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China and Global Development Seminar Series

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Hong Kong Institute of Economics and Business Strategy

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presents

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The Institutional Causes of China's Great Famine

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by Dr. Nancy Qian

Yale University

 

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March 17, 2011 (Thursday)

11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

 

Room 910, KKL Building

The University of Hong Kong

Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong

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To view Dr. Nancy Qian's presentation slides, please click here.

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Remarks:  Non-HKU staff/students who are interested in attending this seminar, please register with Ms. Angelina Hung by sending your full name, affiliation and contact details to info@hiebs.hku.hk.  For enquiries, please call 2547 8472. 

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Abstract

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First, in 1959, when the famine began, food production was almost three times more than population subsistence needs. Second, we uncover a very surprising fact: regions with higher per capita food production that year suffered higher famine mortality rates, a reversal of the typically negative correlation. Existing theories for famine cannot easily explain this puzzling pattern. Therefore, we develop a theory of government policy under central planning where policy is inflexible because the government is unable to easily collect and respond to new information. In the presence of an aggregate shock to production, a famine with the spatial patterns we uncover can occur. The model also provides a unified framework that illustrates the contributions of other existing explanations in amplifying the magnitude of the famine. Moreover, it allows us to assess the benefits of price versus quantity controls in the Chinese context.

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About the Speaker  

Nancy Qian is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Yale University.  Dr. Qian has taught at Brown University and was Visiting Scholar at Harvard University. She is a native of Shanghai, China and holds a PhD in Economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her research research interests are development economics, labor economics, and political economy. Her work has been published in top academic journals such as The Quarterly Journal of Economics and American Economic Journal; and featured in media publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Time. She has received grants from institutions such as the National Science Foundation and was awarded a Harvard University Academy Scholar Fellowship. She currently serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Development Economics and has consulted for development agencies such as The World Bank.

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