From Planned Economy to Planned Governance: Transformation of China’s Socialist Planning System

Visiting Scholar Talks

Feb 27, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Jie Gao | Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2022-23


Isabella Weber | Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Seating is limited. Masks are required for all in-person audience members.

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

In China as in many other Communist countries, the evolution of socialist planning has been central to the transition from a planned economy to a market-oriented one. Conventional wisdom argues that the market will “grow out of the plan” in tandem with the state’s gradual abandonment of the core features of the Soviet-style socialist planning system, such as direct state allocation of materials. But have the scope and reach of the socialist planning system been reduced after the market grows out of the plan? This study argues that after three decades of marketization and decentralization reforms, the socialist planning system has not shrunk. On the contrary, it has been “reinvented,” and its role in governing China has expanded. The transformation of the socialist planning system can be observed from the rise of a governance-by-targets regime during the past four decades—a phenomenon that performance targets, many of which are derived from the party-state’s development plans, are increasingly and ubiquitously used in managing social, economic and political affairs. Put in this light, China is moving from a planned economy to “planned governance”, and during this process, the reinvention of the socialist plan is happening alongside the growth of the socialist market, rather than one superseding the other.