model were a failure.

Because both China and the Soviet Bloc had followed a CAD strategy, the majority of their state owned firms were not viable; they relied on government policies to remain profitable. By implementing gradual reforms such as the household responsibility system, China was able to let firms gradually become viable by themselves and develop a domestic free and competitive market. Since China was so much less developed than the west, it was most profitable for it to import technology to engage in catch up growth, and the government was able to encourage and direct investment to areas like light manufacturing, were China had obvious comparative advantages. Lin contends that China’s large trade surplus comes from successfully following the CAF strategy. Viable firms are able to compete in the world market and export a large number of goods.

In the former soviet bloc countries it was assumed that implementing the liberal market policies outlined by the Washington Consensus model would be enough to promote growth. However most of the enterprises in these countries were not yet viable, so when the reforms were implemented in one “shock,” the firms were able to use their political connections to lobby for even more government support, leading to an economic downturn and massive inflation.

In the second half of the book Lin discusses several current issues facing the Chinese economy and how best to solve these problems. These include rural reform, urban reform, SOE reform and financial reforms. I was surprised by how similar Lin’s discussion of these issues was to western critics of the Chinese economic system such as Minxin Pei or Michael Pettis. Using the framework of comparative advantage following development strategies and enterprise viability, Lin argues that China needs to encourage rural consumption, close or reform SOEs that are not viable, and implement financial reforms that make China’s banks smaller and more market based. None of these proposals are particularly original, but integrated into Lin’s historical analysis of the Chinese economy they add clarity to the reasons why they are needed.

Demystifying the Chinese Economy was a book that changed how I look at economics. It takes the simple idea of Ricardian comparative advantage and shows how ignoring it can fundamentally influence a countries rate of development. Particularly useful was Lin’s critique of the two main western development strategies promoted over the past 50 years, import substitution and the Washington consensus. Lin is able to rise above the ideological fights that often come with discussions about development and show that both of these strategies have major theoretical shortcomings that have lead many countries to pursue disappointing growth policies.

Lin is able to tie together diverse phenomena such as trade imbalances, financial repression, government lead investment, and exchange rate regimes and tie them all together into a coherent story about how China’s economy became the second largest in the world in only three decades. One of the most interesting economic stories of the next decade will be to see if China can stay on the path that Lin has laid out.

Writer: Alf Hickey, Hopkins Nanjing Center MA ’13

作者:Alf Hickey
2014年01月31号

解读林毅夫的《解密中国经济》

中国成长为一个主要的经济体是过去30年来最重要的经济现象。自从邓小平1978年的改革开发以来,不乏有人试图来解释这种奇迹发生的原因,并预测中国将驶向何方。然而中国却不断地颠覆传统理论,不停地超出人们的预期。

正如文章标题所说,《解读中国经济》的作者林毅夫,北京大学经济研究中心创始主任,前世界银行首席经济学家、副行长,试图解释中国经济发展的根本经济原因,提出了许多的问题包括:为什么中国曾是全球最大的经济体,却在工业革命之后落后于欧洲?是什么造成了毛泽东时期的缓慢而不平等的发展?为什么中国经济在邓小平1978年改革之后发展得如此迅速,尤其与其他的后共产主义经济体相比?中国在进入改革的第四个十年将面临什么样的挑战?

林毅夫介于模糊界限的学术性经济学家和政府政策制定者之间。这点类似于劳伦斯萨默斯(奥巴马政府的美国国家经济委员会主任),和格里高利.曼昆(哈弗大学终身教授、布什时期的白宫经济顾问)。林毅夫比后两者有着更丰富的经历:他出生在台湾,经济专业的高材生,毕业后加入了台湾的军队。1979年他从台湾控制的岛屿游到附近的厦门回到了大陆,他于1986年获得了芝加哥大学博士学位成为第一个获此殊荣的中国公民。1994年,他组建了中国经济研究中心,并开始致力于做政府经济方面的顾问。在2008年到2012年期间,他担任世界银行首席经济学家,成为第一个任此要职的中国人。

有人可能觉得既然林毅夫是中国政府的直接顾问,并担任重要的官方职务,我们应该忽视他的话,因为他在关于中国经济发展方面有太强的政府导向性。然而,在读完《解读中国经济》之后,我觉得他的背景相对是个优势。大多数中国经济分析(英文版)都由中国本土外的人撰写的,像每个地方的政府宣传,政府经济方面的报道通常受到短期的政策而不是深层次经济分析的影响。所以读像林毅夫这样作者的书就非常有价值,他能提供辩证又地道的经济学分析,也能给读者一个能读到来自中国高层政策制定者思想的平台。

