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 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 publications have appeared in Comparative Politics, International Political Science Review, China Quarterly, Journal of East Asian Studies, Asian Survey, among others.
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” has received attention from the New Yorker. My opinion pieces have appeared in a range of media outlets, including Foreign Affairs, Washington Post, 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”.
Currently I study contentious politics in China, specifically the government’s effort to maintain stability and exercise social control. I am also undertaking a large project on protest and land reform 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 reforms in China and India.
I received my PhD from the Australian National University, which has a long-standing history of training sinologists, and edits The China Journal, one of the leading journals in the field. I have 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.