Nine Faculty Members Receive GRF/ECS Grants
We are pleased to announce that nine of our faculties in the Department of Public Policy have received GRF/ECS grants and congratulate them on their success! Congratulations to Professor Forrest, Professor Wang, Professor Yep, Professor Yip, Dr. Chen, Dr. Jung, Dr. Li, Dr. Wang, and Dr. Zhang!
For more information on their projects, see the descriptions below:
Professor FORREST Ray, Frontier City: Place, belonging and community in contemporary Shenzhen
This research proposal is concerned with the experience and impact of rapid urbanisation in China. It is concerned with processes of migration to, and adaptation in, cities and with the everyday life of the urban residents of these fast changing places. How do people feel about city life in contemporary China? To what extent do they have a strong sense of belonging, community or neighbourhood? Is the city experienced as a place of unity or division, integration or segregation? Are people concerned about these issues-do they matter and in what ways? What do the attitudes and practices of residents indicate about policy development with regard to governance and social participation? Rural-urban migration and urban social cohesion have always been important research issues for social scientists. Until recently, however, much of the academic research in this field had a strong western focus. This research aims to make an important contribution to the expanding urban studies literature on Chinese urbanism and urbanization and to inform wider policy and popular interest about what is happening in Chinese cities. The research will focus on Shenzhen. Its particularly rapid emergence as a new, major city makes it a highly appropriate site for this investigation. It has also been at the forefront of policy and political experimentation and was the first and most important Special Economic Zone. There has also been surprisingly little research on the city when compared to Guangzhou, Shanghai or Beijing. The research will involve a mixed methodology of secondary data analysis, social survey, focus group and in depth interviews. Face to face interviews with 1000 Shenzhen residents will form the empirical core of the study.
Professor WANG Xiaohu, Institutional Development and Budgetary Decision Making — the Case of Hong Kong
Although Hong Kong budgetary practice has long been regarded as a model of fiscal prudence, surprisingly little research has been conducted on the strains facing the system in the post-1997 period. Yet prima facie evidence suggests that the socio-economic problems of an ageing population, slow economic growth, and demands for more welfare from an increasingly active civil society are placing the traditional model under stress. The government has accordingly begun to modify its long-standing concerns with balanced budgets and low welfare spending and to pay more attention to the problem of selling budget proposals to pressure groups and to the public. This proposal examines a critical dimension of this changing process by analyzing the impact of democratic institutional development on budgeting. The debate on democratic institutional development in Hong Kong has focused on election formats and procedures. Democratization also creates, however, an opportunity to bring budgetary demands to the table and for groups to argue for more spending on community needs. In contrast to the traditional, insulated, top-down budgetary model, democratic institutional development might involve making the process more open and inclusive which in turn might be reflected, quantitatively, in changing patterns of government expenditure. The key research question in this context is: Does institutional development affect spending patterns? More specifically, does it make large-scale budget changes more likely or less likely, and why? We will examine these questions in two related ways. The first will be a quantitative study examining and comparing the spending patterns before and after the democratization, using Punctuated Equilibrium Theory (PET) to develop hypotheses for testing. PET suggests that political dynamics have a significant effect on agenda setting and budgetary changes but such effects have received only limited empirical testing in Western democracies and Hong Kong. The second will involve a qualitative study of the evolution of Hong Kong’s budgetary practices over the period 1990 to the present, examining cases of large spending events in significant details in qualitative reviews of government and public documents to substantiate the spending patterns identified in the quantitative analysis. Employing these methods, the proposal will seek to realise three major objectives: to improve our understanding of Hong Kong’s present budgetary model and the policy process; to provide time series data over the period which will inform analysis of the changing model and should be useful to both scholars and practitioners; and to generate fresh evidence advancing PET budgetary theory.
