An Interview with Robert Dernberger: A Career in Chinese Studies
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Dernberger: I was born and raised in a factory town where my grandfather, father, aunts and uncles all worked for General Motors. I worked there, too and then got a fellowship from General Motors to go to engineering school and become an engineer. I didn't like engineering school that much. I had talked to someone who had successfully gone through this engineering program—he was an engineer in an engine plant—and I asked him to comment on some of the exciting things in his job. And his response was that he had moved the carburetor on the engine block and I thought—this is not very exciting. But it was a set way of life—country club living, everybody had a sailboat, everybody played golf. It was an upperclass set in Pontiac Michigan with no knowledge of the outside world at all. This was just after highschool. But then, in 1949, the Korean War came along. I was drafted into the Army in early 1950. There, I was given a series of exams. Because I had had a lot of math and engineering courses they decided to send me to cryptography school in Camp Gordon, Georgia. But the class for cryptographers didn't open for several months, so in the meantime I was doing guard duty and other miscellaneous jobs. Because the thought of spending time in courses at Camp Gordon didn't appeal to me, I would keep looking at the bulletin board. There was this wonderful school of languages in Monterey, California, that really caught my eye. When I saw that, I knew that was for me. I had to take a language aptitude test which was based on a fake language. I did very well on it because I had studied Latin in highschool. I never knew what Latin was going to do for me, but it sure helped me on that exam. I passed that with a high score and was told I had my choice of languages. I chose German because I knew I'd be going back to college and I knew I needed to study a foreign language there. When I arrived at the school in Monterey, they gave me a big pile of books on China and Chinese. I ran over to the Sergeant and said: ``Wait a minute, you've made a mistake, I'm supposed to be studying German!'' He said, ``Everybody's taking Persian or Chinese, no German.'' Mosadegh had just seized the oil wells in Iran, so people were being given intensive courses in Persian, and the Chinese troops had just crossed the Yalu River and we were being given hurry up training in Chinese. It was an excellent school. You would have really had to fight it not to learn the language.
La Piana: Did you have the sense that you were nevertheless being prepared to go to war?
Dernberger: I was not sure. These were not military people. This was just language. The school was run by professional language people, although it was administered by the military. You were assigned fifty words per day to memorize, and every two weeks there were exams. They would take you in a room and you'd overhear a conversation between two people and then you'd have to write it down. You would be taken to the airport, and the person with you would speak only Chinese and you were to be the interpretor. It was a very intensive program. Five days a week, six courses a day, four people in a class. Some people failed out because they were tone deaf, so very quickly we lost a third of our class. But the rest of us stayed until the end. I found it fascinating and I enjoyed the immersion experience. After fourteen months in the school they sent us to Washington, D.C.. The United States was fighting the Korean War with maps of Korea made by the Japanese and which thus had Japanese place names all over them. At the bottom of these maps it said ``Thanks to the University of Michigan.'' It was the University of Michigan Japan Center which had acquired these hand-drawn maps of Korea from the Japanese after the Second World War. We had to translate the place names into Chinese because the Chinese were communicating in Chinese, not in Japanese or Korean. They would say they were moving troops up to such and such a place and no one had any idea where it was because we had no Chinese maps. So we were put through a crash course in putting Chinese names onto these maps. After that we were trained to learn telegraphic Chinese. By telegraph the Chinese communicated with numbers, not characters. There was a four-digit number for every Chinese character. But the Chinese were also mixing up the numbers by putting them into code. So each of us was assigned a special code to work on. Mine was called ``Canoe'', I believe. That may be a security matter still, I don't know! These were basic codes that they used over and over again. I was able to translate about 50% of the messages I received. It was rather boring work. For each message you had to say whether your translation was possible, probable or certain. We learned very quickly to always use possible, because if you said it was probable then you became responsible for the army's actions in response to the message! It was sort of a game. The trouble was that the Chinese were very security conscious and they would often make up a new code for each message. The only time we made headway was when the Chinese would slip and someone would ask for a correction. If the correction was given in regular Chinese we'd pick up on it. Naturally, most of those people who made this mistake would never be heard on the radio again. After that they were off the air. So when we worked with our Chinese in Korea it was all telegraphic code and most of us never saw a Chinese character or heard a Chinese word. Luckily, I was an exception. I succeeded in getting myself transferred to interrogating Chinese prisoners.
La Piana: So your main duties during the Korean War were intercepting these telegraph messages and interrogating prisoners?
