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Picture: Gao Shangquan Gao Shangquan

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Professor Gao Shangquan, born in September 1929 in Jiading - Shanghai, is one of China's most prominent economists, a key figure in thinking-thanking economic reforms in China. He is a senior research fellow, professor and former vice-minister of the State Commission for Restructuring the Economic Systems, the central agency that played an essential role in setting up and carrying out economic reform policy. He is also appointed member of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy and consultant for the World Bank. In 1952, he graduated from the Department of Economics at St. John's University in Shanghai. He held various positions in the Ministry of Machine-Building Industry and the State Commission of Machine-Building Industry (1952-1982). From 1985 to 1993, Dr. Gao was vice minister of the State Commission for Restructuring the Economic Systems. During the same period, he was the head of the Economic Systems Reform Office of the State Council, vice chairman of the Housing System Reform Leading Group of the State Council, a member of the National Economic & Social Development Research & Coordination Panel of the State Council, and a member of the Council of the People's Bank of China. He was also a member and the head of the Economic Subgroup of the Preparatory Committee for Hong Kong Special administrative Region (1996-1997). A large portion of his responsibilities lay in drafting policy proposals and conducting respective policy research. he was deeply involved in the overall design of state policies and guided the economic reforms in China for the past 20 years. Some of his economic theories and policy proposals were adopted in major policy documents by the Central Committee of China's Communist Party.

At the present time Professor Gao Shangquan is a member of the National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, president of the China Research Society of Enterprise Reform & Development, Chairman of China Reform Foundation, president of the China (Hainan) Institute for Reform & Development, and senior advisor for the China International Institute of Strategic Studies. He is a Professor and Ph.D. supervisor at Beijing University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, dean of the School of Management in Zhellang University and a guest professor at the People's University of China, Nankai University, and Shanghai Financial and Economics University. He is also an advisor for the MBA Program of the Australian National University and Financial Center of the University of London.

Professor Gao's work is widely published in China and abroad. His main books are: Two Decades of Reform in China (1999), Market Economy and China's Reform (1999), China's  Second Revolution (1998), China's Market Economy (1998), China's Economic Reform (1995), Introduction to Socialist Market Economy (1994), From Planned Economy to Market Economy (1993), On Planning & Market (1992), China's Economic Systems Reform (1991), On the Road to National Power (1991), Selected Works of Gao Shangquan (1989), Economic Reform of the Last Nine Years (1987), The Road to Hope (1987), and Our Own Road to Agricultural Modernization (1982). Professor Gao is also the Chief Editor of nearly 30 books including: Reforming China's Financial System (1996), The Chinese Securities Market (1996), China's Social Security System (1996), and Theory and Reality of Transition to a Market Economy (1995).

Selected Publications
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Shangquan, Gao, Two Decades of Reform in China. Singapore; River Edge, N.J.; London: World Scientific, c1999.

Shangquan, Gao, "China's Economic Restructuring, Structural Adjustment and Social Stability." China Economic Review. Vol. 8, No 1 (Spring 1997): 83-88.

Shangquan, Gao, China's Economic Reform.  New York: St. Martin's Press; London: Macmillan Press, 1996.

Zhu, Huayou, Reforming China's Financial System. Chief editors, Gao Shangquan and Chi Fulin; written by Zhu Huayou. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, c1996.

Zhu, Huayou, The Chinese Securities Market. Chief editors, Gao Shangquan and Chi Fulin. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, c1996.

Sun, Xiuping, China's Social Security System. Chief editors, Gao Shangquan and Chi Fulin, Beijing : Foreign Languages Press : Distributed by China International Book Trading Corp., 1996.

Sun, Xiuping, Theory and Reality of Transition to a Market Economy. Chief editors, Gao Shangquan and Chi Fulin; written by Sun Xiuping, Zhu Huayou, and Yao Tiejun. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, c1995.

Shangquan, Gao, "Taking a Market-Oriented Direction and Pushing Forward in a Gradual Way--The Basic Experience of China's Economic Reform." China Economic Review. Vol. 4, No 2 (1993): 129-36.

Shangquan, Gao; Chen, Yizi; Wang, Xiaoqiang, "Investigation of Reforms in Hungary and Yugoslavia." Chinese Economic Studies. Vol. 22, No 3 (Spring 1989): 80-88.

Shangquan, Gao, Chiu nien lai ti Chung-kuo ching chi t`i chih kai ko. Kao Shang-ch`üan Published [Peking] : Jen min ch`u pan she: Hsin hua shu tien ching hsiao, 1987.

Shangquan, Gao, "The Reform of China's Industrial System," in China's Industrial Reform (1987): 132-42 Publication: Oxford; New York; Toronto and Melbourne: Oxford University Press for The World Bank 1987.

