The Political Economy of Development in China and Vietnam

Posted: 21 May 2014

See all articles by Edmund J. Malesky

Edmund J. Malesky

Duke University, Political Science

Jonathan D. London

City University of Hong Kong

Date Written: May 2014


Two theories predominate in discussions of why China and Vietnam have, over the past three decades, achieved such rapid economic growth. The first argues that their startling performance can be explained by economic factors associated with late industrialization. The second proposes that China and Vietnam represent novel models of political economic organization that need to be better studied and understood. In this essay we review the voluminous literature on the political economy of China and Vietnam, evaluating the critical debates over the economic benefits of decentralization, experimentation, and state-led development. Although the debate remains unsettled, analysis suggests that growth in the two countries was most robust during periods of state withdrawal from the economy and that current economic difficulties in both countries are now arising from the scale and character of the state's role in both economies.

Suggested Citation

Malesky, Edmund J. and London, Jonathan D., The Political Economy of Development in China and Vietnam (May 2014). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 17, pp. 395-419, 2014, Available at SSRN: or

Edmund J. Malesky (Contact Author)

Duke University, Political Science ( email )

140 Science Drive (Gross Hall), 2nd floor
Duke University Mailcode: 90204
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Jonathan D. London

City University of Hong Kong ( email )

83 Tat Chee Avenue
Hong Kong


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