Mind the Gap

“‘China’s Ideological Spectrum’ has created a spurious impression of an ‘ideological gap’ among different regions in China,” says Global Times, responding to this paper.

The Global Times opinion isn’t very well argued, but insofar as it is criticizing the paper for its distinctively Westernized construction of the ideological spectrum, it has a point. While economic liberalism is positively correlated with economic growth, political liberalism is not. As a study by Lant Pritchett and Lawrence H. Summers concludes:

… nearly every country that experienced a large democratic transition after a period of above-average growth (more than the cross-country average of 2 percent) experienced a sharp deceleration in growth in the 10 years following the democratizing transition. Among 22 countries in which episodes of large democratic transition coincided with above-average growth, all but one (Korea in 1987 with an acceleration of only 0.22 percent) experienced a growth deceleration. The combination of high initial growth and democratic transition seems to make some deceleration all but inevitable. The magnitude of the decelerations was very large: The median deceleration across the 22 countries was 2.99 percent and the average deceleration was 3.53 percent.

(Yasheng Huang makes a spirited contrary case.)

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