Dernberger: Yes. As an interrogator I was given a jeep and a driver and we would drive around to places on the front where Chinese prisoners of war were held and I would interrogate them. This way I got out to see a little bit of Korea. Many times the prisoners did not know very much. They were very eager to tell us anything, because they thought we would treat them well if they talked, but actually we treated them all the same.
La Piana: Was that in fact your first contact with Asian people?
Dernberger: Actually, no. Before the work in Korea we had spent 6 months in Japan for further training. But the interrogation of prisoners was very interesting.
La Piana: Did you feel at all limited by your role as an U.S. Army interrogator?
Dernberger: Well, of course I was assigned to find out things. Things I myself was not too interested in, like the size of the gun that they were firing. But in the course of it, I was given permission to warm up to the person, to ask them about their family and where they were from. The Korean guards were not too kind to the Chinese prisoners and this made it difficult to be friendly with them sometimes. In general the prisoners did not know very much. They didn't know a lot about their unit or about the technology being used. They were willing, though. Some of them had stolen documents from their company to bring to you, but usually it was things like the instructions on how to inflate the tire on the truck or something like that.
La Piana: So the soldiers would steal these things before they were captured?
Dernberger: Yes. Most of them wanted to be captured, actually. Life was pretty tough for them. And they were expendable. There were a lot of indications that they were willing to be captured.
La Piana: And what became of the prisoners after the war?
Dernberger: Well, the settlement of the war was that each individual prisoner would be asked, by both sides, if they wanted to return home or to stay. I think about 23 Americans stayed in Korea with the Chinese. As opposed to 13,000 Chinese who did not opt to go back to China.
La Piana: How long were you in China and Korea?
Dernberger: Two years. After the war was over I entered the University of Michigan with the GI Bill. The University tuition was $90 then! I came to the University of Michigan with the intention of studying political science and going to Law School. The age of everyone becoming an engineer was over, and the age of everyone wanting to become a doctor or lawyer was coming in. So I had my eye set on that. I was not going to pursue my study of China or of the Chinese language because, to tell you the truth, I didn't know that was a field of study. Studying Asia didn't seem like a possibility. But the University notified the Japan Center that I had all this background in Chinese language. And the Japan Center asked to talk with me. I met with Jim Crump, who just recently retired from the Department of Asian Langaugeas and Literatures. Jim said that if I wanted to get to Law School, the quickest way was to get a B.A. in Chinese Studies because I already had the equivalent of four years of language. So I took my B.A. in Far Eastern Studies, so as to get through the degree quicker. After my B.A. I enrolled in graduate school in Political Science here at the University of Michigan, as well. I was still intending to go to Law School. But then I met Professor C.F. Remer, who was working in the Economics Department. He was a grand old China hand. He had taught in Shanghai at Saint John's for several years, and had taken the first Chinese commercial airflight, which set down in the mudbanks of the Woosung river. He also gave the eulogy at Sheng Hsuan-Huai's funeral. He was recognized as the first Western-style capitalist in China. He knew Madame Zhou En Lai and protected her in his house when the Nationalist police came to arrest her. He knew Madame Sun Yat Sen, and he was an office mate of Alger Hiss.
La Piana: What was the background of Professor Remer?
Dernberger: He had graduated from Harvard and had passed the exam to have a government job, but he was too young so he decided to spend a year going off to Asia looking around. But once he got there it was too late, he was hooked! He spent a lot of his life in Asia. At the University of Michigan he was working on a project on China's foreign trade. In 1953, when I first came to the University as a student, he asked if I would be a Research Assistant for him. He is the person who made the strongest impression on me of anyone in my life. He lived and breathed China. His house was filled with art and artifacts. He had brought relief carts filled with grain into famine areas in China and the villagers had given him vases and tribute silk and all this was hung on his walls and stored in glass cases. He had a thousand stories to tell about his life in China and his love for the Chinese. He had a personal affinity for the Chinese people.
La Piana: What was his main area of study?
Dernberger: International Trade and Chinese economics. He wrote two books that still stand up as standards in their field: China's Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment in China. Those two books are used by the Chinese themselves and by the Japanese as references for China's foreign trade and investment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
La Piana: How did his framing of the field influence your own work?
