Professor Eckstein's book is a study of China's efforts to achieve rapid modernization of its economy within a socialist framework. Eckstein begins with an examination of economic development in pre-Communist China, specifically focusing on the resources and liabilities inherited by the new regime in 1949 and their effects on development policies. He then analyses the economic objectives of the Communist leadership - narrowing income disparities, maintaining full employment without inflation, and achieving rapid industrialization - and argues that the implementation of these goals required a potent ideology capable of providing a strong faith and motivational force for the mass mobilization of resources. In discussing the methods used by the government to achieve its aims, Eckstein makes a thorough evaluation of China's general framework for economic planning, particularly in regard to the distribution and pricing of farm products and the allocation of resources in the industrial sector. The author also evaluates the radical institutional changes in property relations and in economic organization in the People's Republic of China.
Drawing on his book China's Economic Development (1975) as well as his article on Chinese foreign trade in the October 1975 Foreign Affairs, the late Professor Eckstein has assembled a balanced, nuts-and-bolts overview of the Chinese economy since 1949. The book begins with general categories - resources inherited by the Revolution, political motivation, property relations, planning principles - and traces specific policy shifts. The Great Leap Forward of 1966-67 is described as a debacle which, even before the Cultural Revolution, produced a turn toward decentralization and universal manual labor. Eckstein credits the government with creating extraordinary price stability and achieving semi-developed status for the economy; he also notes anomalies and lags, including weak mid- and long-range planning, a continued predominance of rural population, a five-year period in which almost no technical personnel were graduated, serious deficiencies in steel output and communications capacity, and a low level of world trade in the 1970s. Using the 1975 CIA-Joint Economic Committee statistics he helped compile, and parenthetically noting other scholars' mistrust of them, the book provides indices of gross domestic product, capital spending, and so forth through 1974. In future, China will have to mechanize farming to meet its growth targets, and find better ways of training technicians; as for trade, China's petroleum reserves will turn it into a major exporter seeking foreign exchange. While the historical material can largely be found in Eckstein's earlier works, this is an update on approximations of the recent past which will be useful as both an introductory source and a bounce-off summation for specialists. (Kirkus Reviews)