1. Elite Conflict around New Capital

My current PhD research examines how do the developing world’s political and economic elites react to the changes in the global political economy, particularly the surge of new capital with far less restraints.

Democratic governments are safeguarded by an independent authority to facilitate decisions and a procedure to oversee proper political transition. However, how do elites react to new capital that can readily be used to bypass these safeguards and reinforce their own positions?  As a major subset of new capital in the developing world, I examine how democratic and would-be authoritarian leaders use Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI), aid, and other financial inflows to construct what I preliminarily call “strongmen regimes.” Examining Rodrigo Duterte (2016-), Najib Razak (2009-2018), and Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s (2014-) administrations, I argue that the surge of Chinese capital enables politically popular yet limited regimes to bolster their performance-based legitimacy and constrain inter-elite conflict. By rigging, stacking, and circumventing, these regimes hijack Chinese capital inflows in order to strengthen their own cronies, reemebed the state’s role in the economy, and constrain the opposition. However, using Chinese capital also engenders an opposition that may topple these regimes eventually, leading to new forms of elite splits centered around Chinese capital.

Earlier works on the subject explored the development influences as well as the political-economic determinants of Chinese FDI, particularly territorial disputes and levels of state capacity:

2020. “The Sino-Centric Capital Export Regime: State-Backed and Flexible Capital in the Philippines,” Development and Change. Forthcoming.

2020. “How do Investors respond to Territorial Disputes? Evidence from the South China Sea and Implications on Philippine Economic Strategy,” with Janica Magat. The Singapore Economic Review.  Forthcoming.

2017. “Inter-State Relations and State Capacity: The Rise and Fall of Chinese Foreign Direct Investments in the Philippines,” Palgrave Communications, 3 (41), 1-19.

2. Illicit Capital and Offshore Financial Centers

My post-PhD plans aims to examine what I call “illicit capital,” which focuses on  the dyad of Chinese foreign  direct investment (FDI) in the Philippines as a strategic case. The broader project further explores the dynamics, mechanisms, and implications of illicit capital.

Datasets on Chinese FDI tend to be limited. On one hand, international datasets sometimes erroneously conflate Chinese FDI with construction contracts or aid. On the other, Chinese government datasets separate the FDI of Hong Kong and China. However, both datasets ultimately disguise the global total amount of Chinese FDI, finding spurious relationships based on incomplete data. I argue that the controversy about Chinese “FDI” derives from the reliance on the balance of payments (BOP) system. Here, contemporary emergence of offshore financial centers (OFCs), such as Hong Kong, Cayman Islands, and Isle of Man, which has received estimated worth of 75% of Chinese FDI, makes the reliance on the BOP system and thus, the method of recording FDI outdated. Therefore, in order to properly estimate Chinese FDI, this project leverages an originally generated dataset in the Philippines that could examine granularities that national-level aggregates otherwise cannot, finding sectoral and regional among other types of variation. I use the dataset to systematically trace whether or not Chinese nationals own OFC investments through a variety of tests and techniques, ranging from network analysis to telecom verification of firms in the Philippines. I focus on online gambling firms in the Philippines, which comprise the largest investors in Rodrigo Duterte’s (2016-) administration. 

Earlier works on the project explores illicit capital in Philippine mining:

2019. “Accumulation at the Margins: Mineral Brokerage and Chinese Investments in Philippine Mining” in P. Aulakh and P. Kelly, Asian Connections: Linking Mobility of Labor and Capital. Cambridge University Press. 

2017. “The Direction, Patterns, and Practices of Chinese Investments in Philippine Mining,” in J. Morris-Jung, editor, In China’s Backyard: Policies and Politics in China’s Resource Investments in Southeast Asia. Singapore: The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Press (ISEAS-Yusof Institute).

3. The Political Economy of Natural Resources

This project explores the political economy of natural resources, particularly it looks at the influx of global capital into the Philippines’ extractive industries. I examine how global economic forces are enabled by elites and constrained by non-elite actors in the developing world, the conditions under which inclusive or extractive institutions are built, and how local conditions feed into the global market. Previous works have examined the historical and contemporary dimensions of the theme, finding subnational variation of inclusive and extractive institutions across sectors, regions, and regimes. 

The first work below examined how global regulatory norms on socio-environmental responsibility, taxation, and good governance were embedded by civil society organizations. The three latter works studied how global economic forces built and profited from extractive institutions:

2020. “The Role of Domestic Policy Coalitions in Extractive Industries Governance: Disentangling the Politics of ‘Responsible Mining’ in the Philippines,”  with Jewellord Nem Singh. Environmental Policy and Governance. Forthcoming.

2019. “The Food Regime in Late Colonial Philippines: Pathways of Appropriation and Unpaid Work,” in Journal of Agrarian Change, 19: 101-121.

2016. “Philippine Mining Capitalism: The Changing Terrains of Struggle in the Neoliberal Mining Regime.” The Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 9(1), 69-86.

2015. “From Colonialism to Neoliberalism: Critical Reflections on Philippine Mining in the Long Twentieth Century,” The Extractive Industries and Society, 2(2), 287-30.