LSE-PKU Summer School = LPSS, 柯成兴 = 柯
LPSS：你希望学生从你的课程“全球经济：对世界领导权及经济重心东移的再思考”(LPS-EC205 The Global Economy:Rethinking world leadership and the great shift East)中学到什么？在LSE-PKU暑期学校为期14天的课程结束后，学生们能够收获的是一些具体的知识，还是看待这个世界的新角度，还是其他的一些东西？
柯：你将我不同的个人经历串联在了一起，这非常有趣。我做这些事情，首先是因为我确实喜欢它们。另一个原因是，我认为它们可以帮助我了解与经济学家不同的那些普通人。许多严肃的学者，特别经济学家们，认为他们的工作就是培养出和他们一样的学者来——于是他们不断地复制出微缩版的自己（mini-me）。这有利于产出严谨的学术成果，但这也会制造出一场“市场泡沫”，就像当年由投资银行家决定其他投资银行家们的薪酬时所发生的那样。2008年全球金融危机之后，民众纷纷认为银行家们自定薪酬是可耻的，这个制度必然走向灭亡。那么，当学者们坚持认为，只有每个学科之内的学者有权评判本学科其他学者的工作时，我们是不是正在重蹈银行家们的覆辙呢？对于某些学科，同行评议并不是问题：如果工程师没有做好自己的工作，桥梁会倒塌，交通系统将瘫痪，城市将无法正常运转。这是因为工程师有一个“现实感检验”（reality check）。对我来说，听泰勒·斯威夫特的歌曲，与粉丝在微博上互动，听“网络巨魔”（internet troll）们是如何喷我的——有时他们说的话很伤人——统统都是我的现实感检验。如果没有这种检验，我们有一天可能会突然意识到被卷入了一场庞氏骗局，或者市场泡沫。我们应该尽己所能，避免此事发生。
(English translation follows, reprinted from Jacky X LSEPKU 2015.04.22)
Models, Taylor Swift and Reality Checks
An Exclusive Interview with Professor Danny Quah
Part Two of Two
Professor Danny Quah was born in Penang, Malaysia. He has been chair of the board of the LSE-PKU Summer School since 2009 and is also one of the teachers (LPS-EC205 Global Economy: Rethinking World Leadership and The Great Shift East).
As a Professor of Economics and International Development at LSE, and Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, at LSE’s Institute of Global Affairs, Professor Quah works on the shifting global economy and the rise of the east. His current writing is on global hegemony and world leadership in global economic policy-making.
Yesterday, Professor Quah shared his ideas on "pride and prejudice in economics". Today, he will elaborate on the motivations behind his taking over LSE-PKU Summer School. We can hopefully know more about the life of “Danny” instead of “Professor Quah”as well.
LSE-PKU SUMMER SCHOOL= LPSS, Danny Quah =Danny
LPSS: Despite many titles and responsibilities taken, you still chose to be Chair of the Board of the LSE-PKU Summer School ever since 2009. Do you regard this post as an opportunity to observe China more closely? Are there other motivations behind that decision?
Danny: Very good question. It is very important for me personally that the LSE-PKU Summer School continues to be successful—and I think it has been that. I learn a lot from being in China every year. Engaging with students from China and the rest of the world is an opportunity to see things from the inside and to listen to debate from people with fresh, open minds who want to understand. It is critical to see the kind of intellectual exchange that is happening when I participate in the LSE-PKU Summer School. I think students also learn a lot in a way that would not (be accessed) from the usual university experience.
But there is also a methodological side to this. Decades ago, a pioneer of real business cycles analysis said to me that: “the moment you stop doing the work yourself, but instruct others to calibrate and simulate your models, and never go near the model yourself, you’re intellectually dead.” No matter how many papers one gets their names onto as being the leader of a team, he/she will no longer progress. For me, my going to China to see the realities there first-hand and to take part in these debates: all this is the counterpart in my work to make sure that I am close to my model. If I don’t do this, I am not credible. I need to do this for my research.
LPSS: What do you expect students to benefit from your course The Global Economy: Rethinking World Leadership and The Great Shift East? Is it some concrete facts, or a way of seeing the world’s landscape or some other things that you wish them to take away after this 14-day session?
