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Salon Activity on Economic History Held by Three Universities and One Institute

Reprinted from Center for Chinese Economic History, Tsinghua University
On September 20, 2020, Tsinghua University-Peking University-Nankai University-Institute of Economics Salon Activity on Economic History was held online. This salon activity was jointly hosted by three universities and one institute, namely, Tsinghua University, Peking University, Nankai University and Institute of Economics of School of Social Sciences, and organized by The Research Institute of Social Economic History of Peking University and Research Center for Foreign Economics of Peking University. More than 200 scholars from four sponsors and universities such as Renmin University of China, Wuhan University, Sichuan University, Henan University and Central China Normal University have discussed the theme of national capacity, market development and economic growth.
Professor Long Denggao, Institute of Economics of School of Social Sciences, Tsinghua University, made a report on the theme of Grassroots Self-reliance and National Capacity: Institutional Cornerstone and Historical Logic. Some scholars thought that a unified government should strengthen national capacity and focus on strict control at the grassroots level, but Professor Long considered that it did not conform to the historical observations. From the historical development of ancient China, the grassroots self-reliance is conducive to national capacity building. Professor Long pointed out that the primary purpose of national capacity in autocratic systems was to maintain the continuation of a unified regime, and therefore it cannot simply be compared with the definition of current national capacity. There are various forms of civil organizations in the history of China, and the institutional basis of civil autonomy is law and property rights, which have been discussed in previous reports. Professor Long Denggao summarized the positive impacts of grassroots self-reliance on national capacity. Firstly, grassroots self-governance has effectively weakened the rent-seeking space of local government officials, and the appropriate growth of grassroots forces is conducive to balancing and constraining the bureaucratic system. In the long run, the game between local grassroots power and local government can provide an important channel to digest potential social contradictions, and is conducive to the long-term sustainable development of national capacity. Secondly, to a certain extent, grassroots self-governance has not only decentralized government power, but also shared the responsibility and risk. Moreover, the grassroots community is not always opposed to the interests of the central government. For its own interests, it will also support the development of national unification and economic market. Thirdly, grassroots self-governance can also stimulate people’s creativity, conducive to institutional competition and innovation. Finally, grassroots self-reliance has reduced the principal-agent links, which is conducive to restraining information distortion, improving the efficiency of the bureaucratic system and reducing the management cost of the unified regime. Although grassroots self-reliance has many positive effects, with the improvement of the government’s direct control ability of the grassroots community, the traditional grassroots self-reliance has exhibited a declining trend, which is worthy of our in-depth thinking.
(Contributed by Bi Yue, Long Huiyang, Huang Wenxin, Sun Shubin, Liu Ting, Shen Bo)