Justin Yifu Lin
Chief Economist for Development Economics, World Bank
Date of Birth: 15/10/1952
Place of Birth: Yilan, Taiwan
At the end of May 2009, Justin Yifu Lin will succeed France's François Bourguignon as Chief Economist at the World Bank. The Peking University professor will be the first economist from a developing country to hold the position. 'I look forward to working closely with him on a number of areas, including growth and investment in Africa,' said World Bank President Robert Zoellick.
Lin is a specialist in rural development and economic reform who began his career as Deng Xiaoping was opening up China's planned economy. Lin gained a master's degree in political economy from Peking University in 1982 and a doctorate in economics at the University of Chicago, United States, in 1986. He has since taught at Duke University, the Australian National University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He founded the China Centre for Economic Research at Peking University and has been a consultant to the United Nations Millennium Task Force on Hunger, the Asian Development Bank and the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development. He has twice been awarded the Sun Yefang Prize, China's highest award for economists, and is mentioned as a future contender for the Nobel Prize.
Lin's ascent to the high-profile World Bank post has renewed questions about his dramatic past. He was born in Taiwan in 1952, and earned a master's of business administration from Taipei's National Chengchi University. After graduation, he became a captain in the Republic of China's army. While stationed on the island of Kinmen in 1979, he escaped the army by swimming two kilometres to the mainland. He left behind his pregnant wife and their three-year-old son. The army initially reported him as missing; his wife, Chen Yun-ing, later discovered that Lin was studying in the USA.
Lin and his family now live in the People's Republic of China, and he faces arrest on charges of desertion if he returns to Taiwan. To this day, Lin has kept quiet about what motivated his departure, but on the sidelines of the National People's Congress last week, he encouraged the island to follow his lead by further integrating with the mainland.