The Sound of One Hand Clapping: Transparency Without Accountability,” Environmental Politics, with Mengdi Liu and Bing Zhang, March 2018.

Does increasing government transparency in an authoritarian regime, absent electoral forms of accountability, change outcomes? The case of China, which has adopted a number of open governance and public information laws, is examined to see whether increased transparency by local environmental protection bureaus affects key environmental outcomes, specifically reductions in air and water pollution. Several unique environmental performance measurements, developed by the authors, are used to supplement standard government-reported measurements of environmental outcomes, and a widely used environmental transparency index (the PITI). By testing information that is newly supplied to the public, but already available to government, government and public monitoring are distinguished from one another, and the effect of public knowledge of government functions is tested. In the absence of a mechanism for the public to hold local government accountable, public transparency alone has no impact on outcomes other than information provision itself.

"From Tiananmen to Outsourcing: The Effect of Rising Import Competition on Congressional Voting Towards China," Journal of Contemporary China, with John Kuk and Jack Zhang, September 14, 2017.

Mounting import competition from China has increased unemployment in manufacturing and suppressed wages in local labor markets around the United States[1]. This article investigates the political effects of this China trade shock, using a unique dataset of the district-level economic impact of Chinese imports to the United States. The liberalization of trade following China’s accession to the World Trade Organization increased political polarization among American voters and encouraged legislators in economically hard-hit districts to take positions hostile to China. The result is that Congress is even more hostile towards China today than in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Massacre. After 2003, members of Congress representing districts more adversely impacted by import competition were more likely to vote against China, controlling for ideology and partisanship. By contrast, import competition was not a significant predictor of earlier congressional opposition to granting most-favored nation status to China (suggesting that voting on these crucial pieces of legislation was driven by non-economic concerns such as human rights). Far from being the political win-win its proponents envisioned, trade has eclipsed human rights and Taiwan as the main driver of hostility to China in Congress.

Under Review

"The Partisan Divide in U.S.-China Congressional Communications after the China Shock," with John Kuk and Jack Zhang.

The political consequences of trade competition are mitigated at the district-level by the strategic behavior of incumbent legislators and the constraints placed upon them by party affiliation. In this paper, we examine the partisan difference in congressional communication strategies on China and trade related issues. We find that, even though Chinese import competition impacted both Republican- and Democrat-held districts, Republican politicians responded by increasing their anti-China rhetoric, while there was no similar change in the Democrats with their more trade-skeptical baseline. Using press release data from members of Congress, we show that, among districts more exposed to Chinese imports, Republicans are more likely to blame China as the problem. But there is no difference between Republican and Democratic messaging on trade issues in general. Blaming the negative externalities of import competition on China rather than on trade policy has allowed Republican incumbents to continue to support their party's free trade platform without alienating their constituents. This explains why candidate Trump's protectionist message linking China and trade resonated with the Republican base much more so than proposals that were better grounded in economic complexities.

Selected Publications

"Energy in China," in PLANNING FOR INNOVATION; Understanding China’s Plans for Technological, Energy, Industrial, and Defense Development, a report prepared for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 2016.

The overall report covers defense, science and technology and energy. In the energy chapter, the main conclusion was  that domestic demand drives innovation in the energy sector. S&T efforts in the Chinese energy sector are framed in the context of the pursuit of indigenous innovation, which is the desire to localize production and intellectual property. The Chinese energy industry has been successful in areas such as coal-fired power plants where domestic demand is high. They have been less successful and have devoted fewer resources in areas where they have traditionally been relatively modest consumers, such as gas turbines. As energy demands shift, the Chinese energy sector is likely to seek greater intellectual property in the areas where they lag.

"China, the United States and the Climate Challenge," World Resources Institute Policy Brief, October 2009. With Robert Heilmayr, Xiaomei Tan and Lutz Weischer.