Dan Wang on China in 2021: “Common prosperity,” cultural stunting, and shortcomings of the “modal China story”

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This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser welcomes back Dan Wang, technology analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, to talk about this year’s annual letter. Dan’s letters have become something of an institution: wide-ranging, insightful, and always contentious, his missives are read by a great many observers of contemporary China and spark some lively conversations. This year’s letter contrasts the major megacities that Dan has lived in (Beijing, Shanghai, and the “Greater Bay Area” of the Pearl River Delta), examines Xi Jinping’s efforts to shift the energies of China’s technologists and entrepreneurs away from the consumer internet and toward deep tech, ponders the causes of China’s “cultural stunting” and the challenges that China faces, and has not yet overcome, in creating cultural products that the rest of the world wants, and warns of the dangers of focusing only on China’s weaknesses and problems and ignoring its prodigious capabilities. Tune in for a fascinating conversation with one of the Sinosphere’s more original thinkers.

4:15 – Dan appraises Beijing, Shanghai, and the PRD Greater Bay Area

20:48 – How to think about the “common prosperity” agenda (a.k.a. the Red New Deal)

39:21 – The tradeoff between efficiency and resilience: China as an inefficient but anti-fragile economy

45:34 – Should the United States be learning from China? The case for reform of American institutions

50:38 – A technocratic resurgence in China? The rise of a “Beihang Clique”

58:17 – The causes of “cultural stunting” in China

A transcript of this podcast is available on SupChina.com.

Recommendations:

Dan: Charles Dickens, Bleak House, and Jurgen Osterhammel, Unfabling the East: The Enlightenment’s Encounter with Asia

Kaiser: Ritchie Robertson, The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680 to 1790