China Research

A discussion forum on emerging markets, mainly China – from a macro, micro, institutional and corporate angle.

Science and female equality – reflections on the International Womens’s Day

March 6, 2024

The International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 has become a global phenomenon – widely acknowledged and celebrated. Theoretically, there is a broad understanding in most countries regarding the importance of female equality both politically, institutionally, economically, socially and psychologically. Practically, much more could be done for female equality – and should be done! Both in advanced and emerging countries.

Science has a lot to tell

In my view, science can give different explanations for the benefits of improving female equality. The following five conclusions from scientific research could be mentioned in the first place – most of them having an impact on economic growth and well-being (which is not the same):

¤  The impact of improved institutions on economic growth.
Research has shown for quite a number of years that improved institutions mean a lot to the quality and sustainability of economic growth. Nobel Prize winners such as R. Coase, D. North, E. Ostrom and O. Williamson are particularly famous in this respect. More lately, D. Acemoglu / J.Robinson, D. Rodrik and T. Persson have done extended work on the importance of institutions. Looking more closely on institutional research reveals clearly that better institutional conditions also mean improved conditions for economic growth – but also that extended female participation in these processes logically works as a driver of such desirable economic developments. Examples for progress may be better institutional conditions for female education, health, wages, and child care. 

¤  The impact of female human capital formation on economic growth.
Research has shown for quite some time (R. Lucas, R. Barro, P. Romer, G. Mankiw, etc.) that improvements of human capital formation (education) also outside the pure institutional sphere can contribute substantially to better economic growth. Consequently, when further focus on female capital formation happens, we have a widened source of economic growth.

¤  The impact of enlarged female labor supply. 
A substantial number of countries in the world have already – or will have – increasing demographic problems in the forthcoming decades (China, Japan, Russia, Germany, the Baltic countries, and a number of other European countries, see

 A major contribution to a future solution of the enormous burden of labor force shortage can most certainly emerge from an increasing female labor participation, both in volume and in quality terms. Such a development can also contribute to better international competitiveness.

¤  The impact of psychological satisfaction on productivity. 
Psychology often plays a neglected role in economic analysis, even, for example, in productivity studies for scientific work (J. Astegiano). Particularly important is the potential role of improved female labor productivity and what it means to economic growth (OECD, see

¤  The impact of better economic conditions on the society. 
Since an extended and broadened female labor market participation leads to better medium- and long-term GDP growth, chances of a stable society with good ethics should increase as well (B. Friedman). 

Conclusion – science shows the importance of women in the economy
Putting together the brief reflections above should demonstrate that there is sufficient scientific analysis that underlines the positive impact on economic developments by increasing  and improving gender well-being and improved female participation on labor markets. These processes should be considered as win-win developments – on both macroeconomic and microeconomic levels. This conclusion can be applied to both more advanced and emerging countries.

Hubert Fromlet Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

China – what will the NPC announce?

March 4, 2024

On March 5, the 14th National Party Congress (NPC) will officially open its second convention. This time, the NPC deserves particular attention.

Main focus for analysts – the officially strived GDP growth              

This year’s NPC procedures will be the same as every year.  Almost 3000 representatives from all over the country participate in this annual “parliamentary” convention of the Communist Party in Beijing – a convention  with a normal acceptance rate for all suggestions and laws of 100 percent (see also my remarks from last year, edited on March 6, 2023,; many of the comments then should be still valid, particularly those that pointed at the economic imbalances).

One year ago, I wrote that “the officially proclaimed official GDP-growth objective of around 5 percent in 2023 surpasses the outcome of 2022 by as much as 2 percentage points. 5 percent may not be quite easy to achieve but is definitely not out of reach because of all the (possible) statistical GDP effects from the low base in 2022 and a more expansionary economic policy this year”.

This interpretation has come true. Officially, last year’s GDP came in with a growth rate of 5.2 percent. It could have been lower in reality. Economic policy has become more expansionary, also in the past few weeks. Chinese political leadership still seems to be concerned about the economic performance.

There should be every reason for political growth concerns even if we do not know enough about China’s current economic situation. But we seem to understand that China these days is at the edge of deflation. The property crisis is still there – affecting also local public debt.

Real estate is no longer driving the economy. This explains partly the ongoing reluctance of consumers – but also the disappointing performance of Chinese stocks. Purchasing Manager Index for manufacturing stayed in February again below 50 (but may have been slightly affected by the new year vacation).

The important role of confidence

Lack of confidence in the economy can currently be observed both inside and outside China. For this reason, Prime Minister Li Qiang will put a lot of emphasis on restoring confidence and go for another 5-percent growth target in 2024 (which in reality should be more difficult to meet than one year ago).

Consequently, short-term stimuli will receive more political attention than structural economic policy. However, such a short-term focus will not work without further expansionary policy steps in fiscal expenditure and credit policy. This could mean further uncertainty about official and implicit public debt – a conundrum that has been existing for many years (see Fromlet;jsessionid=C0C89C49F078C34335DF6EBFA637B523?sequence=19).

