Meeting Register Page

Meeting banner
RegNet Seminar: How China escaped the poverty trap: mapping the coevolution of property rights and the economy
Development is more than a problem of growing from poor to rich. Cast more precisely in game theoretic terms, development is a problem of making the transition from one self-reinforcing equilibrium (poverty traps) to another equilibrium (rich and modern). How do poor countries that lack the ideal prerequisites for development kickstart growth?

I reject conventional linear arguments that either economic growth or good governance/institutions should come first in development. My approach is to systematically map the process of coevolution (mutual adaptation) between the economy, property rights, and development strategies over time to uncover the actual steps that societies took to escape the poverty trap.

In examining mutual adaptation, I zoom in on the mechanisms of evolution, e.g., variation (generating alternatives) and selection (choosing among alternatives). Applying this approach to the important case of China from 1978 to 2014, I show that development can be stylized as a coevolutionary - rather than linear - process that unfolds in three steps. The first step, paradoxically, is to harness normatively weak/wrong institutions to build markets.

This analysis reveals that institutions and property rights needed to build new markets are qualitatively different from those that sustain established markets. The system of "directed improvisation," introduced under Deng, provided the enabling conditions for actors to adapt and innovate local solutions to local problems.

About the Speaker

Yuen Yuen Ang is a political scientist and China scholar at the University of Michigan, with a PhD from Stanford University. Her work examines the relationship between economics and politics from a complex adaptive perspective—with an applied focus on China’s rise as one of the greatest disruptions of our times.

For more detail visit

Dec 7, 2021 12:30 PM in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney

Meeting logo
* Required information