这本书分成两个部分,第一个是中国从工业革命起到现阶段全球金融危机的中国经济历回顾,其中更多篇幅是新中国成立后的发展。第二个部分分析了中国经济的现有问题并提出了解决办法,这些问题包括:农村问题、国企改革和金融改革。

对于中国在19世纪工业化时期的衰落,林毅夫的观点很有意思,但我觉得它并没有足够的说服力。根本上,他认为儒家体系阻碍了中国的智囊从命令主义到专业实验主义的发展,而后者恰是欧洲工业改革的重要因素。这是非常有趣的假设,但林并没有提供足够的证据。如果读者想要了解中欧在工业革命期间更深入的比较,推荐看彭慕兰的《大分流,欧洲、中国及现代世界经济的发展》。

本书的核心是林毅夫关于新中国成立后的发展和改革开放后变化的理论。我发现他的观点很简练、新颖、有说服力。在读完之后,我确实觉得中国的经济发展被解读了。林的观点基于李嘉图的比较优势理论。一个国家当使用其密集型要素时会使得生产达到最大效率。基本上,发展中国家属于劳动密集型,而发达国家属于资本密集型。林然后基于是否利用国家自然禀赋,描述了违背比较优势的发展战略(CAD)和遵循比较优势的发展战略(CAF)。

在新中国成立以后,中国学习苏联的发展战略,着重发展重工业。苏联的成功也让中国隐约看到了最快速赶超西方的机会。而这种模式在当时也与西方经济学理论一致,它促进了进口替代政策在拉美印度的广泛采用。尽管这种政策起先带来了快速的增长,但随即增长快速降低并伴随着严重的经济不平衡。因为重工业是资本密集型的,它没有创造多的就业机会导致了城市工人失业,而农业人口较多。林毅夫认为违背比较优势发展战略使得政府在经济中有着过多的干预。

“对于一个没有经验的发展中经济体的政府来说,无论是社会主义还是资本主义,优先发展资本密集型产业意味着它最紧迫的任务是通过政府干预使得企业的贷款利率低于市场标准,这样企业能够享受廉价的融资成本。同时,为了解决进口设备昂贵的问题,政府也不得不直接控制汇率——高估本币、低估外币,这样进口就可行了。为了调动剩余资本,政府保证现存企业享受高利润并在下一轮生产中使用剩余资本。”

我发现这种解释给予了有用一个如何看待第三世界发展失败的视角。它并不是把理论基于左或右派,而是表明国家如果选择违背比较优势的发展战略,将不得不用预期的方式干预经济。相同的发展模式的国家包括印度、拉丁美洲、前苏联。而并没有采取CAD模式的亚洲四小龙的成功,也有力地支持了林毅夫的观点。

很明显,林毅夫认为中国之所以在1978年后快速发展的原因是它转变为遵循比较优势的发展战略。在解释中国为何能如此成功转型时,林毅夫介绍了“企业活力”的概念:“一个名义上的经营企业在一个开放、自由、竞争的市场上获取社会接受名义利润的能力”他用这个概念去解释为什么中国改革总体上这么成功,而前苏联基于华盛顿共识的休克疗法改革却失败了。

因为中国和苏联都采用了遵循比较优势的发展战略,它们大部分的国有企业是不能独立自营的,他们依赖于政府政策去保持盈利。在实行渐进改革比如责任制之后,中国让企业逐渐能自我经营,并发展了国内自由竞争市场。中国比西方发展程度低,决定了它引进技术会带来最大的增长,而政府能够鼓励和引进投资一些类似电灯制造这样的有明显比较优势的领域。林毅夫认为中国巨大的贸易顺差源于成功的采取了遵循比较优势的发展战略。自营企业能够在国际市场上有竞争力,出口大量的货物。

在前苏联的国家,他们认为采取华盛顿共识下的单边市场政策足以能促进增长。然而,这些国家的大部分企业是不可自营的,所以当改革处在一个休克状态时,这些企业使用他们的政治关系去寻求更多的政府支持,导致了经济衰退和巨大的通货膨胀。

