Winter 2011

Economist Cheng Siwei is Asia Foundation Chang-Lin Tien Fellow

Green industry, education reform, and increased domestic consumption are among China’s top economic priorities for the next five years, says prominent Chinese economist Cheng Siwei. He spoke on November 3 at the Brookings Institution in Washington, the final stop in a series of high-level events and meetings arranged by The Asia Foundation’s Asian American Exchange unit.

The chair of China’s International Finance Forum and the China Advisory Council at the World Economic Forum, Mr. Cheng is the latest recipient of The Asia Foundation’s prestigious Chang-Lin Tien Distinguished Visiting Fellow Award.

“In the past,” he told our In Asia blog editor Alma Freeman, “China relied mainly on investment and exports for economic growth. But this pattern is no longer sustainable. China must rely more on domestic consumption, and to do that, we must raise the purchasing power of the people.”

At the same time, he says, industries must adopt sustainable practices and reduce carbon emissions, to avoid leaving “environmental debts to our children and grandchildren.” Mr. Cheng also spoke of the need to redesign the Chinese educational curriculum to emphasize creativity and innovation, observing, “only education can ensure our day-after-tomorrow.”

Asked if income inequality in China could lead to a movement like Occupy Wall Street, he said, “China is a well-organized society. I think we will digest the contradictions through negotiation and dialogue instead of protest.”

During his two-week fellowship in the U.S., Mr. Cheng traveled to Silicon Valley and Stanford University. In addition to the Brookings Institution, he also spoke at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, the World Affairs Council in Boston, and Harvard University. On October 25, he joined Arianna Huffington, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, economist Niall Ferguson, former president George W. Bush, and others as a featured speaker at the 2011 Global Financial Leadership Conference in Naples, Florida.

The Chang-Lin Tien Distinguished Visiting Fellow Award honors the late Dr. Chang-Lin Tien, renowned thermal scientist, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, and chairman of The Asia Foundation Board of Trustees.