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2008-2009 USCI Graduate Summer Fieldwork Grants

Grant recipients return from abroad and report on their summer research.
September 18, 2008

These fellowships were made possible by a generous gift from the Eleven Twenty Seven Foundation and the USA China Law Group.

Graduate Summer Fieldwork Abstracts

Michael Block, Department of History
"New England Merchants, the China Trade, and the Origins of California"


This project investigates how American involvement in the China trade influenced the 1846 United States invasion and subsequent conquest of California. Looking ahead from 1783, when the Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution, one might guess that the new United States would trade with China, but few could have assumed that within a few decades the young nation would invade the former Spanish possession of Alta California. The work analyzes the interplay of events, institutions, and individuals which created, far earlier than we might have expected, an "American Pacific" anchored in antebellum California and rooted in trade with China. Forced to find new trading partners after the Revolution, American merchants almost immediately looked to China. By the early nineteenth century, only the British had more trading vessels visiting Canton, and American merchants scoured the globe in search of trade goods to send to China. This work will remind American historians of the important and early role China has played in the history of the United States. In addition to support from the USC US-China Institute, Mr. Block has received short-term research fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Program in Early American Economy and Society. Click here to view full report.

Katherine Chu, Politics and International Relations
"Globalization and Cultural Industry in China"

This project focuses on how Chinese state and film industry actors have responded to the perceived opportunities and challenges of globalization. Through interviews with policy-makers, industry officials, scholars, and journalists and by collecting and reviewing published materials, Chu plans to identify key players and issues in the making of China's policies regarding openness to foreign film investment, filmmakers, and films. She further plans to investigate the impact of policies and practices on what films are made and screened in China. This investigation is part of a larger study into the impact of globalization on state-society relations and how China's economic advance has strengthened its potential to exert soft power. Click here to view full report.  Ms. Chu published an article based in part on this research in Asian Politics & Policy.

Joy Lam, Department of Sociology
"The New Confucianism Movement: A Sociological Study on the Revival of Confucianism in Contemporary China"

In the past three decades, Confucianism seems to have regained its public role in Chinese society. The central government openly supports this Confucian revival and has established Confucius Institutes all around the world to promote Chinese culture and language. Among academics and intellectuals, research about Confucianism is now the 'hot topic'. The revitalization of Confucianism can also be felt at the day-to-day level through popular media and talk shows that attempt to relate Confucian classics with modern daily life. How can we understand the symbolic meaning of this social phenomenon? Is it a nostalgic religious movement that has emerged in response to the economic and social changes fueled by globalization? Or it is a political project for national identity building? More specifically, who are the people participating in this movement? How do they understand the role of Confucius (and Confucianism in general) in their daily lives? This project investigates the social context that enables the revival of Confucianism and its social and political implications. Click here to view full report.

Yawen Li, School of Social Work
"The Social Environment and its Impact on Health Status of Older Adults in China"

The issue of aging is faced not only by the U.S., where 78 million baby boomers are approaching retirement age, but also by China, where there are 104.9 million aged 65 and above, the largest number of senior citizens in any country. Understanding trends, problems, and policies at work in both countries could help scholars, officials, and businesspeople to cope better with the coming dramatic demographic changes.  This project will use a political economy perspective as the theoretical framework to examine how contemporary social environment is shaped by  social policies and how social environment influences the health status of older adults. The project will review social policies including social welfare and health policies implemented since the 1980s in relation to the aged population in China. Social environmental factors which may affect health of older adults will be identified in the review and empirical tests will be conducted to test their relationships with health status change using data from Sample Surveys of Aged Population in Urban and Rural China (SSAPUR) in 2000 and 2006. Click here to view full report.

Hong Pang, School of International Relations
"The Political Economy of Implementation: Intellectual Property Rights Protection in China"

Intellectual Property (IP) protection is a new type of issue in international trade negotiation and disputes. It not only covers border measures, but also mandates threshold national regulatory standards and means of enforcing those standards, and thus puts international agreements and negotiations into the center of domestic political battles, especially for developing countries. This project aims to examine how Chinese national political dynamics as well as international pressure influenced the timing, mechanism and outcome of China's legislation and enforcement of IP protection. This project is a part of a larger study that examines the variance in IP protection world-wide, especially in middle-income developing countries facing the competing domestic interests of entrenched "pirate" industries and emerging inventors and artists—their would-be beneficiaries from a stronger IP regime. Using the process tracing approach, this case study aims to show the interaction of different influences as well as the pathway through which a certain implementation outcome arises, which is hard to detect in statistical analysis. Click here to view full report.

