A recent post on the Editors’ Journal at the China Economic Review had a very instructive quote from “the noted China scholar” Minxin Pei (Senior Associate and Director, China Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) – who spoke at the recent Australian Institute of Company Directors’ conference in Shanghai*.
In relation to property rights, and in particular to the Chongqing ‘nail house’ story, Pei is quoted as saying:
“In China, the devil is not in the details; the devil is in execution, implementation, enforcement”.
Of course the details are important, in property and many other places, but they are not where the devil is to be found in the Chinese context. It comes back to the rule of law versus the rule of man, and the desire and / or ability (especially at the local level) of officials to make things happen in a way that can satisfy people’s reasonable expectations.
Implementation is critical. And that is a Chinese characteristic that the proverbial “best-laid plans ” need to account for.