My research focuses on institutional changes in China’s state-market nexus and I am deeply committed to a research agenda that bridges theories of comparative political economy and area studies expertise on China. My past research studied the growing global presence of China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The conventional wisdom on Chinese SOEs’ overseas expansion has argued that economic considerations and international security are key factors. Yet the existing studies oversimplify the power relationship between the state and the market in the post-corporatization era, reducing it to an either/or debate. I employed the principal-agent model to demonstrate the negotiated nature of the state-SOE relationship in the process of implementing the “Going Out” strategy, focusing on the structure of managerial incentive at the micro-level. Because of the political ideology and social implications of public ownership, Chinese reformers are not ready to release SOEs from their political control. One of their core control mechanisms is the incorporation of SOE managers into the state cadre system, which usually ranks central SOE managers parallel to bureaucratic positions in central ministries. This personnel arrangement, however, gives agent SOE managers considerable bureaucratic leverage to negotiate with fragmented principal regulators. As a result, China’s fragmented bureaucracy has initiated the “Going Out” strategy but cannot accurately determine its course. My work on the global expansion of Chinese SOEs has appeared in World Development and Asian Survey.
Continuing to look at China’s state sector, my current research agenda has two related focuses — state capitalism in China and China’s capitalism from a comparative perspective. To understand Chinese state capitalism, the primary question I ask is: Among central SOEs, what explains the variations in state ownership across time and sectors? In exploring this question, I aim to provide an institutionalist explanation of the evolution of state capitalism in China, which is the main theme of my Chinese book manuscript. Continuing and building upon this theme, I examine the case of Chinese capitalism from a comparative perspective and seek to enrich the growing body of literature on the varieties of capitalism.
SELECTED PUBLICATIONS BY TOPIC
Chinese Political Economy
“The Dual Role of Cadres and Entrepreneurs in China: The Evolution of Managerial Leadership in State-Monopolized Industries,” co-authored with Chung-min Tsai, Asian Survey, Vol. 57, No. 6 (November/December 2017): 1058-1085.AS5706_04_Liou_and_Tsai
「中國國家資本主義：一個新的政治經濟學研究議程」，台灣政治學刊，第19卷第2期(2015)，頁41-80。(Chinese State Capitalism: A New Research Agenda for Political Economy,” Taiwanese Political Science Review, Vol. 19, No. 2 (December 2015): 41-80.)
Compared to other political-economic systems, state capitalism has been a competitive system in the global market since the global financial crisis in 2008. The relationship between state capitalism and China’s robust economic development has attracted attention from both academics and practitioners. Yet the review of the existing literature indicates that little work has been done to conceptualize related phenomena and provide a theoretical framework. On the one hand, while most scholars acknowledge that the political-economic system in China is not a socialist one, there is no consensus on the current system of Chinese political economy. On the other hand, even though studies characterize the Chinese political- economic system as state capitalism, they are inconsistent in defining and conceptualizing the term ‘Chinese state capitalism’. As such, it is hard to generate meaningful dialogue among researchers and to build a convincing conceptual framework. By exploring whether Chinese state capitalism exists and what constitutes Chinese state capitalism, this article argues that researchers should engage in the study of Chinese state capitalism from the perspective of comparative capitalism, by which the state- market interactions in China can be generalized. In so doing, researchers of Chinese state capitalism will be able to draw meaningful comparisons with other state capitalist systems and contribute to the field of comparative politics.
“Rent Seeking at Home, Capturing Market Share Abroad: The Domestic Determinants of the Transnationalization of China State Construction Engineering Corporation,” World Development, Vol. 54, No. 2 (February 2014): 220-231.
How do the Chinese central state and central state-owned construction enterprises interact with one another as China’s overseas contracting unfolds in the post-corporatization period? Building upon a neo-institutional analysis of the principal-agent relationship, this article finds that contrary to most of the accusations leveled against the global outreach of Chinese SOEs, state-backed transnationalization is by no means state-dominated. SOE managers’ continuous bureaucratic ties enable the firm to navigate through China’s gigantic but fragmented bureaucracy in favor of corporate commercial interests, which reflects the negotiated nature of the state-SOE relationship in the course of transnationalization.
From the state-centered perspective, China’s hunt for foreign energy deals has generated increasing uneasiness in international relations. By exploring Chinese national oil companies’ overseas expansion, this study finds that Chinese bureaucratic fragmentation in the context of the state’s changing relationship with state-owned enterprises has greater impact on firms’ offshore ventures than the state-centered perspective contends.
Bureaucratic Politics and Chinese Political Institutions
With the theme “China Dreams: Opportunities and Challenges,” this book contributes to emerging debates on Chinese new leadership’s adaptability to important political, economic, social, and global issues. Can China’s political system sustain “China Dreams,” a slogan ushered by Chinese President Xi Jinpin? Does the fulfillment of “China Dreams” require political reform? Does the initiation of the agenda of “China Dreams” facilitate China’s economic transition? To what extent does “China Dreams” pave the way for China’s peaceful rise? By exploring the preceding questions, the essays by Lowell Dittmer, Thomas Gold, Victoria Tin-bor Hui, Chin-fu Hung, Scott L.Kastner, Huey-Lin Lee & Scott Y. Lin, Chih-shian Liou, Raviprasad Narayanan, Kellee S. Tsai, and Chung-min Tsai provide a comprehensive analysis of the agenda of China’s new leadership.
“Streamlining the Leviathan: The China Dream and Super-ministry Reform,” in Chih-shian Liou and Arthur S. Ding, eds., China Dreams: China’s New Leadership and Future Impacts (Singapore: World Scientific, 2015).
“Between Hierarchy and Market: Managerial Career Paths in China’s Energy Sector,” co- authored with Chung-min Tsai, in Chien-wen Kou and Xiaowei Zang, eds., Choosing China’s Leaders (London & New York: Routledge, 2013).