Yuen Yuen Ang is a political scientist and China specialist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow by the Carnegie Corporation of New York for “high-caliber scholarship that applies fresh perspectives to the most pressing issues of our times.” Professor Ang studies economic & political development and strategies for enabling innovation, with a focus on China and emerging markets. On China, her expertise lies in the politics of development, adaptive governance, and China’s growing global role, including the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).

Ang is the author of an award-winning book, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap. This book is the first to apply the lens of complexity and systems thinking to the interactive processes of economic-and-institutional change, focusing on China’s great transformation. It has received awards — the Peter Katzenstein Prize in Political Economy, the Viviana Zelizer Prize in Economic Sociology, and Foreign Affairs‘ “Best of Books 2017” – and enthusiastic reviews across disciplines: global development, public policy, political science, economics, history, and China studies. Award committees describe the book as “bold and innovative,” “game-changing” and “field-shifting.”

Professor Ang has consulted the United Nations & UNDP, governments, and corporations on inclusive & sustainable development, innovation-promoting strategies, China’s political economy & Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). She writes for Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and other outlets. Her essay “Autocracy with Chinese Characteristics” was selected by Foreign Affairs as Best of Print 2018. Her work is regularly featured or quoted in the media, including The New York Times, BBC, CNN, The Paper (pengpai), and news outlets across Asia and Europe. Ang has lectured at over 100 academic, public policy, and corporate venues around the world, including World Bank, International Finance Corporation, China-State Council, UK Department of International Development, Harvard Kennedy School, and Bridgewater Associates.

Current Projects

Her second book, China’s Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption, will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2020. This book challenges the assumption that all corruption retards growth. By unbundling corruption into qualitatively distinct types, it shows that the type of corruption that dominates in China–“access money” (elite exchanges of power and profit)–stimulated investment and growth yet produced serious risks that the leadership fears could erupt in a crisis.

Another project, supported by the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, studies how new businesses and markets emerge in the absence of good governance throughout the Global South. Traveling from Cambodia, India, to Nigeria, she investigates how individuals in adverse environments creatively “use what you have” to kick-start entrepreneurship. This project challenges the dominant narrative that poor nations lacking good institutions and favorable historical legacies are destined to fail.

Her combined expertise on international development and China has led her, naturally, to study the global implications of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Her most recent essay on “Demystifying China’s BRI” appears in Foreign Affairs. In Winter 2020, she will teach a new lecture course: China’s Rising Global Role.


Ang is a graduate of Colorado College and Stanford University. Before joining Michigan, she was on the faculty of Columbia University SIPA. Ang’s experience as a cultural nomad deeply shapes her work. She is a native of Singapore, received her higher education and is based in the United States, studies China and the Global South, and travels around the world. Despite being an cultural outsider wherever she goes, she has come to appreciate a simple fact: people everywhere are fundamentally the same.