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Author: Park, Albert
Affiliation: U of MI, Ann Arbor
Title: China's Economic Reform (book review)
Source: Journal of Economic Literature v35, n2 (September 1997): 1432-1433
Standard No: ISSN: 0022-0515
Reviewed Item: Author: Gao, Shangquan 1996 Forewords by Alec Cairncross and Edward Heath. Studies on the Chinese Economy.
New York: St. Martin's Press; London: Macmillan Press, ISBN: 0-312-12034-6


In contrast with eastern Europe where economic reform accompanied political upheaval, reform-minded leaders in China are Communist Party members who have walked a fine line in pushing ahead with market reforms without appearing to embrace capitalist excess or betray the country's socialist ideology. This book, written by a government official and economist who has been directly involved in orchestrating China's reforms, exemplifies the language and theory used to accomplish this balance. It also provides a Chinese perspective on the introduction of major reform policies, discussing their successes and failures. The first two chapters address reform issues at a conceptual level. Chapter 1 clarifies China's vision of a socialist market economy, which roughly can be characterized as maintaining public ownership while promoting market competition and greater managerial autonomy. Chapter 2 outlines the broad achievements of reform and describes remaining imbalances and "structural contradictions." The next six chapters review specific aspects of reform: the open door policy, rural reforms, enterprise reforms, marketing reforms, macroeconomic management, and income redistribution and social insurance. The book concludes with a lengthy chapter containing transcripts of interviews with international journalists. As someone who publicly advocated greater enterprise autonomy as early as 1956, Gao is staunchly pro-reform. In fact, one senses that his main aim is to reassure readers that China is strongly committed to reform, that reform is inevitable, and that China's pursuit of reform has been and will continue to be pragmatic and successful. As might be expected given his public role, most of the views expressed by Gao, especially in his press interviews, closely follow official government positions. This makes the book useful as a statement of China's official reform philosophy but leaves the reader wondering whether Gao really believes everything he says. In particular, his insistence on the need to maintain public ownership seems at odds with his repeated urging that managers be made fully responsible for profits and losses. Not surprisingly, Gao offers a very positive account of China's reform experience and the government's leadership role in the reform process. He writes, "Under such firm leadership, the process of reform and opening up is guaranteed to develop healthily along the socialist road" (p. 12). He offers a useful description of many of the policies implemented in different sectors and some of the changes that resulted. The chapter on enterprise reforms, the author's area of expertise, is of greatest interest, describing early experiments that preceded different reforms, such as the shift from profit to tax remittance, and the early rise of business groups, mergers, and share systems of ownership in the 1980s, phenomena which have become prominent in the 1990s. Chapters on other sectors are shorter and provide less new information. One of the limitations of the book is that it discusses only the reform experience through 1988, making some of the discussion seem dated given the substantial changes that have occurred since then. Unfortunately, in Gao's zeal to document China's reform successes, some claims of policy success are overstated. For example, in the chapter on rural reforms he suggests that farmers' title to land has been extended beyond 15 years, that many regions have consolidated agricultural land, and that peasants have a strong voice in collective organizations. These are policies that exist in name but in practice are not implemented widely. To his credit, Gao makes a point in each chapter to describe some of the problems that the reforms have encountered or have failed to overcome. This provides an important balance to his discussion as well as insightful glimpses into the difficulties of reforming the economy of such a vast country. Unfortunately, most problems are characterized as temporary ones that will surely disappear with strong government leadership. Western economists are likely to have less confidence than the author that government planning can solve economic ills and will be disappointed at the lack of a more analytical treatment of the desirability and feasibility of different reform options and sequences. On many of the country's most difficult reform problems--public enterprise performance, macroeconomic control, falling fiscal revenues, policy subversion by local governments, and growing inequalities and persistent poverty--Gao provides few insider insights let alone creative thinking on policy solutions. Readers also should be warned that this book can be a difficult read. Many descriptive statistics are sloppily cited (no sources, lack of information on the year(s) to which they apply). Most maddening is the author's penchant for citing nominal rather than real growth figures, making many claims difficult to evaluate. There also are significant problems of translation, so that readers are likely to be left scratching their heads as they encounter undefined expressions such as "three capitals enterprise" and "floating ratio" (Ch. 2) or try to distinguish between "agrarian" and "agricultural" output (Ch. 3).; Although it provides information on China's economic reforms, this book is interesting more for its insights into the Chinese view of reforms than for its economic insights into the process of economic transition. This comes out especially in Gao's statements to journalists, which I found to be the most interesting part of the book because of the pointed nature of many of the questions. He deftly couches his support for reforms in a consistent framework that is politically acceptable, and the reader gains a sense for how reform policies are rationalized and implemented in practice. Despite occasional leaps and mistakes in economic logic, Gao does grasp clearly the key importance of enterprise autonomy and market competition for getting incentives right, a testament to the resourceful pragmatism of China's reform leadership.
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