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Matthew Brooker

China’s Hubris Is a Threat to Its Economic Future

Beijing’s habit of stamping on private enterprise is a sign of overconfidence that could end up undermining growth.

Journalists and others film next to a large screen showing President Xi Jinping.
Journalists and others film next to a large screen showing President Xi Jinping.Photographer: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China’s increasingly muscular interventions in the private economy have wiped hundreds of billions of dollars off share prices and sent investors scurrying to understand where the next targets will be. The country’s leadership has embarked on a risky top-down approach to economic policy-making that signals a departure from decades of market opening and engagement with the world, according to an Atlantic Council briefing paper released late last month by Dexter Roberts, a senior fellow with the Washington-based think tank.

The aim of Beijing’s government-directed and supported industrial policies is to create a more self-sufficient, more egalitarian country that will continue to grow rapidly, writes Montana-based Roberts, who is the author of “The Myth of Chinese Capitalism,” published last year. Before returning to the U.S. in 2018, Roberts spent more than two decades as the Beijing-based bureau chief for Bloomberg Businessweek, during which he reported from all of China's provinces and regions. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.