Danny: All of these, I hope! Since you have read my course outline, you are right that in the first instance, my course is about facts and numbers and driven by empirical evidence. Then I will ask if all this empirical evidence is consistent with the scholarly understanding of international engagement and global policy making. I will point out that there are many inconsistencies, then I will ask my students what economics and international relations can say about those inconsistencies. So I hope to quickly get my students to the frontier of our conventional understanding and I ask them what the next step ought to be.
I was told that students also learn a lot from each other. In the afternoon (of everyday of the summer school) students from within China and outside of China—nearly always having 50-50 mix—meet in class, discuss ideas and debate one another, bringing with them different understanding and different perspectives. After doing that they become friends and understand better one another as well as see more clearly how different systems work. My belief is that students who enroll in my class learn at least 50% of what they take away from these afternoon sessions.
LPSS: Since you take this multi-disciplinary method, does it ever occur to you that you may one day open a class jointly held by you and Professor Cox?
((ME Cox picture))
Danny: Definitely, we have considered that. It is a very good idea. In some ways, it has already happened that when Professor Cox and I teach, we often hear one another referring to what the other has been writing about. For instance, in Professor Cox’s course on the US, he always talks about some of the work that I am doing; and I in turn always talk about what they are doing. However, our focus and emphasis are still different. Professor Cox and I are experimenting with a co-taught course at LSE, so we may take a version of that course in the summer school, depending on how well it goes. It is something very much in our minds. We will definitely act on it.
LPSS: Six years have passed since you took the post of Chair of the Board of the LSE-PKU Summer School. Compared to what it was six years ago, what have changed in the LSE-PKU Summer School and what have not?
Danny: Compared to what the summer school was 6 years ago when I first took it over, the most obvious thing is how it has grown massively in size. From only a few dozens of students in the beginning to hundreds now, each summer at LPSS we enroll almost half a first-year undergraduate class at LSE or Princeton or other very distinguished colleges and universities. That is very gratifying.
The other thing I think about is how we constantly refresh our course offering. Even my course which is lucky to see good enrollment has changed. Research has evolved and our understandings have changed. For instance, just this year, a large event which has been unfolding just the last few weeks is the formation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. This of course is just one in a sequence of changes. Whatever its significance taken by itself, viewed against that larger backdrop, we might well be seeing how within a very short period of time, the global power structure has completed changed—that is something we need to discuss in the class and is a large part of the revision of my course.
In addition to the contents within each course, we are changing also the courses that we give. For instance, this year among many exciting offerings, we will have a course on Big Data & Statistics (LPS-MY201 Big Data: Data Analytics for Business and Beyond), which is a very hot topic in technical analysis. We have courses on urbanization, international law, management and finance—all with an explicit focus on China. It is a very exciting evolution of the summer school.
What remains unchanged is that our standards remain high, and that the core of the Summer School centers on China’s economic and social development, as well as the international relations. I hope that in all these changes we manage to keep the good things, and continue to make even better things.
LPSS: Just out of curiosity—are you a fan of Taylor Swift?
LPSS: I know it because you once posted her photo on Weibo, and mentioned her in a previous interview. As far as I know, you are also an “amateur expert” in Taekwondo. In addition, you are a heavy user of Weibo who keep posting your photos (sometimes selfies) with students. All those things do not belong to a “typical” professor who is supposed to be “serious”. Should I conclude that just as your belief in alternative ways to modernization, you are also open to many possibilities in your life?
Danny: It is very interesting to see how you connected all those things of my own life. I do those things because personally I enjoy them. I also do them because I find it helps me understand people who are a not just "like us". Many serious academics—economists in particular—take as given that their job is to train others to become just like them, they’re producing "Mini Me"—a smaller version of themselves. That’s a good system for producing serious science; but it’s also a good system for producing a market bubble—like when only investment bankers decide how other investment bankers should be paid. After the 2008 global financial crisis, everyone thought that the latter scheme was scandalous and of course bound to burst. However, are academics making the same mistake when we insist that it should only scientists in a particular discipline who judge others similarly in their field? For some disciplines, it is not a problem: for instance, if engineers don’t do their jobs right, bridges will collapse, transportation system will fail, and cities will not work. It is because engineers have a reality check. For me, listening to Taylor Swift, engaging with other people on Weibo, hearing what “internet trolls” have to say to me on Weibo—sometimes it can be painful and hurtful—these are all my reality checks. Without that reality check, we may one day wake up and realize that we have just been running a Ponzi scheme, or a market bubble. We should do everything we can to make sure that does not happen.