I am Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, with joint appointment at the Asian Institute and the Munk School of Global Affairs, where I currently serve as Director of Munk China Initiatives.


I was An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies in 2008-09.

I am an expert in the politics and political economy of China. I also have expertise in Southeast Asia, particularly Singapore and Malaysia, where I grew up. My research interests are authoritarian politics, contentious politics and the political economy of development.

My book, Prosper or Perish: Credit and Fiscal Systems in Rural China was published by Cornell University Press in 2012. It is the first book in the field to highlight the perils of mounting local government debt and non-sustainability of the “China model”. Written in the late 2000s, the book underscores many political-economic issues currently facing China, such as rising debt levels, and over-reliance on banking resources to finance local infrastructure spending.

My journal publications have appeared or are forthcoming in Perspectives on Politics, Comparative Politics, International Political Science Review, Political Studies, China Quarterly, China Journal, Journal of Contemporary Asia, among others.

My recent writings are on state control and citizen activism in China, specifically the government’s effort to maintain social stability. I am writing a series of articles on outsourcing of state repression by the Chinese government to market agents. For instance, see forthcoming articles in Perspectives on Politics and China Journal

My co-authored research forthcoming in Political Studies examines what drives people to protest in an authoritarian country, by drawing upon a nationally representative survey in China.

I am also undertaking a large project on protest and land politics in China, as part of the government’s effort to promote urbanization, which is one of the largest mankind has ever witnessed. I am also working on a comparative project on land politics in China and India. See forthcoming article in the Journal of Contemporary Asia.

My writing on urbanization in China has been featured in the New York Times and the Economist. My research on the concept of “thugs-for-hire” received attention from the New Yorker in 2014. My opinion pieces have appeared in a range of media outlets, including Foreign Affairs, Washington Post, New Mandala and East Asia Forum. I have been invited to give testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on China’s Banking System and Access to Credit”.

I received my PhD from the Australian National University and an MA in Development Economics from Sussex University in the UK.

My research is funded by Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Connaught, Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation, Association of Asian Studies, and International Centre for Tax and Development.

I am a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese. I am conversant in Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia, and Chinese dialects, namely Cantonese, Fujianese, and Foochow.