Distinguished Service to the Association for Asian Studies Award

In 2020, the AAS recognizes Thomas G. Rawski with the Distinguished Service to the Association for Asian Studies Award.

Thomas G. Rawski is Professor Emeritus of Economics and History at the University of Pittsburgh. Rawski is among the foremost economists and economic historians of China. Scholars of China have followed his distinguished publication record since the early 1970s when he completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University. Rawski has received many awards for his work and served on innumerable national and international boards and committees.

There are few members of AAS who have served as conscientiously and sincerely in the interests of the Association. With his vast knowledge and experience, he has contributed significantly to the governance of AAS for almost forty years.

His AAS service includes:

  • Elected to Board of Directors and China/Inner Asia Council, 1982-85
  • Nominating Committee, 1984-85
  • Program Committee, 1985-88
  • AAS Budget Committee, 1998-2007
  • Elected to China and Inner Asia Council, 2008-2011
  • Finance Committee, 2002 to the present
  • Chair, Finance Committee, 2010 to the present

With deepest appreciation, we present Thomas G. Rawski with the Award for Distinguished Service to the Association for Asian Studies.

Remarks by Thomas G. Rawski

Economists appreciate the benefits of specialization. But specialists, however well informed, often steer themselves into obscure burrows. AAS is a big element of my personal answer to tunnel vision—attending annual meetings and participating in AAS committees helps to keep me off the straight and narrow path.

My association with AAS began in 1965, my final undergraduate year. I struggled to keep up with a graduate seminar on Modernization of China taught by then AAS President Knight Biggerstaff. At that time, Cornell’s graduate students included a galaxy of budding Asianists. Some were China specialists: Larry Crissman, Jane Leonard, Bill Parish, Vicki Weinstein. Many were not: Jeremy Kemp, Milton Osborne, Lindsey Reber, John Whitmore. They focused on anthropology, history, politics and sociology. None were economists.

When I left for graduate school, Knight Biggerstaff offered two bits of advice: learn Japanese and look up (his former undergraduate student) Evelyn Sakakida. Both worked out well. Evelyn (herself a former AAS President) and I will soon celebrate our 53rd anniversary. We have missed only a handful of AAS annual meetings since 1968.

Studying Japanese, living in, teaching about, and occasionally writing about Japan has enriched my work on China’s contemporary economy and its modern history. Japanese experience has deeply informed Chinese policy thinking throughout the modern era. Something similar is now visible in South Asia, where policy elites aspire to emulate China’s economic achievements.

For me, AAS offers an opportunity to maintain long-standing friendships and a venue for absorbing new ideas. Some of my most enjoyable research projects emerged from discussions with AAS friends who have minimal interest in economics.

AAS provides a combination of intellectual ferment and personal satisfaction that makes me look forward to future annual conferences.