Lunch seminar: The Middle-Income Trap: Will East Asia Follow Latin America?

Prof. Wing Thye Woo, University of California, Davis Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing

Monday, November 13, 2017 - 11:45 to 13:15


We propose a Catch-Up Index (CUI) to characterise the growth of developing economies, and use it to provide a definition of the middle-income trap that describes Latin American growth since the 1950s. The CUI shows that Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan escaped the middle-income trap and that Malaysia and Thailand have been mired in the middle-income trap since 1994.

Our examination of the experiences of Malaysia and Thailand suggests that different combinations of factors out them in the middle-income trap. The CUI shows that China became a middle-income country in 2007-2008.  We identify five major factors that could enmesh China in the middle-income trap. Understanding the mechanisms behind the middle-income trap in Southeast Asia indicates the reform program that Southeast Asia and China should now implement. 


Wing Thye Woo is Professor at University of California at Davis; Professor at Sunway University in Kuala Lumpur (heading the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia and the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development); Professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, Professor at the Institute of Population and Labor Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing; Distinguished Fellow at the Penang Institute; and Director of the East Asian Program within the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. His current research focuses on macroeconomic management of

open economies; and on the growth challenges (e.g. the middle-income trap, and the Sustainable Development Goals) of the East Asian economies, particularly, China, Indonesia and Malaysia. E-mail:


Sandwiches will be served, please sign up at for the purpose of ordering Friday 9 Nov. the latest.

The page was last edited by: Asia Research Centre // 11/08/2017