June 25, 2015 | by Mao Yushi Print

Mao Yushi, one of the most renowned Chinese economists and the honorary president of Atlas Network partner the Unirule Institute of Economics, was awarded the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty on May 4, 2012, in Washington, D.C.

In developing countries, and especially in those with limited outlets for differing opinions, independent voices are of vital importance. Although such voices face numerous difficulties, they can make a tangible difference. In the decades since China’s market reform and opening to global trade, the Unirule Institute of Economics and its research findings have promoted privatization, environmental protection, education reform, the establishment and maintenance of market rules, reform of state-owned enterprises, improvement of land management systems, and more.

By remaining independent in its research and daring to speak out about things that others dare not touch, Unirule has made important contributions to the success of China’s economic reforms. Despite the potential hazards of such a strategy, that approach has made Unirule the only private, independent, non-governmental, non-profit research institute to last for more than 20 years in China.

China’s success in reform took place along with the worldwide trend of advancing freedom and market economics, and could not have happened without the influence of global leaders in scholarship, research, and analysis. Atlas Network has provided such leadership by making significant contributions to economic development worldwide, and has been a source of encouragement for the past two decades. That is one of the primary reasons why Unirule has achieved what it has today.

Without such global influence in the world of ideas, China’s progress would have been impossible. At present, however, a tendency is emerging in China to resist foreign influences, to request foreign foundations to withdraw from China, to defund international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in China, and to insist that all foreign funding of domestic NGOs should be subject to strict investigations. That tendency to deliberately throw mud at domestic NGOs is indeed dangerous to China’s future development as a great and prosperous nation. 

Atlas Network is not a major supporter of Unirule, but its continuous encouragement has been precious, as has its foresight. Atlas Network conferred honorable mention on my book The Future of Chinese Ethics during the 1999 Sir Antony Fisher Memorial Awards. The first edition of that book was published in 1997. It was republished in new editions in 2003 and 2008, and the fourth edition is now coming out. The book has sold very well over the past 20 years, and has had a positive influence on the ethical formation of current Chinese society.

We have been invited to activities held by Atlas Network in Asia, and have had the opportunity to participate in training courses in the United States and India. That enables Unirule to avoid estrangement from worldwide trends, and provides the institute a global audience. For instance, Unirule’s research findings on China’s state-owned enterprises, China’s food security, the influence of China’s public policies on income disparity, etc., were widely cited by international academic circles as a consequence.

Atlas Network is concerned about freedom and economic development not only in China, but throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America, and Australia. It plays an irreplaceable role in promoting progress globally. Atlas Network founder Sir Antony Fisher would have turned 100 years old this month, and on this anniversary, people around the world should pay their highest tributes to that man of great vision.