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Barry Naughton

Biography: 

Barry Naughton is an economist who specializes in China's transitional economy. He has written on economic policy-making in China, and issues relating to industry, foreign trade, macroeconomics and regional development in China. Naughton teaches at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies of the University of California at San Diego. In 1998, he was named the first So Kuanlok Professor of Chinese and International Affairs, and he currently (2001–2002) serves as Associate Dean. His study of Chinese economic reform, Growing Out of the Plan: Chinese Economic Reform, 1978–1993 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995) won the Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Prize. His research on economic interactions among China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, focusing on the electronics industry, led to the edited volume The China Circle: Economics and Technology in the PRC, Taiwan and Hong Kong (Brooking Institution, 1997).

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Recent Commentary

Economic Policy

Local Debt Restructuring: A Case of Ongoing Authoritarian Reform

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Local debt restructuring is a key part of the ambitious fiscal reforms proposed by Minister of Finance Lou Jiwei. 

Economic Policy

Is There a “Xi Model” of Economic Reform?--Acceleration of Economic Reform since Fall 2014

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Thursday, March 19, 2015

China’s economic reform took major steps forward beginning in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Economic PolicyIn the News

It’s All in the Execution: Struggling with the Reform Agenda

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Tuesday, October 21, 2014

China’s authoritative leadership small groups have met and struggled to define priorities within China’s broad reform agenda.  

Wuhan, China
Economic Policy

‘Deepening Reform’: The Organization and the Emerging Strategy

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Monday, July 28, 2014

The Chinese leadership has set up an elaborate top-level apparatus to advance the reforms announced at last year’s Third Plenum.  This apparatus extends down to local governments and strongly incentivizes local governments to push forward with local reforms as well.  However, these reforms are still not well defined, and specific guidance from the top level has lagged behind the creation of “reform leading groups.”  The resulting pattern is one of broad movement but relatively slow delivery of actual reform measures.  As proposals percolate up from below and “top-level designs” are further fleshed out, we can anticipate an additional protracted stage of bargaining, conflict, and slow consensus-building.  Important reforms will emerge over the next few years, but there are also risks that irreconcilable conflicts may emerge or that botched reforms may incite a backlash.

Economic Policy

After the Third Plenum: Economic Reform Revival Moves toward Implementation

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

The Third Plenum basically fulfilled the expectations placed on it, as it responded adequately to the credibility crisis that confronts Chinese policy today. New challenges of interpretation and implementation now rise to the fore. With the creation and staffing of the Reform Leadership Small Group, the initial outlines of the implementation process are coming into view. These show continued strong commitment to the goals of economic reform, but significant risks of reform strategy and implementation persist.

Economic Policy

The Narrow Road to Reform

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Monday, October 7, 2013

The reform policy process this year will culminate in the Third Plenum, which has now been pushed back to November. While the process is on track, delays show the difficulty in crafting a reform design that must adapt to the privileged position of state-owned enterprises and other limitations on reform design. Turbulence in short-term financial markets in June indirectly illuminates some of these problems.

Economic Policy

Programs of Economic Reform Begin to Emerge

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Thursday, June 6, 2013

China’s leaders declared a reform renewal last year, but nothing of significance occurred until the National People’s Congress concluded. Although the congress confirmed the appointments of important reformist technocrats Zhou Xiaochuan and Lou Jiwei, and Liu He took over the office of the Economics and Finance Leadership Small Group of the Communist Party, power was also carefully balanced with representatives of the state sector. Since the NPC meeting, however, there have been clear signs of a renewal of reform policy-making in both the Communist Party and the State Council. The progress of these initiatives should be carefully monitored.

Economic Policy

Signaling Change: New Leaders begin the Search for Economic Reform

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Monday, January 14, 2013

Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are now the two top leaders in China. Both have moved quickly to break with the Hu-Wen administration and signal their support for dramatic new economic reforms. The structure of the new Politburo Standing Committee appears to support their aspirations. Neither Xi nor Li has yet committed to specific reform measures, and the obstacles to reform are formidable. However, both Xi and Li have committed to a process that will lead to the creation of a reform program by late 2013.

Economic Policy

The Political Consequences of Economic Challenges

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Monday, October 1, 2012

China faces a growth slowdown with broad policy implications that are intertwined with the pending leadership succession. Central leaders are resigned to a growth slowdown, but do not have a clear strategy to deal with it. This provides an opening to reformers who argue that only substantial new market-oriented reforms can address the problems. There is a strong sense that Wen Jiabao’s era as an economic policy-maker is over and that he has left many difficult problems in his wake. Resolving those problems would require both determination on the part of the new leaders—who are as yet an unknown factor—and a new structure of representation of economic decision-makers on the Politburo Standing Committee.

Economic Policy

Economic Uncertainty Fuels Political Misgivings

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Monday, August 6, 2012

Political uncertainty is inevitable as China prepares for this fall’s leadership transition. This year economic conditions are also unusually unpredictable. In particular, while China is undergoing an inevitable economic slowdown, few have a clear idea of how drastic the slowdown will be, or how painful the transition to a slower growth path will be. Facing these multiple uncertainties, Chinese politicians are trying to leave themselves as much flexibility as possible.

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