D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi




China Update No. 2/2017 (January 20 – February 2, 2017)

Mercator Institutue for Chinese Studies MERICS


Internet censors shut down liberal economic website

China’s censors have cracked down on the website of a famous liberal economic think tank in an apparent attempt to silence critical voices ahead of the National People’s Congress in March and the 19th Party Congress this fall. The website of the independent Unirule Institute of Economics (天则经济研究所) was one of 17 sites that were shut down by the Beijing Internet Information Office on January 21. The social media account of the institute’s founder Mao Yushi (茅于轼), winner of the 2012 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, was taken down as well.

According to official explanations, the websites’ licenses were revoked because they had allegedly published pornographic content and false news. But at least in the case of the independent think tank and its founder this appears to be a formal pretext.

The site was shut down two days after Mao Yushi had criticized the President of the Supreme People’s Court, Zhou Qiang, for rejecting judicial independence as a “flawed Western concept.” Mao had also published a critical commentary on President Xi Jinping’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The Unirule Institute is one of the few remaining independent think tanks in China after many of them had been closed over the past two years. The institute was one of only nine Chinese organizations in the University of Pennsylvania’s annual Global Go To Think Tank Index Report. Even China’s official People’s Daily had reported on the ranking.



SHENG Hong: The Name of Unirule is very suitable

When Unirule was created, we were not aware of the classical usage of “Unirule”, just using “Unirule” as a short version of “rules between Heaven and Earth”. It sounded suitable, and was consistent with our passion for institutional economics and concern with institutional change. Afterwards in The Book of Songs, we found the poem “Tian Sheng Zheng Min, You Wu You Ze”, which means “People are created by God, and naturally there would be things and rules”. That is suitable for our understanding of institutions: in human society, institutions would be generated naturally, and they are the spontaneous order.

Later, in The Book of Changes we found the sentence “Qian Yuan Yong Jiu, Nai Jian Tian Ze”, in which we first found the classical usage of “Unirule” as a whole word. As Mr. Nan Huaijin explained, the sentence means that Heaven and Earth generated rules, never demandingreturn, which was precisely our definition of Unirule and very close to our ambition.

After reading more literature, we found that this sentence is a classical one, commented and discussed by ancient scholars of past ages. In Song Dynasty, Yu Yan said, “Unirule is natural law” and “the natural law has no mind”. Yang Jian said “Unirule means God’s activity, and human activity is not Unirule”. That is to say, there exist the ways of Heaven, which are beyond the wisdom of human beings. Only by trials and errors, can human beings understand Unirule and follow the way of Heaven.

Nevertheless, people should not give up exploring “Unirule”, not only because of curiosity of human beings, but also because in that kind of society where the ways of Heaven are followed by people as possible as they can, everyone will feel happier and the whole society will be more prosperous. To comply with the ways of Heaven is the origin of Chinese civilization. Exploring “Unirule” becomes their everlasting task, for only it is beyond the wisdom of human beings. So, Unirule Institute of Economics researches institutions and cultures, which is a modern continuation of this ancient and perpetual cause.

Furthermore, since Unirule is the rules beyond human beings’ wisdom, the reality of human society is always flawed, and the individuals within the political structure are facing limitations. To overcome this problem, we should first acknowledge the infinity of Unirule as well as the limitation of secular government and the specific political figures. Then we should explore an institutional structure to hamper the secular government and the specific political figures and amplify the virtue of each society member. This kind of approach is constitutionalism.

It is generally believed that constitutionalism originated in the West and plays an important role in Christian tradition. If not complying with the “Justice of God”, the secular government has no legitimacy. Similarly, the ways of Heaven and Unirule have given us spiritual resource of constitutionalism. The emperor was regarded as an official, who should be guided and constrained by the ways of Heaven. Therefore, there should be someone who has a deeper understanding of the ways of Heaven than other individuals and groups, which is called “the Heaven shows the signs, and sages transform them into rules.” Understanding the ways of Heaven through inspiration by nature, cultural traditions are formed. The group who bears the tradition, as Mr. Yu Yingshi said, is recognized as representative of the tradition of ways of Heaven since 4 century B.C. by the political groups gradually.

