In the decades following China’s 1978 decision to reform and open, its growth was driven by demographics and structural adjustment – letting market logic reshape the economic landscape. But in recent years, as the easier phase of development gave way to middle-income challenges, Beijing has attempted to reassert control over investment and markets. This was not the first choice. President Xi Jinping’s inaugural 2013 Third Plenum economic plan – while still couched in Communist Party nomenclature – was distinctly geared toward a decisive role for markets. Implementation of those goals, rather than aspiration, has been most lacking. By tracking the 2013 objectives across 10 economic domains, The China Dashboard seeks to inform public debate with objective data on just how close to or far from those aspirations China is trending.
Gauging China’s policy progress objectively is essential for understanding what sort of economy – and polity – China will have domestically in the future, and just as critically what role China will play in the international community. The current escalation of tensions between China and the United States is the sort of situation we previously anticipated at the conception of the Dashboard project and seek to temper through dissemination of respected data indicators and interpretation. For this reason, we eschew normative advice or prognostication about the future of the Chinese economy, though we do point out clear conundrums in the outlook.
The China Dashboard offers a regular assessment of China’s progress or regress on its own critical policy goals. The record to date, five years after the Third Plenum plan was laid down, remains on balance in negative territory against the objectives set in 2013.