Professor Yuan-li Wu Economics Speaker Series

The Professor Yuan-li Wu Economics Speaker Series honors a pioneering scholar who was also the first Chinese American to serve as deputy assistant secretary of defense in the U.S. government. This series is made possible by generous support from Suzanne Wu Zurinaga, Luis Zurinaga, and the Wu Chen Lew Zurinaga Fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Yuan-li Wu (1920-2008) was born into a prosperous family in Tianjin, China. At the age of eighteen he journeyed to England to pursue higher education. A dedicated student with an inquiring mind, he earned a bachelor of science degree (Economics, 1942) and Ph.D. (Economics, 1945) at the London School of Economics, where he studied under the renowned economist Friedrich Hayek. Fascinated by languages and linguistics, Yuan-li Wu not only polished his English but gained proficiency in French, German, and Russian. It was also in London that he met the love of his life Annmarie Jacobi, a refugee who escaped Nazi Germany.

Soon Yuan-li Wu would be a refugee as well. Upon completing his doctorate, he “returned to China anxious to serve his motherland,” only to find himself and his extended family displaced by civil war. In 1950 he and Annemarie arrived in America. “Without the help of his prominent father [who passed away that same year in Hong Kong]… he literally started from scratch, working hard to build a career here.” (Judy Chu, Junzi, A Man of Virtue, p. 193)

After a decade of short-term projects and teaching positions, Yuan-li Wu eventually settled into a professorship at the University of San Francisco and a research position at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. At Hoover, he secured many grants to support his pioneering research. Dr. Wu would go on to author or co-author “over 40 books and monographs and more than 100 articles.” (Ibid., p. 139)

Professor Yuan-li Wu’s Scholarship and Concerns

Dr. Wu’s “research covers a wide range of subjects, from [the] Chinese economy to studies on geopolitical and security issues concerning Communist countries such as Russia, and countries of South and Southeast Asia, Europe, Middle East, the Mediterranean and North Africa. He was among the first to conduct systematic research on the economy of Communist China in the 1950s and his research has been widely quoted by others…. [His] half-century publishing record was capped by his 1997 book Tiananmen to Tiananmen: China Under Communism, 1947-1996.” (Judy Chu, Junzi, A Man of Virtue, p. 139)

As noted above, Professor Yuan-li Wu wrote on much more than macroeconomics. Blessed with an inquiring mind and academic training that encouraged synthesizing careful empiricism with bold theorization, his research interests expanded over time to include arms control, diplomacy, food and energy policy, immigration, income distribution and wealth gaps, scientific communities, and much more. At the end of his career he wrote on human rights and turned his attention to childhood education, emphasizing the importance of nurturing intercultural understanding through broad reading and language study.

The Professor Yuan-li Wu Economics Speaker Series aspires to cover a similarly broad range of topics that honor Dr. Wu’s scholarly and moral imagination.

List of Speakers and Events, 2010 – the present

February 18, 2010

“China’s Environmental Challenge”

Elizabeth C. Economy, Ph.D., Senior Fellow for China Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

December 13, 2011

“Healing America’s Troubled Economy”

Christina Romer, Ph.D. (UC Berkeley and Former Chair, Council of Economic Advisers)

David H. Romer, Ph.D., Herman Royer Professor of Political Economy, UC Berkeley

March 1, 2011

“The Rise and Fall of the Dollar”

Barry Eichengreen, Ph.D., George C. Pardee and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Economics and Political Science, UC Berkeley

May 14, 2012

“U.S.-East Asia Relations: As Seen from Tokyo”

Glen S. Fukushima, Chairman, Airbus Japan

November 14, 2012

“The Economy and the Fed in Unusual Times”

John C. Williams, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

May 20, 2014

“Social Impact from Farm to Cup: Numi Organic Tea”

Ahmed Rahim, co-founder and CEO, Numi Organic Tea

November 3, 2014

“Banking and Social Justice: Community Development Financial Institutions”

Kathryn “Kat” Taylor, co-founder and CEO, Beneficial State Bank

October 22, 2015

“California Dreaming: Succeeding in China’s Growing Wine Market”

- Lindsey Gallagher, Vice President of International Marketing, The Wine Institute

- Chris Beros, China Office Director, The Wine Institute

- C. T. Wong, Deputy Director, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, San Francisco

November 10, 2015

“The Foundations of a Championship Community Organization”

- Shana Daum, Vice President for Public Affairs, SF Giants

- Yeshayah Goldfard, Director of Minor League Operations and Quantitative Analysis, SF Giants

April 5, 2016

“From Ghost Town to Havana: Sports, Community Development, Intercultural Understanding”

- Roscoe Bryant, Community Organizer and Coach of the Oakland Royals Youth Baseball

- Eugene Corr, Academy-Award-nominated filmmaker and director From Ghost Town to Havana

September 13, 2016

“Emperors’ Treasures: Chinese Art from the National Palace Museum, Taipei”

Jay Xu, Ph.D., Director and CEO, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

April 4, 2017

“Guangzhou Dream Factory: Economic Migration from Africa to China”

- Christiane Badgley, journalist and documentary filmmakers, director of Guangzhuo Dream Factory

- Erica Marcus, producer, Guangzhou Dream Factory

April 3, 2018

“Shot in the Dark: Hoop Dreams and Growing Up in Chicago’s West Side”

- Dustin Nakao Haider, director Shot in the Dark

- Tunisia Owens, Ph.D., Policy Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

September 23, 2019

“Circles: The Power of Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools”

- Eric Butler, restorative justice educator and activist

- Cassidy Friedman, producer and director of Circles