This study is nothing short of a stinging indictment of China's gradual path of reform, both in its actual implementation in the 1990s and in its idealization by Western academics. Instead of the usual portrayal by the Chinese government and some U.S.-based economists that China's economy continues to undergo a process of reform, Yasheng Huang argues that the 1990s saw a “great reversal” of the promising, rural-based reform trajectory of the 1980s. This is a work of great importance, which has changed how many of us see the Chinese economy and will motivate further scholarship to uncover gross inefficiency embedded in the current Chinese growth model.

Huang begins by systematically casting doubt on the conventional view held by many economists that reform in the 1990s was simply a “deepening” of the reform of the 1980s. Marshaling an impressive array of survey and documentary evidence, Huang shows that China's private economy...

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