John C.H. Fei, professor emeritus of economics, whose writings in the field of economic development are now considered classics, died of cardiopulmonary failure on July 19 in Taipei, Taiwan. He was 73 years old.
Professor Fei's five books and over 70 articles influenced the economic policies of many countries. In fact, for several decades he actively advised the Taiwan government on economic policy issues. Since retiring from Yale, he had been serving as chair of the board of trustees of the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research in Taipei, and shortly before his death, he was appointed as a personal advisor to the President of Taiwan. In recognition of Professor Fei's contributions to that nation, the Taiwanese government held a state funeral in his honor.
Described as a "dynamic and lucid lecturer," Professor Fei inspired generations of students from the United States and abroad, some of whom later went on to top leadership positions in their countries. The latter include President Lee Teng-hui of the People's Republic of China and President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon of Mexico.
Professor Fei's research centered on development theory, in general, and its application to Asian development, in particular. He is perhaps best known for the 1964 book "Development of the Labor Surplus Economy: Theory and Policy," which he coauthored with Professor Gus Ranis of Yale and which is credited with opening up new literature and debate in the development field.
Born in Beijing, China, in 1923, Professor Fei completed his undergraduate studies at Yenching University in 1945. Soon afterward, his family emigrated to the United States, and he subsequently earned a M.A. in economics from the University of Washington in 1948 and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1952.
He came to Yale in 1962 and was a noted contributor to the University's department of economics and Economic Growth Center for almost three decades. He also taught at M.I.T., Antioch College, the University of Washington and Cornell University, where he held the Carl Marks Chair in economics.
A long-time consultant to the Agency for International Development and the National Planning Association, in 1972 Professor Fei was elected to membership of the Academia Sinica in the People's Republic of China.
He is survived by his wife, Alice L.H. Fei of Alexandria, Virginia; and by three sons from a previous marriage, Jack Fei of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Albert Fei of New York City, and Calvin Fei of Walnut Creek, California; and by four grandchildren.