Podcast

China's Growth Problem

Beijing construction
Andy Wong/AP

China is rolling out its 12th five-year plan, a document that aims to sketch out the path the country's economy will take over the next half decade. The very existence of the plan is a reminder that, despite embracing elements of capitalism and markets, China's leaders still want to control much of the country's economy.

On today's Planet Money, we discuss the plan with Eswar Prasad, a Cornell economist who used to run the IMF's China division. He says the plan is a "remarkable document," in part because China's leaders say they want less economic growth.

It's probably a unique example of a country saying ... that it would actually like to reduce growth, at a time when virtually every other economy is thinking about how to increase growth.

In many ways, rapid economic growth has been a boon for China. But growth is also associated with problems — many of which are highlighted in the new plan, Prasad says.

...it's creating a lot of environmental damage, it's not generating many jobs, much of the benefits of this growth are not going to the average household ... in addition, growth is not balanced across the provinces, with the coastal provinces doing very well and the interior provinces not sharing in this growth...

The big goal laid out in the five year plan is to "rebalance" growth and make it more sustainable.

For more: Read Premier Wen's speech laying out the plan. And, for a big picture view of China and the world's other developing economies, see Prasad's new book, Emerging Markets.

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