- "E-Commerce Integration and Economic Development: Evidence from China," with Victor Couture (UC Berkeley), Benjamin Faber (UC Berkeley) and Yizhen Gu (Jinan), preparing for submission
- RCT, PDF
- Abstract: The number of people buying and selling products online in China has grown from practically zero in 2000 to more than 400 million by 2015. Most of this growth has occurred in cities. In this context, the Chinese government recently announced the expansion of e-commerce to the countryside as a policy priority with the objective to close the rural-urban economic divide. As part of this agenda, the government entered a partnership with a large Chinese e-commerce firm. The program invests in the necessary transport logistics to ship products to and sell products from tens of thousands of villages that were largely unconnected to e-commerce. The firm also installs an e-commerce terminal at a central village location, where a terminal manager assists households in buying and selling products through the firm’s e-commerce platform. This paper combines a new collection of survey and transaction microdata with a randomized control trial (RCT) across villages that we implement in collaboration with the e-commerce firm. We use this empirical setting to provide evidence on the potential of e-commerce integration to foster economic development in the countryside, the underlying channels and the distribution of the gains from e-commerce across households and villages.
- Keywords: E-Commerce, trade integration, economic development, rural-urban divide
- "Law, Chinese Style: Solving the Authoritarian’s Legal Dilemma through the Private Provision of Law," with Barry R. Weingast (Stanford), preparing for submission
- Theoretical Paper, PDF
- Abstract: How do authoritarian states build the institutional infrastructure (e.g. secure property rights, contract enforcement, and the rule of law) necessary to support efficient markets? Tremendous political impediments hinder states from developing the rule of law. The path for the West involved parliaments and independent judiciaries that constrained the ruler. China’s path differs considerably; from the beginning, it involved the delegation of authority from the central government sometimes known as “federalism, Chinese style.”
- China’s problem with creating the rule of law governing markets is made worse by the “authoritarian’s legal dilemma”; that is, the creation of a strong, non-corrupt judiciary that would supply and only supply private law (e.g., secure property rights, contract enforcement). Although China wants to improve its private law, it wants to avoid an independent judiciary that might challenge and constrain the central government.
- Using China’s online market as the context, this paper explains how new institutional rules are devised in a weak legal environment, and how Taobao – a Chinese online trading platform – has the means to create law, Chinese style. The Chinese government has effectively off-loaded a substantial part of the development of law to private actors. Taobao – China’s dominant online trading platform with over 440 million active users – is not simply an exchange platform, but one in the process of developing a modern legal system that enforces contracts, resolves disputes and prevents fraud. As a private supplier of market infrastructure where formal institutions are lacking, Taobao essentially provides a means for creating law, Chinese style. We argue that law, Chinese style, parallels China’s earlier reforms (1980s-early 1990s) which helped create federalism, Chinese style, that provided the political foundations of early market reform. The new form of delegation also involves a combination of authority and policy experimentation. From the standpoint of the central government, one major advantage of this approach to legal development is that it is much less politically constraining on the central government than the Western approach to public legal systems.
- Keywords: Law and development, market legal infrastructure, authoritarian regimes, e-Commerce platforms
- "Regulatory Protection and the Geography of Trade: Evidence from Chinese Customs Data," with Robert Gulotty (UChicago), Xiaojun Li (University of British Columbia), and Wei Lin (UC Berleley)
- Big Data, PDF
- Abstract: To comply with the demands of increasingly regulated markets, firms today must label, package or even rework products to meet the high standards of the destination market. These technical barriers to trade (TBT) can raise prices and perhaps quality, but firms may also respond by moving out of the market entirely or rerouting their trade through third countries. In the former case, top firms enjoy monopolistic rents. In the latter case, firms seeking to meet a standard in a country may shift transit trade toward countries with similar regulatory levels as the destination market. The consequences could be dire for smaller exporters and developing markets that have enjoyed at least some of the rents associated with transit trade. To study these effects, we examine the effects of regulatory protection on the flow of China’s exports between 2000-2007, drawing on a unique dataset that covers the universe of over 130 million customs transactions reported by Chinese firms at the level of the shipment, including price, quantity, and the country of transit prior to arrival at the final market. During this period, China’s exports quadrupled and its trading partners adopted hundreds of regulatory barriers to trade. Joining the customs data with the catalogue of regulatory barriers collected by the World Trade Organization, we examine the consequences of these regulatory barriers for the margins of trade, both across firms and across transit countries, and, for the first time, map the geography of trade for the largest exporter in a world of regulated markets.
- Keywords: Regulatory barriers to trade, international trade, customs data
- "From Click to Boom: The Political Economy of E-Commerce in China," dissertation chapters
- "Looking for Trouble: Analyzing Search Engine Data during International Crises," with Eric Min (Stanford)
Work in Progresss
- "Opium for the Masses? Field Experimental Evidence on How Consumption Shapes Political Beliefs," data analysis
- Abstract: Can consumption develop political attitudes? If so, how? Past literature has primarily focused on the effects of production on political attitudes, downplaying the influence of consumption. To bring consumption out of production’s shadow, I exploit a field experiment that randomizes first-time e-Commerce connection across 100 villages in China. The treatment - e-Commerce connection - serves as a village-level, exogenous expansion of consumption opportunities for the villagers. Pre- and post-treatment survey data are collected on 2,800 village households to isolate and capture the average treatment effect of consumption on political beliefs.
- "Firms under Fire: Market Liberalization, Commercial Interests and China's Economic Statecraft toward North Korea," with Robert Gulotty (UChicago), Xiaojun Li (University of British Columbia), and Wei Lin (UC Berleley), data analysis
- Abstract: To what extent can China exercise its economic statecraft toward North Korea to achieve its policy goals? Exploiting a unique dataset of Chinese customs transactions between 2000-2007, this paper, for the first time, analyzes the full picture of which firms are trading what with North Korea at what price. It takes an important stride forward from prior literature that has had to infer from aggregate trade data.
*All related to fieldwork
- Op-ed, Financial Times, “E-commerce Can Ease Social Ills in China’s Villages,” with Wesley Koo (Stanford), Link
- Translation in Chinese, FTchinese, Link
- Op-ed, The Paper, “Observations from Taobao (e-Commerce) Villages,” in Chinese, Link
- Book Chapter, “Junpu: The E-Commerce Village,” with Yi Wang (SWUFE), in China's Taobao Villages. Beijing, China: Electronic Industry Press, 2015, in Chinese
- Translated into English and Released in India and the UK