Jingnan Liu


Department of Political Science

University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Email: jingnan@uwm.edu

LAST UPDATED: August 2021

For a long time, the experiences and characteristics that set me apart were my social identity as a foreign student. Several years ago, I left my hometown and embarked on the journey of freedom. However, life is more difficult than I could have imagined. Here cultural shocks and language divergence plunged me into deeper fear. I could not get any help from my compatriots. I had to overcome all of these difficulties by myself. Fortunately, now I have made great progress and have the potential to make scholarly contributions.

I was born in the People’s Republic of China. This is a country that had just experienced a great calamity of totalitarianism and began to embrace a market economy. In the early 1990s, my parents had a meager income. They worked very hard, hoping that their son could one day escape material scarcity under the communist system and live in a prosperous family. But more importantly, they hoped that I would have the opportunity to go abroad in the future.

When I was very young, the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda system constantly denounced Western democracies, inculcating a sense that they were irresponsible, inefficient, corrupt, deeply unjust, and hypocritical. In contrast, China was a thriving and vibrant economy with rapid growth rate. They also told us that Chinese political system was much better than the United Sates and most conducive for modernization in less developed countries. But most enlightened Chinese are still more convinced that the United States has the most successful higher education system in this world. This system has trained countless talents. They become the most important forces promoting the progress of our civilization. Therefore, I hoped that one day I would become an international student in the United States.

We in China experienced scarcity and poverty in the early days of economic reform, and saw the following rapid economic growth along with political corruption and social injustice. In China, only a few people can make a huge fortune overnight, while others often fall into brutal competition for scarce social resources. Social injustice makes me believe that China needs to not only embrace market economy, but also reform its authoritarian regime. So, I decided to study political science in university, with the purpose of finding a path to reform China’s political system. At that time, I began to study democratization in less developed countries. I was interested in the successful experiences of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, and their influences on China. I tried to understand how Confucian culture and its political tradition affected modern China. I also intended to study whether the wide spread of Christianity in China could bring about democracy.

Western society respects diversity and stresses minority group protection. In contrast, most of the Chinese people have limited political freedom and social welfare. Although they have had the opportunities to become rich through their hard work, their basic human rights are not fully guaranteed. Under these condition, minority group protection in China is no more than an empty political slogan. Nevertheless, Confucian culture attaches great importance to education. In China, education is generally regarded as the channel for class mobility. Chinese people can change their economic status by attending universities. Therefore, I returned to my hometown of Chongqing after graduation, and joined a newly established educational consulting firm. One of the purposes of the firm was to provide personal services to poor and minority families. I used my experience to design education plans for peasants, migrant workers, ethnic minorities in remote areas, and other vulnerable groups. Despite relying on profit-earning activities to keep the firm running, many of our services were free. I hoped that education would empower the vulnerable groups in China. I tried to narrow the disproportionate wealth gap through my work as an education consultant.

However, achieving these goals became increasingly difficult as Chinese authoritarian rule became strengthened. The state sought to monopolize the educational system and suppress the booming private education industries. I realized that I had to make a new choice. Finally, I gave up my jobs in China and came to the United States in 2015. I attended a PhD program majoring in political science. I look forward to understanding authoritarianism around the world and finding a path for political liberalization of China. I also want to help Chinese political scientists in the United States. Although Chinese students have occupied a large proportion of the higher education market in America, only a few Chinese students and scholars major in political science. This is a minority group, whose research work and achievements have not been fully valued by the mainstream. Due to the barriers of language, culture, educational background and research methods, many Chinese political scholars cannot gain a foothold in American academia. However, in the context of competition between the United States and China, Chinese political scientists’ research can greatly expand our understanding of China and especially of the Chinese Communist Party. It will help our politicians to improve their China policies. In sum, political science in America is incomplete without the participation of Chinese scholars.

I have confidence in my ability to provide intellectual diversity to our academic life. My efforts represent at least part of the voice of political science researchers from China. I will use my cultural background and unique experience to do research and spread new knowledge. I will educate our students to see this world from a diverse perspective. I will choose a variety of reading materials in the course to reflect different angles through which scholars deal with their research questions. In the course on Chinese politics, I will appropriately showcase the contributions made by Chinese scholars in this field, as a way of promoting cultural diversity.

Education Background

PHD(Expected Graduation Date: May 2022), Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee   

MA, Religious Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Bachelor of Laws, Political Science and Public Administration, Wuhan University

Research Interests

Comparative Authoritarianism, Democratization, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflicts, International Political Economy, Chinese politics and Foreign Policy


Liu, Jingnan. “Informal Political Coalition and Private Investment in China,” Journal of East Asian Studies: forthcoming

Liu, Jingnan. “Factional Politics and Foreign Direct Investment in China,” Review of International Political Economy: forthcoming

Liu, Jingnan. “Supreme Leaders, Provincial Leaders, and Factional Competition in China’s Anti-Corruption Enforcement: Regional- and City-Level Evidence. Journal of Chinese Political Science: forthcoming.

Liu, Jingnan. 2012. “Jidu zongjiao yu zhongguo zhengzhi yanjiu de wenxian juli fenxi (Analysis of Literature onthe Christian Religion and China’s Political Research),” Journal of Postgraduates in Wuhan University (Humanities & Social Sciences Edition). 28, 3: 128-135

Liu, Jingnan. 2011. “Shuineng chaoyue ziyou minzhu-dongxifang wenhua yishi de xiandai zaoyu yu jiazhi chongsu (Who are Beyond Liberal Democracy: the Modernity Encounter and Value Reconstruction of Eastern and Western Cultural Ideology),” Journal of Postgraduates in Wuhan University(Humanities & Social Sciences Edition). 27, 3: 140-146

Conference Papers and Participation

International Studies Association Midwest St Louis, 2020, Virtual: Communist Legacy, Democratization and Economic Globalization: An Empirical Analysis.

Chicago Area Comparative Historical School Sciences Conference at Northwestern University, 2018, Evanston, IL: “Economic, Political, and Cultural Causes of Ethnic Conflicts: An Empirical Contemplation about Minority Group Protest and Rebellion in China”

Teaching Experiences

Spring 2021 Guest Lectures in POL 314 Chinese Politics and Foreign Policy

Language Skills

  • Chinese (Mandarin): Native Speaker
  • English: Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking

Bolton 614, 3210 N. Maryland Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211

Contact Me

Email: jingnan@uwm.edu