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Faculty Interview | Professor ZHOU Yongmei

As the Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development marks its fifth year of establishment, it also welcomes three new professors. The Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development exhibits one of the highest and strictest standards for selecting the teaching faculty as it symbolizes China’s commitment to international cooperation. The new additions this year not only mark the expansion of the faculty, but also commemorate the progress of the Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development and the dedication of all stakeholders.


After receiving her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1999, Professor ZHOU entered the World Bank through its highly competitive Young Professionals Program.  Specializing in development economics and institutional economics and wanting to gain first-hand experience in developing countries, she spent the next twenty years supporting different governments in Africa and Asia develop policies and build institutions. After working 8 years in Africa, 5 years in South Asia and 3 years in South-East Asia, from the relatively well-off cities to the poorest rural areas, she’s equipped herself with an extensive amount of knowledge and expertise in developing national policies to reduce poverty, deliver public services and build stable and capable institutions.

An accomplished scholar and an experienced field practitioner, Prof. ZHOU has led many programs, such as the Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions Program in Jakarta, achieving policy influence in areas ranging from fiscal policies, public financial management, local governance, financial access, and digital economy. She also managed a global and multi-discipline team at the Global Center on Conflict, Security and Development located in Washington, Nairobi and New York. She co-directed the World Bank flagship report, World Development Report on Governance and the Law, which unpacks the political economy root causes for ineffective policies and highlights the levers policy reformers can use to enhance policy effectiveness and build sustainable institutional capacity.

”Institutional reforms that achieve credible commitment, coordination and cooperation are at the core of national development.”

Always exploring opportunities for continued learning and growth, she altered her career path by joining Peking University to pursue her passion in institutional development, this time in China, and to share her life's learning with ISSCAD students.  She cheerfully described herself as a free-spirited risk-taker constantly looking for new challenges, and there is indeed no mountain too high for her to climb. She loves outdoor sports, like mountain climbing and scuba-diving, and she has already joined some of the outdoor activity groups organized by student bodies at Peking University. This year at the Institute of South-South Cooperation, Professor ZHOU teaches a course titled “Power, Institutions and Policy Impact.” It confronts the institutional issues underlying ineffective policies and encourages the students to apply their learning to a concrete policy puzzle in their own countries.

A quote from the professor to the ISSCAD students as follows:

“When you see dysfunctional policies and institutions, find out the root causes before attempting reforms. Compare notes with students from elsewhere. You’ll see a lot of similarities across seemingly different countries.”