My Work


414hCTFk+5LBrief description:

Nearly everything you know about China is wrong! Yes, within a decade, China will have the world’s largest economy. But that is the least important thing to know about China. In this enlightening book, two of the world’s leading China experts turn the conventional wisdom on its head, showing why China’s economic growth will constrain rather than empower it. Pioneering political analyst Damien Ma and global economist Bill Adams reveal why, having 35 years of ferocious economic growth, China’s future will be shaped by the same fundamental reality that has shaped it for millennia: scarcity. Ma and Adams drill deep into Chinese society, illuminating all the scarcities that will limit its power and progress. Beyond scarcities of natural resources and public goods, they illuminate China’s persistent poverties of individual freedoms, cultural appeal, and ideological legitimacy — and the corrosive loss of values and beliefs amongst a growing middle class shackled by a parochial and inflexible political system. Everyone knows “the 21st century is China’s to lose” — but, as with so many things that “everyone knows,” that’s just wrong. Ma and Adams get beyond cheerleading and fearmongering to tell the complex truth about China today. This is a truth you need to hear — whether you’re an investor, business decision-maker, policymaker, or citizen.


“The hardest challe nge in making sense of China’s potential is balancing an awareness of its strengths and possibilities with an appreciation of the obstacles and pitfalls it confronts. Damien Ma and William Adams have found a wonderful, original, and convincing way to portray this tension between China’s strengths and its vulnerabilities. I hope that anyone who plans to do business with, or even think about, China will read their book.”

—James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly, author of China Airborne

 “If you want to know what keeps Chinese President Xi Jinping awake at night, read this book. It describes the daunting economic, environmental, social, and political problems facing China with lively, jargon-free writing and highly informative facts and graphs. A readable, balanced and comprehensive account that I’ll recommend to anyone traveling or doing business in China, and to college teachers.”

—Susan L. Shirk, Chair, 21st Century China Program, Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Relations, School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, UC-San Diego

“Looking at China through the lens of scarcity rather than abundance is like seeing an infrared picture of a familiar landscape; all sorts of unfamiliar features pop out. Ma and Adams offer a comprehensive, absorbing, and richly detailed account of the many problems on China’s horizon, without falling into boosterism or prophecies of doom. Above all, they underline time and again how China’s scarcities will reshape the global landscape. A valuable read.”

—Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University; former director of Policy Planning, United States Department of State

“Damien Ma and William Adams provide an important lens for understanding China’s realities and its future potential. While most of the world’s attention has focused on China’s astonishing growth, Ma and Adams concentrate on the various types of scarcity—from physical resources to social capital to values and political institutions—that confront its leaders and citizens alike. The volume paints a realistic and sobering picture of the country’s profound challenges; it then concludes by placing the future squarely in the hands of political leaders who can still tap huge unrealized potential if they boldly adopt the right reforms. Overall, a stimulating and provocative analysis.”

—Kenneth Lieberthal, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution

“If you think of China as a country of unstoppable economic and political might, read this book and reflect again. Plain sailing does not lie ahead for Beijing. Adams and Ma argue convincingly that dealing with resource scarcities, as well as social and environmental problems, will almost inevitably replace maintaining high output growth as Beijing’s principal preoccupation. Their picture of social and economic conditions in China today and challenges facing the country is in my view remarkably accurate, comprehensive, and up-to-date. The economic miracle of the past three decades has not only reduced poverty on an unprecedented scale, but also generated social tensions and scarcities of many things, including clean air and water, arable land, many raw materials and public goods such as social justice, social security, food-, drug-, and workplace safety, healthcare and education services. The book explains the paradox of rapidly rising living standards on the one hand and growing social unrest and mistrust on the other. It also points to the international spillover effects of scarcities in China. A very readable and important new book on China.”

—Pieter Bottelier, Senior adjunct professor, Johns Hopkins University; former chief of World Bank Resident Mission in Beijing

“The authors decipher, in a very crucial way, what will really drive China as it becomes the largest economy in the world. China’s pace of growth will not be the issue, but understanding the levers of government, society, and business in China is instrumental for anybody who wants to be part of such an unprecedented growth story. A must read for business executives who are serious about doing business in China in the coming decades.”

—Mark Goyens, Former Asia President of Bekaert, currently business advisor to multinational corporations on growth strategies for China, based in Shanghai

“This book, which draws on the authors’ many years of living in China and their close personal and professional relationships there, is not just another polemic damning or praising China. It instead illuminates the realities and anxieties of a country poorly understood beyond its borders.”

—Zhang Bin, Senior Fellow, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Head, Department of Global Macroeconomics, CASS Institute of World Economics and Politics

Brief description:

9780231174947[Published by Columbia University Press, on November 29, 2016. I am the editor of the English version of this book.]

Dense smog that regularly envelops Chinese metropolises from Beijing to Shanghai has come to symbolize the cost of China’s development, raising questions about the sustainability of the country’s growth. Indeed, severe pollution is not merely an environmental issue—it also imposes significant economic and social costs today and into the future. It affects both the rich and the poor and does not discriminate between the politician and the “average Joe.” Even as persistent air pollution threatens public health and economic prosperity, many people, including some policymakers, worry that addressing environmental challenges may jeopardize economic growth.

In The Economics of Air Pollution in China, leading Chinese economist Ma Jun makes the case that the trade-off between growth and environment is not inevitable. In his ambitious proposal to tackle severe air pollution and drastically reduce the level of so-called PM 2.5 particles—microscopic pollutants that lodge deeply in the lungs—Ma Jun argues that in targeting pollution, China has a real opportunity to undertake significant structural economic reforms that would support long-term growth. The results from his quantitative analyses suggest that China must adopt greener economic, financial and fiscal policies to drive changes in its industrial, energy, and transportation structures. Rooted in rigorous analyses and evidence-based projections, this “big bang” proposal aims to mitigate pollution and facilitate a transition to a greener and more sustainable growth model.





“What the Data Tell US About China” – Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Xi Jinping’s First Term Assessment for World Politics Review (Podcast), November 18, 2016

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – International Marketplace program, July 2016

CNBC “US-China S&ED Could Have a Different Focus This Year” June 5, 2016

Hudson Institute talk on China’s energy future, Washington, DC

World Affairs Council, Houston – talk on Chinese political economy

South Dakota Public Radio “Dakota Midday” – US-China Relations:

KPCC LA “AirTalk” – President Xi Jinping’s State Visit:

Public Radio International/KCRW – “To The Point”:

National Committee on US-China Relations – Book Talk w/Bill Adams:

The Charlie Rose Show w/Richard McGregor (followed by George Clooney):

Foreign Affairs conversation with Jonathan Tepperman:

NPR “On Point” w/Tom Ashbrook:

Xi’s visit and US-China relations

Chinese Leadership

China’s anticorruption campaign

C-SPAN on US-China Relations:

Annapolis Book Festival w/Jim Fallows & Deb Fallows:

The Atlantic – Interviewing Jim Fallows on his book China Airborne:

Bloomberg TV – Chinese leadership, economy:

Corporate Eco Forum – Business and sustainability:

The Wilson Center – Chinese Direct Investment in US (w/Derek Scissors and Melanie Hart):