Broadly described, my research interests lie in the political economy of transition and emerging economies. My current research area focuses on China. Despite inadequately protection of private property rights and weak rule of law, China has nonetheless sustained strong economic growth over three decades. China's economic development drives my research to tackle a big puzzle: What is it that China seems to be doing right? My current research deals with this puzzle from the perspective of China's land reform.
"Land for Welfare in China"
This paper investigates why local politicians are incentivized to provide social welfare benefits to villagers. I identify a connection between land and rural social welfare provision: welfare benefits are provided to land-losing villagers to compensate their land’s insurance function and thereby ease land confiscation. Moreover, the substantive subnational variation in welfare provision is partially determined by the interplay between central and local governments. Local governments that are permitted to expropriate additional land beyond quotas have an incentive to provide welfare benefits to signal to the central government that they take care of villagers, particularly villagers who lose land. I develop these arguments through comparative case studies as well as multilevel analysis combining the 2008 China Survey of individual households and an original dataset of 59 municipalities.
"Local Determinants of Economic Structure: Evidence from Land Quota Allocation in China"
This paper examines the impact of land on the relationship between local governments and local industry. It identifies the political and economic driving forces of how local politicians allocate land quotas between the industrial and service sectors. I argue that both the local revenue structure and the time horizon of local politicians affect the sectoral allocation of land quotas. Revenue contributions from the industrial sector differ systematically from the service sector: the former generates a steadier tax revenue stream in the long run but less one-time land revenue than the latter. Using an original dataset of a sample of 120 municipalities, I show that local politicians allocate more land quotas to the industrial sector when the local tax base relies more on value-added tax and less on business tax and when they have long time horizons.
"'Flying Land': Intergovernmental Cooperation in Local Economic Development in China"
This paper highlights a widespread but largely overlooked phenomenon of land quota transfers across jurisdictions, referred to as "flying land." Variation in land endowments, interacting with the level of local economic development, leads to variation in the cost of fulfilling land quota requirements. Such variation encourages local governments to cooperate with one another to transfer land quotas from land-abundant localities to land-scarce localities. While the mainstream literature recognizes that competition across jurisdictions promotes economic growth, I show that cooperation emerges between jurisdictions with different economic profiles, once land is taken into account.
Review of Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics, by Yasheng Huang. Journal of Chinese Political Science, vol. 17, no. 2 (2012): 215-216.