I'm a Ph.D. candidate studying Chinese politics at the Harvard University Government Department. My research focuses on the politics of urban development and land property rights during China's rapid urbanization. By studying the relationship between local governments, developers, landholders, and government officials, I investigate the Chinese party-state's sprawling project to establish itself as the sole landlord of the country’s rapidly expanding cities. I argue that this "Landlord State" project, undergirded by a hope of extracting land rents to finance the government, was a case of state building. Unlike classic cases of state-building, reforms to the party-state's internal decision-making processes proved more successful than the imposition of direct rule in the countryside; implementation through economic incentives that leveraged extant distortions in the labor and capital markets likewise proved more successful than the use of blunt coercion. These new strategies proved especially successful at building up the state’s authority over businesses (real estate developers) and significantly less effective against common citizens (peasants and small scale urban property owners), a finding that sheds new light on state-society relations in China.
More broadly, I research municipal politics in China, with a particular interest in the role of leadership. I have nurtured this interest through the study of municipal development policies, government land sales, budgeting, and--last but not least--personnel assignments. Working with Chen Hao, Cheng Cheng, Wang Yuhua, and Xu Changxin, I have created a dataset of all officials who have served in leadership positions in Shanxi 山西 province since the founding of the Communist Party in 1921. So far, we have a dataset of over 70,000 distinct officials.
Along with Colleen Chiu-Shee, Nie Xuanyi, and Zhang Guanchi, I help organize the Urban China Workshop. Before COVID, we used to meet in person in Boston. Now we meet on Zoom, with speakers from around the world. You can join our mailing list here.