Podcast: China’s Unlikely Partners on the Road to Reform

Play Button Pause Button
0:00 0:00
Episode Guests
  • Elizabeth C. Economy
    Senior Fellow for China Studies

Show Notes

Over the past forty years, the Chinese economy has undergone a striking transformation. In 1976, in the wake of Mao’s death and the Cultural Revolution, planned production and fixed pricing stifled market forces. Today, thriving capitalism vies for dominance with the socialist tenets of China’s past. What forces, and which individuals, brought about such a dramatic evolution? Julian Gewirtz, author of Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists, and the Making of Global China, tells the fascinating history of how Chinese reformers sought fresh economic ideas from far beyond their country’s borders. In the late 1970s and ensuing decades, as Chinese economists gleaned insights from trips to Europe and lectures by Western economists invited to China, debates raged within the leadership over how best to transform the country’s economic system. Gewirtz argues that the exchanges not only represent a lost period of openness in China’s modern history but also reflect a spirit of collaboration between Chinese and foreign thinkers that should now be rekindled. Listen below to hear his account of the unlikely partnerships that helped shape China into the modern state that exists today.

Top Stories on CFR


The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of China have prompted renewed debate about the U.S. government’s role in shaping the economy.

United States

Progress on President Biden’s climate agenda will slow with a split Congress. But with federal efforts dulled, state-level action could supply added momentum.

International Organizations

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has kicked off in Qatar, and billions of fans worldwide are tuning in to the world’s most popular live event. And yet as in years past, the Qatar Cup is transpiring under the shadow of controversy.