Taking on China Big Tech and Entrepreneurs: Will the Party shackle innovation and future growth?  Professor Stephen Morgan, University of Nottingham Business School, 6 October 2021, 4pm-5:30pm BST

Published: 11 February 2021

research seminar

Zoom Registration Required at:  https://uofglasgow.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEqfuCtpj8qHtHGCF_fln-oXYS0ixWAvavc



Abstract: Party General Secretary and President of China, Xi Jinping, has a dream to “rejuvenate” (fuxing) China. His goal is for China to become a strong and wealthy country (fuqiang guo) by 2049, the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. And the past few months, Xi Jinping has not only beat the drum of innovation but also pronounced a far-reaching programme to address inequality. After the bruising Alibaba’s Jack Ma received and the cancellation of the Ant Group IPO in November 2020, China’s entrepreneurs are eager outdoing each other with promises to contribute to welfare. Meanwhile, the prices of shares in the leading Big Tech companies have plummeted. This seminar will examine some of these recent developments and put them in context. While the future is unknown – and unknowable – we can identify the constraints on the pathway to China’s future, which comprises large parts of my newly published book The Chinese Economy (Agenda, 2021). I will summarise some of the long-run change in economic history that I discuss in the book, but the primary focus of the seminar will be on China’s quest to develop an innovative economy, which is essential to sustain growth in the next few decades. Without innovation that can allow China to close the gap with the “frontier” advanced economies, growth in productivity will fall short and with that the capacity of the economy to increase living standards and address the challenges of an ageing population and shrinking workforce, reducing energy consumption, and achieving sustainable growth. In short, it will fail to become an advanced economy. This party focus on innovation was the primary topic of the late September central works conference on talent and innovation. Although China of the eastern seaboard can strike visitors as already an advanced economy, with sophisticated urban economies linked by highspeed trains and excellent expressways, large parts of the country resemble lower-middle or low-income economies. The challenge, I argue, is not tech talent or higher education, but at the other end, laying the foundations for learning in China’s children, especially those in the countryside. China has a long way to go still to catch up, which is not so much an economic problem as a political one, and which needs a major rebalancing in the share of GDP towards households and their welfare. 


Short Bio 

Stephen Morgan is Professor of Chinese Economic History in the Nottingham University Business School. He joined the University of Nottingham in 2007, originally in the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, after 14 years at the University of Melbourne. Between 2013 and 2020, he was seconded to the Nottingham’s China campus at Ningbo where he was Dean of Social Sciences (2013-16), Associate Provost for Planning (2016-18) and the Executive Director of the Nottingham China Health Institute (2018-20). Prof Morgan’s research is focused on China’s economy from the eighteenth century to the present. He has published in economic and business history, international business and strategy, health and human welfare, and media, politics and society. Since completing the recent book, The Chinese Economy (Agenda, 2021), his focus is an international project to estimate the worldwide historical levels of child stunting (low height for age) since the nineteenth century. In an earlier career, he was a journalist and editor for newspapers and news magazines in Australia and Asia, including the Far Eastern Economic Review (1987-90), and first visited China first as a reporter in January 1981. He was educated at Monash University, the Beijing Languages Institute, Nanjing University, the University of Hong Kong, and the Australian National University, where his PhD supervisors were W.J.F. Jenner, Mark Elvin, Peter Rimmer and Tim Wright (from a distance, then at Murdoch in Perth). 

The Scottish Centre for China Research Seminar Programme gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the MacFie Bequest. 

First published: 11 February 2021

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