Research

strongleader2

Research Agenda

How do countries in the Global South pursue development goals in the context of China's rise?

1. How do Chinese state and non-state actors economically and politically engage with the Global South?
2. How do host country elites pursue and manage their ambitions in this new global context?
3. What are the environmental and climate implications of Chinese capital?

Book Project: The "Strong Leader" Trap

My book project, “The ‘Strong Leader’ Trap: The Unintended Consequence of China’s Global Investment Strategy,” examines how the Chinese state (hereafter, China) pursues and protects its commercial interest in risky environments. I suggest that the preexisting strategies established by the West and Japan, particularly shaping institutions, using international organizations, or establishing national strategic coordination with firms, to protect their commercial interests abroad do not apply to China. To protect the investments and activities of their firms, I argue that China seeks and befriends strong leaders, defined as those who are willing and capable of using violence to constrain mobilization, circumvent institutional checks, and hold significant elite-mass support. Through major foreign direct investment (FDI) and development finance projects, China tries to win over these ‘strong leaders’ in hopes of securing the protection of Chinese firms. However, there is a disconnect between the perceived and actual strength of the leader. Depending on the gap of both strengths, there are four possible outcomes that could to significant political and social costs for China. These outcomes are cancellation, pushback, missed opportunities, and inaction. The dissertation is built on in-depth elite interviews with Southeast Asian politicians, oligarchs, Chinese policy elites, firm representatives, and political brokers in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia countries. Since 2017, I have done extensive fieldwork in the three countries, conducting long-term visits in provinces and project sites. Additionally, I also interviewed country experts across Southeast Asia, analyzing whether or not elite and experts’ assessments matched one another.

Select Academic Publications

Academic Publications List

Peer Reviewed Articles

Forthcoming

“Chinese Capital as a Cultural Object: Self-Identification and Filipino-Chinese Discourses on Sinicization, Brokerage, and Distinction.” Translocal Chinese: East Asian Perspectives.

2021

“How Chinese firms approach investment risk: strong leaders, cancellation, and pushback.” Review of International Political Economy.
 
“The unintended consequences of national regulations: Large-scale-small-scale relations in Philippine and Indonesian nickel mining.” Resources Policy.
 
“The Politics of Public Private Partnerships: State-Capital Relations and Spatial Fixes in Indonesia and the Philippines,” with Trissia Wijaya, Territory, Politics, and Governance.
 
“Strongmen Politics and Investment Flows: China's Investments in Malaysia and the Philippines,” with Terence Gomez, Richard Khaw, and Cheong Kee-Cheok.” 1-23, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy.
 
“Sinews of Politics: State Grid Corporation of China, Investment Coalitions, and Embeddedness in the Philippines,” 35, 100640, Energy Strategy Review.
 
“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. Vol. 66, No. 1: 243–267 (Published online March 24 2020).

2020

“Chinese Workers and their “Linguistic Labour”: Philippine Online Gambling and Zambian Onsite Casinos,” with Hangwei Li. China Perspectives. No. 2020/4: 39-47.
 
“Between Economic and Social Exclusions: Chinese Online Gambling Capital in the Philippines,” Made in China. 5(2): 209-217.
 
“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. 30 (5): 239-251.
 
“From the Postwar era to Intensified Chinese Intervention: Variegated Extractive Regimes in the Philippines and Indonesia,” with Angela Tritto and Mary Silaban. The Extractive Industries and Society (EXIS) (7), 1054-1065.
 
“The Sino-Centric Capital Export Regime: State-Backed and Flexible Capital in the Philippines,” Development and Change. 51 (4): 970-998.

Winner

2021 Terence K. Hopkins Best Graduate Student Paper Award, American Sociological Association’s Section on the Political Economy of the World-Systems.

2019

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

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.

2016

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

Honorable Mention

2016 Publication Recognition Award for Postdoctoral and Graduate Students, Critical Realism Network.

2015

“From Colonialism to Neoliberalism: Critical Reflections on Philippine Mining in the Long Twentieth Century,” The Extractive Industries and Society (EXIS) 2(2), 287-301.

Winner

2018 Sociology Open Access Recognition. SocArXiv.
 
2018 The Szymanski-Young Graduate Student Paper Award, American Sociological Association’s Section on Marxist Sociology.

Honorable Mention

2016 Terence K. Hopkins Best Graduate Student Paper Award, American Sociological Association’s Section on the Political Economy of World-Systems (PEWS).

Working Papers & Other Writings

2020

“Derailing Development: Financial Coalitions and Chinese Railway Investments in Southeast Asia.” GCI Working Paper 008, 01/2020.

