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George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Scott Kennedy
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Last modified: Monday, May 8, 2006

Major conference at IU to assess direction of Chinese 'capitalism'

May 8, 2006

EDITORS: The conference is not open to the public, but media are invited. Contact George Vlahakis at 812-855-0846 or Scott Kennedy at 812-856-0105 if you would like to attend. More information is available online at

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It used to be easy to describe the People's Republic of China as being communist or socialist. As it develops into a leading industrial power with a vibrant market economy, many China experts now are pondering how to best label what could become the world's largest economic force.

A major conference, "Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics," to take place May 19-20 at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington, will take up the issue. China specialists from all over the United States will be joined by the editor of China's most important independent business magazine.

"Despite the ruling party's name, China is no longer a communist country," said conference organizer Scott Kennedy, assistant professor of East Asian languages and cultures and an adjunct professor of political science. "As China moves toward the market, there is no consensus about whether capitalism is a better label, and, if so, what type of capitalist system China is evolving toward."

Some describe the People's Republic of China as a "transition economy," struggling to become a free-market regulatory state, and compare it with other post-communist regimes in Central Europe, Russia and the former Soviet republics. Others see China as a "developmental state" like Japan, Taiwan and other East Asian countries. Still others believe China is most fruitfully compared to "crony capitalist" states in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, and in Latin America. A final group of observers hold that China's economy is unique in its characteristics.

"Unlike before, China is a major part of the global economy. For many it's the manufacturing center of the world, and it doesn't look like that's going to change any time soon," Kennedy said. "When China buys from the global market, it affects global prices of oil, raw materials of other types, and food. What used to happen in China used to just affect the Chinese and their neighbors. Now it radically affects the entire global economy."

The conference program will examine these claims across a broad number of issues, including property rights, development of China's legal system, the role of the local state, corruption, foreign trade and investment policy, protest, business lobbying and the media. It will bring together China scholars with general political economy specialists to foster a two-way, comparative dialogue on contemporary China. Kennedy plans to edit materials from the proceedings into a book.

The author of The Business of Lobbying in China (Harvard University Press, 2005), Kennedy has documented the growing influence of domestic and international companies on China's national economic policy.

"Economic policy used to be something that only the Communist Party dealt with. The idea would come from them, their drafting of it would come from them, as would implementation," Kennedy said. "Now you have Chinese and foreign capitalists lobbying the national government on economic policy every single day."

Even though the Chinese Internet isn't completely open, it has contributed to the growing pluralization of information in China. Hu Shuli, founder and editor of Caijing (Business and Finance Review), will speak on the conference's second day. A reporter for 16 years at Worker's Daily and China Business Times, she started the privately-financed Caijing in 1998. Hu has been called "the most dangerous woman in China" for her penetrating editorials and the magazine's groundbreaking stories on China's financial markets and corruption. This spring, she has been an Asian Pacific Leadership Fellow at the University of California-San Diego.

Other conference participants will include Arthur R. Kroeber, co-editor of China Economic Quarterly and managing director of its parent company, Dragonomics Research & Advisory, an independent research firm; and Jason Kindopp, the China analyst at Eurasia Group. They will be joined by East Asian, political economy and business scholars from IU, the University of California-Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, National Taiwan University, Northwestern University, Marquette University, New Economic School in Moscow and elsewhere.