Professor YEP Ray, Negotiating Autonomy: The MacLehose Era (1971-1982) and the Nature of Colonial Rule
The governorship of Murray MacLehose (1971-1982) is seen by many as a golden era of social reform in Hong Kong. Governor MacLehose’s ambitious reforms in public housing, education, and health services and his anti-corruption campaign helped lend a facade of benevolence to colonial rule. Conventional wisdom attributes the social progress achieved during this period to either the enlightened leadership of MacLehose or to the British government’s wise response to the Hong Kong population’s alienation and frustration in the aftermath of the 1967 riots. Such accounts, however, overlook a defining feature of colonial rule, that is, perpetual bargaining between the colonial administration and the sovereign power. Debates, altercations and even open conflict between officials in Hong Kong and London were a common feature of colonial rule in Hong Kong, central to which was a conflicting interpretation of British interests and the former’s quest for autonomy, which required a certain degree of rapport and collaboration with the local community. The MacLehose years constitute the perfect setting for elucidating the battle for autonomy inherent in colonial rule. It was an exceptional period in which London was highly motivated to involve itself in Hong Kong affairs owing to the political turbulence of the 1960s and pro-welfare philosophy of the Labour administration. At the same time, the political landscape of the colony was also undergoing seismic change, with the rise of social activism resulting from growing affluence confronted with a conservative backlash from the business sector.
The proposed project will examine three major events in the 1970s: the Vietnamese Boat People crisis, limited attempts at constitutional reform and the proposed land lease extension beyond 1997. These events represent different degrees of interest amongst stakeholders, and thus imply contrasting patterns of engagement. The prospective findings will help to identify patterns of strategy, opportunity, leverage and interaction in the colony’s pursuit of autonomy in the MacLehose era. They will also contribute to an understanding of the logic and nature of colonial rule and of the post-1997 relationship under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework. Beijing’s perception of the central-local relationship under the Basic Law is unfortunately obscured by its misunderstanding of the real nature of British colonial rule and misguided preoccupation with the formal aspects of that rule, and Hong Kong society makes a similar mistake by overlooking the political subtlety and nuance of engagement with the new sovereign power.
Professor YIP Ngai-ming, Neighbourhood in an Increasingly Mobile Society
This project intends to examine the impacts of the neighbourhood in an increasingly mobile world. The neighbourhood is an important arena, not only to peoples’ creation of identity and social networks, but also to many government policies that aim at solving social problems. Yet as people are increasingly mobile and the need to interact with neighbours decreases, it begs the question of whether the neighbourhood is still significant to individuals. There is, however, ample evidence that patterns of mobility are highly varied among people of different backgrounds and mobility differentials may be widening. Thus, it is possible that the neighbourhood may continue to be significant but its impacts may not be the same for different groups of people. This project will employ a smart phone app which has been newly developed by the research team to track people’s mobility and activity patterns. Such data will be combined with information on personal attributes that are collected from a survey and with neighbourhood attributes derived from a variety of sources in order to examine the impacts of mobility on people’s sense of neighbourhood and neighbouring interaction. This research will cover 1250 residents in 25 neighbourhoods in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, with its popular and efficient public transport system as well as a large but relatively mixed public housing sector offers a distinct research site for comparison with the findings of similar research which has been conducted in the very different urban contexts of US cities. The research will offer valuable inputs to social mix and neighbourhood-based social policy as well as inform and extend theoretical debate on neighbourhoods within the new mobilities perspective.
