Thanks Mark, both for your time and feedback while we were writing the report and your comments now.
On 1, I agree that charter cities sit somewhere between neartermist and longtermist so thinking about them as mid/mediumtermist makes sense. I imagine Rethink Priorities’ future work in this space will be a mixture of traditionally neartermist and mediumtermist topics. However, most of the current arguments for charter cities, especially Mason (2019), have an explicitly neartermist flavour, given the direct comparisons to GiveWell charities and a focus on the direct benefits. I’m keen to see robust medium/longtermist arguments for charter cities being made more explicitly.
On 2 & 3, there’s some tension between the claims that (1) Chinese growth is a result of SEZs, (2) the charter cities movement is trying to replicate the success of China, and (3) that SEZs are not the right comparison for charter cities.
To simplify the argument somewhat, we are taking the position that the more useful currently existing empirical analogue for charter cities is all SEZs, whereas your position is that it is Shenzhen. I totally accept your points about the important differences between SEZs and charter cities, however I am still concerned that focusing solely on the Shenzhen SEZ is cherry picking and an unrepresentative sample of how we might expect charter cities to perform. I think the ideal empirical analogue would be the subset of all SEZs that were large, had relatively high autonomy and multiple industries, however we couldn’t find any analysis of the performance of this subset.
On 4, I think the report is clear about why we are currently skeptical of the tractability of charter cities despite recent history (although I recognise that you have inside knowledge that might cause us to update more positively). I’d also highlight that regardless of what you think of the absolute tractability of charter cities, it seems intuitive that the relative tractability is lower than alternatives such as special reform zones, which aim at delivering the same benefits as charter cities without having to set up and build a brand new city. That said, I’m happy you and CCI are still working on this and I would love for you to prove us wrong!