New Frontiers of Research on Institutions of China

Training Programs

Jan 5, 2024 | 9:00 AM - Jan 12, 2024 | 5:00 PM

A training program co-organized by the Harvard-Yenching Institute and Research Hub on Institutions of China, University of Hong Kong

Held at the University of Hong Kong in January 2024

More information on this program

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the People’s Republic of China has been undergoing a series of multi-faceted and multi-dimensional transitions. The outcome of these revolutionary and fundamentally historic changes has been significant – China transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a major economic powerhouse on the global scale, from a Soviet-style centrally-planned economy to one that increasingly operates on the principles of free market and private property, and from a traditional agrarian society to a gradually modernizing yet heavily-controlled society fueled by the progress of technology and the expansion of a politically ambivalent urban middle-class.

These changes (and continuities thereof) taking place in an ancient civilization and the most populous nation of the 21st century will not only define the landscape of the politics, economy, technology and culture of our time, but also raise new challenging questions for the scholarly understanding of some of the most fundamental issues faced by the global community.

Institutions – political, economic, social and cultural – are key to understanding the profound socio-political development that has occurred in China. Institutions are the “persistent rules that shape, limit, and channel human behavior” (Francis Fukuyama). Institutions define the rules of the political game, set access for different levels and types of political participation, determine winners and losers of political competition and shape the outcome of the distribution and re-distribution of resources. In a more voluntarist sense, institutions also forge incentives and constraints that bend politicians’ strategic choices in public life. From a societal perspective, institutions play an essential role in shaping people’s political identity. In the China case, the development, design, operation and evolution of institutions have long been critical to the resilience, stability and vitality of the ruling regime. Research on institutions is a central imperative in the scholarly endeavor to better theorize and understand the past, present and future of China’s all-round transformation from a comparative and historical perspective.

This training program, jointly convened by the Research Hub on Institutions of China, the University of Hong Kong and the Harvard-Yenching Institute, invites young scholars of various backgrounds to study and discuss together the dynamic process and rationale behind China’s institutional development since 1949, and explore the impact of institutional change and continuity in the past one and half centuries on the contemporary politics, society and culture of the People’s Republic of China. The program aims at opening new frontiers for the field of China Studies through a fresh perspective on China’s institutions.