Wednesday, 20.10.2021 - online conference

Comparing Transitions in Post-Communist Eastern Europe and Asia

During the 1990s, centrally planned economies in Eastern Europe (Soviet and non-Soviet countries) and East Asia (China, Vietnam) embarked on deep transformations of their economies in a capitalist and global market-oriented direction.

Both the pace and endpoint of change differed widely and most research looks at how these clusters of countries compared in terms of benefiting and respective losing out as a result of marketizing and opening up. In contrast, there has been no focused comparative work on the proverbial elephant in the room: the sharp contrast between the economic and social implosion of most Soviet successor states and the avoidance of this implosion by China, Vietnam and a very small number of East European states. Isabella Weber, an economist at University of Massachusetts, revisits the 1980s and 1990s as a “great transformation” of the communist world by addressing the Soviet-Chinese comparison heads-on with a book-length argument “illuminating of the interior life of China’s economic policy,” as Adam Tooze put it.

Professor Weber’s How China Avoided Shock Therapy (Routledge 2020) is widely celebrated in both scholarly and policy circles, with Financial Times selecting it for its mid-year reading list in economics.

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Romania invited Isabella Weber to present the book’s findings and explore their implications for the present in an online event. Cornel Ban, a political economist at Copenhagen Business School will explore its implications for the East-Central European member states of the European Union by drawing on his own work.

Isabella Weber is an Assistant Professor of Economics and the Research Leader for China of the Asian Political Economy Program at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her first book “How China Escaped Shock Therapy: The Market Reform Debate” is the winner of the Joan Robinson Prize 2021 and has been recommended by the Financial Times and Foreign Policy.

Cornel Ban is an Associate Professor of International Political economy at Copenhagen Business School. He wrote two books and a dozen articles and book chapters on the politics of economic expertise and income distribution, macroeconomic policy shifts and organizational shifts in international financial institutions and capitalist diversity in Brazil, Spain, Hungary and Romania.

The language of the event is English.


  • 18.00 Welcome remarks by Juliane Schulte, Representative, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Romania
  • 18.05 Comparing Transitions in Post-communist Eastern Europe and Asia, Isabella Weber, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Cornel Ban, Copenhagen Business School
  • 19.00 Discussion
  • 19.30 End of the debate

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