Peer-reviewed publications


More than Peripheral: How Provinces Influence China’s Foreign Policy,” The China Quarterly (September 2018).

Most analyses of China’s foreign and security policies treat China as a unitary actor, assuming a cohesive grand strategy articulated by Beijing. I challenge this conventional wisdom, showing how Chinese provinces can affect the formulation and implementation of foreign policy. This contributes to existing research on the role of subnational actors in China, which has focused on how they shape domestic and economic policies. Using Hainan and Yunnan as case studies, I identify three mechanisms of provincial influence – trailblazing, carpetbagging, and resisting – and illustrate them with examples of key provincial policies. This analysis provides a more nuanced argument than is commonly found in international relations for the motivations behind evolving and increasingly activist Chinese foreign policy. It also has important policy implications for understanding and responding to Chinese behaviour, in the South China Sea and beyond.

Comparing Japanese and South Korean Strategies toward China and the United States: All Politics is Local,” Asian Survey 55:6 (November/December 2015).

Japan and South Korea have had differing patterns of responding to China’s rise and aligning with the United States. This can be explained by shifting threat perceptions based on interactions between evolving systemic and local threats, from both China and North Korea, as well as their relative degrees of imminence.

Managing Small Allies Amidst Patron-Adversary Rapprochement: A Tale of Two Koreas,” Asian Security, published online Dec 10, 2018.

What explains variation in how a patron manages its existing alliance with a client state when improving relations with an adversary? I theorize that the patron’s alliance management strategy is influenced by the client’s degree of bargaining power over its patron. Bargaining power derives from the availability of an outside option. Using archival and interview evidence, I show variation in alliance bargaining dynamics during U.S.-China rapprochement. While the United States was dismissive toward South Korea, China was highly placating toward North Korea, making concessions and providing compensation. However, China became more dismissive during Sino-South Korean normalization, when North Korea’s bargaining power decreased. The findings have important policy implications for understanding how a patron could simultaneously manage alliance and adversary relationships.

Working Papers

Authoritarian Environmental Federalism(under review, with Meir Alkon)

We develop a theory to explain the persistence of tensions between decentralized delegation and centralized control of environmental governance in authoritarian regimes. Benefits of decentralization - information, competition, and economic efficiency - conflict with goals of policy harmonization and management of inter-jurisdictional externalities. These persistent tensions between different levels of governance generate a de facto federalism, distinct from traditional models of formally-defined, de jure power-sharing. We test our theory of authoritarian environmental federalism using the case of China's power sector, drawing on evidence from primary source documents, field interviews, and multiple data sources on the development and distribution of generating capacity. The trajectories of coal-fired power and the integration of renewables into China's power sector have substantial implications for both domestic air pollution and for global climate change. This research has theoretical relevance for understanding environmental politics and governance in autocracies, and practical relevance for understanding China's environmental and energy policies.