  SHENG Hong: The Name of Unirule is very suitable

Accordingly, the name of Unirule also contains constitutionalism. After the Culture Revolution, the structure of integration of politics and God has collapsed. The government appeared to be more secular, and also the political figures return to be ordinary persons The ideal political structure should be a set of constitutionalist principles. To the whole society, it contains basic principles concluded from successes and failures of thousands of years, including principles of protecting human rights and property rights. In the political area, it is the constraint to the defects of the secular government and political figures, as well as the encouragement for people to promote social justice and prosperity. However, it is not easy to explore the set of constitutional principles, as it looks like to explore the ways of Heaven, for it is necessary to absorb and digest varied kinds of spiritual resources at all times and in all countries.

Of course, the culture elites are also ordinary people, so there should be ways of Heaven to explore the ways of Heaven. Those are rules of freedom of expression and civilized debate. It can’t be denied that heroes appeared in history, which precisely happened as a result of following the rules. Thus, Unirule Institute of Economics could not regard what we say is the ways of Heaven only because our name is Unirule, and should try our best to maintain the rules of freedom of expression and civilized debate, promoting the constitutional consensus with various cultural elites.

Based on this, Unirule will try its best to rebuild social moral value and let the social and political fields benefit from it. We hope that the secular government and political figures should acknowledge that they are also ordinary people, and accept the constitutional principles which are far beyond the interests of individuals and groups. What we would like is that as Xun Zi’s saying, improving politics when in the government, while improving morality when in countryside. We would like to tell society and government what we regard as constitutional principles through our papers, books, and reports; while to tell the public what kinds of moral value we persue through our essays and mcro-blogs.

Take a look at the past twenty-four years, what we have done and will do can be summed up in one word ”Unirule”.


天则经济研究所  Unirule Institute of Economics

Unirule Institute of Economics (Unirule) is an independent, non-for-profit, nongovernmental think tank, which was founded jointly in July 1993 by Dr. Hong Sheng, Professor Yushi Mao, Professor Shuguang Zhang, Dr. Gang Fan and Dr. Shouning Tang, and Beijing Universal Culture Co, Ltd.

In late 1999, the Institute underwent its first organizational restructuring and separated into two divisions. The consulting division was renamed as the Unirule Consulting Firm (UCF) and was fully commercialized from then on, while the organization's academic division remained as the Unirule Institute of Economics (Unirule), a private non-for-profit research institution. The two organizations now keep an "arm´s length market relationship," that keeps separate all operations and financial relationships while under the direction of its respective board of directors.   (Wikipedia)

Guangzhou Unirule Research Center was established in July, 2012 and located in the capital city Guangzhou. It is dedicated to contribute to the solutions of system innovation of Guangdong Province during the “open-up”process and promote the successful open-up experiences shaped in Guangzhou to other parts of China.

The Spiritual Foundation of the Rule of Constitution

To “firmly uphold the authority of the Constitution and the law” was stipulated by the Fourth plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee as a fundamental institutional principle. However, the significance of this stipulation was not fully understood. It at least means that all the civil servants should hold the constitution as the highest code of conduct, instead of the orders from their superiors. Apparently, the mentality of the whole civil services of China in terms of a “constitutional awareness” is not enough.

