Norbert Csizmadia, President of the Board of Trustees of PAIGEO Foundation presented Yukon Huang’s Cracking the China Conundrum at the book launch of the Hungarian edition.


Despite extensive academic research and media attention the country receives, conventional wisdom about China is often completely wrong. This contradiction is the starting point for Cracking the China Conundrum, the first Hungarian edition of which was published by PABooks on September 5 2018. In its analysis of China’s main economic, social and foreign policy issues, Yukon Huang’s book takes a holistic approach giving a considerably different idea from what would follow from the dominant mainstream narrative.

Yukon Huang studied in Washington and attained his degrees from Yale and Princeton Universities. He started his career as a university professor. He joined the World Bank and for an extended period where he researched and supervised economic policy work covering Malaysia, Tanzania, Myanmar Bangladesh, Russia and China. Until recently the author’s viewpoint was Washington-oriented and shaped by international organisations such as the IMF or the World Bank. At the invitation of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington D.C. he joined the institution in 2010, where he is responsible for research focused on China and for encouraging public debate on on China’s economic and financial prospects.

His work allowed him to gather substantial information in China, which most often was contrary to the widely known western narrative. This led him to question the conventional wisdom and information used to describe China’s socioeconomic progress.

Few other countries arouse as much attention and curiosity as China, and the same goes for the exaggerated emotions and views China’s economic and political mechanisms are able to provoke. For every article on China’s evolution into an economic superpower there is an opposite equivalent warning of the coming collapse of its economy. Many consider the country’s authoritarian regime its Achilles’ heel, while others see it as the key to its progress. The author scrutinises in depth certain specific aspects of the Chinese economy, and by doing so he examines what could be the reason behind these sharp contracts and differences of opinion, and why conventional wisdom fails in China’s case. The media hype surrounding China is not at all surprising, since its rise has led to the shifting of global power balances, and as the country that generates a quarter of the world’s total economic output, its economic and foreign policy measures and changes wield a profound influence on a global scale.

It is less evident however, why these opinions differ so significantly. The author believes that the cause of the contradictory opinions of leading economists and experts is the lack of a common analytical framework, since China does not fit into the theories of the socialist economic model, and although its economy is closer to the functioning of the market economies, it doesn’t completely fit into this framework either. The same goes for the economic models used to illustrate the economic development of the developing countries. As for the general public, the difficulty in drawing the right conclusions lies in the vastness of the area and the regional diversity of the country — the regional and dimensional factors influence the economic processes in such directions and to such extent, which will limit the possibility for a complete investigation of this phenomenon with the traditional macroeconomic indicators. This often leads to generalisations and oversimplification, which combined with emotional factors results in utter misinterpretation and misunderstanding of China’s economic development.

In Cracking the China Conundrum the author seeks to shed light on these misinterpretations and misunderstandings through a critical analysis of certain aspects of the Chinese economy. The selection of these aspects is not exhaustive, the author focuses on the factors having the largest impact on the public perception of China. He explores the contradiction and differences existing in the global and regional assessment of China, reflecting on how those are influenced by economic and political factors. Yukon Huang offers a comprehensive overview of China’s current economic prospects, equipping the reader with an interpretation framework for ‘cracking the China conundrum’.


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