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Democratizing the Developmental State

Ho-fung Hung

Ho-fung Hung is the Henry M. and Elizabeth P. Wiesenfeld Professor of Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University, based in the Department of Sociology and the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. He is currently the editor-in-chief of the journal Asian Perspective. He is the author of several books, including “Protest with Chinese Characteristics” (Columbia 2011), “The China Boom: Why China Will Not Rule the World” (Columbia 2015), “City on the Edge: Hong Kong under Chinese Rule” (Cambridge 2022), and “Clash of Empires: From ‘Chimerica’ to the ‘New Cold War’ (Cambridge 2022). His scholarship has been translated into at least 12 different languages. His analysis and insights on the Chinese and global political economy have gained international recognition and have been cited and published in leading global media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, CNN, Financial Times, BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Die Presse, Strait Times, Chosun Ilbo, Kyunghyang Shinmun, People’s Daily, New China Monthly, Caixin, South China Morning Post and Folha de S. Paulo.

As a steering committee member of your hub, how do you perceive the general topic in relation to your hub?

A major issue that the project in general, and the ‘Democratizing the Developmental State’ hub in particular, could address is debunking the myth that authoritarianism is necessary for successful development. The East Asian experience – Japan in the 1920s and after the Second World War, Taiwan and Korea after the 1980s, India, Brazil and South Africa in the BRICS group, and many other cases in the Global South – shows that liberal democracy is fully compatible with an effective developmental state. Democratic institutions are crucial for inclusive, equitable development and sustainable economic upgrading. Protecting and promoting democracy against the tide of authoritarian populism and exclusivist mobilization is of paramount importance for development.

How do you relate to the other hubs?

The work of our hub is deeply connected to wider global issues. The rise of exclusionary populism in Europe and the US is closely linked to development crises in the Global South, arising from economic hardship and authoritarian rule in regions such as South America and the Middle East. This leads to increased migration, which in turn fuels defensive, anti-immigration policies in many countries of the global North. Development and migration issues are intertwined: political and economic crises in the Global South often lead to waves of migration that trigger exclusionary policies in the Global North. Conversely, successful development in the Global South can lead to protectionism and anti-migrant sentiments in the Global North. The challenges of democracy and development in the global South are thus inextricably linked to the turn to populism in many countries. Navigating a path towards a global political economy in which democracy and development are harmoniously balanced in both the Global North and the Global South is a complex task. While there are no definitive answers yet, our project aims to begin to address these issues holistically, through collaboration and exchange between different hub participants, rather than in a segmented manner.