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Dwight H. Perkins

Gregory, it’s a real pleasure to talk to you even indirectly over the wires this way. I wish I could be with you in Beijing, unfortunately, I was tired up in November. It’s a wonderful thing that you being recognized with this prize, it’s obviously a major important prize that you well deserve.


As I think probably your audience knows you have also been honored in a variety of ways most recently in other countries including United States. Most recently when you were made distinguished fellow of the American Economic Association, recognition of your work, this is expected also many of the people in the room know you in “Chow Test” and so on. I think it’s a wonderful thing that it’s happen and I congratulate you. Frankly you and I worked together for over thirty years now on various things.


When I think about you I don’t think much about you as a econometrician, I think about you as more as eco layer perhaps more as somebody who really played a central role in helping China transforming its teaching and research in economics from centrally-planned command economics to market-oriented economics. And as you are well aware than others is that now its 1985, 32 years ago, we found community of American scholar that work with community of Chinese scholars headed by Huang Da at Renmin University. To begin a year long program to actually formally train people in China in some of the compressive universities in modern market-oriented economics. That program was on for a decade. So the basic idea was yours, you start talk about it with state education commission people and I came along as a person who know some thing about organizations, how to make them work, how to find some money for the foundation and others to pay for us.


But it was a wonderful idea and you done so many other things that I think many don’t realize. You will led to almost every major economic departments of United States being willing to take graduate students from China and fund them, and in the end many of them came back as soon as they would. I suspect probably over hundred million dollars of assistance went to China for students who came to this country and will initially go back now and large numbers of them returned to China and work in China.


More recently we collaborated again, that was basically your idea, we collaborated on a book of essay, one of the things about your writing in the narrative part of your career, the part I’ve been involved in, which I think people may not fully realized. There is a lot of your writing has really been connected to your desire, provide really first class materials on China’s economy for educate people in market-oriented economics. And your book on China’s economy is I think a wonderful piece that is an illustration of that. And the book that we recently headed together was a book of essays, really, I think that both of these early books  got translated into Chinese, these book of essays has been translated into Chinese, I believe by Tsinghua Press. And in English for those in America, Europe and English-speaking countries to read and learn about contemporary China. But you know its readiness is basically to be the foundation for education in economics in China, which is now progressed far beyond anything that we probably even dreamed back in 1980s. So again I congratulations for this prize, but most of all I congratulate for really an extraordinary career.   


Well, Gregory, these days are mainly about you, but I’m told that one of us may say something about myself.


And I’m of course, began interested in China when I was young, when we were both young. In my case, I was just 18 years old when I took a course in Chinese history. Then, later on to study Chinese language and after 2 years later coming get a Ph.D in economics at Harvard. I got Ph.D in economics not so much to become an economist, to have a powerful tool which to understand and analyze the Chinese economy. So my Ph.D thesis was actually on the transition from market economy pre 1955, pre 1959 period to a socialist centrally-planned command economy in the lately 1950s and 1960s.


And my work continued, I did work on Chinese agriculture. And over the time I got heavily involved in working with various developing countries, mainly in Asia, helping them with their economics, so I’ve worked a lot in Korea, in Malaysia, in Vietnam, in Indonesia. But at the center of my interest, throughout both research interest and my consulting advising interest has always been in China.


I wrote my Ph.D thesis, sit at Hong Kong, which is China now, but was not really China then. My first trip to China was in 1974, and I came again led delegation in 1975 to study rural small industry. And from 1978, I’ve come to China every year, on average about two times, some times as many as four. I’ve travelled all over China giving lectures and doing research and discussing policy issues with policy-makers. So, for me, back in the 1980s when we join in forces to do the things that I described. That was also involved in a variety of other activities involved helping China make that same transformation of some of its teaching.


Today, China has many economists, increasing numbers are now fully-trained in China because the faculty that trained them is now in China in the major universities. But many are also still running abroad for their Ph.Ds and coming back to China, not all of them are coming back, but large numbers of them are. You know on a large part because opportunities in China probably better for economist than they are in north America and Europe. But it also, I think speaking to the younger generation of economist, I think China is where the really interesting economic challenges are, other countries were that true too, but China is some way clearly been the most dynamic economy over the last nearly 40 years now. If I were to give any piece of advice, I generally hesitate to give advice, generally to ask people because they all have somewhat different interests and different concerns. But give one general piece of advice for those of you who are going to be economist, who are economist, that most of you I think get the greatest rewards if you work on real Chinese problems. Yes, if you become a theorist, you contribute to theory, you might win Noble Prize, but if you really work on real Chinese problems, you might win one that way too.


Noble Prizes are nice, but that are not the most important thing in the world. The important thing is that China has many good economists now, and some very good economists even at high levels in the government. China is way short of the number of first-class economists that needs to run the kind of modern economy that China is rapidly becoming. So I hope that those of your who go in economics or focus on that, are not focus so much on trying to get into the Western journals. The agenda of economics and place like Harvard where I’ve been for the last 50 some years, is fine for America, is fine for some American economists. The journals are supposed to have the most “prestige” are really focused on things that some of which are really interested in China, many of which are not. You should be focusing on what’s really interesting and important in China. And that agenda will evolve over the years, and the journals will carry your articles, will become some of the prestigious journals in the future. So I hope that many of you will go into economics, the need is there, the work is extremely important and there are lot of you that have the kind of electoral capacity and power to do it well. And I think China will benefit, the rest of the world will benefit if you do do that.


So I thank you all, and again I thank Gregory for working with him all these years, and again congratulations on this wonderful prize.  



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◆photo:National Economics Foundation