Explaining China's Great Transformation: The Solution to the “Blind Men & Elephant” Problem

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Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Thursday, March 8, 201812:00PM - 1:30PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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Attempts to explain China’s capitalist revolution all suffer from a “blind men and elephant” problem: depending on when and where one looks within China, every theory is development is correct yet none is complete. In other words, one can find snapshots of evidence for every conceivable “model” within China, from the Washington Consensus, good enough governance, to authoritarian developmental states. What then is the all-encompassing picture of China’s great economic and institutional transformation? The answer, I show, lies in the trajectory or sequence of development strategies, rather than in any particular factor or model. Across China, the first step of development was that local governments harnessed normatively weak or wrong institutions to kick-start markets, in stark defiance of textbook economic prescriptions.
The book will be available for sale at the venue.

Yuen Yuen Ang is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Her research lies at the intersection of global development, China’s political economy, and adaptive processes of change. Her book, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (2016), won the Peter Katzenstein Book Prize, and was described by the prize committee as “a field-shifting move to non-linear complex processes.” Elsewhere, Foreign Affairs named it among the “Best of Books 2017.” Yuen Yuen has received fellowships and awards from the Smith Richardson Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, American Political Science Association, and IBM Center for the Business of Government. She has spoken at many global development forums in the U.S, Europe, and China: the World Bank, United Nations, OECD Development Center, UK Department for International Development, Center for International Knowledge of Development/China’s State Council, International Finance Corporation, among others.


Mayumi Yamaguchi
(416) 946-8996


Yuen Yuen Ang
Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan

Lynette Ong
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Asian Institute


East Asian Seminar Series at the Asian Institute

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