在本书的后半段,林毅夫讨论了一些中国的热点问题以及怎样最好地解决办法。这些问题包括:乡村改革、城市改革、国有企业改革和金融改革。我惊讶于林毅夫对这些问题的讨论与西方的评论家比如裴敏新、迈克尔·佩蒂斯有着惊人的相似。在遵循比较优势发展战略和企业活力的理论框架下,林毅夫认为中国需要鼓励乡村消费,关闭或者改革不能自营的国有企业,施行金融改革使中国银行更小也更市场化。这些建议并不新颖,但结合林毅夫对中国经济的历史分析,加入了他们需要的透明度。

《解密中国经济》是一本改变我看待经济学的书。它使用了简单的李嘉图比较优势理论,显示了它对一个国家的发展速度的重要性。尤其有用的是林毅夫对两个推行了50年的主要西方发展战略的批判:进口替代和华盛顿共识。林毅夫不受有争论的思想斗争的影响,并显示这两种战略有严重的理论缺点,导致了许多公司采用令人失望的增长政策。

林毅夫能够结合多种现象比如贸易不平衡、金融抑制、政府主导投资和汇率制度,来讲述了为什么中国能够在短短的30年的时间内变为世界第二大经济体。如果中国还能处在林毅夫所描述的发展路径上的话,下一个十年我们将看到一个非常有趣的经济历程。

作者:Alf Hickey,中美中心国硕士2013

Author: Alf Hickey
Date: January 31, 2014

Review of Justin Yifu Lin’s Demystifying the Chinese Economy

The emergence of China as a major economic force has been the most important economic phenomenon of the past 30 years. Since Deng Xiaoping put the reform and opening up policy in motion in 1978, there has been no shortage of people trying to explain how this miracle happened, and predict which direction it will go in the future. However, China has continued to confound conventional analysis and has consistently out-performed forecasts.

As the title says, Demystifying the Chinese Economy by Justin Yifu Lin, the Founding Director of the China Center for Economic Research of Beijing University and former Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank, is an attempt to explain the underlying economic causes of China economic development. A few of the many questions addressed include: Why did China, formally the biggest economy in the world, fall behind Europe after the industrial revolution? What explains the slow and uneven pattern of development during the Mao era? Why did the economy grow so quickly after Deng’s reforms in 1978, particularly when compared to other post-Communist economies? What economic challenges does China face as it enters the fourth decade of the reform era?

Justin Yifu Lin inhabits the fuzzy borderland between academic economists and government policy makers. His American counterparts include people like Larry Summers, the Director of the White House National Economic Council for President Barack Obama and Gregory Mankiw, Harvard professor and the Chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. Though Lin has led a more interesting life than these two men. Born in Taiwan, he was a standout economics student and after graduation he enlisted in the Taiwanese military. In 1979 he defected to the PRC by swimming from a Taiwanese controlled island to nearby Xiamen. He became one of the first Chinese citizens to go to the University of Chicago for a PhD in economics, which he completed in 1986. In 1994 he founded the China Center for Economic Research and was involved in advising the government on economic issues. He was The World Bank Chief Economist from 2008 until 2012, the first Chinese citizen to hold such a senior post.

Some may feel that since Lin has directly advised the Chinese government and has held important official posts, we should disregard what he says because he will be too biased towards repeating the politically correct line about China’s economic development. However, after reading Demystifying the Chinese Economy, I felt that his background was an actual strength of the book rather than a weakness. Most analysis of the Chinese economy (in the English Language press) are written by people outside of China, and like government communications everywhere, the government reports on the economy are generally driven by short term political considerations rather than deep economic analysis. So it is very valuable to have a book written by someone like Lin, who can provide rigorous and original economic thinking, and can give the reader a window into the kind of economic analysis the top Chinese decision makers are reading.

The book is laid out in two sections; the first is an overview of the economic history of China from the industrial revolution up to the current global financial crisis, though most of the focus is on developments since the foundation of the PRC, and the second section analyses and offers solutions to several current issues in the Chinese economy, including rural issues, SOE reform and financial sector reform.

Lin’s take on the failure of China to industrialize in the 19th century is interesting, but I felt that it was not fleshed out enough to be fully convincing. He basically proposes that the Confucian system discouraged Chinese intellectuals from developing a commitment to scientific experimentation, which he claims was an essential ingredient in the European industrial revolution. This is an intriguing hypothesis, but it is not fleshed out with enough evidence to back it up. Readers who want a more in depth look at a comparison between China and Europe during the industrial revolution are better served reading a book like Kenneth Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy.

