Research

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U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Lam Chi-fung, founding president of Hong Kong Baptist College, at the Baylor University commencement, May 1965.

I am a historian of China and the World. My research focuses on transnational commercial and educational circulations between China and the United States. In particular, my first two book projects examine Chinese elites’ adaptive relationships to American models of capitalism through the lens of higher education since the Second World War. This research agenda seeks to bridge the study of modern China with the history of capitalism, migration studies, and the Pacific World.

My first book is due out from Columbia University Press in September 2020. Entitled Made in Hong Kong: Transpacific Networks and a New History of Globalization, the book offers new explanations for both Hong Kong’s phenomenal economic development during the Cold War and the rapid growth in Sino-US trade since the 1970s. Drawing on extensive Chinese- and English-languages sources from Hong Kong, China, the United States, and the United Kingdom, I argue that Hong Kong went from rags to riches, not as a ‘tiger’ economy or a British colony, but because its elite Chinese capitalists developed instrumental commercial and educational relationships with the United States as it claimed global leadership. In turn, when Deng Xiaoping accelerated China’s economic reforms after 1978, Hong Kong’s US-educated elites became uniquely positioned to shepherd the mainland’s re-entry into global capitalism as a top US trading partner. By historicizing China’s export-driven development through Hong Kong’s networks, my work thus positions Hong Kong as the linchpin in a process that remade both China and the United States.

I am also now researching and writing my second book project: the first history of “scientific management” across the twentieth-century Sinophone world. This project begins by examining the introduction of Taylorism into China and other experiments with industrial management during the Republican era (1911-1949). It tracks how these ideas then evolved during the Cold War under both the PRC’s state socialism and in overseas capitalist communities such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. It concludes by examining the creation of the first MBA programs in China during the 1980s and 1990s. Please contact me to learn more.

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