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Are China's Economists Asking The Right Questions?

Theory and practice were debated at a recent roundtable

By Zhang Qingchen Updated Jun.12

China now makes up 15 percent of global GDP, but in the last seven years only 1 percent of academic articles about the Chinese economy have made it into the top five global journals. This was just one data point at a recent roundtable about how academic publications could promote economic research, one bought up by Gan Li, dean of Research Institute of Economics and Management at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics.

The roundtable saw a healthy discussion about whether empirical or theoretical methods were more useful. Sun Ning, dean of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Nanjing Audit University, argued that empirical research still needed strong theoretical support, because researchers needed a theoretical understanding to interpret economic phenomena.  But, he said, big data did provide new chances for empirical studies.

But Gan argued that methods aren't the real problem. The real problem is Chinese economists aren't asking good questions. China has attracted a lot of scholars in the last decade, he argued, but China's economists still aren't making their voice heard worldwide, since they can't even voice which problems need to be studied. But Gan placed his faith in economic research, saying that once good questions were found, good answers would follow.