The heart of the book is Lin’s theory on the development of China after the foundation of the PRC and the change that happened after the implementation of the reform and opening policies. I found his arguments to be simple, original, and convincing. After reading them I really felt that the economic development of China was “demystified”. Lin’s argument is based on the theory of Ricardian comparative advantage. A country will be most efficient at producing products that use a factor that it has a comparatively large amount of. Generally developing countries will have an advantage in labor and developed countries will have an advantage in capital. Lin then describes different developmental strategies as either “comparative advantage defying” (CAD) or “comparative advantage following” (CAF) depending on if they take advantage of a countries factor endowments.

After the foundation of the PRC, China followed the Soviet Union’s development strategy of focusing on heavy industry. This was done because the Soviet strategy was largely seen as successful and it seemed to be the fastest way for China to catch up to the west. It was also largely in line with western economic theory at the time, which promoted the use of import substitution policies that were widely adopted in Latin America and India. Though this policy can lead to fast growth at first, this growth will quickly slow down and be accompanied by a severely unbalanced economy. Because heavy industries are capital intensive, they do not provide good sources of employment leading to too many people working in agriculture and urban workers being unemployed. Lin describes how following this CAD strategy also forces governments to intervene heavily in the economy,

“For the government of a fledgling developing economy, whether socialist or capitalist, to prioritize capital-intensive industries implies that its most pressing task is to suppress the interest rate well below the market through administrative measures [in order to ensure enterprises can obtain cheap financing]. Meanwhile, to solve the problem of expensive machinery imports, the government also has to directly and artificially intervene in its exchange rates – to overvalue its currency and undervalue foreign currencies so that the imports are affordable. And to mobilize a surplus for capital accumulation, the silver bullet is to guarantee that the existing enterprises enjoy handsome profits and use them in the next round of production”

I find this explanation to be a very useful way of looking at developmental failures in the developing world. Rather than pushing a theory based on left or right ideology, it shows that if country choses to follow a CAD development model it will be forced to intervene in the economy in predictable ways. The similar developmental paths of diverse groups of countries like India, Latin America, China and the Soviet Bloc and the success of the East Asian “Tigers” who did not follow a CAD model, are convincing evidence that Lin’s explanation is correct.

Clearly for Lin, the reason why China was able to develop so quickly after 1978 was that it switched to a comparative advantage following model. To explain how China was able to make this change successfully Lin introduces the concept of enterprise viability, “the capacity of a normally managed enterprise to earn a socially acceptable normal profit in an open, free and competitive market.” He uses this concept to explain why China’s reforms were largely successful, while the “shock therapy” reforms in former Soviet Bloc countries based on the Washington consensus model were a failure.

Because both China and the Soviet Bloc had followed a CAD strategy, the majority of their state owned firms were not viable; they relied on government policies to remain profitable. By implementing gradual reforms such as the household responsibility system, China was able to let firms gradually become viable by themselves and develop a domestic free and competitive market. Since China was so much less developed than the west, it was most profitable for it to import technology to engage in catch up growth, and the government was able to encourage and direct investment to areas like light manufacturing, were China had obvious comparative advantages. Lin contends that China’s large trade surplus comes from successfully following the CAF strategy. Viable firms are able to compete in the world market and export a large number of goods.

In the former soviet bloc countries it was assumed that implementing the liberal market policies outlined by the Washington Consensus model would be enough to promote growth. However most of the enterprises in these countries were not yet viable, so when the reforms were implemented in one “shock,” the firms were able to use their political connections to lobby for even more government support, leading to an economic downturn and massive inflation.

In the second half of the book Lin discusses several current issues facing the Chinese economy and how best to solve these problems. These include rural reform, urban reform, SOE reform and financial reforms. I was surprised by how similar Lin’s discussion of these issues was to western critics of the Chinese economic system such as Minxin Pei or Michael Pettis. Using the framework of comparative advantage following development strategies and enterprise viability, Lin argues that China needs to encourage rural consumption, close or reform SOEs that are not viable, and implement financial reforms that make China’s banks smaller and more market based. None of these proposals are particularly original, but integrated into Lin’s historical analysis of the Chinese economy they add clarity to the reasons why they are needed.

