School of Politics and International Relations

Image of Hongyi Lai

Hongyi Lai

Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences



Dr. Lai's research covers China's domestic political economy (reform strategies, national-local relations, regional development and ethnic areas), international political economy (including energy diplomacy and overseas expansion of the national energy firms), governance (including protests, state-societal relations, institutional development, and transformation and vitality of the regime), and foreign policy (domestic linkage and soft power). His academic publications in English include eight books, over twenty refereed journal articles, and twenty book chapters.

His research has been published in major journals in the field such as China Quarterly, China Journal, and Modern China, Eurasian Geography and Economics, Third World Quarterly, as well as established journals such as Journal of Contemporary China and Asian Perspective. His article on China's western development (2002) is one of the most frequently cited on the topic. His co-authored article on protests (Chung, Lai and Xia 2006) has been included in a collection of seminal works on Chinese politics (Routledge, 2009). His other often-cited articles cover China's energy security and diplomacy and religious activities. His publications have been assigned as readings at leading universities in the US, Canada, UK, and Asia. These universities include Harvard, Michigan, Southern California, Case Western Reserve, George Washington, Arizona State, Leeds, Ottawa, York (Canada), Beijing, Shanghai Jiaotong, Zhejiang, and National Singapore.

His single-authored books in English appear in established or leading presses in Asian and political studies. They include 1) Reform and the Non-state Economy in China: The Political Economy of Liberalization Strategies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 2) The Domestic Sources of China's Foreign Policy (Routledge, 2010), and 3) China's Governance Model: Flexibility and Durability of Pragmatic Authoritarianism (Routledge, June 2016). The first book has been praised by leading scholars in the fields as an important contribution to the literature on economic transition. The second book is the first monograph on that important topic. In this book he criticizes the mainstream theories in international relations and develops a new framework to account for external conduct of nation-states especially China. His aforementioned third book develops an analytical notion of China's governance model and assesses the changes of the political regime in China as well as its ability to survive challenges. This book has been hailed by a world-leading scholar on China's politics as a book that "will make a significant contribution to the study of Chinese politics and may well define the debate" "for years to come".

His co-edited book China into the Hu-Wen Era: (World Scientific, 2006) is an earliest systemic assessment of the Chinese Hu-Wen leadership. His edited book Asian Energy Security: The Maritime Dimension (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) explores energy and maritime security from the perspective of global public goods. His another co-edited book China's Soft Power and International Relations (Routledge, 2012) provided a theoretical assessment of the notion of soft power and contains empirically-based and critical assessments of China's efforts to build its soft power at the world stage in the recent decade. His most recent co-edited book Managing China's Energy Sector: Between the Market and the State (Routledge, 2015) provided analyses and assessments of the transformation of China's energy sector (including its internationalisation and the renewable energy sector) and the business-government relations in the recent decades.

His Chinese books include China under Scrutiny (Toushi Zhongguo, in Chinese) (2007), Hu-Wen under Full Scrutiny (Hu Wen Quan Toushi, in Chinese, 2005, reprinted), and A Study of Fame (Yiming Jingren, 1999).

Dr. Lai is also a prolific media commentator on China. His opinions, analyses and comments appear in influential outlets including the Financial Times, China Daily, Far Eastern Economic Review, the International Economy magazine, South China Morning Post, the Straits Times and the Lianhe Zaobao (in Singapore). Some of his ideas have found echoes in China's subsequent management of domestic and external crises, foreign affairs, macro-economic and major local issues.

Expertise Summary

Governance; Protests and religious activities; Elite politics and leadership; Central-local relations; Democratisation and political reform; Ethnic policy; Religious policy; Economic reform and transition; Regional developmental programmes; Domestic sources of foreign policy; Economic diplomacy; China's soft power and international relations.

Teaching Summary

Dr. Lai has been a programme leader/coordinator for BA Contemporary Chinese Studies and International Relations and for Msci Global Issues and Contemporary Chinese Studies for years. He teaches… read more

Research Summary

Topics related to China: Governance and institutional renewal; authoritarianism and evolution; economic reform and transition; central-local relations; regional developmental programs, especially… read more

PhD Student Supervision

I am interested in supervising PhD students in the following areas:

  • China's international political economy and international affairs (including economic diplomacy)
  • Linkage of China's domestic and external policies (two-level politics and related theory)
  • China and global and regional order
  • China's governance, including leadership, domestic politics and political reform, and crisis management
  • China's political economy, including state-business relations, economic reform policies, and the China model of development

Some of My PhD Students Who Have Graduated and Their Topics--

A Lewis (UNNC), China's non-state actors and public diplomacy: the case of pay-TV company StarTimes (in Africa)

SJ Kang, Nationalist protests and their management in China's relations with Japan

B Zhou, The Political economy of local irrigation works as public goods in China

D Pavlicevic, Participatory politics and political reform within the one-party state's framework

Dr. Lai has been a programme leader/coordinator for BA Contemporary Chinese Studies and International Relations and for Msci Global Issues and Contemporary Chinese Studies for years. He teaches modules on government and politics, political economy and international political economy of China. His teaching has been enriched by insights and information from his research as well as his observation of China for the past decades.

Current Research

Topics related to China: Governance and institutional renewal; authoritarianism and evolution; economic reform and transition; central-local relations; regional developmental programs, especially western development and central regional development; policies for addressing regional inequalities. Foreign affairs, international political economy, global governance.

Future Research

Dr Lai is interested in supervising PhD students or Master by Research (MRes) students in the following areas:

Governance and institutional reform (including crisis management and ideological formulation); Authoritarianism, political stability and protests; Elite politics and leadership; Democratisation and political reform; Ethnic policy; Religious policy and religious activities; Economic diplomacy; China's soft power; China's international relations; China's international political economy; Linkage between domestic and external politics (and political economy); China's energy security and energy diplomacy; China's energy policy and energy sector; Regional developmental programs, especially western development, central regional development, and northeast revival; Political economy of economic reform and transition; Central-local relations.

School of Politics and International Relations

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