How China Escaped the Poverty Trap |

How China Escaped the Poverty Trap

Book Launch


How China Escaped the Poverty Trap tackles a long-standing chicken-and-egg problem of development: Was it strong institutions of good governance that led to economic growth, or growth that enabled good governance? Focusing on China’s great transformation since market opening in 1978, Ang Yuen Yuen argues that the first step of development is paradoxically to harness existing weak, wrong, or seemingly corrupt institutions to kick-start markets. So-called good governance emerges at the end, rather than beginning, of development. The ability of ground-level agents to improvise solutions to evolving problems of development, however, requires certain enabling conditions. Ang identifies the strategies taken by China’s leadership to foster adaptation within its massive party-state—she calls this system “directed improvisation.” China’s model offers lessons not only for other developing countries, but also for high-income countries like Singapore, which today confront complex problems that defy precise state planning and control. 

See reviews of the book at the World BankStraits Times, and Harvard’s Building State Capability Blog

Assoc Prof Ang Yuen Yuen

Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan

Faculty Associate, Center for the Study of Complex Systems, Center for Chinese Studies

Prof Ang is also a Faculty Associate at the Center for the Study of Complex Systems and the Center for Chinese Studies. Her research explains how non-linear, mutually adaptive sequences of development occur, and identifies the conditions for effective adaptation, particularly within governments. She is the author of How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Political Economy, 2016).

Prof. Ang was awarded two Early Career Fellowships by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the Eldersveld Prize for outstanding research contributions by the University of Michigan, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation international essay prize on “The Future of Development Assistance.” She is a member of United Nations’ expert group on eradicating poverty, as well as the first South East Asian to be named a Public Intellectual Fellow by the National Committee of US-China Relations. She received her PhD from Stanford University and was previously a faculty member at Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs.

Chair Person:

Assoc Prof. Donald Low, Associate Dean (Research and Executive Education) & Associate Professor (Practice), Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

Thursday, 25 May 2017

5:15pm - 6:30pm


Oei Tiong Ham Building,
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy,
469C Bukit Timah Road,
Singapore 259772

Seats are limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Kindly register your interest in attending. Register now


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