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Jieun Kim

PhD Candidate

University of California, Berkeley

Welcome! I am a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. I study local government accountability and transparency with a focus on Chinese politics. My dissertation, Local Government Accountability in China: The Center, Local Networks, and the Courts, examines how various political actors strengthen or weaken local government accountability in China.

My research has been supported by the Center for Chinese Studies (CCS), Center for the Study of Law and Society, and Institute for International Studies (IIS) at UC Berkeley, and the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies (KFAS).

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

Interests

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

Education

  • PhD Candidate in Political Science

    University of California, Berkeley

  • MA in Political Science, 2016

    University of California, Berkeley

  • BA in Political Science, 2013

    Seoul National University

Dissertation

Title: Local Government Accountability in China: The Center, Local Networks, and the Courts
Committee: Sean Gailmard (Co-Chair), Kevin O’Brien (Co-Chair), Peter Lorentzen & Rachel Stern

My dissertation examines how various political actors strengthen or weaken local government accountability in China. The first chapter focuses on the central government’s role in crafting policy guidelines that shape local governments’ incentives for implementation. I bring attention to the central leaders’ frequent use of ambiguous policy guidelines during decentralized policy experimentation and explain why. The second chapter explores bottom-up forces in China, devoting attention to one substantive policy area, the Open Government Information (OGI) initiative. I examine how city leaders’ embeddedness in local networks, assessed based on their career trajectory, affects their implementation of government transparency. The third chapter turns to horizontal dynamics between local governments and the courts. I evaluate the impact of the courts’ jurisdiction reform, in particular, centralizing jurisdiction of administrative litigation cases, on local government interference with court decisions in the OGI litigation.

Chapter 1. Do at Your Own Risk: A Model of Delegation with Ambiguous Guidelines

In the process of decentralized policy experimentation, the Chinese leaders have often provided ambiguous policy guidelines to their local agents. While ambiguity can give local agents flexibility in policy implementation, it can also induce their self-censorship behavior by making them unsure about the boundaries of discretion. Incorporating both perspectives, this article proposes a formal model that analyzes a situation in which ambiguity permits more policy choices for certain types of local agents while constraining options for others. The model shows that ambiguity induces only the competent type of local agents—or those who are confident in producing good outcomes—to initiate a “gray-area policy” at their own risk, while deterring the incompetent type from doing so. I illustrate the model with the case of the state-owned enterprise reform in China. The argument is broadly applicable to interactions between any upper- and lower-level actors in bureaucratic hierarchy.

Chapter 2. 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.

Chapter 3. Centralizing Jurisdiction of Administrative Litigation and Judicial Independence in China In progress.

Work in Progress

Revisiting the Galanter Thesis: Why the “Repeat Players” Fare Worse in China’s Open Government Information Litigation
Jieun Kim, Rachel Stern and Benjamin Liebman

The Galanter thesis suggests that “repeat players” with money and resources fare better in litigation, and existing work suggests this is true in China (He and Su 2013). But do repeat players always have an advantage? We revisit this thesis in the context of Open Government Information (OGI) requests in China. Drawing on an original dataset of over 62,000 OGI litigation cases from 2008 to 2018, as well as interviews with Chinese lawyers, we find the reverse is true: repeat players fare worse than one shotters. What explains this counter-intuitive finding? We offer political and legal explanations. First, repeat players are not necessarily “the haves,” as OGI requests have increasingly evolved into a channel for aggrieved citizens to voice their concerns to the government. Second, repeat players tend to request more vague information, which judges often do not consider as government information.

  • To be presented at the 2020 LSA Annual Meeting


Resistance or Calling on the Big Brother? A Model of Local Protests in Authoritarian Regimes
Dogus Aktan and Jieun Kim

Recent scholarship suggests that protests in authoritarian regimes do not necessarily reflect regime weaknesses, because they provide central leaders with information about misconduct by local officials. However, such alliances between protesters and central leaders do not always appear. To explain when and how protesters successfully sound “fire alarms” that are heeded by the Center, we develop a formal model and argue that protesters do so only when their interests are sufficiently aligned with the leaders’ interests. We illustrate the model with the case of China, revisiting the “rightful resistance” thesis in the literature. Implications of this model are broadly applicable to any situation that involves the principal-agent relationship and a third party.

  • To be presented at the 2020 SPSA Annual Meeting

Teaching

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
    Teaching materials


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