Dernberger: Well he was a professor who personalized his relation with me. He took me into his house and would often invite me and my wife over for dinner. He talked about China constantly, and would pose questions like: ``How are they going to feed the Chinese? How are the Communists going to do it?'' He was involved, he cared about the subject. When he took trips to the World Bank in Washington he would take me with him, and introduce me to people. This was very impressive stuff. It gave me, for the first time, something that wasn't just a novelty but was something I could really do, really work on. At that point, though, I was still intending to go on to law school. But then Professor Remer went to work on me and said that from his point of view, it would be more meaningful to work in economics, especially on the question of how the Chinese could escape famine..
La Piana: So through him you took on this concern for the Chinese people yourself?
Dernberger: No, I can't say that. He lived with them, ate with them, and loved them. I never did that. By this time you couldn't go to China. It was isolated. In fact we were told not even to talk about our work as students in Chinese studies. The University of Michigan was a state school, and there was some concern that the state legislature would be upset if they knew we were using state resources to study the enemy, so to speak, sympathetically.
La Piana: So what was it like to be engaged in that kind of work at the height of the Cold War?
Dernberger: Well just before that time, a representative of the House McCarren Un-American Activities Committee had come through Ann Arbor and had really raised hell by questioning some math professors and a couple of economics professors about their communist activities and ties. I don't know whether they were or were not Communists; they might well have been communist sympathizers. But certainly I don't think they were a threat to the United States. Larry Klein, who was later to win the Nobel Prize, was an Assistant Professor here at the University of Michigan and he left because of this. But overall the campus was pretty dead on this issue. Along with Archie Singham, who later came back to lead the Black Action Strike and who was studying Political Science then, I started a Marxist study group down in the basement of South Quad. We would meet in the evening to discuss various books. I remember the first one was Wittfogel's Oriental Despotism. But this was in the early to mid 1950s, and there was just no interest. We also tried to get a group together called the Robin Hoods, to complain about McCarthyism. I can remember going across the diag with a green feather in my hat, to show I belonged to the group. But there was just no support for this. It was the height of the Cold War and there was a lot of apathy. Attacking people as Communists just didn't make large numbers of people upset.
La Piana: What about Professor Remer? Was he ever suspected of having Communist sympathies?
Dernberger: Well, I talked to him a lot about this. He was not a Communist but he had supported people like Wittfogel, helping him to get out of Germany. He also supported Owen Lattimore and Alger Hiss. He never believed Alger Hiss could have been guilty. Remer was a member of the Council on Pacific Relations, a group that was later accused of being socialist. As I said, he didn't have any feeling that these were bad people or evil people. They were worried about the same thing he was—how are you going to feed all these people? In our discussions he never viewed these people as a threat to the United States, whereas he did view McCarthy and these people as a threat. But I didn't notice that he was that active politically. Mostly Professor Remer, myself, and three native Chinese worked on research projects on China's foreign trade and domestic economy. Across the hall from us, Wolf Stolper and some of his students were working on East Germany. So you might say we were really a hot-bed of socialism over in the old Economics building. In this process I finally became convinced to drop my attempts to continue on in political science and go on to law school. So I eventually got an M.A. in economics. Then Professor Remer retired. But before he went off he helped me to get a fellowship with the Ford Foundation so that I could finish graduate school. I was one of the first recipients of the Ford Foundation foreign-area doctoral program fellowships. They were a little worried about my age, because I was about 30 at the time, but there weren't too many people around with my background. So with minimal effort I got the grant to go to Harvard. Alexander Eckstein had been an expert on Eastern Europe in the State Department and then had gone on to work on China, and was given a grant from Harvard to teach and to research there. I had met him and felt that he would be a reasonable person to study under.
La Piana: Would you say that the ties between the government and area studies were stronger then?
Dernberger: Area studies was dominated by government concerns. Professors had worked for the government, done research for the government, received funds from the government. And in fact in the early to late 1960s, Ford funds for research were administered by a committee set up like a government operation. I attended a meeting where I refused to go along with them, because their vision of scholarship was completely mechanical. They didn't value analysis or asking important questions, but had a narrow focus and limited objectives in a list of assignments: what is the gross domestic product, textile output, coal output, etc.... This committee went bankrupt for lack of ideas and gave the money back to the Ford Foundation.
La Piana: Was it a challenge for you to be someone who was at once focusing on China and on the other hand getting a PhD in economics?
