Uncovering the Hidden Causes of China's Economic Miracle: News Releases: The Independent Institute

The Power of Independent Thinking


Stay Connected
Get the latest updates straight to your inbox.

News Release
July 6, 2017

Uncovering the Hidden Causes of China’s Economic Miracle
New Book Explains the Key Role of China’s Great Migration

OAKLAND, CA—China’s economic miracle has lifted over 720 million Chinese people out of poverty and transformed the global economy, yet its causes still elude policymakers and development consultants around the world.

Finally, the puzzle’s missing pieces are explained in the new Independent Institute book China’s Great Migration: How the Poor Built a Prosperous Nation, by Bradley M. Gardner.

Gardner, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer and former China analyst for The Economist Intelligence Unit, traces the roots of China’s economic rise to the greatest migration in human history: the exodus of more than 260 million people from the countryside to the city.

Internal migration is directly responsible for an estimated one-fifth of China’s economic growth, and its indirect contributions to the economy may be far greater. Simply giving poor people access to larger markets for their labor increased global economic output by at least $1.1 trillion over 20 years—growth roughly equivalent to the size of Mexico’s economy.

It has also prompted officials to enact wide-ranging market-oriented and privatization reforms—tax reform, social services reform, land reform, and infrastructure development—which have accommodated and amplified economic growth.
Along with his original analysis of China’s transformation, Gardner offers valuable predictions and lessons for policymakers in China and beyond:

  • China’s internal migration is expected to level out in the mid-2020s. Economic growth will grind to a halt unless problems caused by capital-hogging state enterprises, an inefficient state-owned financial sector, and a sprawling unchecked one-party state are corrected.
  • Strong rural land property rights—and the ease of selling or leasing rural land—would further strengthen Chinese labor markets, helping rural dwellers and urban migrants earn more money.
  • Although mass migration has strained China’s social services to the point of collapse, recent experimentation with pre-paid social services would be a solution.
  • Better urban development policies could help countries adapt to slow population growth and capture more of the benefits from migration.

Bradley M. Gardner is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. Previously he worked in China forThe Economist Intelligence Unit, served as Managing Editor of China International Business, and was Editor-in-Chief for China Offshore/Invest In.

The Independent Institute is a non-profit, research and educational organization that promotes the power of independent thinking to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For more information, visit www.independent.org. For media inquiries, contact Communications Manager Rob Ade: [email protected]; (510) 632-1366, ext. 114.

  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless
  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org