May 31, 2011
TAO Ran, who earned his PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago in 2002, taught a Social Sciences course entitled “The Chinese Economy in Transition” to UofC students in the Spring, 2011, Social Sciences Study Abroad program. Professor Tao, the first non-UofC professor to teach at the Center in Beijing, joined two experienced University of Chicago professors– historian Michael Geyer and sociologist William Parish– to lead this program. Besides his current duties at Beijing’s Renmin University, Tao previously taught as a post-doctoral fellow at Oxford University.
TAO spent several years as a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and is well-respected in China as an expert on land use and reform in China's fast urbanization. On April 29th, he led the students on an excursion designed to show the vast possible differences in outcomes due to land use policies. In the morning, the students toured Zhenggezhuang, a highly-developed resort village in north suburban Beijing. In the afternoon, Tao led students to a school for the children of migrants in an underdeveloped area nearby.
Both Zhenggezhuang and the migrant village are dynamic in their own ways, Tao explained. An exception to the usual framework of Chinese land use policies, the resort showed that a pilot program allowing farmers to experiment with their own plan for development could make for a prosperous village. Granting farmers the opportunity to develop their own land, accompanied by good planning, as Tao indicates, is the direction for China's future land reform in urbanization. The migrant village, on the other hand, demonstrates how a community has chosen to cope with its challenges until an official framework for the needed social services can be developed. Professor Tao has worked with the new residents to build a school from donated funds and volunteer labor.