Chen Kang

Chen Kang


Chen Kang is a professor of economics at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. He is the author of The Chinese Economy in Transition: Micro Changes and Macro Implications (1995) and has written journal articles on topics relating to macroeconomic modelling, public choice and public policy, China’s economic reform, and the economic role of government. He received his BSc from Xiamen University and his PhD from the University of Maryland at College Park. He previously served as vice president of the Economic Society of Singapore and director of the East Asian Economic Association. He currently serves on the editorial board of the European Journal of Political Economy, and the advisory board of the China Economic Quarterly.

People wait for traffic lights at the central business district in Beijing, China, on 23 July 2023. (Jade Gao/AFP)

Why are private enterprises reluctant to invest in China?

China’s return to being politics-centric is the fundamental cause for the private sector’s reluctance to invest in the country and the slow growth in the Chinese economy. Economist Chen Kang gives his analysis.
Workers work at a demolition site, following the Covid-19 outbreak, in Shanghai, China, 9 September 2022. (Aly Song/Reuters)

[Future of China] China's economy now and in the future

Amid the difficulties in analysing and forecasting macroeconomic conditions, economist Chen Kang likens their changes to a unique game of tug of war between the bulls and the bears — in which economic reforms, policies and outcomes are interpreted differently among the players, and the current outcome encapsulates the people’s aggregate response. However, the big question is whether China will press on with economic reforms despite all the challenges. This is the third in a five-part series of articles on the future of China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects an honour guard at a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 22 September 2013. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo/Reuters)

China's regulatory clampdowns: Masterful moves or persistent mistakes?

China has implemented regulatory clampdowns at lightning speed across various industries. Reactions to these new policies and directives have been mixed. Some people approve of the Chinese central government's decisive actions to address societal ills and problems, hailing them as part of a grand master plan. Others are sceptical, thinking China is repeating the same old mistakes of using Chinese-style mobilisation methods and creating a grand illusion that the top leadership has the future mapped out and everything under control. Comparing China's counter-pandemic and carbon reduction efforts, economist Chen Kang examines the problems of the Chinese bureaucratic system and the issues that may go wrong when the government runs grand campaigns.
People visit the promenade on the Bund along the Huangpu River, 1 May 2021, Shanghai, China. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

Why the world will face a global leadership vacuum

Chen Kang explains why global governance is hard to achieve, not least due to the limited effectiveness of multilateral organisations, the waning willingness of the US to lead in global governance, and the conflicts between global governance and national sovereignty.
People wearing face masks walk past the China Zun skyscraper at the central business district in Beijing, China, 15 January 2021. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

'Driving the blade inwards': Why China may join the CPTPP

China’s willingness to consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is perhaps an admission that emphasising free trade but ignoring fair trade is no longer sustainable. Even sacred cows such as its state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and insistence on the WTO platform for multilateral trade negotiations may be up for discussion. On a practical level, the CPTPP may just be the external push it needs to force its SOEs to reform.
Paramilitary police officers stand guard in front of a poster of late communist leader Mao Zedong on a street south of the Great Hall of the People during the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on May 22, 2020.  (Greg Baker/AFP)

Tackling ills of bureaucracy? China can pick up a few tips from Singapore

From Mao to Deng to Xi, generations of Chinese leaders have made great and consistent efforts to tackle bureaucracy in the Chinese system. The ills of functional bureaucratisation include rigidness, imprudence and over-staffing, among others, while the ills of structural bureaucratisation lead to unchecked power and its abuse. It is important that one recognises the type of bureaucratisation that one is dealing with and provide the right remedy, says Chen Kang, but the real solution lies in building a system that is predicated on empowerment by the people. In that regard, China can pick up a few tips from observing how the Singapore system works. 
A man under a bridge of the Yangtze river in Wuhan, 15 April 2020. (Aly Song/REUTERS)

When the only option is fraud: How institutional faults led to the spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan

Chen Kang attributes the blindspots in China’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak to the tendency of officials to withhold information and put up appearances for their own interests. As such, decision-making could be impaired by the asymmetry of information and misaligned interests between superiors and subordinates, especially at the local level. Results then vary based on how well one navigates the minefields of groupthink, collusion and that seemingly innocuous aim of not rocking the boat. Using the prism of formalism, or what is prizing form over substance, Chen points out the weakness of a centralised system.
A delivery rider handing a package to a resident over a wall closing off a street in Wuhan. (STR/AFP)

Power of the people invaluable in China's fight against Covid-19

While it may seem that the Chinese government single-handedly dealt with the Covid-19 crisis in its initial stages, Chen Kang opines that it is the voluntary involvement of the people, social organisations and enterprises that made and continues to make life under lockdown liveable. This process has provided invaluable lessons on public governance that the Chinese government and society should continue to learn from and work on.
János Kornai. (Internet)

János Kornai: A Hungarian insight into China's economic development

Prof Chen Kang opines that after over 40 years of reform and opening up, China is still heavily influenced by the planned economy of its past. China is also stamped with characteristics of market socialism, as its early reform is modelled after the Hungarian experience. Hence, Chen suggests that China should heed the warnings of the eminent Hungarian economist János Kornai, as it takes its next steps forward in its economic reform.