Jieun Kim

Postdoctoral Fellow

Center for the Study of Contemporary China, University of Pennsylvania

Welcome! I am a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, Center for the Study of Contemporary China and will be an assistant professor at NYU Shanghai beginning in the Fall of 2022. I received my Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. My research focuses on local government accountability and transparency in China.

Please find my CV here. You can reach me at kimjieun@berkeley.edu.


  • Chinese Bureaucracy
  • Formal Modeling
  • Accountability and Transparency
  • Law and Politics


  • PhD in Political Science, 2021

    University of California, Berkeley

  • MA in Political Science, 2016

    University of California, Berkeley

  • BA in Political Science, 2013

    Seoul National University

Publications and Working Papers

Jieun Kim. At Your Own Risk: A Model of Delegation with Ambiguous Guidelines
Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy. Forthcoming.

Contrary to the lessons of principal-agent models, Chinese leaders have often provided local officials with ambiguous policy guidelines that do not clarify the boundaries of discretion. While ambiguity can give local officials flexibility in policy implementation, it can also instill fear of punishment among possible transgressors and encourage preemptive self-censoring. Incorporating both perspectives, I develop a formal model that analyzes a situation in which ambiguity allows flexibility for certain types of local officials while intimidating others. I argue that central leaders use ambiguity as a screening tool to encourage only “competent” local officials—or those who have policy expertise for producing good outcomes—to choose a gray-area policy at their own risk, while deterring “incompetent” officials from doing so. I illustrate the model with the case of state-owned enterprise restructuring in China. The argument is broadly applicable to interactions between any upper- and lower-level actors in bureaucratic hierarchy.

Jieun Kim, Rachel Stern, Benjamin Liebman and Xiaohan Wu. Closing Open Government: Grassroots Policy Conversion of China’s Open Government Information Regulation and Its Aftermath
Comparative Political Studies. Forthcoming (Online First).

How and when do opportunities for political participation through courts change under authoritarianism? Although China is better known for tight political control than for political expression, the 2008 Open Government Information (OGI) regulation ushered in a surge of political-legal activism. We draw on an original dataset of 57,095 OGI lawsuits, supplemented by interview data and government documents, to show how a feedback loop between judges and court users shaped possibilities for political activism and complaint between 2008 and 2019. In contrast to the conventional explanation that authoritarian leaders crack down on legal action when they feel politically threatened, we find that courts minted, defined and popularized new legal labels to cut off access to justice for the minority of super-active litigants whose lawsuits had come to dominate the OGI docket. This study underscores the power of procedural rules and frontline judges in shaping possibilities for political participation under authoritarianism.

Jieun Kim and Kevin O’Brien. Understanding Experimentation and Implementation: A Case Study of China’s Government Transparency Policy
Asian Survey (2021) 61 (4): 591–614.

Studies of local governance in China often point to nimble experimentation but problematic implementation. To reconcile these competing images, it is useful to clarify the concepts of experimentation and implementation and see how they unfolded in one policy area. The history of China’s Open Government Information (OGI) initiative shows that the experimentation stage sometimes proceeds well and produces new policy options, but may falter if local leaders are unwilling to carry out an experiment. And the implementation stage often poses challenges, but may improve if the Center initiates new, small-scale experiments and encourages local innovation. This suggests that the experimentation and implementation stages are not so different when officials in Beijing and the localities have diverging interests and the Center is more supportive of a measure than local officials. The ups and downs of OGI, and also village elections, can be traced to the policy goal of monitoring local cadres, the central-local divide, and the pattern of support and opposition within the state.

  • Paper available here

Jieun Kim. Local Embeddedness and City Leaders’ Incentives for Government Transparency in China

What explains the variation in local government transparency in authoritarian regimes? I examine how city leaders’ embeddedness in local networks, assessed based on their career trajectory, affects their implementation of government transparency. I find that embedded leaders (“insiders”) perform worse on proactively disclosing government information but perform better on responding to citizens’ information disclosure requests, compared to non-embedded leaders (“outsiders”). I argue that while embedded leaders might not bother proactively to disclose information that would embarrass local influentials, they still endeavor to fulfill disclosure requirements upon requests, in part owing to their affinity to the local population. I rely on an original dataset of prefectural-level cities’ annual OGI reports between 2008 and 2016 as well as interviews with government officials and policy experts in China.

Work in Progress

Centralizing Jurisdiction of Administrative Litigation and Judicial Independence in China

Local Leaders’ Responses to Lower-level Corruption: Evidence from the People’s Daily Message Board (with Tao Li)


PS 3: Introduction to Empirical Analysis and Quantitative Methods
    Undergraduate-level course, UC Berkeley, Fall 2017
    Graduate Student Instructor for Professor Jason Wittenberg
    Lecture Syllabus, Section Syllabus

PS 232A: Formal Models of Political Science
    Graduate-level course, UC Berkeley, Spring 2020; Spring 2021
    Graduate Student Instructor for Professor Andrew Little
    Lecture Syllabus