Impact

China Dashboard: Tracking China’s Economic Reform Program

It is the most important question for one of the world’s most important economies: is China carrying out the economic reform program it laid out in 2013? Our project with Asia Society Policy Institute tracks progress.

Beijing unfurled it’s far-reaching 60 Decisions economic reform program in 2013. That began economic policymaking in the Xi Jinping era. Four years later Rhodium Group launched China Dashboard, in partnership with the Asia Society Policy Institute, an appraisal of China’s economic reform progress.

The interactive delivers a series of data visualizations tracking China’s progress toward its self-defined reform objectives in 10 essential economic policy clusters. While China set 2020 as their target date for completing these goals, we found in our inaugural Fall 2017 that it was only making progress in one of the areas – increasing innovation – while lagging behind in some key spots.

Our analysts plan to update the database on a quarterly basis for at least the next two years. The team behind the project has gathered data on the key areas of Beijing’s economic reform program: fiscal affairs, the financial system, trade, cross-border investment, innovation, competition, state-owned enterprise, entertainment, labor and land.

The original idea came from our long-time advisor and supporter Jack Wadsworth, who has worked tirelessly for decades to steer U.S.-China relations onto a constructive track. The project builds on our previous collaboration with Asia Society in October 2014, which provided a comprehensive assessment of the 60 Decisions program.

Complexity, non-transparency and internal disagreements have made consensus on whether China is reforming its economy nearly impossible. To remedy this we look at indicators not of what Americans or international organizations think China should do, but of Beijing’s own objectives, and how much progress has been achieved so far.

Such monitoring is more important than ever. U.S. President Donald Trump raised alarms in China with a State of the Union address that described Beijing as a global rival, and set a tougher line against the nation’s economic and military reach. His language reflects a fundamental shift in the U.S. relationship with China — one that has been building for years.

The outlook for China’s economic reforms is a critical factor in the global economy, for major economies and businesses alike. Since 1978, China has made great strides in economic reform, generating both growth opportunities and also disruptions at home and abroad. However this process is far from complete, and the challenges remaining are complex and require increasing regulatory sophistication. This reality, and shortcomings in Chinese data, create uncertainty about the reform outlook, including its pace and direction. For businesses and policymakers in China and abroad, better consensus built on a shared foundation of data is needed to prevent miscalculations and foster confidence.

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