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Reforming Asian Socialism examines the process of transition from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, focusing on the development of new institutions and how markets are being created where they did not exist before.
Aspects of the reform process in China and Vietnam are examined. Poland and the Ukraine are used as comparisons, as is North Korea, a country that has not begun to reform. Because China's reforms started in the late 1970s, a decade or more before any other communist country (except Vietnam) began to change, the Chinese economy is examined closely. Some fascinating experiments in novel institutional forms have occurred in Chinese rural industry: firms that have highly unusual ownership structures by comparison with textbook models and Western market-economy practice, have proven to be remarkably successful. China serves as a useful laboratory for the study of transition processes.
The volume addresses questions such as: What new market institutions are being created? To what extent are they developing spontaneously or is the government playing a role? What kinds of restructuring of state firms are actually occurring and how are they being financed? How are contracts made and enforced in the absence of a market-oriented legal system? What are the similarities and differences across the different countries in the microeconomics of transition? Is there an Asian as opposed to European model of reform, or are all the reforms in practice if not in rhetoric similar in some fundamental way?
John McMillan and Barry Naughton are Professors of Economics, Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego.