Yuen Yuen Ang is a political scientist and China specialist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is awarded the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship from 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 is 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.

Ongoing Projects

Ang’s second book, China’s Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption, is supported by the Smith Richardson Foundation and will be published by Cambridge University Press. This book challenges the popular assumption that corruption necessarily hurts growth. It explains the Chinese paradox of corruption and growth by unbundling corruption into qualitatively different types. Drawing on a variety of new data, it shows that the type of corruption that dominates in China–“access money”—can stimulate growth while generating serious distortions and inequality.

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. This project challenges the dominant narrative that poor nations lacking good institutions and favorable historical legacies are destined to fail. Turning from China to Cambodia, India, and Nigeria, she investigates how constrained individuals creatively “use what you have” to create new markets under adverse conditions.

Her combined expertise on international development and China leads her, naturally, to analyze the global implications of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Her most recent essay on “Demystifying China’s BRI” appears in Foreign Affairs.


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.