Yeling Tan, "Disaggregating China, Inc.: State Strategies in the Liberal Economic Order" (Cornell UP, 2021)


Once you understand that markets require public institutions of governance and regulation in order to function well, and further, you accept that nations may have different preferences over the shape that those institutions and regulations should take, you have started to tell a story that leads you to radically different endings.

– Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox (2011)

Influenced by Dani Rodrik’s research and teaching at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Yeling Tan, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Oregon, and non-resident scholar at UCSD’s 21st Century China Center, has written a book that brings together her interest and expertise in China’s political economy: Disaggregrating China, Inc.: State Strategies in the Liberal Economic Order (Cornell University Press, 2021).

As you will hear, Professor Tan is interested in the dynamics of international and domestic politics with a focus on the tensions involving policy change within political economies. The development and the role of institutions especially with regard to China, given its political structure and economic governance, has provided just such an intriguing case for Tan who has been immersed in PRC-related study since graduate school.

The book frames the story of China’s WTO entry and assesses its impact on the country’s complex and sprawling structures of economic governance with the kind of inspiration that makes well-written and researched economic history as compelling as it is empirically rigorous. Professor Tan’s analysis and argument fits within the interdisciplinary sphere most aptly described as political economy as she systematically ‘disaggregates’ China’s institutional response as a one-party state to the globalizing effects of WTO engagement. Her book draws upon a rich research literature including the post-Mao reform and opening period to frame her research questions before moving into her own theory, methods, and findings – a unique contribution to the field focused on external institutional influences on the political economy of China.

As such, she moves us beyond the caricatured and monolithic simplifications underlying the bipartisan, ideologically driven interpretations reassessing the outcome of China’s WTO entry and subsequent trade policy. To liberally paraphrase a key source of her intellectual inspiration, Rodrik’s The Globalization Paradox: acknowledging the role of public institutions and the various value preferences of nations to help shape well-performing markets will lead you, as with Tan’s story, to the start of an understanding of the relationship of markets and institutions with a radically different ending in the China context.

Yeling Tan is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Oregon.

Keith Krueger lectures at the SILC Business School in Shanghai University.

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