Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Hellman Faculty Fellow
Meg Rithmire is an assistant professor in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit, where she teaches the course of the same name in the MBA required curriculum. Professor Rithmire holds a PhD in Government from Harvard University, and her primary expertise is in the comparative political economy of development with a focus on China. Her first book, Land Bargains and Chinese Capitalism (Cambridge University Press, 2015), examines the role of land politics, urban governments, and local property rights regimes in the Chinese economic reforms. A new project investigates the influence of diasporas, and the overseas Chinese communities in particular, in the progress of economic and political reforms in the homeland. She is a faculty associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Fairbank Center for East Asian Studies at Harvard. In 2015, she won the Faculty Teaching Award in the Required Curriculum.
Land Bargains and Chinese Capitalism: The Politics of Property Rights under Reform
Land reforms have been critical to the development of Chinese capitalism over the last several decades, yet land in China remains publicly owned. This book explores the political logic of reforms to land ownership and control, accounting for how land development and real estate have become synonymous with economic growth and prosperity in China. Drawing on extensive fieldwork and archival research, this book tracks land reforms and urban development at the national level and in three cities in a single Chinese region. The study reveals that the initial liberalization of land was reversed after China's first contemporary real estate bubble in the early 1990s and that property rights arrangements at the local level varied widely according to different local strategies for economic prosperity and political stability. In particular, the author links fiscal relations and economic bases to property rights regimes, finding that more "open" cities are subject to greater state control over land.
China's 'New Regionalism': Subnational Analysis in Chinese Political Economy
The study of Chinese political economy has undergone a sea change since the late 1990s; instead of debating the origins and direction of national reform, scholars have turned to examining the origins of local economic variation. This essay reviews recent work in regional political economy of contemporary China. In keeping with a movement in comparative politics toward analyzing subnational politics, the "new regionalists" seek to identify and explain meaningful heterogeneity in the Chinese polity and economy. Yet they go further than simply using subnational cases to generate or test theories about Chinese politics; instead, they propose that subnational political economies in China are a function of endogenous change rather than a reaction to national priorities. After identifying differences between "new regionalism" and previous studies of decentralization in China, I discuss this work according to the theoretical approaches (institutional, ideational, and socio-historical) used to explain the origins of regional differences. I conclude by examining the limitations of the new regionalist agenda in comparative and historical context and suggesting that scholars move past unconditional acceptance of the causal power of "socialist legacies" and instead attend to the importance of changes in the post-Mao administrative hierarchy.
Government and Politics;
Land Politics and Local State Capacities: The Political Economy of Urban Change in China
Despite common national institutions and incentives to remake urban landscapes to anchor growth, generate land-lease revenues, and display a capacious administration, Chinese urban governments exhibit varying levels of control over land. This article uses a paired comparison of Dalian and Harbin in China's Northeast to link differences in local political economies to land politics. Dalian, benefitting from early access to foreign capital, consolidated control over urban territory through the designation of a development zone, which realigned local economic interests and introduced dual pressures for enterprises to restructure and relocate. Harbin, facing capital shortages, distributed urban territory to assuage losers of reform and promote economic growth. The findings suggest that 1) growth strategies, and the territorial politics they produce, are products of the post-Mao urban hierarchy rather than of socialist legacies, and, 2) perhaps surprisingly, local governments exercise the greatest control over urban land in cities that adopted market reforms earliest.
Government and Politics;
Egypt: The End of the Revolution?
Rithmire, Meg. "Egypt: The End of the Revolution?" Harvard Business School Case 715-041, April 2015. (Revised April 2015.) View Details
Inequality and Growth in the 'Chinese Dream'
Xi Jinping assumed his position as head of China's fifth generation of leaders in 2012. Xi was head of both the People's Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party, which had ruled China since 1949. Xi inherited a country far more unequal than the one that Mao Zedong, Communist China's first leader, had left behind in 1978. The growth of markets had made China much wealthier, but also generated many social problems, including inequality, corruption, and social protests. This case discusses China's political and economic development in the 20th century to situate Xi's—and China's—contemporary challenges.
Wealth and Poverty;
perceptions of inequality;
chinese political thought;
Equality and Inequality;
Di Tella, Rafael, Meg Rithmire, and Kaitlyn Szydlowski. "Inequality and Growth in the 'Chinese Dream'." Harvard Business School Case 714-440, March 2014. View Details
The case narrates the development of Pittsburgh from the 1940s to 2012. It analyzes the collapse of the steel industry in the early 1980s, the city's subsequent decline, and the city's later re-emergence as a hub for higher education, the tech sector, and the healthcare industry. Attention is given to the public-private partnerships that emerged in Pittsburgh, as well as the economic development and taxation initiatives pursued by different mayors.
Tax increment financing;
Business and Government Relations;
Giving and Philanthropy;
Werker, Eric, Meg Rithmire, Benjamin Kennedy, and Andrew Knauer. "Pittsburgh."
Harvard Business School Case 713-035, January 2013. (Revised December 2014.) View Details
The “Chongqing Model” and the Future of China
Since opening to the global economy in 1979, but especially since entering the WTO in 2001, China's economy grew at rates around 10% annually by attracting FDI and promoting exports. After the financial crisis that began in 2008 and depressed demand in the United States and Europe, China's growth began to slow, and vulnerabilities in its economy came to light. It became clear to many in China that the growth strategy that got China from 1978 to the present was unsustainable and that the country needed a new strategy to resolve the country's regional inequalities, stimulate domestic consumption, and create growth less vulnerable to global contractions in demand. At exactly this time, between 2007 and 2012, the provincial municipality of Chongqing in China's mountainous southwest became the fastest growing city in China with GDP growth averaging over 15%. Chongqing's growth was the result of a suite of economic and social policies that had been dubbed the "Chongqing Model," a controversial bundle of reforms that promised public and private sector growth with benefits more equitably shared by all citizens. Yet critics found the model politically suspect and over reliant on state-owned enterprises and debt-driven investment. When the city's preeminent leader was publicly fired following a sensational murder scandal, the region's new leaders—and indeed China's new leaders—had to weigh in on the "Chongqing Model." Would it signal a new path to prosperity for post-WTO China?
Developing Countries and Economies;
Public Administration Industry;