Demystifying the Chinese Economy was a book that changed how I look at economics. It takes the simple idea of Ricardian comparative advantage and shows how ignoring it can fundamentally influence a countries rate of development. Particularly useful was Lin’s critique of the two main western development strategies promoted over the past 50 years, import substitution and the Washington consensus. Lin is able to rise above the ideological fights that often come with discussions about development and show that both of these strategies have major theoretical shortcomings that have lead many countries to pursue disappointing growth policies.

Lin is able to tie together diverse phenomena such as trade imbalances, financial repression, government lead investment, and exchange rate regimes and tie them all together into a coherent story about how China’s economy became the second largest in the world in only three decades. One of the most interesting economic stories of the next decade will be to see if China can stay on the path that Lin has laid out.

Writer: Alf Hickey, Hopkins Nanjing Center MA ’13


作者:Alf Hickey
2014年01月31号

解读林毅夫的《解密中国经济》

中国成长为一个主要的经济体是过去30年来最重要的经济现象。自从邓小平1978年的改革开发以来,不乏有人试图来解释这种奇迹发生的原因,并预测中国将驶向何方。然而中国却不断地颠覆传统理论,不停地超出人们的预期。

正如文章标题所说,《解读中国经济》的作者林毅夫,北京大学经济研究中心创始主任,前世界银行首席经济学家、副行长,试图解释中国经济发展的根本经济原因,提出了许多的问题包括:为什么中国曾是全球最大的经济体,却在工业革命之后落后于欧洲?是什么造成了毛泽东时期的缓慢而不平等的发展?为什么中国经济在邓小平1978年改革之后发展得如此迅速,尤其与其他的后共产主义经济体相比?中国在进入改革的第四个十年将面临什么样的挑战?

林毅夫介于模糊界限的学术性经济学家和政府政策制定者之间。这点类似于劳伦斯萨默斯(奥巴马政府的美国国家经济委员会主任),和格里高利.曼昆(哈弗大学终身教授、布什时期的白宫经济顾问)。林毅夫比后两者有着更丰富的经历:他出生在台湾,经济专业的高材生,毕业后加入了台湾的军队。1979年他从台湾控制的岛屿游到附近的厦门回到了大陆,他于1986年获得了芝加哥大学博士学位成为第一个获此殊荣的中国公民。1994年,他组建了中国经济研究中心,并开始致力于做政府经济方面的顾问。在2008年到2012年期间,他担任世界银行首席经济学家,成为第一个任此要职的中国人。

有人可能觉得既然林毅夫是中国政府的直接顾问,并担任重要的官方职务,我们应该忽视他的话,因为他在关于中国经济发展方面有太强的政府导向性。然而,在读完《解读中国经济》之后,我觉得他的背景相对是个优势。大多数中国经济分析(英文版)都由中国本土外的人撰写的,像每个地方的政府宣传,政府经济方面的报道通常受到短期的政策而不是深层次经济分析的影响。所以读像林毅夫这样作者的书就非常有价值,他能提供辩证又地道的经济学分析,也能给读者一个能读到来自中国高层政策制定者思想的平台。

这本书分成两个部分,第一个是中国从工业革命起到现阶段全球金融危机的中国经济历回顾,其中更多篇幅是新中国成立后的发展。第二个部分分析了中国经济的现有问题并提出了解决办法,这些问题包括:农村问题、国企改革和金融改革。

对于中国在19世纪工业化时期的衰落,林毅夫的观点很有意思,但我觉得它并没有足够的说服力。根本上,他认为儒家体系阻碍了中国的智囊从命令主义到专业实验主义的发展,而后者恰是欧洲工业改革的重要因素。这是非常有趣的假设,但林并没有提供足够的证据。如果读者想要了解中欧在工业革命期间更深入的比较,推荐看彭慕兰的《大分流,欧洲、中国及现代世界经济的发展》。

本书的核心是林毅夫关于新中国成立后的发展和改革开放后变化的理论。我发现他的观点很简练、新颖、有说服力。在读完之后,我确实觉得中国的经济发展被解读了。林的观点基于李嘉图的比较优势理论。一个国家当使用其密集型要素时会使得生产达到最大效率。基本上,发展中国家属于劳动密集型,而发达国家属于资本密集型。林然后基于是否利用国家自然禀赋,描述了违背比较优势的发展战略(CAD)和遵循比较优势的发展战略(CAF)。

