Michael Rochlitz, a newly appointed professor at the Faculty of Business Studies and Economics of the University of Bremen, works on the economic development of authoritarian countries. The political economist places a particular focus on the current developments in Russia and China. A unique, scientific study has come from this topic. He produced said study together with his colleague, Professor Alexander Libman from the LMU Munich. The study has been met with great interest by the public due to its astounding conclusions and will now be published as a book.
What Did the Authors Find Out?
“Russia’s economic growth has stagnated since 2008,” explains Rochlitz. There was indeed an upturn between 2000 and 2008 but this was mainly due to the oil prices at the time. After nationwide privatization under the rule of Boris Yeltsin (during which most of the relevant companies were kept by a small number of people), President Vladimir Putin initiated a declining development. “A number of oligarchs were expropriated and even ended up in prisoner camps,” according to the political economist. Putin’s political agenda, which is mainly based on control, renders it nearly impossible for the regions of the federal state to yield economic growth through personal initiative.
Decentralized Freedom in China
“Until recently, it was entirely different in China,” explains Rochlitz with regard to his research findings. “China is actually also a centralized state but gave its civil servants free reign on varying administrative levels. They were allowed to experiment in a decentralized manner. The deciding factor in this was the results, especially economic growth.” A greatly debated matter in Russia was whether Russia could learn from China. What is interesting however is that it seems to be going in the exact opposite direction. Xi Jinping, who has been State President of the large country since 2013, has been trying for some time now to ensure that he can remain in power even after the end of his term in 2022. Amongst other things, he is employing a massive anti-corruption campaign to get rid of his opponents. “One million state officials are incarcerated,” states the Bremen scholar, “and the rest no longer has the courage to show economic initiative.” The taking over of the “Russian model” was immediately noticeable. “Until 2012, the economic growth in China was a rapid 10 percent. Currently it is only five.”
Facebook as the Opposition’s Platform
Both authors analyzed innumerable sources, travelled to the countries and carried out interviews for their book “Federalism in China and Russia: Story of Success and Story of Failure?” The comparative analysis takes an exceptional amount of dimensions of the parallel development of both federal states into considerations: fiscal connections and incentives, bureaucratic processes, information flows and the behavior of local governments, according to a commentary on this work. Rochlitz gives an example of the heterogeneous picture that the authors were able to gain. Whilst China controls and imposes restrictions on the internet, Facebook is still a platform for the opposition in Russia. “There is an active Russian public community and a number of NGOs, of which we are often not aware,” he emphasizes. Information from these circles were important for their research.
The 37-year-old professor speaks fluent English, French, Russian, and Italian. “I only have basic knowledge of Chinese,” he says and smiles. Several scientific stops in his career led him to universities in Paris, Scotland, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, London, Lucca and Munich. Alongside his job in Bremen within Professor Jutta Günther’s research group, he is an associated member of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and is well connected. Michael Rochlitz can tell interesting stories about the lives of the people in all of the countries that he is researching.
Note to editors:
Professor Michael Rochlitz is happy to answer detailed questions about the current politics and economic developments in Russia and China in his role as an expert in the field.
Prof. Dr. Michael Rochlitz
Faculty of Business Studies and Economics
University of Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-66990