Dernberger: It is very difficult in economics to also be an area person. In fact, I have been told by a colleague in the Economics Department that: ``You can't be a good area person and a good economist at the same time.'' The field of economics tries to identify particular things that are not institutionally or culturally-bound. I don't mean to make too much of this, but the field assumes common behavioral traits. Institutions, culture, and other differences are not supposed to matter very much. Basically there is an assumption of ``rational Man''. You look at micro, macro, money and banking, and fiscal policy, not at ``China.'' This split has been a problem all my life. I'm very glad I did what I did. It has sustained me up to this point, in spite of the difficulties.
La Piana: Do you think the gap between area studies and economics is the same as it was throughout your career? Is it more pronounced or less pronounced?
Dernberger: I'd say the gap is becoming more pronounced. There have been tremendous advances in economics and in knowledge itself. Economics has become something like a professional school, with a very specialized language. This wasn't true when I started out. Also there is now a terrible competitiveness to be number one as a department. Before, Oberlin was Oberlin, Stanford was Stanford, Michigan was Michigan—each school had its own special characteristics—but now because they've gotten into this ratings game, MIT defines what economics is. MIT is the model. My argument has always been that we can live together. I can see the merit of looking at things the way my colleagues do, but I hold that there are other ways of looking at things or other questions to raise, as well, and that you shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater. There are people who want to study China and it does take something in addition to just the normal theories and analyses to figure it out. If you go in thinking this is just another market economy and rational man is the same throughout the world, you'll go wrong. I don't want to destroy the economics department—good luck to them! But where is the place for people like myself? I've had to fight that fight all my life. My first job was at the University of Chicago. They were looking for someone to work in their Center for Economic Develoment and Cultural Change, run by Burt Hoselitz. He studied problems of development with emphasis on such aspects as anthropology and culture, so he didn't fit very well with the rest of the economics department at Chicago. I was invited to go to that center because they wanted some work on China. When they gave me the offer, they sent it on Economics Department letterhead, so I thought I was getting an offer from the Economics Department, but when I got there I found it was from Hoselitz's research center instead. I took over editing their journal and teaching three course per term. It was quite clear that I was not a theorist, but there was room for me anyway. So it didn't come to a head. So long as I played my role I was allowed to stay. Although I was a second class citizen in some sense, because I wasn't teaching graduate theory courses, they treated me well anyway. But the big attraction to me was the famous scholars—Saul Tax had his office down the hall, Saul Bellow was upstairs, Harry Johnson was next door. There was a cluster of very interesting people. In Chicago most of us were in one or two buildings. For a young man coming out with his PhD to be going to seminars and luncheons with these people was very exciting. I spent a sabbatical here [at the University of Michigan] because of the China Center and China library. There was quite a collection of well-known people here working on the Chinese economy. The Economics department offered me a job and I decided to come here, but not in development because all the work in development was being done on French-speaking Africa. One of the key professors in development here thought that the Chinese were crazy and irrational people and thus that there was no reason to try to study them. He used to give my students a hard time. So my place here was in Comparative Systems. I was hired to teach the comparative course with Professor Eckstein. Eventually I became president of the American Association of Comparative Econonomics
La Piana: It seems like the study of comparative economics would involve some consideration of cultural difference, wouldn't it?
Dernberger: Yes. It was easy here on many grounds. We had four people in this field in the 1970s, and the Ford Foundation gave the Comparative Systems Program here two or three grants. So we had money to hold major research conferences in this field. In my experience in the Economics Department at the University of Michigan over the past three decades, I can recognize the process of certain broad changes in the department. We were well-known for our work in applied fields, but I remember a department meeting in the old building where we discussed a need to train our students better in economic theory, or in what we call the ``core''. So we decided to beef up our ``core''. That opened a Pandora's box. We started hiring people in the theory core and it's been built up over the years, while applied areas have shrunk. You can readily see what's happening now—development is dying, comparative systems is dying—not because anyone is killing them, but just because they are being allowed to die out. Attention is being directed toward theory because that's where the competition is and that's where the fame is.
La Piana: Can you talk a little bit about your visits to China in the 70s and 80s?
