Professor Li Yining, one of China's most well-known economists, spearheaded on a theoretical basis of the reform that has resulted in the growth of the Chinese economy since the 1980s.
Professor Li graduated from the Department of Economics of Peking University. As a young economist, he was labeled as a "rightist" in 1957 when the anti-rightist campaign was launched. During the period of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, he suffered greatly for his ideals and was sent to live in a farming village. He was rehabilitated in 1978 and garnered attention for his bold theoretical declaration in support of economic reform, which had just gotten underway.
Professor Li's theoretical contribution to economic reform was his insistence that the first key step of reform was to reform ownership, and his proposal that the goal should be a share-holding system--in other words, privatization--of state-run companies. Until the mid-1980s, the mainstream tenet of systemic reform of the economy was the theory of giving precedence to price reform. Professor Li, however, presented the theory that precedence should be given to ownership reform. He insisted that price reform did nothing more than create a competitive environment for companies, while ownership reform solved the problems related to profit, accountability, stimulus, and the driving force for development.
The correctness of his assertion was borne out in 1988, when price reform, which had been implemented too quickly, generated serious inflation, throwing into danger the entire process of economic reform itself.Professor Li insisted that the objective for giving priority to ownership reform was to create companies accountable for profits or losses. The means to accomplish this, he claimed, was by creating a shareholding system to reform state-run companies, whose accountability for profits or losses was ill-defined. That's why he came to be known as "Mr. Stock Market Li". Thus, his theory and policy proposals for reforming the ownership system contributed greatly to current Chinese economic reform and growth, and became widely hailed throughout the world.
Professor Li has held many important positions. He has been a member of the Standing Committee, a core organization of the National People's Congress, the Chinese national legislature, and a member of the advisory organization, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee. He also has been involved with formulating fiscal and economic policy. In addition, he has for many years been the Dean of the Guanghua School of Management, China's premier business school founded by Peking University. Thus, he helps train many young economists, economic technocrats, and economic scholars in industry, government, and academia. Further, he contributes to the development of amicable relations between Japan and China, serving as a Chinese member of the 21st Century Committee for Japan-China Friendship and the Chairman of the Chinese Society for History Studies of Sino-Japanese Relations.
It is said that the growth of the Chinese economy will have an increasingly major impact on the world in the 21st century, particularly the economies of Japan and the Asian region. It also is noted that it will face the new challenge of sustained development. Professor Li's research and his wide-ranging activities have provided the theoretical guidelines for the development of the Chinese economy. For that, he is indeed a worthy choice for the Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.