WMU News

New book examines China's economic reforms

Nov. 3, 2004

KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University economist has just published a book about the new economic transformation in China, a reform he calls "almost as radical as the Communist revolution that Mao instigated."

"China's Reform and Reformers," by Dr. Alfred K. Ho, WMU professor emeritus of economics, was published recently by Greenwood Publishing Group of Westport, Conn. The book tells the story of the economic, political and social struggles in post-Maoist China, through the accounts of some 20 prominent reform leaders. Publication of Ho's work marks the first time some of those leaders' tales have ever appeared in the West.

"Contemporary Chinese are seeking to find solutions to their problems that reflect their own cultural values," says Ho. "Reform in China cannot be seen solely as an effort to emulate the West and the free market and democratic structure of the United States. Rather, it's a prolonged and continual process to deal with both their internal problems and the challenges and opportunities that have come with greater contact with the outside world."

The book details the contributions of such well-known figures as Zhou Enlai, whose ping-pong diplomacy brought U.S. President Nixon to China and began the normalization of U.S./China relations; and Deng Xiaoping, Mao's successor who began as a Robin Hood-like figure and ultimately turned China back from the Russian model of a planned economy and launched in its place, free enterprise and free trade. Lesser known reformers also are described.

"These are reformers who put their lives on the line," Ho says. "I set out to document the political and economic dynamics and what they did to turn their country from an impoverished nation to a world economic power."

Because the reformers struggled against Communist fundamentalists during a period Ho calls "one of the bloodiest episodes in Chinese history," China's reformers went through hell to bring their nation to its current state, Ho notes.

The book describes in detail events ranging from the 1920 formation of the Chinese Communist Party to the 1989 massacre of student dissidents in Tiananmen Square and the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 and passage in 2000 of the U.S.-China Trade Bill.

Ho details the lives of the reformers and intertwines their personal tales with the historical events that swirled around them. Much of his information came from background he gathered and interviews he conducted during eight trips to China. His work, he says, was done during a period in which many academics and most publishers retained a stereotypical picture of China as a belligerent power.

Ho taught at WMU for 22 years before his retirement in 1989. He was born in Peking and earned a bachelor's degree at Yenching University before coming to this country to earn a master's degree at the University of Washington in 1942. He also earned a doctoral degree in political science from Princeton University in 1944 before serving as the assistant secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. from 1944 to 1946. He earned a second doctoral degree in economics from the University of California-Los Angeles.

Ho has been investigating the development of the Chinese economy since 1951, when he was a research associate at the Stanford Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif. "China's Reform and Reformers" is his third book on the Chinese economy. He is the author of four other books on the Far East as well.

The book is available on campus at the WMU Bookstore, and online through <www.amazon.com> and <www.barnesandnoble.com>.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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