Dernberger: In 1975, I was a member of one of the first official American research delegations to enter China in decades. That was with the Rural Small-scale Industry Delegation. When the Americans and the Chinese signed the Shanghai communique in 1972, Zhou En Lai had the smarts to start with trade and academic and scientific exchange. So the U.S. government, through the Committee on Exchanges with the People's Republic of China, created a delegation to investigate small-scale industry in China. They decided we had to write a book in exchange for getting to go to China. We had an anthropologist, a sociologist, a cement man, a chemical fertilizer man, and some experts on China's economy—Dwight Perkins, myself, and Tom Rawski—and off we went, first to Tokyo for three days, where we outlined the book. But when we got to China they had their own plans for us. I'm sure the guide assigned to us didn't like the job. He just wanted to get us in there and out of there as quickly as possible with no trouble. The Gang of Four was still active at that time and China was quite divided, one area might be moderate, another quite radical They made us go see Dazhai, the site of the ``Agricultural Miracle'', and the Red Flag canal where they showed us movies of men hanging on ropes to dig this canal in the face of a cliff. It was supposedly built to bring water to this area which had had only one well before—a well owned by an ``evil landlord'', of course.
La Piana: So you basically had to give up control over what you could see and do.
Dernberger: We had no control over it at all. They briefed us on rural small-scale industry in Beijing and then sent us out to Dazhai and other model areas to see cornfields, i.e. agriculture, and we fought this, saying we had come to see rural small-scale industry. There was a lot of antagonism. There were other Americans who came to Dazhai, but they were mostly believers in leftwing causes. They wanted to get out there and help harvest the crops. We were a bunch of academics who wanted to see small-scale rural industry. At one time, the guide simply said to us ``Why don't you just shut up and listen.'' So this kept on and he finally took us to a cement plant. One of the problems was that our guide ran the brigade at Dazhai and 2,500 Chinese came through there every day to see this miracle. The story was that they had built these farms from hilly, clay soil with their bare hands, without asking for help from the government, like true socialists. That was the story they wanted to tell, and we didn't care to hear it, we could read the story back in the States. (After Mao's death, the Communists admitted that the Dazhai story was a hoax). We did get to the cement plant. The cement expert got into a long discussion with the Chinese cement plant manager and the latter agreed to give the American specialist a sample of cement from this plant. That didn't make our guide happy. The guide accused us of stealing the cement! Luckily we had enough sense to apologize and act humbled and humiliated and so the next day the guide was very agreeable, even asking us where we wanted to go. But on the way there he took us to a lovely spot where we sat and listened to another fellow lecture us on how evil America was. A beautiful site with waterfalls and flowers where we sat sipping tea and listening to the horrors of America.
La Piana: Did you get the feeling that they were telling these stories because they had been instructed to, or because they honestly wanted you to know how great their system was?
Dernberger: I don't know, but by the time we got there they had told their stories so many times to visitors, it was just part of their itinerary. Eventually they agreed to take us to small scale factories. But there they realized we meant business and changed their method of showing us the factories, so that we couldn't learn as much. After that we went down to Shanghai, which was a hotbed of the Gang of Four. Our host tried to make a deal with us: ``If you fellows behave yourselves here, when we get to the South I'll take you wherever you want to go, but please control yourselves here.'' But we, of course, being typical Americans, couldn't control ourselves, and we did various things that here would be considered having fun, but there were seen as deadly serious. Arthur Stinchcombe, a sociologist from the University of Chicago, had a great sense of humor and he would write little essays during the trip, in particular one on China as ``the country where the second coming had already occured''; the Chinese didn't like it very much. He'd stay up all night trying to discover the perfect drink in China, and writing these humorous essays. One of the worst things we did was at a banquet where some very powerful people were present. It wouldn't have cost us anything to be nice to the nasty guys, but we had to get even with them. We made a point of toasting the people we'd met who had been moderate and nice to us, and not mentioning the radicals who hadn't. And we ended with a toast to the person who had impressed us the most—the cook. We took a bottle of liquor out to him in the kitchen. There was our return banquet after this one with the same powerful people. They made a point of standing out in the hall until an hour after the banquet was supposed to begin, a gesture which is the height of insult in China. From that time on I think we improved a bit. We were given a lecture by our host, and we saw that it really just hadn't been nice. We were young Americans. But we did write that book and it went through two printings and I believe is still available in bookstores. It's called Rural Small-scale Industry in China.
La Piana: I want to ask you one more question about your paper ``Capitalism in Bloom''. I know you are still revising it but I just thought you might expand on a few points. You write: ``The adoption of a capitalist system does not explain China's success'', and ``a major systemic explanation for the past record of growth of the East Asian capitalist economies is authoritarian governments getting the policies right''. In relation to these statements, can you talk a bit about where your thinking in economic theory is going?