2017

“The Contentious Politics of Capital: The Political Economy of Chinese Investments in the Philippines.”

Winner

2021 Elise Boulding Student Paper Award, American Sociological Association’s Section on Peace, War, and Social Conflict.

Honorable Mention

2018 Best Graduate Student Paper Award, American Sociological Association’s Section on the Sociology of Development

Book Chapters

Forthcoming

“Tracking Foreign-Funded Projects and Investments” with Jerik Cruz in Karol Ilagan, Investigating Contracts: A Reporter’s Guide. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
 
“The Political Economy of the Philippines during the Spanish Colonial Regime” with Maria Isabel Aguilar in Hans-Jürgen Burchardt and Johanna Leinius, (Post-)colonial archipelagos – Comparing the legacies of Spanish colonialism in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Germany. University of Michigan Press.

2019

“Accumulation at the Margins: Mineral Brokerage and Chinese Investments in Philippine Mining” in P. Aulakh and P. Kelly, Mobilities of Labour and Capital in Asia. Cambridge University Press.

2018

“China, Africa, and Global Economic Transformation,” with Ho-fung Hung in C. Alden and D. Large, editors, New Directions in the Study of Africa and China, Social Science Research Council. London: Routledge.
 
“The Politics of Resistance in the Neoliberal Mining Regime,” in Goldthau, A., Keating, Michael, and Caroline Kuzemko, editors, Handbook of International Political Economy of Energy and Resources.
 
“Hong Kong as an Intermediary of China and Southeast Asia,” in T.W. Lim and T.Y. Kong, editors, Hong Kong in 2017: Two Decades of Post-1997. Singapore: World Scientific.

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).

2016

“Neoliberalism, Resource Governance and the Everyday Politics of Protests in the Philippines,” 49-71, with Jewellord Nem Singh, in J. Elias and L. Rethal, editors, The Everyday Political Economy of Southeast Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University PreBetween Economic and Social Exclusions Chinese Online Gambling Capital in the Philippines.

Select Non-Academic Publications

Non-Academic Publications List

Think Tank Research Reports

2021

“How Duterte Strong-Armed Chinese Dam-Builders But Weakened Philippine Institutions,” in China Local/Global Series, Carnegie Endowment For International Peace.

2019

“Chinese FDI in the Philippines: An Examination of Two Industries – Online Gambling and Energy,” in Mitigating Governance Risk from Investments in Southeast Asia: A Study of Chinese Capital Flows in Eight Countries. NED – Center for Integrated and Private Enterprises (CIPE).
 
“The Politics of Mineral Investments in the Philippines and Indonesia,” with Mary Silaban. Occasional Papers Series, Stratbase- Alberto Del Rosario Institute (ADRI) for Strategic and International Studies. 1-18.

2018

“Varieties of Capital: The Direction, Patterns, and Implications of Chinese Foreign Direct Investment in the Philippines.” Occasional Paper Series, Stratbase-Alberto Del Rosario Institute a (ADRI) for Strategic and International Studies. 1-15

2017

“China’s Port Acquisitions in Sri Lanka and Djibouti: Lessons on Chinese Developmental Financing for the Philippines.” Third Quarter SPARK, Stratbase-Alberto Del Rosario Institute (ADRI) for Strategic and International Studies. 1-20.

2016

“Contentious Capital: The Political Economy of Chinese Investments in the Philippines.” Occasional Paper Series, Stratbase-Alberto Del Rosario Institute (ADRI) for Strategic and International Studies. 1-16.

Op-Eds & Policy Briefs

2021

“Two of China’s Belt and Road Projects reveal a flaw in the G7’s new globalfinancing plan.” Washington Post, June 29.
 
“Roundtable: Will the G7’s B3W Initiative change the game of global infrastructure development?” Panda Paw Dragon Claw, June 29.
 
“Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park: how industrial policy reshapes Chinese investment and corporate alliances” Panda Paw Dragon Claw, January 16.

2020

“Chinese Power After Covid-19: The Ramifications of Pro- andCountercyclical Growth in the Philippines.” Analyzing War, September 2.
 
“Chinese investment in Southeast Asia is nothing to fear” with Guanie Lim, Nikkei Asian Review.
 
“Illicit Capital & Labor Inflows: Chinese Online Gambling in the Philippines.” Business & Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC). Chinese translation here.

2019

“The Varieties of Chinese Capital in the Developing World” Policy Brief, Sociology of Development, Volume 1, Number 2.
 
