How China Escaped the Poverty Trap. Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Political Economy. 2016.


Domestic Flying Geese: Industrial Transfer and Delayed Policy Diffusion in China. Forthcoming.
The China Quarterly. pdf | ssrn


This study illuminates the important yet under-studied phenomenon of industrial transfer in China: the migration of capital and investment from wealthy coastal areas into poorer central and western provinces, beginning in the 2000s. By 2015, the value of domestic investment in five central provinces alone was 2.5 times that of foreign investment throughout China. Compared to the original “flying geese” model of tiered production in Asia, China’s experience is distinct in three ways: (1) industrial transfer occurred domestically, rather than across nations; (2) sub-national transfer followed cross-national transfer; and (3) capital migration is accompanied by a lagged diffusion of government policies. While coastal locales today resolve to expel low-end industries, inland governments cannot afford to be selective and have only recently adopted aggressive investment promotion tactics that coastal cities abandoned years ago. Policy diffusion is lagged, as policy adoption depends on economic conditions, which varies widely across China and changes over time.


摘要:本文旨在分析中国产业转移这一重要却未被深入研究的现象。该现象出现于21世纪初期,指资本与投资从发达的沿海地区向贫穷的中西部省份转移。2015年,仅中部五个省份吸引的国内投资就已经是全中国外国投资的2.5倍。与经典的亚洲“飞鹅模式”相比,中国独特的经验体现在以下三个方面:(1) 产业转移发生于国内,而非跨国;(2) 国内转移紧随国际转移的步伐;(3) 资本转移伴随着地方政府政策复制上的滞后。当现今沿海发达地区努力驱逐低端产业时,内陆省份地方政府却无法选择,最近已采纳了沿海地区多年前就已弃用的激进招商策略。换而言之,由于政策的采纳取决于地方经济条件,而中国各地经济条件差异很大,随着时间的推移变化,导致政策扩散滞后。



Beyond Weber: Conceptualizing an Alternative Ideal-Type of Bureaucracy in Developing Contexts. 2016 (online first).
Regulation & Governance. pdf | ssrn


The study of public administration in developing countries requires that we look beyond the Weberian model as the only ideal type of bureaucracy. When we assume that there exists only one gold standard of public administration, all other organizational forms that do not conform to the Weberian ideal are dismissed as corrupt or failed. Drawing on neo-institutional economics, I introduce an alternative ideal type of bureaucracy found in contemporary China. This model, which I call bureau-franchising, combines the hierarchical structure of bureaucracy with the high-powered incentives of franchising. In this system, public agencies can rightfully claim a share of income earned to finance and reward themselves, like entrepreneurial franchisees. Yet distinct from lawless corruption, this self-financing (or prebendal) behavior is sanctioned and even deliberately incentivized by state rules. Although such a model violates several Weberian tenets of “good” bureaucracy, it harnesses and regulates the high-powered incentives of prebendalism to ameliorate budgetary and capacity constraints that are common in developing countries like China.


Co-optation & Clientelism: Nested Distributive Politics in China’s Single-Party Dictatorship. 2016.
Studies in Comparative International Development. pdf | ssrn


What explains the persistent growth of public employment in reform-era China despite repeated and forceful downsizing campaigns? Why do some provinces retain more public employees and experience higher rates of bureaucratic expansion than others? Among electoral regimes, the creation and distribution of public jobs is typically attributed to the politics of vote buying and multi-party competition. Electoral factors, however, cannot explain the patterns observed in China’s single-party dictatorship. This study highlights two nested factors that influence public employment in China: party co-optation and personal clientelism. As a collective body, the ruling party seeks to co-opt restive ethnic minorities by expanding cadre recruitment in hinterland provinces. Within the party, individual elites seek to expand their own networks of power by appointing clients to office. The central government’s professed objective of streamlining bureaucracy is in conflict with the party’s co-optation goal and individual elites’ clientelist interest. As a result, the size of public employment has inflated during the reform period despite top-down mandates to downsize bureaucracy.”


Authoritarian Restraints on Online Activism Revisited: Why ‘I-Paid-A-Bribe’ Worked in India but Failed in China.
Comparative Politics. pdf | ssrn


Authoritarian states restrain online activism not only through repression and censorship, but also by indirectly weakening the ability of netizens to self-govern and constructively engage the state. I demonstrate this argument by comparing I-Paid-A-Bribe (IPAB) — a crowd-sourcing platform that collects anonymous reports of petty bribery — in India and China. Whereas IPAB originated and has thrived in India, a copycat effort in China fizzled out within months. Contrary to those who attribute China’s failed outcome only to repression, I find that even before authorities shut down IPAB, the sites were already plagued by internal organizational problems that were comparatively absent in India. The study tempers expectations about the revolutionary effects of new media in mobilizing contention and checking corruption in the absence of a strong civil society.

