I am an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan.
How does development actually happen? Why are some nations able to make the dual transition–the Great Leap–from poor and weak to wealthy and modern? What shapes the ability of governments and societies to adapt at various stages of development?
Intuitively, we may all agree that development is a complex process, that is, dynamic, non-linear, and multi-dimensional. Yet our existing theories and tools are not generally designed to capture this essential reality. The broad goal of my research is to deepen our understanding of development as a complex process. Empirically, I focus on developing countries and emerging markets, particularly China.
My research program comprises three interconnected themes:
- how markets emerge in the absence of good governance and state capacity;
- the underlying conditions that enable effective adaptation;
- the interactive relationship between corruption and economic prosperity.
My book, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Political Economy, 2016), examines all three themes within a unified framework and lays the foundation for my research agenda. It won the 2017 Peter Katzenstein Book Prize for “outstanding first book in international relations, comparative politics, or political economy.” It has been reviewed at the World Bank, Straits Times, Foreign Affairs, Harvard’s Building State Capability Blog, and other outlets.
My work has received awards and support from various institutions. I received two Early Career Fellowships from the Andrew Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). The UM Department of Political Science awarded me the Eldersveld Prize for outstanding research contributions. I won the Next Horizons Essay Contest on “The Future of Development Assistance,” sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. My essay on promoting localized solutions among aid agencies draws on ideas from my book.
I am named a Public Intellectuals Fellow by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. I am also a Fellow of the East Asian Institute‘s Program on Peace, Governance & Development, based in Seoul.
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.