在新中国成立以后,中国学习苏联的发展战略,着重发展重工业。苏联的成功也让中国隐约看到了最快速赶超西方的机会。而这种模式在当时也与西方经济学理论一致,它促进了进口替代政策在拉美印度的广泛采用。尽管这种政策起先带来了快速的增长,但随即增长快速降低并伴随着严重的经济不平衡。因为重工业是资本密集型的,它没有创造多的就业机会导致了城市工人失业,而农业人口较多。林毅夫认为违背比较优势发展战略使得政府在经济中有着过多的干预。

“对于一个没有经验的发展中经济体的政府来说,无论是社会主义还是资本主义,优先发展资本密集型产业意味着它最紧迫的任务是通过政府干预使得企业的贷款利率低于市场标准,这样企业能够享受廉价的融资成本。同时,为了解决进口设备昂贵的问题,政府也不得不直接控制汇率——高估本币、低估外币,这样进口就可行了。为了调动剩余资本,政府保证现存企业享受高利润并在下一轮生产中使用剩余资本。”

我发现这种解释给予了有用一个如何看待第三世界发展失败的视角。它并不是把理论基于左或右派,而是表明国家如果选择违背比较优势的发展战略,将不得不用预期的方式干预经济。相同的发展模式的国家包括印度、拉丁美洲、前苏联。而并没有采取CAD模式的亚洲四小龙的成功,也有力地支持了林毅夫的观点。

很明显,林毅夫认为中国之所以在1978年后快速发展的原因是它转变为遵循比较优势的发展战略。在解释中国为何能如此成功转型时,林毅夫介绍了“企业活力”的概念:“一个名义上的经营企业在一个开放、自由、竞争的市场上获取社会接受名义利润的能力”他用这个概念去解释为什么中国改革总体上这么成功,而前苏联基于华盛顿共识的休克疗法改革却失败了。

因为中国和苏联都采用了遵循比较优势的发展战略,它们大部分的国有企业是不能独立自营的,他们依赖于政府政策去保持盈利。在实行渐进改革比如责任制之后,中国让企业逐渐能自我经营,并发展了国内自由竞争市场。中国比西方发展程度低,决定了它引进技术会带来最大的增长,而政府能够鼓励和引进投资一些类似电灯制造这样的有明显比较优势的领域。林毅夫认为中国巨大的贸易顺差源于成功的采取了遵循比较优势的发展战略。自营企业能够在国际市场上有竞争力,出口大量的货物。

在前苏联的国家,他们认为采取华盛顿共识下的单边市场政策足以能促进增长。然而,这些国家的大部分企业是不可自营的,所以当改革处在一个休克状态时,这些企业使用他们的政治关系去寻求更多的政府支持,导致了经济衰退和巨大的通货膨胀。

在本书的后半段,林毅夫讨论了一些中国的热点问题以及怎样最好地解决办法。这些问题包括:乡村改革、城市改革、国有企业改革和金融改革。我惊讶于林毅夫对这些问题的讨论与西方的评论家比如裴敏新、迈克尔·佩蒂斯有着惊人的相似。在遵循比较优势发展战略和企业活力的理论框架下,林毅夫认为中国需要鼓励乡村消费,关闭或者改革不能自营的国有企业,施行金融改革使中国银行更小也更市场化。这些建议并不新颖,但结合林毅夫对中国经济的历史分析,加入了他们需要的透明度。

《解密中国经济》是一本改变我看待经济学的书。它使用了简单的李嘉图比较优势理论,显示了它对一个国家的发展速度的重要性。尤其有用的是林毅夫对两个推行了50年的主要西方发展战略的批判:进口替代和华盛顿共识。林毅夫不受有争论的思想斗争的影响,并显示这两种战略有严重的理论缺点,导致了许多公司采用令人失望的增长政策。

林毅夫能够结合多种现象比如贸易不平衡、金融抑制、政府主导投资和汇率制度,来讲述了为什么中国能够在短短的30年的时间内变为世界第二大经济体。如果中国还能处在林毅夫所描述的发展路径上的话,下一个十年我们将看到一个非常有趣的经济历程。

作者:Alf Hickey,中美中心国硕士2013

Leave a reply