Managing the distribution of growth trajectories: China's uneven regional boom

Budd, Leslie (2005). Managing the distribution of growth trajectories: China's uneven regional boom. In: Regional Studies International Congress Regional Futures, 28-31 May 2005, Aalborg, Denmark.



Popular commentary has China as the economy of the future. Economic growth rates in near to 10% for several years; growth qua growth as the sine qua non of economic development combined with a rising middle class feeding rapid increases in consuption; the creditor of an imbalanced US economy; booming real estate markets in mega-cities; the world's manufacturing exporter; the sucking in of commodities and apparently the driver of rapid prices rises; and increasing demand for higher education are creating a heady brew that whose seduction is hard to resist.
A more reasoned and sober account would suggest that China is going through the twin processes of immanent and intentional development. The former relates to the "natural" capacity to develop and the latter refers to the planning of development. China is still engaged in the early stages of growth (in Rostow's sense) and is displaying significant uneven development, not only between sectors and levels of value-added, but between its regions. The growth miracle is mainly confined to the coastal regions and around the capital Beijng. The difference is regional growth between the richest and poorest nations was 5 to 1 in 2003, according to the Asian Development Bank.
Drawing on theories of economic development and in particular theories of strategic growth poles, this paper articulates a critical narrative of the reality behind the hype of China's uneven regional development. Through sceptically investigating the empirical evidence, the paper examines potential strategies for managing current growth trajectories and how more optimal regional distribution may be achieved.

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