Book Project
The Limits of Liberalization: Sub-National Government Autonomy and the Auto Industry in Post-WTO Era China

How does an emerging economy like China resolve the conflict between its long legacy of heavy state intervention with the strictures of the WTO? To what extent is the Chinese central government willing and able to create a rule-based economy? How effective are international agreements and multinational corporations in promoting liberalization in emerging economies such as China? What does this tell us about emerging economies’ level of compliance with international legal agreements amidst their fragmented economic structures?



Blown Away: How China Outsmarts WTO Rulings in the Wind Industry (Asian Survey 55:6, November/ December 2015) –PDF Version

Through a study of China’s wind turbine sector, I demonstrate how China liberally implements industrial policies and then removes them after the WTO disputes them—a strategy I characterize as “convenient compliance.” This strategy reflects Beijing’s realpolitik navigation through the WTO’s dispute resolution process rather than socialization to international norms.

Shifting Gears: Industrial Policy and Automotive Industry after the 2008 Financial Crisis (Business and Politics 16:4, December 2014, pp. 641-665) –PDF Version

Apart from being one of the hardest hit sectors during the 2008 financial crisis, the auto sector is also a prominent sector where emerging auto markets such as China have fared relatively well compared to their competitors in North America and Europe. This paper examines various ways that nations have shifted their policy gears to revive and restructure the automotive industry by using the case studies of the USA, France, and China. New sets of policy initiatives are contingent on particular industrial and institutional contexts, but both developed and developing countries have employed wide range of “murky” protectionist measures. This makes it unlikely for the WTO member countries to take a naming and shaming approach and file a case at the WTO level, which poses challenges to the WTO rules and trade liberalization.

Fragmented Liberalization in the Chinese Automotive Industry: The Political Logic behind Beijing Hyundai’s Success in the Chinese Market (The China Quarterly, Volume 216, December 2013, pp. 920-945)  –PDF Version

This paper explains the extraordinary rise of the Beijing Hyundai Motor Company (BHMC), a joint venture between a state-owned enterprise run by the Beijing Municipal government and Hyundai Motor Company. Within the span of three years, the BHMC soared to become China’s second-ranked automotive manufacturer in terms of units sold. I highlight the role of the Beijing Municipal government in creating favorable market conditions for the BHMC during its initial operation phase (2002–2005). The Beijing Municipal government selectively adopted protectionist measures and liberalizing measures to promote its locally based company. I characterize this practice as fragmented liberalization, a system through which sub-national governments discriminately apply WTO or Central government regulations to promote their local joint venture partner. In so doing, I also challenge the existing assumption that multinational companies are the drivers of economic liberalization, by showing Hyundai’s support for local protectionism and industrial policy at the sub-national level.

Convenient Compliance: How China’s Industrial Policy Stays Ahead of WTO Enforcement (Under review) 

Through case studies of China’s WTO trade disputes in the automobile and wind turbine sectors, I argue that China’s compliance with WTO rulings reflects Beijing’s skillful navigation through the WTO’s dispute-resolution process rather than socialization to international norms. China liberally implements industrial policies and removes them after they come into dispute at the WTO—strategies that I characterize as “convenient compliance.” By the time China removes the challenged measures, it often no longer needs them, since it has already achieved its goals and can still build up a reputation as a responsible WTO member by complying with the organization’s rulings. The dynamics of the global supply chain certainly complicate foreign business groups’ interests and countries’ domestic political calculations regarding trade disputes with China.

Book Chapters

Quiet transformation from the Bottom: Emerging Transnational Coalition of Non-state Actors in East Asia Community Building, The Future of East Asia, Edited by Peter Hayes and Chung-In Moon, Asia Today. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore 2018.  –PDF Version

If analyses of community-building efforts in Northeast Asia are fixated on the level of the nation-state and the central government, then one fails to capture the complex, transnational integration dynamics that are now vigorously at work in the region, contends Seung-Youn Oh in this chapter. Non-state actors—less constrained than national authorities by political tensions and historical legacies—are not only generating a new capacity for regional community-building, they are also strengthening existing forms of regional cooperation. Oh’s chapter explores how non-state actors in Northeast Asia in both individual countries and at the regional level serve as transnational constituencies and create regional networks to solve shared problems. Oh pays special attention to the networks and coalitions of non-state actors in China, Japan, and South Korea to assess the opportunities and challenges they face in overcoming the political and historical tensions in one of the least institutionalized regions in the world. Oh argues that issue-based and cross-border civil society collaboration has generated a new capacity for strengthening regional cooperation. In the face of pressing domestic developmental challenges in issue areas such as energy insecurity and environmental degradation, Oh examines how non-state actors are relevant to building a regional framework in Northeast Asia as both a normative and rational endeavor.

Writings for a Broader Audience

China’s Reform and Opening: 40 Years and Counting, The Diplomat, June Issue, 2018

Future Research
China’s Race to the Top: Upgrading the Industrial Structure in Coastal Provinces

As an extension of my academic interest in investigating the relationship between Chinese regional economic development and its global linkages, I seek to investigate how Chinese sub-national governments have fostered a race to the top and managed industrial upgrading in the economically developed coastal provinces. In a global era, both developed and emerging economies strive to increase the value-added of their industries. Yet, in contrast to efforts in developed countries, emerging economies like China face the daunting task of restructuring the extant low value-added Foreign Invested Enterprises (FIEs) that constitute the majority of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that they attracted in earlier developmental stages. By examining specific government strategies of advancing the lifecycle of FDI in China’s economically advanced coastal provinces, I hope to illuminate how a specific Chinese region has developed its relationship with the global economy, and how the varied ways of creating global-local linkages have affected regional economies’ ability to sustain economic development and the capacity of industrial upgrading.