Decoding China Webinar – US-China Relations: Lessons from the Shanghai Middle Class

On Tuesday, June 8, the Paulson Institute was pleased to host the latest Decoding China event featuring Damien Ma, Managing Director and co-founder of MacroPolo, PI’s think tank, in discussion with Cheng Li of Brookings Institution about his most recent book Middle Class Shanghai: Reshaping US-China Engagement.

Li’s Middle Class Shanghai argues that American policymakers must not lose sight of present-day China’s expansive dynamism and diversity. The caricature of the PRC as a monolithic Communist apparatus set on exporting its ideology and development model is simplistic and misguided. Drawing on empirical research in higher education, avant-garde art, architecture, and law, to highlight the strong and constructive impact of bilateral exchanges, he contends that both countries should build upon the deep cultural and educational exchanges that have bound them together for decades.

Ma and Li’s discussion combined eclectic human stories with striking new data analysis to explore how the development of China’s class structure and cosmopolitan culture—exemplified and led by Shanghai could provide a force for reshaping US-China engagement.

Damien Ma headshot
Damien Ma

Managing Director   

Damien Ma is Managing Director of the Think Tank at the Paulson Institute, where he co-founded MacroPolo. He is the author or editor of the books, In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade. He is the editor of The Economics of Air Pollution in China (by Ma Jun). He currently also serves as adjunct faculty at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Cheng Li headshot
Cheng Li

Director and Senior Fellow, John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution   

Cheng Li is director of and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center. Dr. Li is also a director of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, a distinguished fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Li’s research areas include the transformation of the Chinese leadership, generational change and technological development in China, public health, and the Chinese middle class. He is the author and editor of 17 books, and he is currently completing a book. He is the principal editor of the Thornton Center Chinese Thinkers Series published by the Brookings Institution Press. He received an M.A. in Asian studies from the University of California at Berkeley and a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University.