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Research

Academic Publications & Working Papers

“Dual Mandates in Chinese Congresses: Information and Cooptation,” with Melanie Manion and Hongshen Zhu, Issues & Studies, 58 (1), March 2022.

Survey data suggest that a high proportion of Chinese congress delegates sit concurrently in two or more congresses. While dual mandates are not unusual in democracies, the literature has failed to notice their existence in China, let alone theorize or analyze them. We turn to the political science literature on assemblies under authoritarianism to guide our analysis of survey data for 3,008 county congress delegates, half of whom are concurrent ones. We show that dual mandates amplify some voices and not others in ways consistent with two perspectives in the literature. Dual mandates amplify information from citizens at the grassroots upward toward governments: More delegates with deep community roots representing poor, rural, remote districts sit concurrently in county and lower-level congresses. Dual mandates also coopt influential groups posing a potential challenge to ruling party power: They amplify the influence of private entrepreneurs, more of whom sit concurrently in county and prestigious higher-level congresses.

“Taking a Chance on China: African Student-Entrepreneurs in Greater Zhejiang Province,” Global Networks, 2024. 

Driven by macro-level investment and strategic competition, engagement between China and African countries has expanded significantly in recent years, giving rise to increased migration flows between the two regions. Wary of Beijing's growing influence on the continent, Western scholarship and media often portray China as extractive and neo-colonialist, whereas Africa and Africans are depicted as passive and lacking agency. This study examines an important yet understudied group operating at the crux of contemporary Sino–African relations that challenges these assumptions: young, African student-entrepreneurs studying and working in China. Drawing on data from 10 months of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with African student-traders, as well as Chinese university administrators, students, and officials, this study finds that African student-traders have developed a set of strategies that allow them to navigate, exploit and reconfigure Chinese structures as they pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations, suggesting that the Sino–African relationship is far from one-sided.

“Crisis and Correction: Do Government Rectification Efforts Restore Citizen Trust After Governance Failure?,” with Melanie Manion and Hongshen Zhu, Revise and Resubmit, Political Behavior.

In a substantial literature on trust in government, the impact on trust of governance crises and government efforts to fix its mistakes is understudied and unmeasured. We analyze a cycle of crises and contribute a theory of heterogeneous response to correction efforts. We study this in China, an authoritarian state with high trust in government. We leverage the occurrence of two exogenous shocks—a vaccine crisis and a subsequent government correction effort—with administration of a face-to-face, nationally representative survey in 2018. We theorize that response to government correction efforts depends on prior exposure to similar governance failures. Using days from the crisis as an instrument, we find that: (1) the more salient the crisis, the lower the trust in government; and (2) government correction increases trust for citizens experiencing the 2018 crisis as an isolated occurrence but not for those who experienced a similar crisis and correction in 2016.

“Protest and Repression in China’s Digital Surveillance State,” Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Information Technology and Politics.

State Repression and Selective Violence: Communal Canteens and the 'Collective' Memory of China's Great Famine,” Revise and Resubmit, China Quarterly. 

Mao’s violent collectivization and forced labor campaigns during China’s Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) led to the deaths of as many as 45 million people in what is widely regarded as the worst famine in human history. Drawing on a corpus of over 300 interviews with survivors of the Famine, I use a mixed-methods approach to examine the impact of mass state violence on how people speak about a repressive state that remains in power. Exploiting variation in county-level mortality rates, I find that exposure to state violence impacts how respondents recall their famine experiences: interviewees exposed to more intense levels of state violence do not voice more explicitly negative attitudes towards the state, but do express more implicitly negative attitudes. Furthermore, I use the establishment and subsequent dissolution of communal canteens—a key repressive institution in which the state functioned as the sole distributor of food during a time of extreme scarcity—as an analytical lever to show that while most people are not willing to express grievances directly against a state that perpetrated mass violence, they readily express both implicit and explicit negative political attitudes in the context of a long-dead institution.

Never Meet Your Heroes: Community Policing in Contemporary China,” with Hongshen Zhu, Under Review.

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