Zhiyuan Cui

Experimental Governance

Image source: Ken-thu2015
Own work

Image license: CC BY-SA 4.0

Year of Birth

1963

Nationality

CN

Field of Knowledge

Politics

Cui Zhiyuan (Chinese: 崔之元), born in Beijing in 1963, is a professor at the School of Public Policy and Management in Tsinghua University, Beijing. His father was a nuclear engineer in Sichuan province. He is a leading member of the Chinese New Left through his work on alternatives to neo-liberal capitalism.
Cui first gained fame as a post-graduate student in 1994 when he published an article named “Institutional Innovation and the Second Thought Liberation” (Oxford University Press, Hong Kong, 1997). Cui then went on to publish a book on the Nanjie Village, which along with his previous publications cemented his reputation as one of the founding members of China’s New Left movement. Cui was also one of the first scholars who had introduced Game theory into China. Cui is an admirer of James Meade’s work on liberal socialism, who affects his most characteristic article ” ‘Xiaokang Socialism’ : A Petty-Bourgeois
Manifesto”. Following Meade’s theory, Cui was the first scholar who proposed a systematic social dividend program in China, including a “Chinese People’s Permanent Trust Fund”.Cui edited Politics:The Central Texts (Verso, 1997), which is the selection of key texts from Roberto Mangabeira Unger’s three-volume Politics. His selective writings include The Dilemma of the Paradigm of the Invisible Hand: Soft-Budget-Constraint in the Capitalist Economy(Jingji Kexue Publisher, Beijing, 1999). Cui co-authored(with Adam Przeworski et al) Sustainable Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 1994) and (for the UNDP) China: Human Development Report 1999 (Oxford University Press, 2000). He was also one of the contributors to Whither China?: Intellectual Politics in Contemporary China(Duke University Press, 2002). He also co-edited China and Globalization: Washington Consensus, Beijing Consensus or What? (Beijing, 2005) and was considered to be the first person who introduced the Beijing Consensus into the Chinese policy debate.
Cui also published an paper on Zhang Pengchun’s role in drafting United Nations’ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Zhang Pengchun (1892-1957) studied with John Dewey and got his Ph.D. from Columbia University and was the first Provost of Tsinghua University in 1923. He was the only Vice Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights (with Eleanor Roosevelt as the Chairman) in drafting the Universal Declaration, especially in inserting the Chinese concept “Ren” (仁, two men). Zhang initially translated “Ren” as two men mindedness, because “two men mindedness” is considered as too awkward, thus “conscience” was used in the final text of the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Cui’s article discusses the important implications of this discovery in the UN archive about Zhang’s key role for the current Chinese political and cultural debates—transcending the dichotomy of “Western Centralism” and “Cultural Particularism”— and has been translated into French and published (, Multitudes 2013/3)
Cui is very popular in South Korea where his several books have been translated into Korean, including “프티부르주아 사회주의 선언 (Xiaokang Socialism: A Petty-Bourgeois Manifesto)” and “중국은 어디로 가고 있는가(Is China Going Where?)”. The latter embodied Cui’s fameous article, “Institutional Innovation and the Second Thought”. What’s more, Unger’s Politics:The Central Texts(Verso, 1997) edited by Cui is also translated into Korean and published in South Korea. He was also invited to the International Conference on Basic Income held in Seoul in 2015 to give a Key Note speech concerning social dividend.
Cui was invited to give Chun-tu Hsueh Distinguished Lecture, “Chinese Reform in light of James Meade’s Liberal Socialism”, Oxford University, December 5, 2014. In 2003, Cui was invited to LSE to give a Ralph Miliband Lecture, “The Bush Doctrine and Neoconservatism: A Chinese Perspective”.
More recently Cui has become known for his work on and as a proponent of the Chongqing model as a model for development. He argues that it could end China’s dependence on exports and savings, reduce the growing economic divide between rural and urban areas as well as stimulate private business by way of public ownership and state planning. Cui is close to Chongqing’s mayor Huang Qifan and has served as the associate director of State Asset Management Committee of Chongqing government from 2010 to 2011. His views are discussed in the essay-collection One China, Many Paths. He has also been critical of recent privatizations of state assets, and has called for more democracy within the party.Since last year, Cui started a research project on “Experimental Governance: Its Promise and Limits in China”, in collaboration with Charles Sabel of Columbia University Law School, a leading scholar on experimental governance (Charles Sabel and Jonathan Zeitlin, “Experimental Governance”, Oxford Handbook on Governance, 2012). He gave a public lecture in the India-China Institute of New School for Social Research in April 2014 on ‘Understanding Xi Jinping’s Grand Reform Strategy” in light of experimental governance with Charles Sabel as a discussant. With his current and former students, Cui also runs a free weekly Wechat (the Chinese social media) publication titled “Experimental Governance”. They have so far published 80 issues with more than 2000 subscribers from academic, policy-research think tanks.

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