Ha-Joon Chang (/tʃæŋ/; Hangul: 장하준; Hanja: 張夏准; born 7 October 1963) is a South Korean institutional economist specialising in development economics. Currently a reader in the Political Economy of Development at the University of Cambridge, Chang is the author of several widely discussed policy books, most notably Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective (2002). In 2013 Prospect magazine ranked Chang as one of the top 20 World Thinkers.
He has served as a consultant to the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, as well as to Oxfam and various United Nations agencies. He is also a fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. In addition, Chang serves on the advisory board of Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP).
Chang is also known for being an important academic influence on the economist Rafael Correa, the former President of Ecuador.
After graduating from Seoul National University Department of Economics, he studied at the University of Cambridge, earning a PhD for his thesis entitled The political economy of industrial policy – reflections on the role of state intervention in 1991. Chang's contribution to heterodox economics started while studying under Robert Rowthorn, a leading British Marxist economist, with whom he worked on the elaboration of the theory of industrial policy, which he described as a middle way between central planning and unrestrained free market. His work in this area is part of a broader approach to economics known as institutionalist political economy which places economic history and socio-political factors at the centre of the evolution of economic practices.
In his book Kicking Away the Ladder (which won the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy's 2003 Gunnar Myrdal Prize), Chang argued that all major developed countries used interventionist economic policies in order to get rich and then tried to forbid other countries from doing similarly. The World Trade Organization, World Bank and International Monetary Fund come in for strong criticism from Chang for "ladder-kicking" of this type which, he argues, are the fundamental obstacle to poverty alleviation in the developing world. This and other work led to his being awarded the 2005 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought from the Global Development and Environment Institute (previous prize-winners include Amartya Sen, John Kenneth Galbraith, Herman Daly, Alice Amsden and Robert Wade).
Following up on the ideas of Kicking Away the Ladder, Chang published Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism in December 2008. Chang countered Irwin's criticisms by arguing that countries that had failed to develop had generally followed free market policies. Chang also argued that while state interventionism sometimes produced economic failures, it had a better record than unregulated free market economies which, he maintained, very rarely succeeded in producing economic development. He cited evidence that GDP growth in developing countries had been higher prior to external pressures recommending deregulation and extended his analysis to the failures of free trade to induce growth through privatisation and anti-inflationary policies. Chang's book won plaudits from Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz for its fresh insight and effective blend of contemporary and historical cases but was criticised by former World Bank economist William Easterly, who said that Chang used selective evidence in his book. Chang responded to Easterly's criticisms, asserting that Easterly misread his argument. Easterly in turn provided a counter-reply.