China: Opportunities and Challenges - A Dinner Event
November 13, 2008 – Harvard Professor Dwight Perkins and Boston College Professor Robert Ross joined a group of fifteen Boston International members for a dinner at ChangSho in Cambridge to discuss China’s growth prospects and foriegn policy.
The evening started with Professor Perkins addressing the group about the current challenges facing China’s economy. While it is easy to paint a gloomy picture — with the country’s stock market decline and wide-spread factory closings being just two examples of recent struggles — Perkins argued that China’s economy remains relatively strong. Perkins predicted that annual growth of China’s GDP will slow to around 6% from the 11-12% of the past several years, but still grow at a far stronger rate than nearly all other economies. He also discussed China’s recently announced $500 billion stimulus package, which he portrayed as “quite large,” but not as large as it might seem at first blush, as it includes a number of previously-announced projects. Perkins laid out two key challenges facing China today: first, the nation cannot continue to depend upon exports driving growth and therefore needs to focus on boosting domestic markets. Second, the country needs to define a strategy to handle the massive rural-to-urban migration.
After the discussion of economics — and a round of delicious steamed dumplings — Professor Ross spoke to the group about the dynamic political landscape vis-à-vis Asia. He argued that Asia was one of the few bright spots in the Bush administration’s foreign policy, and that Obama’s agenda should be to maintain continuity. Obama will face the challenge of appearing “soft” to Conservatives in the U.S. even if he maintains the currently standing policies towards North Korea and Taiwan. Ross suggested Obama should work closely with moderate Republicans to marginalize the Conservatives’ calls for a heavy-handed approach to those countries’ conflicts.
Following the professors’ remarks members engaged in a stimulating Q&A session that touched on a range of topics, including the fallout from the melamine and lead paint contaminations, China’s options for foreign currency reserves, its role in the global energy crisis, its relations with Africa and Iran, and the likelihood of economic progress driving social and political reforms. While both professors agreed that the course of China’s future depends in large part on the nature of its leaders, the evening concluded with an animated debate between professors Perkins and Ross on whether the government’s handling of the recent earthquake should be interpreted as a sign of increasing political openness, or “more of the same.” Attendees left the dinner with a clearer understanding of the difficult economic and political issues facing China, and with a sense that China’s future promises to be as rich and complex as its long history.
Boston International would like to thank Professors Perkins and Ross for their time and enthusiasm in discussing this fascinating topic with us!
More Information About our Guests
Professor Perkins – online biography and CV
Professor Ross – online biography and CV