Interview with Dr. Belton Fleisher

Belton Fleisher serves as the Executive Editor for China Economic Review. His research has focused on China’s economy since 1990, and he has authored and co-authored over 40 articles in professional journals. One of his books, “Labor Economics: Theory and Evidence” (1970) is considered by many to be the first modern labor economics textbook. He is currently a professor of economics at the Ohio State University (OSU), where he has been working on faculty since 1965.

Dr. Fleisher received his PhD in economics from Stanford University (1961), and has worked at the University of Chicago, the London School of Economics, and Renmin University of China in Beijing, as well as OSU. He is also a Senior Fellow and Special Term Professor of the China Center for Human Capital and Labor Market Research at the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing.

Belton Fleisher 担任《中国经济评论》的执行主编。自1990年以来,他的研究主要集中在中国经济领域,并且撰写和合作撰写了40余篇专业期刊文章。他编著的《劳动经济学:理论与实证》(1970)一书是公认的第一部现代劳动经济学教程。他从1965年起在俄亥俄州立大学(Ohio State University)担任教职,目前是该大学的经济学教授。


Lua: Can you tell us a bit about the China Economic Review? What makes it different from other economic journals?


Dr. Fleisher: China Economic Review (CER) is the first journal to detail solely with topics on the Chinese economy rather than more general topics on China or Asia or East Asia with a mixture of other subjects such as history/sociology, etc. It remains the only journal dealing exclusively with the Chinese economy with an editorial board that is located principally in centers outside China.


Lua: How has CER grown over the last ten years, particularly with the popularity of economic research coming out of China?


Dr. Fleisher: I don’t have any data in my files on this, but my recollection from the annual reports provided by Elsevier is that the number of submissions has perhaps doubled in 10 years, and the rejection rate has grown from approximately 80% to 90% or so. The number of articles published per year has grown, too, possibly doubling, with each issue becoming larger. I recall that 15 years ago, we had a low point, with difficulty in assuring there would be enough papers for the next issue.


Lua: What do authors need to pay attention to when submitting a paper on economic policies to China Economic Reviews? Where do people typically get their data from (secondary data, surveys, etc.)?


Dr. Fleisher: Non-native English writers must get substantial help from professional language and scientific writing experts or obtain co-authorship with a scholar who is expert in these tools. Data most frequently are from published sources (secondary data) with perhaps 30% coming from authors’ surveys or access to original survey data.


Lua:  With regards to the Chinese economic system especially in the area of economic health policy, what is China Economic Review most interested in?


Dr. Fleisher: We look for papers that draw useful policy implications from appropriately designed empirical studies.  “Treatment effects” as spelled out in the econometric literature are valued highly as are studies of the impact of organization of the health-care industry on health-care delivery.


Lua: How does China Economic Review choose reviewers, especially when the paper is from Chinese researchers?


Dr. Fleisher: Every editor has his/her own technique.  An obvious first choice is to select reviewers who have published papers in China Economic Review, because they “owe” us some service. Personally I don’t distinguish my reviewer search regarding the nationality of the author.


Lua: Do you have specific suggestions for researchers from China regarding article topics and research projects?


Dr. Fleisher: Try to avoid applications of an “off the shelf” technique to Chinese data, with this application to Chinese data as compared to data from somewhere else being the only distinguishing feature of the research. Try to find topics that use the situations in China as analogous to a laboratory for general research in economics.


Lua: Many journals are using social media to promote findings and call for submissions. Can you tell us about CER’s social media presence, including Chinese social media?


Dr. Fleisher: Calls are distributed through the Chinese Economists Society and other research organization with which we have connections. I also have my own mailing list.


Lua: Does the journal face potentially politically contentious issues? How does it face a possibly controversial conclusion?


Dr. Fleisher: We have not received manuscripts that deal with potentially inflammatory topics that would, for example, point fingers at politically connected agents.  We publish papers generally dealing with corruption, inefficiency, political economy, etc., and to my knowledge have never considered political sensitivity.  Our publisher’s home is in Amsterdam and our publisher has never conveyed any message regarding possibly controversial topics/conclusions (which I assume you mean to refer to politically sensitive, not scientifically controversial).


Lua: China's economy seems to be changing at lightning speed. How do you make sure that your articles are timely and up-to-date?


Dr. Fleisher: We are pro-active in attempting to organize and solicit manuscripts for topics that the editors believe are important for the rapidly changing Chinese economy.  We tend to reject papers that are mainly replication of off-the-shelf topics and methods to Chinese data, with the change in data being the only distinguishing characteristic.


Interviewed by Ms. Lua Wilkinson  

Dr. Belton Fleisher

Dr. Belton Fleisher