Yang Xiaokai (1948-2004) was born into a family that soon became part of the new “revolutionary” political elite in Hunan, where his father, Yang Dipu, became a member of the provincial Party Committee and his mother, Chen Su, was deputy head of the provincial trade union organization.
Although Yang Xiguang was a brilliant student and natural leader, his family fell afoul of the 1950s-60s political campaigns and came to a tragic end when accused of helping Yang as a Red Guard write an infamous “ultra-leftist” critique of the Party, “Whither China?” His mother committed suicide shortly after his imprisonment in 1968.
Upon release from prison ten years later, Yang changed his name back to “Xiaokai” to find employment in a printing factory, where he met his wife, Jean Wu Xiaojuan. Despite only auditing a smattering of courses at Hunan University, Yang joined the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing in 1980 and took a teaching position at Wuhan University in 1982. With a Ford Foundation fellowship, he then obtained a Ph.D. in economics at Princeton, with a post-doctoral appointment at Yale.
For 16 years after 1988, Yang taught economics at Monash University and earned an international reputation for his revision of classical economics theory on the division of labor, or specialization. Meanwhile, he lectured and wrote on the issues of structural reform in China, where he became well known as a champion of a decentralized, privatized economy.
During his last three years of struggling with lung cancer, Yang Xiaokai became a baptized Christian in 2002, strengthened his family relationships, and faced death without fear. In 2003, he wrote a second testimony centered on how his new biblical worldview had called into question his professional views on the value of modernization.
From Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity
His best-known work is 牛鬼蛇神录, literally 'A record of Bull Spirits and Snake Demons'