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This series features brief discussions with leading China experts on a range of issues in the U.S.-China relationship, including domestic politics, foreign policy, economics, security, culture, the environment, and areas of global concern. For more interviews, videos, and links to events, visit our website:

The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is the leading nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages understanding of China and the United States among citizens of both countries.

Jun 23, 2017

For nearly three decades Mao’s China closed itself to the influence of non-Marxist thought as it established a rigid command economy. When Mao died in 1976, China’s leaders embarked on a large-scale process of learning from abroad. The intellectual breadth of Chinese reformers in those early years was remarkably broad as they sought input from Nobel Prize winning economists, World Bank officials, free market fundamentalists, and an unlikely array of other partners. Many who participated in these exchanges recall it as a “golden age” of intellectual openness.

Even as China’s economic policy makers hastened to import ideas and expertise that could help them “cross the river by feeling for the stones,” the new openness did not go unchallenged. The Maoist legacy of suspicion towards the west remains powerful to this day, and the communist government is still reluctant to acknowledge fully its engagement with foreign ideas. In his new book, Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists, and the Making of Global China, historian Julian Gewirtz uncovers the real story of China’s reform project and sheds light on the partnerships that helped build the world’s second largest economy. On June 12, 2017, Mr. Gewirtz joined the National Committee for a discussion of his book, in a conversation with National Committee President Stephen Orlins.

Julian Baird Gewirtz is the author of Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists, and the Making of Global China (Harvard University Press, 2017), which The Economist called “a gripping read, highlighting what was little short of a revolution in China’s economic thought.” A Rhodes Scholar, he is currently completing his doctorate in modern Chinese history at Oxford University. He most recently worked as special advisor for international affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy and previously worked for Alibaba, Facebook, and Caijing magazine. Mr. Gewirtz has written on China for The Washington Post, the Financial Times, and Foreign Affairs. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 2013 and received a master’s degree in history from Oxford University in 2014.