Course assignments

Prof. Kevin O’Brien, UC-Berkeley, Chinese Politics: New Voices and Issues for the 21st Century

Prof. Susan Whiting, University of Washington, The Chinese Political System

Prof. Jiangnan Zhu, University of Hong Kong, Corruption & Anti-Corruption in China

Prof. Nara Dillon, Harvard University, Comparing China and India

Prof. Jeremy Menchik, Boston University, People Power in Global Politics

Prof. Chih-shian Liou, National Taiwan University, Chinese Political Economy

Prof. Wang Juan, McGill University, Contemporary Chinese Politics

Prof. Jordan Gans-Morse, Northwestern University, Politics of Corruption

Prof. Nadine Sika, American University in Cairo, Political Activism and Social Movements in Comparative Perspective


Perverse Complementarity: Political Connections and the Use of Courts Among Private Firms in China. 2014 (with Nan JIA).
The Journal of Politics. pdf | ssrn


Using survey data of over 3,900 private firms in China, we examine whether – and how – political connections promote or undermine the use of formal legal institutions. We find that politically connected firms are more inclined than non-connected firms to use courts over informal avenues of dispute resolution. Furthermore, by comparing the effects of political connections on dispute resolution patterns across regional institutional environments, we find that “know-who” (political influence over adjudication) dominates “know-how” (knowledge of navigating courts) in linking political connections to the use of courts. Contrary to canonical theories that predict the declining significance of connections following the expansion of courts, our study suggests that informal networks and formal laws are more likely to share a relationship of perverse complementarity in transitional and authoritarian contexts. Political connections are positively linked to the use of legal procedures, and the primary mechanism behind the link is “know-who” over “know-how.”


Data | Do-file


Counting Cadres: A Comparative View of the Size of China’s Public Employment. 2012.
The China Quarterly. pdf | ssrn


Is China’s public bureaucracy overstaffed? To answer this basic question objectively, one needs to define public employment in the contemporary Chinese context; survey data sources available to measure public employment; and finally, compare China’s public employment size with that of other countries. Using a variety of new sources, this article performs all three tasks. It also goes further to clarify the variance between bianzhi (formally established posts) and actual staffing size, as well as other permutations of the bianzhi system, especially chaobian (exceeding the bianzhi). A key finding is that China’s net public employment per capita is not as large as often perceived; quite the contrary, it is one-third below the international mean. However, it is clear that the actual number of employees in the party-state bureaucracy has grown – and is still growing – steadily since reforms, despite repeated downsizing campaigns. Such expansion has been heavily concentrated at the sub-provincial levels and among shiye danwei (extra-bureaucracies).


Translated into Chinese and reprinted in Yanjiu Baogao (Peking University, 2014)

Reprinted in Critical Readings on the Communist Party of China (Brill, 2016)

Course assignments

Prof. Liu Peng, UM Ford School of Public Policy, Chinese Politics & Foreign Policy


Centralizing Treasury Management in China: The Rationale of the Central Reformers. 2009.
Public Administration & Development. pdf | ssrn


The Chinese central government, spearheaded by the Ministry of Finance, launched a bold reform of the treasury management system in 2001, centralizing the disbursement of budgetary funds. This article analyzes the rationale of institutional reform from the perspective of the central reformers. Traditionally, governmental bank accounts in China were fragmented between and within levels of government, hindering budget implementation and intergovernmental transfers, as well as fomenting corruption. The centerpiece of China’s treasury reform is the establishment of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), which serves to both strengthen expenditure controls and improve cash management. However, while the treasury reform promises to make significant strides in improving fiscal control and countering the misuse of public funds, its implementation remains imperfect and incomplete.


When Peasants Sue En Masse: Large Scale Collective Administrative Litigation in Rural China. 2005.
China: An International Journal. pdf | ssrn

Volume chapters

Directed Improvisation in Administrative Self-Financing. 2017.
In Zouping Revisited: Adaptive Governance in a Chinese County (eds. Oi & Goldstein). pdf | ssrn

Do Weberian Bureaucracies Lead to Markets or Vice Versa? A Coevolutionary Approach to Development. 2016.
In States in the Developing World (eds. Kohli, Yashar & Centeno). pdf | ssrn

prize-winning essay

Making Details Matter: How to Reform Aid Agencies to Generate Contextual Knowledge. 2014.
Winner of the Global Development Network/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Essay Contest on the Future of Development Assistance. pdf | ssrn

new projects

Combining Big Data and Thick Data to Improve Services Delivery.
Funded by the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

China’s Gilded Age: Explaining the Paradox of Economic Boom & Vast Corruption.
Funded by the Smith Richardson Foundation.