The digital great leap forward mapping China’s 21st century attempt to create a new growth model
Author: Ágnes Szunomár
The recent successes of the Chinese modernisation strategy are substantiated by an array of indicators showing an impressive improvement. Irrespective of China’s current growth deceleration, these indicators suggest a highly effective implementation of an ambitious roadmap that can ultimately help China to catch up and achieve a global technological leadership. Still, some scholars point to deep structural deficiencies, and maintain that these indicators – however impressive they are – merely scratch the surface, while much deeper change is required in order to maintain economic growth. Therefore, the purpose of this paper (finalized before the ongoing COVID-19 crisis) is to contribute to this burgeoning literature – documenting the outcome and analysing the implications of China’s efforts to embrace a new growth model – and analyse the chances of the Chinese digital great leap forward, that is the radical transformation of its prior modernisation trajectory. Drawing on a systematic review of the literature, the author maps, presents and analyses existing indicators quantifying China’s progress in shifting to this new development trajectory, identifying also the gaps in the conventional measurement approaches. According to the findings of this paper, there are several easy-to-measure indicators, often used in international comparisons, that indeed confirm the optimistic scenario of China’s development prospects in the near future. On the other hand, some hard-to-quantify factors, such as the localization of knowledge and the spreading of innovation, need to be also considered. These latter show a closer association with countries’ development level as well as development potential. With regards to these latter particularities, China still has a long way to go.