Dernberger: There are elements that have become identified with capitalism that it's possible to have without having capitalism, such as markets and prices, for example. There are various elements of capitalism that are part of the explanation for China's success. There's no doubt about it. But what I'm objecting to is just calling these elements ``capitalism'' and attributing the success of East Asian economies to capitalism alone. Their success is due in large part to using those elements of capitalism along with a, well, authoritarian government, although it's not really an authoritarian government in the way we use this term. It's a government with the unity and the effectiveness to implement policies it wants to implement. A government that doesn't have to take these policies to the voters. That doesn't have to get a consensus solution. I'm talking about a form of government that doesn't have to look over its shoulder. Of course, it might have to worry about people revolting, but it's got a lot of leeway before it gets to that point. Unions aren't very powerful, and challenges to the government aren't very powerful, so it can effectively mobilize efforts to stimulate economic development. Now that's a very important aspect, along with the elements of capitalism. But the crucial thing is getting the policies right. The Chinese certainly mobilized and certainly implemented policies, but in the past they have really screwed things up over some of the things.
La Piana: In other words, the Chinese mobilized, they implemented, but they didn't always get the policies right.
Dernberger: They got them backward, half the time. With the ``Great Leap Forward'', for example, they nearly ruined things. But since the early 1970s, they've been doing much better job, although they are far from problem-free.
La Piana: It almost sounds like you're saying that an authoritarian government getting the policies right is likely to have more success than a democratic one, because of the authoritarian government's ability to implement and mobilize.
Dernberger: Yes, but you see the World Bank objects to this very much. For them it's really the basic principles of markets that matter, and all this attention to governments and their policies is really dangerous. It's true, they will admit, that Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, did happen to pursue very good policies, and therefore their economies worked very well. But the probability, in the view of the World Bank, is that the government won't adopt a good policy. You look around the world and governments don't have good policy. So in their eyes it's best to have capitalism and let the government stay out. But I think the miracle in Asia is not that it's just a normal capitalist development, but that the government was very active and the government intervened. In Japan the government has no qualms about intervening. We'd have to have 500 hearings, and many votes, before we could adopt and implement a simple policy solution to our problems, i.e., say, deficit reduction.
La Piana: The inefficiency of democracy.
Dernberger: Yes, and it's true that the Japanese got many things right. They also got some things wrong. The Japanese government at one time thought there would be just one automobile on the street. They thought they couldn't beat the Americans and there was no sense in putting a lot of resources into building automobiles. Well, you still had the markets out there, so the businessmen went out and built automobiles anyway, and proved the Japanese government wrong.
La Piana: So Japan is an example of how government involvement and interference in industry can actually improve its chances for success. But the World Bank would claim otherwise.
Dernberger: Yes, I think so. However, the World Bank has come to recognize that the Asians are different. It has finally admitted that. All along it has been saying that there's just one success story. And now it's accepting, for the first time, that there is an Asian success story that isn't an exact replica of marketization, privatization and all that stuff. But it loads that admission with so many warnings, saying, ``don't ever forget that there are many basic elements of capitalism already in place, and that it's unlikely that other governments will be able to follow the Asian model because they are likely to mess it up''. So the question is how did these people get it right? And my guess would be that they don't have the hang up that we do about government involvement in business.
At the end of this academic year, Robert Dernberger will retire as Professor of Economics. Beginning his career in the years when China was an avowed enemy of the U.S., the Cold War was at its height, and purges of Communists were not uncommon in American universities, Dernberger combined research on China with scholarship in economics. During the Korean War, when Dernberger was in his twenties, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and worked as a decoder of Chinese radio messages and an interpreter for Chinese prisoners of war. The exposure to Asian culture led to his decision, upon returning to the U.S., to enroll in Far Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan. He went on to receive an M.A. in Far Eastern Studies, an M.A. in Economics, and a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University. Dernberger is the author of numerous books and articles, including The Chinese: Adapting the Past, Facing the Future (1991), which he co-authored and co-edited with Kenneth Dewoskin, Steven Goldstein, Rhoads Murphey and Martin Whyte; Financing Asian Development: China and India (1988) (with Richard S. Eckaus); and the articles ``The Drive for Economic Modernization and Growth: Performance and Trend'', in China in the Era of Deng Xiaoping (1993), and ``The Chinese Economy in the New Era: Continuity and Change'', in Chinese Economic Policy: Economic Reform at Midstream (1989).