Essays in Honor of Keith B. Griffin
Edited by James K. Boyce, Stephen Cullenberg, Prasanta K. Pattanaik and Robert Pollin
Chapter 3: Socialist Fetters? Land Tenure and Economic Growth in Post-Mao Rural China
Mark D. Brenner Introduction By most measures, the performance of the Chinese economy over the past generation has been remarkable. In less than a quarter of a century China has evolved from a poor, largely agrarian, society into one of the world’s leading industrial producers and among its largest economies. China has seen real GDP per capita increase more than sixfold between 1978 and 2002, and according to official statistics has lifted more than 200 million people out of poverty. Since the onset of reforms in 1978, few have provide more keen or consistent insights into the Chinese development experience than Keith Griffin, whose contributions to development economics we honor in these pages. Keith was one of the early students of China’s transition from central planning to a market-guided economy, and current scholars and policy-makers owe a debt to Keith for his many insights into China’s reforms. In addition to providing some of the richest quantitative evidence on income distribution in the late collective era (for example, Griffin and Saith, 1981), Keith and his co-authors correctly predicted many of the dynamics of China’s contemporary development. For example, both Griffin and Saith (ibid.) and Griffin (1984) foresaw the rapid growth of rural industry in China after the onset of reforms, along with the accompanying benefits (rapid labor absorption) and costs (sharp increases in rural income inequality). Keith and his early collaborators also recognized the unsustainability of the agricultural pricing policies adopted at the beginning of rural reform, and correctly predicted that...
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