As it embraces around 25% of the human population, post-socialist transformation is by all means a process of historical significance. It is hardly possible to imagine complex and extensive systemic changes that equal those which have been taking place in parts of Europe and Asia. In simplistic terms, the process is twofold in nature: from the political perspective, authoritarian regimes are replaced by democracies, and from the economic perspective, the systems are transformed from centrally-planned economies based on state ownership domination and bureaucratic control mechanisms into free market economies based on private ownership and a deregulated market. Naturally, there are regional variations, and, indeed, each country in transition would have its own personal set of characteristics.
Poland and China represent two very different models of post-socialist transformation, both of which brought spectacular developmental advancements. In the last 27 years, Poland has become a developed, modern and competitive market-based economy. In the meantime China has made spectacular achievements in poverty eradication and elevated itself to the position of the world’s economic superpower.
Between 1989 and 1991 Poland quickly opened up its national economy in a swift sequence of changes of laws, regulations and systemic arrangements, broadly known as the shock therapy. Then, the policy makers refocused their attention onto institution building, but nevertheless did not impede the pace of reforms. Starting from 1997 the policies concentrated on adopting regulations and norms of the European Union, as Poland had the ambition to join the EU as quickly as possible. This eventually happened in May 2004. The regional integration brought Poland additional benefits, which contributed to the steady increase in the standard of living. The Poland of today hardly resembles the Poland of 27 years ago when the transformation began.
China’s leadership chose incremental and gradual changes. For the first decade of gaige kaifang (reform and opening up) under Deng Xiaoping, it actually hoped to keep some residues of socialism in place. In the 1990s China turned away from socialism and its political elite concentrated on creating a market economy. As a result of market reforms, in 2001 China was ready to join the WTO. The main focus of China’s systemic transformation has always been development. The results have been impressive. From an impoverished country on the economic world’s periphery, China has become an economic powerhouse and a major player on the international scene.
The seminar’s intention is to compare the two very different modes of systemic transformation.
About the Speaker:
Andrzej Bolesta has a PhD in Government from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and an MSc from the University of Oxford. He also studied at Warsaw School of Economics, was a visiting scholar at the China Center for Economic Research, Peking University and conducted his research at Yale Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University.
He is an author of the concept of Post-Socialist Developmental State. He wrote China and Post-Socialist Development – the first comprehensive analysis of how the East Asian development model has influenced China’s transformation from central planning to market. The book has been published by the Policy Press, UK. It has been translated into Chinese language and will be published in Beijing in 2016.
Currently, he is a senior diplomat (First Counsellor) responsible for economic affairs in the Polish embassy in Bangkok (responsible for Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia). In his capacity, he has engaged in activities concerned with Myanmar’s economic transformation. He has conducted lectures and seminars on economic reforms for Myanmar policy makers, government officials, members of the parliament, political parties, economic associations, universities and non-governmental organisations.
Prior to his current position, he was the Head of the Economic Department and then Economic Counsellor of the Polish embassy in Beijing (responsible for China and Mongolia). In Poland, he worked as a university lecturer, specialising in development and transformation of East Asian economies. He also advised the Head of the Parliament and was the Research Assistant to the former Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. He wrote and edited eight books and around 20 articles on economic development, Asian economies and systemic transformation, which were published in English, Polish and Chinese. He was an evaluator of Poland’s National Development Plan 2007-2013. He has been a guest lecturer at universities and government institutions in Poland, China, Mongolia, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. His main interest lies in the economies of East Asia – the region in which he has spent the last nine years.