SCCEI Awards Stanford Graduate Students with Funding to Aid 2023 Summer Research

This summer eight Stanford graduate students will advance their empirical research on China with financial support from the Stanford Center China’s Economy and Institutions.
SCCEI awarded the following eight Stanford graduate students with research grants: Jason Luo, Sally Zhang, Matthew DeButts, Xinyao Qiu, Ni Yan, Victoria Liu, Leo Li, and Tianhao Hou.

This summer eight Stanford graduate students will advance their empirical research on China with financial support from the Stanford Center China’s Economy and Institutions (SCCEI).

One of SCCEI’s foundational pillars is to serve as a hub for Stanford students interested in China, providing mentorship, support, and opportunities for engagement that deepen their understanding of issues and possible solutions to the challenges of China’s economic development. Since our launch in January 2020 we have continued to grow our student engagement opportunities here on campus through faculty advising, bi-weekly research workshops, course offerings, and specialized academic events. This past spring, SCCEI launched our inaugural call for student research proposals, offering competitive funding to Stanford graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to fund research on contemporary issues related to China’s economy.

After extensive review and discussion, our committee selected eight students to award with funding to pursue their intended research projects. The students will be conducting research on topics spanning several disciplines, including economics, sociology, and political science. We spoke with each awardee to learn more about what they will be researching and why they are passionate about studying China. Here’s what they had to say:  

Matthew DeButts practices Chinese calligraphy.

Matthew DeButts, PhD Candidate in Communication

“China is an internally diverse, commonly misunderstood country with an unmatched dynamism and resiliency. I’m particularly excited to return to China for the first time since the pandemic, and am hopeful that my favorite Beijing coffee shops have survived.” 

Tianhao Hou portrait

Tianhao Hou, PhD Candidate in Sociology

“Little-know social norms, regulations, and rules in superficially chaotic Chinese politics have always fascinated me. This summer I will be investigating the decision making processes and moral judgments of local officials in China, focusing particularly on how morality affects discretion and its implications on state-society interactions.”

Leo Li photo

Leo Li, SPILS Fellow & Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD) Candidate

“I’m excited to pursue research on the Chinese court system, with a focus on the access to justice issues in debt collection lawsuits and the interplay between law and technology.” 

Victoria Liu headshot

Victoria Liu, PhD Candidate in Political Science

“I will be studying the current state of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. I’m planning on interviewing government officials, media staffers, researchers, and private entrepreneurs about their experience with Belt and Road promotion inside China. I hope to learn the political processes through which inward-facing promotion decisions are made, and the relevant interests that play into these decisions.” 

Jason Luo teaching

 Jason Luo, PhD Candidate in Political Science

“I’m motivated by the enduring pursuit of a more prosperous and freer future by the Chinese people and the complex and constantly changing landscapes of Chinese politics. I’m pursuing research on the political economy of information manipulation within autocratic systems, using evidence from China’s government procurement activities."

Xinyao Qiu headshot

Xinyao Qiu, PhD Candidate in Economics

“China has experienced rapid economic growth over the past few decades, but it has also seen a significant increase in education and income inequality. This is why my research investigates whether students from disadvantaged backgrounds face greater informational barriers when making educational choices in China.”

Ni Yan on Stanford campus

Ni Yan, PhD Candidate in Economics

“I’m excited to explore the topics of marriage and birth in Chinese society, given the unique policies China has adopted and surrounding them and the pressing issue of an aging population and decreasing birth rate.” 

Sally Zhang headshot

Sally Zhang, PhD Candidate in Economics

“Rural China provides a unique context with variation in family structures, with some new parents living with the paternal grandparents and some with the maternal grandparents.  My project studies why information can fail to spread within a household. I will be interviewing households in rural China to understand how they learn new information such as how to best care for infants, how they communicate with one another in the household, and how they make decisions together, especially when there is disagreement.”

In today’s climate, conducting research in China has become increasingly challenging. SCCEI hopes to provide not only financial support but also mentorship to new scholars breaking into the field of China studies. Several awardees plan to conduct their research on the ground in China this summer, but have hit bureaucratic barriers on both sides of the Pacific. SCCEI is helping these students navigate the system and ever changing requirements so that they too can pursue their research in the field and contribute to SCCEI’s mission to advance public understanding of China’s economy and its impact on the world. We are excited to follow up with all of the student awardees in the fall to hear more about what they were able to achieve this summer.