Effective adaptation is desirable, but we know little about the conditions that enable adaptation, and even less so, whether and how such conditions may exist in authoritarian regimes.

Yuen Yuen Ang’s book "How China Escaped the Poverty Trap", applies the complexity lens to understanding the sources of adaptive capacity, with specific attention to China. She introduces a generic framework called “directed improvisation”— the paradoxical combination of top-down direction and bottom-up improvisation. In China, this system manifests within the party-state: the central leadership “directs” while local authorities “improvise.” This has enabled a highly adaptive and localized mode of development in China’s transition from a planned to market economy. 

Yuen Yuen Ang is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Her research and teaching lies at the intersection of global development, China’s political economy, and adaptive processes of change. Her book, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap lays the foundation for her research agenda. Prior to joining Michigan, Yuen Yuen was on the faculty of Columbia University SIPA, teaching political and economic development. She received her PhD from Stanford University.

Chair is Senior Research Fellow at NUPI Cedric H. de Coning.