Zeren Li

Zeren Li

Assistant Professor

National University of Singapore

I am an Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. My research focuses on business-government relations, bureaucracy, good governance, and authoritarian politics, with a particular interest in China. Methodologically, I am interested in “Big Data” analysis of business and politics. I developed automated methods for collecting and matching extensive administrative data, creating two original databases: the Chinese Revolving-Door Officials Database and the Chinese Public-Private Partnership Database.

My research has been published and is forthcoming in the British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, The China Quarterly, and other journals. My work has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, CNBC, The Wire China,and The Guardian.

I earned my PhD in Political Science from Duke University. Prior to my time at Duke, I obtained my bachelor’s degree from Fudan University and completed my MPhil at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Before joining NUS, I was a Postdoctoral Associate in the Leitner Program of Political Economy, MacMillan Center, Yale University.

My research has received funding from various institutions, including the National Science Foundation, Google Cloud Platform, the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation, and others.

You can contact me via email at zeren.li@nus.edu.sg.


Peer-reviewed Articles

“Subsidies for Sale: Post-government Career Concern, Revolving-Door Channels, and Public Resource Allocation in China." Journal of Politics, 2023. link

  • Winner of Kellogg/Notre Dame Award for Best Comparative Politics Paper at 2022 Midwest Political Science Association

“The Decline of Factions: The Impact of Purge on Political Appointments in China." With Melanie Manion. British Journal of Political Science, 2023. link

“Markets Under Mao: The Persistence of Market Activity in Maoist China." With Adam Frost. The China Quarterly, 2023. link

“Public Investment As Downward Benefit Distribution: Theory and Evidence from China’s Public-Private Partnership Programs." With Daniel Z. Li and Qi Zhang. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2023. link

“Judicial Recentralization as Political Control: A Difference-in-Differences Analysis of Judicial Leader Rotation in China." With Zeyuan Wang. Social Science Quarterly, 2023. link

“Connections as Liabilities: The Cost of the Politics-Business Revolving Door in China." British Journal of Political Science, 2022. link

“Within Party Mobility and Economic Performance in Authoritarian Regimes: Evidence from China." With Arthur Zeyang Yu. Party Politics. 2022. link

“The Last Strike: Age, Career Incentives and Taxation in China.” With Arthur Zeyang Yu. Studies in Comparative International Development. 2022. link

Edited Volume

“An Introduction to Procedural Rule in China’s Provincial People’s Congress." Chinese Law & Government, Vol.49 No.1, (2017): 1-4. link

Working Papers

“Favor With Fear: The Distributional Effect of Political Risk on Government Procurement in China." With Songrui Liu. link

“A Privilege of the Rich? A Duality of Unequal Government Responsiveness in Urban China." With Jiawei Fu and Haibin Yan. link

Working in Progress

``Patronage in Plagues: Government Intervention and Essential Business Selection in the COVID-19 Lockdown.’’ With Ye Zhang.

``Why Do Firms Hire Politicians: Evidence from Chinese Revolving-Door Officials.’’


Chinese Revolving-Door Officials Database

The Chinese Revolving-Door Officials Database contains extensive demographic and career information of over 15,000 government officials who serve on the board of all Chinese publicly listed firms since the 2000s. The database is consist of three parts:

  • compensation information for revolving-door officials, including salary, allowance, and stock shares;
  • standardized career experience information;
  • visualization of their political network.

The database is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (administered by American Political Science Association), the Department of Political Science at Duke University and Duke Asian Pacific Studies Institute.

Chinese Public-Private Partnership Database

The Chinese Public-Private Partnership Database provides detailed information of all Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects contracted by various levels of governments in China from 2013. The database includes:

  • contract details of public-private partnership projects
  • visualization of public-private partnership networks


Political Economy

  • Business and Politics, Instructor, National University of Singapore & Yale University. Syllabus

  • China and the Global Economy, Instructor, National University of Singapore.

  • Political Economy of China, Instructor, Yale University. Syllabus

  • Prisoner’s Dilemma and Distributive Justice, Teaching Assistant, Duke University.

  • Global Corruption, Teaching Assistant, Duke University.

  • World of Politics, Teaching Assistant, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

  • Introduction to Economics, Teaching Assistant, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Quantative Methods

  • Probability and Regression*, Lab Instructor and TA, Duke University. Handouts and Code

  • Quantitative Analysis in Social Science*, Lab Instructor and TA, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Handouts and Code

Data Science

* Graduate-level