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Bai Chongen:Discussions on Economic Studies in China from Perspectives of Demand

 

 Although independence and interests are important, supply and demand, I’d like to say, should never be ignored if analyzing economic studies based on the framework of economics. Are there any problems in demand and supply, especially in China? First, emphasizing on demand refers to the price or rewards of outcome of economic studies, which I think is of great importance. Though research interests are important, they are the external stimulus in nature. While the demand is the decisive factor, thus of great importance.

 

I read Home Bias by a financial professor from Cornell University few days ago, in which the author discussed an academic paradox with data analysis. What did he find? He gathered data of empirical studies from top 14 academic journals in financial studies, and found that 77% essays adopted data collected within America and less than 23% essays used data collected outside America. If turn to the GDP percentage of each country, America accounts for much less than 77% of global GDP. However, 77% empirical studies in top 14 financial journals of the world employ data collected within America.

 

Then here comes the problem. It is the guidance. Which country should I study if I work on finance? Obviously, chances of essays studying America to be published are as high as 77%, while essays studying other countries only have 23% chances to be published. Is it because that universities in America outnumber that in other countries, thus much more published essays are about America? The professor analyzed data, and found that numbers of American universities and research institutions in other countries could not explain percentages of 23% and 77%. Then, is it because that PhDs in America are much more than that in other countries? Negative again. The professor analyzed, and found that it could not explain such phenomenon, which he named as “home bias”. Of course, he is American, thus “home” refers to America. While for other countries, such phenomenon is “foreign bias” rather than “home bias”. The professor also explored “foreign bias” in the essay.

 

We skip methodology but focus on research objects today, which becomes the guidance of studies to be conducted. We start to import well-trained lecturers from overseas who have a good master of research tools. What researches are they working on? Most work on issues raised in foreign countries with data collected in other countries, although they are Chinese and teach in China. Such guidance is so powerful but is unfavorable to us. It does guide researches in China, making qualified Chinese issue-oriented researches rare, as Mr. Zhang mentioned. I believe it is both the pain point and the difficulty in developing economics in China.

 

Why take it as the difficulty? Since the guidance does not work for China, can we establish one that fits in with realities in China? Mr. Zhang has pointed out that domestic journals publish unqualified essays irresponsibly under the imperfect evaluation system. It is not the problem of biased guidance, but of backward technologies. Foreign guidance does not work for China although with justice, while domestic evaluation system is not fair or accurate enough. I believe that it is an important issue in the development of economic studies in China. This is the unique issue only for social sciences in China. Mathematics, physics, or chemistry does not have such issue, since these subjects don't involve the question that which country is the data collected. The guidance is important for it guides all social studies.

 

The essays also discussed its implications, one of which is for directors of school of economics. What guidance shall be taken when directors employ, evaluate and promote researchers? The guidance, which refers to 77% essays on issues of America, twists the market, depriving studies on issues of other countries of due attention. Therefore, shall we make corrections when evaluate researchers? The author has put forward the question. I am glad that over 50 leaders of school of economics are present. Shall we make some adjustments of evaluation system? This is my first point, as for the demand.

From the perspective of supply, we have both difficulties and advantages to do economic researches in China. Lots of problems worthy of studying can be found everyday, but difficulty lies in how to conduct thorough studies. One of the difficulties is external influence, as Mr. Zhang said, the independence. Besides, we have to attend many meetings and do lots of administrative work. In addition, limited accessibility of data makes it more difficult. Data that are easy to be obtained in other countries become hard to be accessed to in China. Only those with extensive connections can access to it. To be an outstanding economist, one has to be a good entrepreneur first, otherwise one cannot access to data. This is the problem of supply.

 

 

Second, the poor observability or measurability makes another difficulty. Chenggang mentioned institutional issues, and that telescope played an important role in the development of methodology. As for us, there are great difficulties in studying institutional issues, the most important one in studying economics. I haven’t see the prospect of it. We need more transparency and X-ray machines rather than telescopes are needed, so that we can go through the superficial level to the core content of the system. How can one establish a theoretical framework to picture the system without basic observation or knowledge of the content of this system? I don’t know the resolution. I hope that people within or familiar with the system can have more communication with scholars, to make scholars, especially the young scholars, have an idea of the system. Honestly, we even have no idea of the system! I hope scholars can also take initiative to learn from people who are familiar with the system, so that scholars can learn of the background of system, thus establishing theoretical models that fit in with realities in China and benefits China.

 (Organized according to records)

 

 

 

◆please indicate the source if authorized: National Economics Foundation

◆photo:National Economics Foundation