Reviews of How China Escaped the Poverty Trap have appeared in various outlets:
- Development: World Bank Development Blog (reprinted in Global Policy), Foreign Affairs, Building State Capability, Governance, Duncan Green (Oxfam), LSE Review of Books, Iterative Adaptation
- Political Science: Perspectives on Politics
- Economics: Journal of Economic History, Journal of Economic Literature
- Media: The Straits Times, 澎湃 (The Paper)
For a list of book review excerpts, click here.
The first takeaway of the book, that a poor country can harness the institutions they have and get development going is a liberating message.
The second part of the book is equally thought provoking. While adaptive approaches to development have become new buzzwords, Yuen Yuen’s work brings rigor to this conversation.
The second takeaway is that we need to think more carefully about the source of adaptability… This analytical lens has enormous potential for thinking through the adaptive challenge, whether at the national level, subnational level or sectoral level.
Book Review @ LSE Review of Books, by Duncan Green (Oxfam) | PDF (English & Chinese)
This book is a triumph, opening a window onto the political economy of China’s astonishing rise that takes as its starting point systems and complexity. Its lessons apply far beyond China’s borders.
Using China as an elephant-sized case study, Ang takes a systems sledgehammer to this kind of linear thinking, and argues that development is a ‘coevolutionary process’. Institutions and markets interact with and change each other in context-specific ways that change over time. The institutions that help to achieve take off are not the same as the ones that preserve and consolidate markets later on.
Yuen-Yuen Ang, a Professor of Political Science at University of Michigan came to speak at Harvard the other day and I was lucky enough to hear her presentation. Her most recent book is How China Escaped the Poverty Trap, which is an original and insightful take on what is perhaps the biggest development puzzle of my lifetime…
Her unconventional insight is that this means the first challenge of development is to harness ‘weak/wrong/bad’ institutions to create markets… Professor Ang’s insight is that China recognized the weaknesses of each of those approaches and wanted to begin a process of “adaptation” and for that they needed to create conditions conducive to “directed improvisation.”
Professor Ang is making important advances in understanding how development can be made possible in her approach to Complexity and Development 2.0.
Book Review @ Governance, by Michael Woolcock (World Bank & Harvard Kennedy School). | PDF
Ang provides specialists and nonspecialists alike with a fresh inside-the-black-box account of how the Chinese state—from the center to the periphery, across time and space—has actually practiced (not merely preached) innovation, problem solving, and effective implementation.
Future studies of bureaucratic life in China and elsewhere must reckon seriously with Ang’s account; she has set an admirably high bar and capably filled a conspicuous scholarly vacuum. It is encouraging that the development policy community is also taking note.
As an opening statement, her book is compelling, important, and deserving of a wide audience; we can only wait with keen anticipation for the next installment.
This is an important book with a bold thesis that, at its most ambitious, demands a rethinking of the history and evolution of capitalism.
In terms of policy implications, Ang’s thesis has the potential to upend much that the global development establishment holds dear.
China’s transformation cannot be attributed to a single cause; rather, it arose from a contingent, interactive process—Ang calls it “directed improvisation.” She formalizes this insight by using a novel analytic method that she terms “coevolutionary narrative,” which has the potential to influence future studies of institutional and economic change beyond China.
Book Review @ Perspectives on Politics, by Eddy Malesky (Duke, Political Science) | PDF
Book Review @ Journal of Economic History, by Bin Wong (UCLA, History) | PDF
Book Review @ Journal of Economic Literature, by Daniel Berkowitz (Pittsburgh, Economics) | PDF
Blogged @ Global Integrity | Preview: “5 insights on how China lifted 800 million out of poverty” | Event Recap
Feature article @ Forbes: November 4, 2016. By Wade Shepherd.
Book summary in Chinese: “有指挥的即兴发挥”：一位美国华裔学者眼中的中国改革,” November 2, 2017. 澎湃. | Link
Media mention in Chinese: “推动经济高质量发展均衡发展,” December 25, 2017. 杭州日报 | Link