The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Benyao Yang

“If everyone only cares for their individual interest, how would private sector provide society public good?” I asked Prof Michael Walls on Gordon Street after his first class of module, Society and Market: Private Agency for Development, where fellow students were debating on Ha Joon Chang’s book Kicking Away the Ladder about state’s role in development economics. Michael gave me a smile and directed me to read Invisible Hand that introduced in Adam Smith’s books. This then sparks my interest in readings during my time at DPU and charted my path of study in UK. The one paragraph that I remember vividly is from Adam Smith: “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. In this way, the full spectrum of society’s needs will be met through the pursuit of individual self-interest that guided by the invisible hands”.

I became a DPU student after three years of working experience as a journalist in Hong Kong. Through the exposure of several overseas interviews, I became interested in development economics. DPU was a great learning experience and a good turning point as it gave me a full spectrum of curriculum state’s intervention as well as industrial policies. I also had the opportunity to conduct research and present my findings to my fellow classmates on China’s special economic zone model and policies that effectively attracted inbound FDI.

After I submitted my dissertation, I took on an internship at the institute of economic affairs, one of UK’s first modern think tanks that disseminates and promotes free market and monetarist economics. I found arguments and debate there quite differed from what I learnt at DPU. Notably an internal sharing given by Priti Patel on Capitalism’s crucial role in development economics, differed hugely from industrial policies adopted by postcolonial state and tiger economies. However, it echoed with “invisible hand” that Michael recommended to me. I am certain that the diversity and inclusiveness of thought offered in DPU, is the best part during my journey in the UK.

Upon completing study at DAP, I shifted my career from journalism to private sector working for investor relations department at CITIC Limited, one of the biggest conglomerates in China founded under direction of Deng Xiaoping to engage free market. The study at DPU and in UK equipped me with necessary skillset and more importantly, it inspires me to reflect the balance between market and government during work.

DPU opens a new door for me in my life. I’ve now gained new insights of how the world operates from a firm’s perspective in addition to past experience watching through a reporter’s lens. More importantly, Michael’s direction to invisible hand introduced by Adam Smith offered me the inspiration that bridge the transformation of my career.