1. Strongmen Regimes

Why does Chinese capital—foreign direct investments (FDI), development finance, and other forms of financial inflows—progress in some regimes but stagnate in others? My dissertation examines Chinese capital in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia from the early 2000s to the present. At the turn of the century, these three states had modest economic relations with China. However, since the establishment of Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines (2016-), Najib Razak’s Malaysia (2009-2018), and Jokowi “Joko” Widodo’s Indonesia (2014-), Chinese capital has surged across these states. What explains the recent increase of Chinese capital in these countries? Using an original dataset on elite competition, intensive field research across provinces, and interviews with Chinese investors, host state elites, and civil society organizations, my dissertation explores the political determinants and social foundations of Chinese capital in the developing world.

2. Narratives of Chinese Capitals

In recent years, the amount Chinese foreign direct investment, equity, and development finance has surged worldwide. There are two prevailing narratives regarding how Chinese capital is perceived today. On one hand, an analysis of most international and local newspapers in the Global South reveals the singular racialization of Chinese capital, describing it as state-driven, authoritarian, communist, corrosive, and geopolitically dangerous. Specifically, Chinese firms, investors, and workers are often negatively singled out from their western and Asian counterparts. While specific aspects of Chinese capital do deviate from other countries, other aspects that converge with global trends suffer still suffer from racialization. Furthermore, when global or other types of capital conduct similarly unfair practices, these behaviors are often reinterpreted to take the blame away. On the other, a countervailing trend has emerged, which is the “developmentalization” of Chinese capital that links Chinese capital to productivity, pragmatism, or efficiency. A rhetoric from pro-China think tanks, organizations, and elites, this developmentalization enables host country leaders to justify relations and deals with China due to the imaginary associated with China’s rise. In both situations, Chinese capital is met with competing but generally essentializing constructions while those seen as global capital, like American, European, and Japanese capital, are not only not racialized based upon national characteristics but even described as “pure market capitalism.”

3. The Political Economy of Development

I analyze the incorporation of the Southeast Asian states in the global political economy. My work looks at the economic trajectories and political direction of Southeast Asian states, examining online gambling, mining, and industrial parks.  Specific projects examine the impact of colonialism, the role of patron-client relations, and the social foundations of foreign capital inflows.