Professor Woo Wing Thye

Woo Wing Thye was appointed the founding President of the Jeffrey Cheah Institute in 2014. He is also Professor of Economics at University of California, Davis, Director of the East Asia Program for The Earth Institute at Columbia University and a member of the International Advisory Council at the Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE) in Europe. In addition, Professor Woo holds academic positions at the Penang Institute, the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing and Fudan University in Shanghai.

His research interests focus on economies in transition, notably China, Malaysia and Indonesia, and he has written extensively on the middle-income trap, transition economics, globalization, exchange rate economics and regional economic disparity.

Professor Woo was Executive Director of the Penang Institute, the Penang State Government’s public policy think tank between 2012 and 2013, and appointed an economics adviser to the state in 2008. From July 2005, Professor Woo was a member of the International Advisory Panel for Malaysia’s fifth Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

From 2002 until 2005, he was a special advisor for East Asian Economies to the UN Millennium Project. In 2001, Professor Woo helped establish the Asian Economic Panel (AEP), a forum of about 80 specialists on Asian economies, which meets three times a year to discuss issues of importance to the region’s economies. MIT Press publishes selected proceedings from each AEP meeting in the Asian Economic Papers.

Professor Woo worked as a consultant on tax and exchange rate reform for China’s Ministry of Finance and, between 1994 and 1996, led an international team, which included Leszek Balcerowicz, Boris Fyodorov, Fan Gang and Jeffrey D. Sachs to study the reform experiences of centrally planned economies. From 1997-1998, he was a special advisor to the U.S. Treasury.

Professor Woo was awarded his Ph.D from Harvard University. He also holds MA degrees from Yale and Harvard and a BA in Economics and Engineering from Swarthmore College. Woo joined the economics faculty at the University of California, Davis in 1985.

Professor Woo appears regularly in international media and is a contributor to Project Syndicate.

More from the President

News & Articles

China’s Growth and Implications for SEA

With G7 economies in the doldrums since 2008, the roller coaster behavior of global commodity markets in the 2010- 2015 period is testimony of the huge impact that China’s economy now has on the prosperity of many countries, especially in Southeast Asia.

ASEAN Integration Can Keep Region Above...

Many features of the US–Soviet cold war are present in contemporary US–China relations: ideological competition, struggles over the control of natural resources, and old-fashioned rivalry for leadership of the global community.

Economist: NEP has outlived its relevance...

Malaysia was only meant to use the New Economic Policy (NEP) for two decades as an emergency measure and now has to shift to helping the poorest citizens regardless their ethnicity, economist Prof Datuk Dr Woo Wing Thye has said.

A New Playbook for China and ASEAN

The ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea is a watershed moment for international law and an unmistakable warning to China about its strategic assertiveness in Southeast Asia. China says that it does not recognize the PCA ruling; but that doesn’t mean it is undisturbed by it.

Can China lay its zombie firms to rest?

2016 began with international media attention drawn to the weakness of China’s economy. This prediction was validated on 9 May 2016 when thePeople’s Daily ran on its front page an article written by President Xi Jinping that expounded on the need for ‘supply-side structural reform’.

The Shifting Global Economic and Political Landscape: Integration or Fragmentation

IMF-CASS Dialogue on “The Shifting Global Economic and Political Landscape: Integration or Fragmentation,” with David Lipton, Ian Bremmer, Wing Thye Woo Minghao Zhao, and Yanqing Yang, Beijing, 22 November 2016.

The Demand-Side Supplement to Supply-Side Structural Reform: Termination of the Soft-Budget Constraint

The Demand-Side Supplement to Supply-Side Structural Reform: Termination of the Soft-Budget Constraint,” in Ross Garnaut, Ligang Song, Fang Cai and Lauren Johnston,  (editors), China’s New Sources of Economic Growth: Reform, Resources and Climate Change, ANU Press, Canberra, 2016, pp. 139-158.

Zombie Firms and the Crowding-Out of Private Investment in China

Zombie Firms and the Crowding-Out of Private Investment in China,” (with Yuyan Tan and Yiping Huang), Asian Economic Papers, Fall 2016, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 32–55

Expert: India to match China by 2050

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ascension to power in 2014 could be the beginning of his country’s rise towards becoming an economic superpower equal to China, according to Woo Wing Thye, president of the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia.


The Middle Income Trap Phenomenon

Malaysia’s economic and political reform initiatives can lift the country out of the “middle income” trap and help it join South Korea and Taiwan among the world’s richest nations, providing the plans are implemented effectively, Professor Woo Wing Thye said in the inaugural Sir John Monash Distinguished Public Lecture at Monash University Malaysia.

The World Economy in 2016

The slowdown in China, and Malaysia’s failure to undertake structural reform will weigh on the country’s economy in 2016, even as the United States appears to have turned a corner, Jeffrey Cheah Institute President Woo Wing Thye said this week.

Is the Future Configuration of ...

The momentum towards free trade, Asia’s growing wealth and the space for an international financial centre in this time zone, will help China cement its status as the region’s dominant economy but ensure there will be no European-style financial integration, JCI President Professor Woo Wing Thye argued in a recent lecture at Sunway University.