China Policy Turning Points


Samuel Tsoi,

Faculty Group Members:

Tai Ming Cheung, Associate Professor, GPS; director, UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation
Shu Chien, Director, Institute of Engineering In Medicine; Professor of Bioengineering, Jacobs School
Henrik Christensen, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Jacobs School; Director, Contextual Robotics Institute
Ruixue Jia, Assistant Professor of Economics, GPS
Shirley Meng, Associate Professor of NanoEngineering and Materials Science, Jacobs School
Richard Madsen, Distinguished Professor of Sociology; Director, Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China
Barry Naughton (lead), Sokwanlok Professor of Chinese International Affairs, GPS
Kwai Ng, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
Weiyi Shi, Assistant Professor, School of Global Policy & Strategy
Victor Shih, Associate Professor of Political Science, GPS
Susan Shirk, Research Professor of Political Science, GPS; Chair, 21st Century China Center
Molly Roberts, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
Yiqing Xu, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
Yuanyuan Zhou, Qualcomm Endowed Chair & Professor, Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering


The 21st Century is the Pacific Century, a time when the interaction of Asia and the Americas becomes the pivot point for global dynamics. Understanding China's multifaceted evolution – how its politics, economics, society, culture, and military develop – will be a critical factor in addressing pressing problems in the international system. Fluency and sophistication in analyzing Chinese text, data and policy documents will become increasingly important in the international arena as China broadens its reach in global institutions, cross-border investment and international alliances.

Leveraging the interdisciplinary strength of the UC San Diego faculty affiliated with the 21st Century China Center, the new faculty seminar group with the International Institute’s funding will further examine the major turning points in China’s domestic policies in several key areas, including science and innovation, industrial policy, energy and environment, population, internet regulation, media and information, land and migration, human rights, and trade and outbound investment, as well as the U.S. foreign policy towards China.

China Policy Turning Points is anchored by two recent projects by Professor Susan Shirk and Professor Barry Naughton. Prof. Barry Naughton’s article in the journal Research Policy published in September 2016, explains China’s shift in technology and innovation policy in China in 2003, as it returns to “techno-industrial policy” that involves direct government interventions to shape specific industrial sectors. Prof. Naughton’s research precisely documents the shift and shows that it occurred through two successive waves of policy change which has become increasingly institutionalized that resulted in a substantially more interventionist policy.

Examining this recent turning point allows for a greater knowledge of the economic and political frameworks in which policy formation, shifts and direction is undertaken in China, and how other countries might adopt the “China Model” in development. It also contributes to our substantive understanding of where China is going in several important policy domains that would affect its global competitiveness and its relationship with the United States. Forming a group that blends the strengthen of UC San Diego’s science and engineering fields and social sciences allows for dialogues that both illuminate the technological details of sectors in China’s political economy, as well as allow researchers in sciences and engineering to better understand the policy-making process, the social and political impact of technology, and the direction of governance and resource allocation that affect their field.

One sector that is gaining attention is China’s ambitious goals to become largest producer of robots used for factories, agriculture and a range of other applications. For example, a seminar featuring Prof. Tai Ming Cheung, director of the UC Institutie for Global Conflict & Cooperation and principal investoator of the Study of Innovation & Technology in China and Henrik Christensen, director of the Contextual Robotics Institute at the Jacobs School, would benefit our understanding of the broad political and economic context that shapes China’s approach to robotics (e.g. labor shortage, industrial upgrades, new growth pole, et cetera). Similar seminars with Prof. Shirley Meng’s research on battery technology vis-à-vis China’s policy on renewable energy and Prof. Prof. Shu Chien’s research on bioengineering as it relates to China’s life sciences capabilities would be important to understand China’s science and technology plans, as many of our enginners and scientists conduct research in areas that may be impacted by the Chinese government’s industrial planning and policy shifts.

Another policy domain we will focus on is the inflection points in US-China bilateral relations, which will better inform researchers and leaders in both countries about the stakes, opportunities, and challenges in their relationship. From the vantage point of the United States, the relationship with the People’s Republic is now at a major turning point, direction of which is still unclear. Professor Susan Shirk embarked on a two-year process of examining the evolution of US foreign policy towards China in the past three decades. Under her leadership of a bipartisan taskforce on China policy, the 21st Century China Center and Asia Society co-published the report in February 2017 that was briefed to the current administration, congressional and foreign policy leaders.

China Policy Turning Points attracts experts from China and across the US to join the discussion on campus that will both broaden the visibility and impact of UC San Diego’s research and open up opportunities for our scholars to inform policymaking in China and U.S. policy towards China.

Faculty Groups