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Fourth, the daunting challenges that China faces at this po

point in its economic development are far more important than whether its slowdown is

a gap or a trap. What comes after the catch-up to advanced economies operating on the technological frontier? This

is where China’s stated goal of shifting from imported to indigenous innovation comes in. Middle-versus high-inco

me status is a relative comparison for developing economies seeking to operate on that frontier. Notwithstanding the

temporary effects of periodic exogenous disturbances-such as deleveraging, global slowdowns, or even trad

e wars-catching up to the frontier and joining others pushing to move beyond it is the ultimate reward of economic development. That goal is ensh

rined in President Xi Jinping’s aspiration for China to achieve high-income status by 2050.

And fifth, productivity growth is far more important than GDP gro

wth in determining a country’s development prospects. As such, I would be far more wor

ried about China falling into a productivity trap than a GDP growth trap. A new study on total factor prod

uctivity (TFP) by a team of Chinese researchers offers some comfort here. Like the work of Pritchett and Summers, thi

s latest assessment of Chinese TFP growth reveals several discontinuities over the past 40 years.

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