I am an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. My research and teaching lies at the intersection of global development, China’s political economy, and adaptive processes of change. I specialize in China but am broadly interested in developing countries and emerging markets.
My work has two major goals. Departing from the conventional linear thinking (that is, either good governance leads to growth or vice versa), my first goal is to advance our understanding of development as a non-linear, adaptive, and complex process. This agenda is composed of three interconnected tasks:
- Study how some markets first emerge in the absence of good governance or state capacity, and then subsequently evolve
- Identify the right conditions for effective adaptation, or what I call “Complexity & Development 2.0.” (See talk here)
- Develop new methods for analyzing non-linear, adaptive processes, particularly integrating thick data & big data (see IBM award here)
My second focus is China’s growing role in global development. While the popular spotlight has been on Chinese export of capital and infrastructure overseas (such as the Belt-and-Road Initiative), I focus instead on China’s influence on ideas of development: How does China interpret its own development experience? What lessons can it offer other countries?
My book, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (Cornell University Press, 2016) lays the foundation for my research agenda. Winner of 2017 Peter Katzenstein Book Prize, it is described by the prize committee as “a field-shifting move to non-linear complex processes.” Elsewhere, Foreign Affairs named it “Best of Books 2017.” Please find reviews of the book at this link.
Apart from my scholarly work, I’ve written op-eds for The Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Project Syndicate, World Bank Governance Blog, and other outlets. Additionally, I have delivered more than 70 invited talks that include a variety of global development forums: World Bank, United Nations, DFID (UK Department of International Development), OECD Development Center, China’s Development Research Office & Center for International Knowledge of Development (State Council), Global Integrity, and more.
In 2018, I will be writing a second book on corruption and capitalism, funded by the Smith Richardson Foundation. This project extends on my first book and will feature a new cross-national survey that unbundles corruption.
A native of Singapore, I attended Colorado College and received my PhD from Stanford University. Prior to joining Michigan, I was on the faculty of Columbia University SIPA, where I taught political and economic development.
Recent Keynote Lectures
“Complexity & Development 2.0: The Potential Role of UNDP in Directing Improvisation,” United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Istanbul Development Dialogues (#IDD2018), April 3, 2018. | Link
“Learning How to Learn: The Relevance of China’s Development Experiences for Global Development,” International Seminar hosted by CIKD & DFID, Beijing, November 2017. | Link