How has China grown so fast for so long despite extensive corruption? The answer lies in the type of corruption that prevails. In China’s Gilded Age, Yuen Yuen Ang argues that corruption comes in distinct varieties, each exerting different social and economic harms. In China, access money (elite exchanges of power and wealth) became the dominant type of corruption. It stimulated commerce, construction, and investment, but it has also exacerbated inequality and bred systemic risks. This evolutionary process, Dr. Ang points out, is similar to America’s Gilded Age in the late 19th century. The divergent political systems in China and the United States, however, drove contrasting responses to the excesses of crony capitalism.
The National Committee held a virtual program on September 30, 2020 with Professor Yuen Yuen Ang to discuss her book.