Hubert Fromlet Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

India isn’t easy to analyze and deal with

February 22, 2024

More or less simultaneously, India has more recently shown up as a new economic superstar in the global financial (corporate) world whereas China rather moved in the opposite direction. Western doubts about China have been increasing. However, this does not mean that India now appears as an easy-handled substitute for economic activities in China. India and China are very different countries in lots of aspects – analytically, commercially and culturally. For this reason, India and China should be treated as different countries also in most commercial respects.

Understanding India takes time

About 20 years ago, I wrote frequently that it would take time learning to understand China. But only in the past few years, most Western corporate leaders and analysts started to watch China with necessary analytical and questioning eyes – many years after the corporate herd run to China had started.

Today, there is again an obvious risk for premature conclusions on another giant country – the “continent” of India. But I am not arguing against Swedish or other foreign activities in India. Having followed the Indian development relatively closely in the past two decades, I feel pretty sure about the conclusion that India has developed into an interesting country for many Western companies. My point is another one.

Instead, my major general concern refers again to psychology which I did in a similar way some twenty years ago when I discussed the issue of corporate herd behavior to China, p 148.

Usually, economic herd behavior can be recognized particularly on financial markets – but it can be spread from there to other business sectors as well. Naïve decisions should be avoided.

Indian shortcomings    

Despite the fact that transparency in reality looks better in India than in China, one should not forget that Indian economic statistics have their shortcomings, too – partly caused by the enormous size of the country. Using the rankings of World Economics shows that India and China are located quite close to each other – both provided with the remark that economic statistics should be handled “with caution” (

The (partly) lagging quality of Indian economic statistics is one of many institutional shortcomings in the fifth largest economy in the world (lately having left the UK behind). By 2027, India hopes to be ranked as the number three economy on this globe.

Usually, corruption and bureaucracy are most frequently taken up as institutional obstacles in India but many other negative examples could be mentioned as well. On the other hand, institutional progress can be noted all the same (see the following official “marketing” remarks,

Altogether, Indian improvements in the past few decades should, of course,  not be neglected. However, India still must be regarded as a slowly moving country – also when it comes to legislation.

Some of India’s most growth-hindering restrictions have now become more well-known in the Western corporate community. But at the same time, I have the feeling that the macroeconomic analysis of India to a high extent remains undervalued. India has also certain macroeconomic challenges.

Sure, India has managed quite reasonable GDP-growth rates in recent years, at the same time showing good resilience in a worrisome global economic world (which partly can be related to the less globalized economy compared to, for example, the Chinese conditions, and partly to certain structural improvements).

Domestic demand is the real strong driver of Indian economic growth and will remain so, also when considering the enormous improvement needs of the climate, energy, infrastructure, education and living conditions. In the longer run, however, India should also achieve solid fundamentals for export-driven growth.

It seems obvious that macroeconomic shortcomings should be considered as well. Inflation, for example, could be lower. The same can be said about unemployment – unfortunately affecting young unemployed academics as well. The balance on current account on the other hand seems currently in an improving shape.

But in the first place of concerns we find public debt for both the central government and the federal states. Unfortunately, statistics are not always handled very carefully. Financial analysts often only quote central government debt and forget about federal state debt. Altogether, Indian public debt can amount to something like 85 percent of GDP (two thirds for central government debt and about one third for the federal states). In December 2023, the IMF sent a warning to India about possible negative public debt prospects ( Something to relate to future economic growth.

High Indian expectations – can they be met?

It seems to be clear that India has become much more ambitious in recent years and wants indeed to become a global economic powerhouse – combined with stronger political influence on this globe. Being generally considered as the largest democracy in the world will continue to help a lot in the eyes of Western governments and corporate decision makers. I use to define this special Indian position by using the words “that India has more sympathy points in the West” (compared to the autocratic and still opaque country of China). 

So far, India has managed its sensitive relations to Russia quite well, i.e. without particularly irritating the Western hemisphere. But there exists also criticism against Prime Minister Modi’s consequent Hindi right-wing nationalist agenda. However, Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – together with their coalition partners of the “National Democratic Alliance” – seem to have good chances to remain in power after the “Lok Sabha”-elections in (probably) April and May this year. Indian polls do not rule out some losses for the current coalition – but most probably without leading to a shift of government. Ongoing good growth prospects and India’s increasing role in international politics should contribute to another term for Modi and his coalition partners.

Strong winds of confidence are certainly blowing through India these days. Thus, India has officially declared to aim at a 7 percent GDP growth in both 2024 and 2025. Furthermore, the government has even set a considerably higher growth objective for the long run – by transforming India into a developed country by 2047!

An overoptimistic objective? Impossible to say such a long time in advance. However, I feel quite sure that the long road to a developed country must be paved by persistent and major institutional improvements and reforms. This is exactly what the Western corporate sector would like to see in the future.

Conclusion: Despite current good growth rates, India should not be regarded as an easy country to analyze and to deal with (see also my article on this topic from April 28, 2023,

Keep in mind now and in the future:  the understanding of India takes time!

Hubert Fromlet Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board