Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the issues, approaches, and problems of American economists who have studied China’s economy in recent decades, beginning with research done before the 1980s. Data access problems defined the field at that time. New research opportunities that emerged in conjunction with reform in China and improved U.S.-China relations are discussed next. The impact these changes had on the field are then seen from a review of research done since 1980. This review underscores the importance of data in allowing a variety of methods and issues, but it also suggests that data problems are far from over. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the study of the Chinese economy as it relates to Chinese area studies and to the economics discipline generally.


Originally published in:

Prime, Penelope. The Study of the Chinese Economy, in The American Study of Contemporary China, pp.82-119. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe and The Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1993.

Published with permission from the Association for Asian Studies, Inc.,