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China in Africa: The Real Story

Deborah Brautigam

The ever-interesting economist Professor Chris Blattman comments on "China: Not Playing By the Rules?" in his blog, chrisblattman.com:
In a front page headline today, the New York Times comes to the rescue of Gamesa, a Spanish company producing wind turbines in the nefarious Middle Kingdom.
The NY Times was reporting on Gamesa's complaint that Chinese companies are not playing by the rules, but taking advantage of government support. Blattman continues:
State subsidies and policies to foster infant industries at the expense of foreign competitors. This sounds almost like the dark and nefarious practices followed by… Spain.
Personally I see nothing dark or nefarious here. This is good old fashioned industrial policy at work. How else do we expect poorer countries to converge to riches? Innovate on the frontier? I am an amateur economic historian at best, but here’s my opinion: almost never been done.
China’s story today sounds a lot like continental Europe in the early 19th century, Japan after the Meiji Restoration, and the Asian Tigers in the 20th. Go back two hundred years and you can find the British press enraged with the same complaints as they lose their textile industry to that backwards backwater, France.
I remember well the same complaints made about Taiwanese copying when I lived in Taipei in 1979-80. Blattman points out that while suffering from "unfair Chinese competition", Gamesa had still managed to double its sales of wind turbines in China. Click here to continue.