The lack of constitutional awareness
is systematic for Chinese government officials

Some words and deeds during the plenary session by the government officials have revealed their attitude towards the rule of constitution and shown that they certainly lack the awareness and basic understanding of the constitution. For instance, Mr. LI Shixiang, the Deputy Mayor of Beijing, said: “Beijing will never cancel the limit for house purchases” when it came to the topic. His words were immediately countered by the amendment of the PRC Legislation Law. As an administrative department, Beijing municipal government has no right to reduce the rights of the people, even though it has the right to draft local regulations providing such regulations do not go against the constitution and higher-level laws. Mr. LI does not know that policies only are effective within a certain period of time, where “never” does not apply. Another example concerns Mr. GUO Shuqing, the governor of Shandong Province, who made a public promise that no Shandong citizens would ever join the shopping rush for milk powder in Hong Kong. Mr. GUO was an outstanding economist when he was working as my senior colleague in the graduate school at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. To my disappointment, Mr. GUO confused the difference and boundary between public goods and private goods, and his power as governor within the area of public goods.


                                           MAO Yushi  茅于轼

Liberal economics think tank Unirule is locked out of
its office for ‘security reasons’ ahead of forum

South China Morning Post

Jun Mai

May 14, 2017

Founder and former CASS economist Mao Yushi prevented from leaving home for duration of belt and road forum

A two-day academic seminar at China’s largest non-official think tank was called off on Saturday because doors and lifts at its office building were locked and disabled amid upgraded security for Beijing’s two-day belt and road forum that begins on Sunday.

Members of the Unirule Institute of Economics, one of China’s most influential private think tanks, arrived at their office on Saturday to find the front door locked and the button to their floor disabled at the elevator.

With its strong belief in the market economy, the institute regularly challenges the government on its economic policies and has published reports about state owned enterprises as well as anti-trust and land reforms. Its researchers include a handful of prominent economists who were also formerly with CASS.


                                   SHENG Hong

Unirule Chinas crackdown on economists and free speech

February 20, 2017


                                          MAO Yushi 茅于轼

The Mao legacy and China’s reforms future

Ananth Krishnan

December 30, 2013

The Party under Mr. Xi finds itself caught in the middle, the respected economist Mao Yushi told The Hindu in an interview. “Today,” he said, “the party is facing many contradictions. Mao Zedong’s path, and the CPC’s path, are different. Mao Zedong believed in the need to establish an equal society. Now we have an unequal society. Mao believed in Communism. Today, the party follows Capitalism. So there is a contradiction.”

He sees state-owned Enterprises (SOEs), which still control vast swathes of the economy, as the biggest interest group. “The SOEs sector — railways, energy, communication — is very strong. The price they set, whether the interest rate, or power price, is by themselves. So they earn a big profit, not because of their efficiency but because they monopolise the sector.” Mao Yushi and many other Chinese economists see SOE reform as a key step towards addressing China’s economic imbalances, as the country attempts to move away from a State-investment driven model, promote innovation and address widening inequality.



                                      MAO Yushi   茅于轼

Unirule: China's crackdown on economists and free speech

In just one day, on Jan. 28, the authorities ordered the shutdown of 17 websites, including the one operated by the Unirule Institute of Economics, or the Tianze Institute(天則研究所),a civilian think tank formed in 1993 by a group of highly respected and prominent economists in the mainland. February 20, 2017

News Sky

Kattie Stallard

Human rights lawyers have been rounded up and put on trial, activists abducted and tortured and critical voices silenced, as the Communist Party moves to stifle potential sources of dissent.

Now one of China's only truly independent think tanks, and one of its most respected, is under threat.

In January the website of the Unirule Institute of Economics was shut down, along with its social media accounts.

The professor was keen to stress that their organisation was not "anti-government" and that this should not be seen as an issue of "left" or "right" politics in China.

He believes this is about freedom of speech, and that fundamental values are now at stake.

[Professor Sheng Hong]: "Article 35 of the Chinese constitution states that all citizens have freedom of expression, including freedom of speech, of publication, of assembly, of association.

"So the severity of this problem goes far beyond an attack on [a single] organisation and any losses it may incur, as this poses a potential danger to the entire people."

"Unirule's idea comes from the the Chinese 'Tianze', which is a word for universal rule," James Dorn, of the Washington DC-based Cato Institute, explained.

"They think that you should have a system in which the government protects people's rights and their property rights, rather than just telling people what to do.