East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

May 16(Thursday)|Yuen Yuen Ang, “China’s Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption”


*Please note that this event will be on Thursday!




 “China’s Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption”

Yuen Yuen Ang

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Political Science


May 16, Thursday 12:00-1:30 pm

Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.

Light lunch will be provided


Why has China’s economy boomed despite rampant corruption? In China’s Gilded Age, I challenge the conventional wisdom that corruption necessarily hurts economic growth by unbundling corruption into qualitatively different types. Marshaling a range of new evidence within China and across countries, I show that China has effectively curtailed forms of corruption that directly inhibit entrepreneurial growth, even as elite exchanges of power and wealth–what I call access money–has exploded. Access money flows to elite officials who are corrupt, but, at the same time, fiercely motivated to promote growth, thus distinguishing China from archetypal predatory states.  The ongoing structural evolution in China parallels America’s Gilded Age in the late 19th century but with one key distinction—the absence of democratic checks.

About the Speaker

Yuen Yuen Ang is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 2018 she received the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship for a project that studies how new markets emerge in the absence of state capacity or good governance in the developing world. She is the author of How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (2016), which won the Peter Katzenstein Prize in Political Economy, Viviana Zelizer Prize in Economic Sociology, and was named “Best of Books 2017” by Foreign Affairs. Her essay in Foreign Affairs’ issue on democratic backsliding, titled “Autocracy with Chinese Characteristics,” was named Best of Print 2018 by the magazine. She is an advisory board member of Cambridge University Press’ Elements Series on “The Politics of Growth,” and of Global Perspectives, a new interdisciplinary journal on markets and institutions, published by University of California Press. In addition to her scholarly work, she advises the United Nations and national governments in Asia on innovation strategies and China’s Belt-and-Road initiative. China’s Gilded Age is her second book, which will be published by Cambridge University Press.



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* Questions and comments can be addressed to the student coordinators Jongyoon Baik: baikjongyoon@uchicago.edu and Ji Xue: jixue@uchicago.edu

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The East Asia Workshop is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.

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