Economic research should be based on real social-economic problems. This is because economic development and social change require in-depth research and understanding to help stakeholders, particularly policy makers, to design and implement appropriate policies to continuously improve the livelihood of people. Professor Shujie Yao talks about his personal experiences, stressing the importance of how economic research should aim to maximize its societal impact through answering the following questions.
My research interests focus on economic development, income inequality and poverty reduction in China and other less developed countries. I aim to have a better understanding of how economic development can benefit all the people, particularly the most disadvantaged groups of the population. I have combined research with education and social services, having trained more than 40 Ph.D students to successful completion and hundreds of masters and undergraduate students in the UK and China. I have been actively engaged in social services, providing policy advisory support to multi-national organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank and to the Chinese governments at different levels. I have published/spoken extensively in many international and Chinese newspapers, social media, televisions and radios.
Societal impact and scientific research in economics are two important interconnected aspects of my theoretical and empirical research. Societal impact not only includes a good understanding of social and economic development problems but also how such problems can be effectively resolved through appropriate policy design and implementation. Consequently, most of my studies have been originating from my constant observation, reflection and interaction with different stakeholders in the society. Research ideas are thoroughly based on social reality and research questions are formulated to address complicated but real social-economic issues.
For example, in the late 20th century, China’s economy grew rapidly but income inequality also rose remarkably, resulting in a puzzle that economic prosperity did not bring about expected poverty reduction. I carefully studied the official statistics and found out that rising inter-regional inequality and persistent urban-rural divide were two principal problems constraining China’s ability to eliminate poverty despite national per capita income rising multi-fold.
With thorough empirical research, I suggested that China had to develop some powerful regional economic growth centers in the inland areas and quickly improve the national and regional transportation system to balance regional economic development in order to reduce the country’s overall income inequality and poverty.
Nowadays, China has successfully eradicated abject poverty and her per capita GDP (gross domestic product) has surpassed the world’s average, moving on her way to become a high income and modernized society. The new challenges, however, include the country’s ability to become a technologically advanced economy and to protect the natural environment. In other words, China has to continue her economic growth while restraining greenhouse gas emission. Against this background, I feel imperative to focus my research on two important areas: digital economy and sustainable development. This is why I have focused my work and research effort on establishing the new academic journal, Digital Economy and Sustainable Development based in Liaoning University, published by Springer Nature.
As a large economy, China has a large domestic market and a huge pool of human resources. To benefit from the digital economy, China has to remain open to the outside world while actively improving her domestic research and innovation capabilities. In addition, China has to proactively contain carbon emission while maintaining a certain level of economic growth. This implies that economic development in China has to consider both digital economic development and sustainable growth at the same time to achieve her long-term goal of great national rejuvenation, i.e., becoming a rich-developed society by the middle of this century.
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Shujie Yao, Dean and Senior Chair Professor, Li Anmin Institute of Economic Research, Liaoning University, Special Chair Professor, School of Economics and Business Administration, Chongqing University. Editor-in-Chief, Digital Economy and Sustainable Development.