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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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. At Your Own Risk: A Model of Delegation with Ambiguous Guidelines (Under Review)
Counter-intuitive 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 the competent type of local officials—or those who have policy expertise for producing good outcomes—to choose a gray-area policy at their own risk, while deterring the incompetent type 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.
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
Closing Open Government: Grassroots Policy Conversion of China’s Open Government Information Regulation and Its Aftermath (Under Review)
Jieun Kim, Rachel Stern, Benjamin Liebman and Xiaohan Wu
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.
Understanding Experimentation and Implementation: A Case Study of China’s Government Transparency Policy (Revise & Resubmit)
Jieun Kim and Kevin O’Brien
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 unfold in one area. The history of China’s Open Government Information (OGI) policy shows that experimentation sometimes proceeds well and produces new policy options, but may falter if local leaders are unwilling to carry out an experiment. And implementation often poses challenges, but may improve if the Center initiates new, small-scale experiments and encourages local innovation. This suggests that stages in the policy process are not so different when the Center and localities have diverging interests and preferences on both sides do not change. The ups and downs of OGI, and also village elections, can be traced to the goal of monitoring local cadres and the pattern of support and opposition within the state.
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.
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