The Rise and the Fall of the EAST: Examination, Autocracy, Stability, and Technology in Chinese History and Today

This book (forthcoming from Yale University Press in 2023) examines four big topics in Chinese history and during the present times. The EAST in the title of the book stands for examination, autocracy, stability, and technology. Examination refers to the civil service exam, keju in Chinese, instituted in 587 and thevarious successor tools deployed today by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to homogenize ideas, evaluation metrics and organizational process. These homogenization tools have been instrumental in shaping the nature and the durability of the Chinese autocracy and the trajectory of its technological developments.

Historically, China was most inventive but less stable when the country was politically and ideologically heterogenous. It had the opposite combination after the keju succeeded in scaling and homogenizing the country. During the reform era, the CCP struck a tenuous balance between forces of homogeneity and heterogeneity. The reformist CCP delivered stability and technological development (and broad economic growth), a remarkable achievement. Until Xi Jinping. Xi has reverted China to its long-standing autocratic mean, with potentially detrimental consequences for China’s economic growth and possibly for its stability as well.

The book taps into newly created historical databases on Chinese inventions and stability.

Yasheng Huang is the Epoch Foundation Professor of International Management and Faculty Director of Action Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Between 2013 and 2017, he served as an Associate Dean in charge of MIT Sloan’s global partnership programs and its action learning initiatives. His previous appointments include faculty positions at the University of Michigan and at Harvard Business School.