Shuyang Sheng, Department of Economics
"The Health and Well-Being of the Elderly in China: Evidence from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) – Pilot"

As a result of rapid economic growth, increases in longevity and the One Child Policy for over 25 years, China's population is aging very rapidly. The proportion of the elderly aged 60 or over is projected to increase from 10% of the population in 2000 to about 30% in 2050. Currently during the transition towards a market economy, with low income levels and low coverage of health insurance and social security, China is facing particular aging problems that are different from those seen in industrial countries. The China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) is aimed at providing high quality public panel survey data of households and individuals on aging issues in China. A pilot survey is going to be fielded in the summer of 2008 with 2,000 households having at least one member aged 45 or over in Zhejiang and Gansu provinces. Rich measurements of health in CHARLS, including biomarkets, self-reported health problems and activities of daily living (ADLs), are crucial to the analysis of health issues and their effects on the well-being of Chinese elderly. The project seeks to identify how health affects the behaviors of labor force participation, retirement and savings of the elderly. Click here to view full report.

Xiangfeng Yang, School of International Relations & Department of Political Science
"Domesticating" Democracy: Electoral Assistance under One-Party Dominance

There has, in recent years, been an influx of politically involved activities in China sponsored by Western governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) aimed at promoting civil society and rule of law. Why have some projects been successfully carried out while others have failed? To understand the conditions and mechanisms by which these international actors interact with Chinese institutions, this study hopes to provide insights into the successes, constraints and potentials of international "political assistance" in China and its broad impact on China's political reform and international relations. Click here to view full report.

Xiaofei Yang, Nueroscience Program
"Social Emotions in US and China: A Comparison with combined social science and neuroscience approaches"

Qualitative differences are often seen between the U.S. and China in various interpersonal realms, from one-on-one relationships to communication, business, political and moral thinking. These differences stem in part from cultural influences on social emotions that reflect the way people are encouraged to feel and think about one another. In general, Chinese people usually moderate emotion expression (Bond, 1993; Russell and Yik, 1996), while American people are usually encouraged to freely express their feelings (Mascolo et al., 2003). This subtle difference in emotion expression has been shown to modulate social emotions psychologically and behaviorally in the two cultures (Mascolo et al., 2003; Cohen et al., 2006); however, it is not known whether or how these differences may play out at the neurophysiological level.

Because behaviors are manifestations of neurological and physiological processes, a more organic understanding of cultural influences on social emotions is needed. Through a novel combination of social science and neuroscience modalities using parallel experiments performed in both the U.S. and China, this study could provide evidence that disambiguates the nature of cultural differences in social emotions, on a level that social science alone cannot. The results could have valuable implications for U.S.-China relations in virtually every sector, from politics and communication to business. Click here to view full report.

Pengyu Zhu, School of Policy, Planning and Development
"Property Rights, Land Speculation, and Urban Sprawl: A Comparative Study of U.S. and China"

This project will investigate the impact of the different property rights regimes in the U.S. and China on urban sprawl. The hypothesis is that the private land ownership in the U.S. facilitates land speculation at the urban-rural fringe and therefore, to some extent, promotes urban sprawl. By contrast, in China public land ownership renders more government control or restrictions on land speculation and therefore indirectly combats urban sprawl. Zhu will use two case studies – Sacramento, CA (U.S.) and Nanjing (China) – to test the hypotheses. These two Metropolitan Statistical Areas are comparable in term of the size of the central city, population growth, and the extent of urban sprawl. This project will be a pilot study investigating the relation between property rights, land speculation, and urban sprawl in both U.S. and China. The findings would have important policy implications in the field of urban planning and policy for both countries. Click here to view full report.

Thumbnail photo: This Shanghai company was recently forced to change its name after Starbucks' successful lawsuit. Photo by John Pasden (Creative Common License).

View reports of USCI Graduate Summer Fieldwork Grant receipients from other years.
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