“Where is China money going? Gambling, real estate, tours, big cities big winners” Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), May 9.
 
“The ABC’s of Chinese State-Backed Finance, Foreign Direct Investments” with Stella Zhang, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), May 9.
 
“Inside a Chinese gambling entity: What happens, who works, how” Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), May 9.
 
“China Money: How the Numbers Differ”, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), May 9.
 
“The Politics of Vexed Capital: China’s Railway Projects in Southeast Asia” Panda Paw Dragon Claw (PPDC), April 27.
 
“The Belt and Road: the good, the bad, and the mixed” The Diplomat, Equal Co-authorship with Angela Tritto, April 15,
 
“The Philippines’ dilemma over Chinese capital,” East Asia Forum, Equal Co-authorship with Aaron Chan, March 19.
 
“Examining Belt and Road “Debt Trap” Controversies in the Philippines,” China Brief, Jamestown Foundation, January 19.

2018

“The Limits of Duterte’s China Policy,” Pacific Forum, Equal Co-authorship with Jeff Ordaniel, November 30.
 
“Why Is the Philippines the Home for Chinese Offshore Gambling?” The Diplomat, November 22.
 
“The Winners and Losers of Duterte’s China Play,” South China Morning Post (SCMP), September 30.
 
“China’s economic capital in the Philippines: Problems and prospects,” East by Southeast, August 22.
 
“Claims about China’s ‘missing’ US$24 billion border on yellow journalism“, East Asia Forum, August 20.
 
“What happened to the billions China pledged the Philippines? Not what you think.” South China Morning Post (SCMP), August 5.
 
“Myth-Busting Chinese FDI in the Philippines.” The Diplomat, July 19.
 
“Assessing Duterte’s China Investment Drive.” The Interpreter at the Lowy Institute, July 10.
 
“China’s Belt and Road Initiative Paved with Risks and Red Herrings.” equal co-authorship with Kuek Jia Yao, East Asia Forum, June 26.
 
“Understanding the Logic and Impact of Chinese Foreign Direct Investments in the Developing World.” Scholars Strategy Network, April 18.
 
“The Philippines Foreign Direct Investment Boom: Comparing China with the Rest.” Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation (APPPF), April 10.
 
“The Philippines’ Chinese investment boom: more politics than geopolitics,” New Mandala, January 30.
 
“The grand narratives of Chinese FDI aren’t’ so great after all” East Asia Forum, January 9.

2017

“Why did Chinese investment in the Philippines stagnate?” East Asia Forum, December 12.
 
“Fact-checking critics of Chinese Aid,” East Asia Forum, November 28.

Pre-Matriculation at the PhD Publications

2012

“Religion, Disasters, and Colonial Power in the Spanish Philippines in the 16th to the 17th century,” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture (JRNC), 6(3), 215-21.

2011

“Private-Led Suburbanization: Capital Accumulation and Real Estate Development in Post-War Greater Manila, 1945-1960,” Philippine Social Science Review (PSSR), 11(2), 1-29.

2010

“Diskurso ng Siyensiya: Kolonyal na Diskurso sa mga Sakuna Mula sa Panahon ng Instrumentasyon Tungo sa Panahon ng mga Amerikano,” Daluyan: Journal ng Wikang Pilipino, 16 (3), 119-131.

Non-Academic Appointments

Jan to Aug 2019

GCI Fellow, Global Development Policy Center (GDPC), Boston University

2019-prs

Fellow, Paramadina Institute for Public Policy, Indonesia

2018-prs

Non-Resident Fellow, Stratbase-ADR Institute (ADRI), Makati City, Philippines

2017-2020

Research Affiliate, Middle East Institute (MEI), National University of Singapore

New Projects

Illicit Capital

Ongoing/Future Research

This project uses the term “illicit capital” (used as flexible capital previously) to explain the surge of Chinese capital into seemingly unprofitable sectors. The International Monetary Fund defines illicit capital as the illegal movement of financial flows through money laundering, the financing of and profits from criminal activities, or phantom FDI...

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South China Sea and Capital Inflows

Ongoing/Future Research

How do territorial disputes affect bilateral foreign direct investment (FDI) between claimant states? Territorial disputes, defined as inter-state conflict over the allocation of sovereignty over a territory or the distribution of resources in a common resource pool, are still frequent occurrences in global politics...

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Cement-Steel-Infrastructure Interface

Ongoing/Future Research

Working with Kelly Gallagher and Amy Jaffe at the Climate Policy Lab at Tufts University, I am examining the “cement-steel-infrastructure” interface of the Belt and Road Initiative...

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