Faculty in Focus: Dr. CHIA Chen
Dr. Chia Chen is an Assistant Professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and teaches POLS 350 Contemporary Chinese Politics: State, Party, People for the Alliance’s 21st Century City program in Shanghai. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Public Affairs and Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington. In addition to his academic and teaching experience, Dr. Chia has also consulted with Bank of America and Wells Fargo/Wachovia Bank.
What sparked your interest in economics and government?
My degrees are in public policy and public administration. Based on my training, I’ve always been interested in the impact of government policy, such as the impact of Federal Reserve interest rates on standard of living. Much of my work involves studying the way economic policy and local politics affect each other.
You received your Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Texas at Arlington. What was it like to transition from studying in Taiwan, where you attended Shih Hsin University, to studying in the United States?
English is not my mother tongue, so I spent a lot of time learning academic jargon. The first semester for me was pretty hard because everything was brand new. Life in Taiwan is very different from life in the United States. It took me almost a full semester to get involved in the local life and the academic learning. In Shanghai, I see my students in class struggling to understand the local rules. It can be a challenge to adapt to a new culture, but it can be a good thing too.
You’re currently working on research on the development of local economy in China. Can you tell us more about your research?
China has a very unique environment in terms of political and economic interaction. I started my research on U.S. fiscal policy, but when I started to try to understand the local economy in China, I realized that the environment in China is different. The government’s policies and leadership have a dramatic impact on local finance. I realized the Chinese government was using local government bodies as a special institution to finance infrastructure and big projects. This was surprising to me because in the U.S. there are intergovernmental funding and government bonds. In China, the local government has to find innovative ways to create a financing platform. In the beginning it was like a puzzle to me. I realized it related to the federal, state, and local governments. The local and state governments have to match the central government framework of policy, but the central government only gives the big picture. They have to figure out the details of how to make it work.
What do you think are the most important issues in Chinese politics today?
The slow economy in China is a big issue. The stock market is up and down. If you’re a day trader you can make a lot of money, but you can also lose money. Another big issue is that China is trying to become a more democratic political system. In China, the political stability comes from the leadership team. The ideas come from them, so the top leaders need to have some creative and innovative ways to boost the economy. The slow economy will eventually hurt people’s trust and confidence in the government and political structures.
What should prospective study abroad students know about taking your class, Contemporary Chinese Politics?
I got my training in the U.S. so I know the whole system. The institutional design is different in China. My humble advice for students is to follow the news so they will have some ideas about who the big guys are in the leadership team. It’s important to know and understand the leadership and the functions they carry out so they will understand that if some big guy says something it will impact foreign or domestic economic policy.