Dr. CHEN Yiu Por, Employment relations and labor conditions in the automotive industry’s rising stars: China and India compared
Global value chains (GVC) represent a large, cross-disciplinary area of research. However, employment relations (ER) and labor conditions have been downplayed in the literature. GVCs refer to commodity chains across multiple countries that are dominated by “lead firms,” which are often powerful transnational corporations. Some scholars contend that the global production network (GPN) approach is better suited to the study of ER than GVC because of its focus on the links between these commodity chains and economic development in different countries and regions. We will conduct a comparative case study of the automotive industry in China and India to explore the debates on GVCs, GPNs, and their implications on ER. We focus on the operations and ER practices of three rising stars of global automotive production: German carmaker Volkswagen (VW), Chinese firm Geely Holding Group, and Indian firm Tata Motors. This study is the first international comparative study of automotive industry workers in China and India. The auto industry has been crucial to the development of “modern” industrial and consumer societies in the West and Japan, where workers are historically regarded as benefiting from good wages and employment conditions. Using the GVC/GPN framework, our project will explore whether or not auto industry ER in China and India will follow a similar path. The auto industry represents a specific type of “value chain” and is now shifting to these emerging economic giants, where global carmakers are keen to take advantage of huge domestic markets and relatively low-cost production. VW, one of the world’s leading auto firms, is one such company that has substantial investments in China and India. In each country, VW has had to adapt its distinctively “German” ER practices to local conditions. By documenting and analyzing VW’s practices and comparing them to those of Geely in China and Tata in India, we intend to contribute significantly to the literature on value chains as well as to assess whether the GVC or the GPN approach is more effective in incorporating and explaining the role of ER in industrial development. We will also outline the possible direction of ER practices in Chinese and Indian auto firms as the industry continues to expand. We will survey workers, interview managers and trade union representatives, and generate reports and articles of interest for scholars and practitioners alike.
Dr. JUNG Chan Su, Organizational Goal Ambiguity in Government Agencies: Presidents, Congresses, and Formal Mandates
Organizations have goals and pursue them. Goals vary in their ambiguity and clarity. Public organizations vary in the ambiguity of their performance goals. Prominent public administration scholars and political scientists have asserted that ambiguous goals can make public managers’ decision-making less effective, dampen employees’ motivation and job satisfaction, and harm individual and organizational performance. These arise because of the lack of clarity about how to achieve unclear goals and the difficulty in evaluating individual and organizational performance while asking for accountability. In this regard, many recent governmental (new public management) reform initiatives have included directives that government agencies state performance goals, clarify them, and measure the accomplishment levels of them. Given the theoretical and practical importance of organizational goal ambiguity, it is valuable to investigate what important independent variables (e.g., President, legislature, interest groups, and managers’ leadership) influence organizational goal ambiguity in government agencies and what contingencies modify the relationships between the independent variables and goal ambiguity. The aim of the proposed study is to contribute to this debate by focusing on the relationships between the two most influential political actors at the central government level (i.e., President and Congress), the ambiguity of formal mandates, and organizational goal ambiguity. This study will examine if stronger political influences lead to greater ambiguity in formal mandates, which in turn increases goal ambiguity. The proposed study team has undertaken extensive research on organizational goal ambiguity, including its measurements and its negative influences, and on political actors’ influence on government agencies’ autonomy, using various statistical methods. This study will develop a unique dataset on all central government agencies in South Korea from the three most recent administrations and implement regression techniques that take account of time. Such data are available in few countries. The findings will contribute to our understanding of goal ambiguity and the improvement of a conceptual framework or an empirical theory of goal ambiguity in public organizations. The findings will also help public managers to devise appropriate strategies and techniques for dealing with mandates and organizational (performance) goals that may need clarification, and thereby improve organizational performance and accountability.
Dr. LEE Hsin Wen, Criminal Punishment and The Protection of Rights
Regardless of the gravity of the offense, victims of crime in modern states are prohibited from seeking personal vengeance. Instead, criminal justice systems use public tax revenues to fund institutions of punishment that typically limit the autonomy, rights, and freedom of offenders. In some cases, punishment may involve harm or stigmatization being inflicted intentionally. Given that the core values of liberal democratic societies include the rights and autonomy of individual citizens, the question arises as to how such a practice can be justified. How can a government morally justify actions that restrict the rights of criminal offenders?
In the literature, this problem is known as the justification problem of punishment. In attempting to solve this problem, many philosophical theories of punishment have been put forward—retributivism, rights-forfeiture theories, deterrence theories, paternalism, communication theory, moral education theory, and self-defense theories. Retributivism, which holds that offenders should be given their “just deserts,” including harsh treatment, has recently experienced a revival. Many people insist that non-retributive theories cannot morally justify criminal punishment, and that retributivism therefore provides the only acceptable solution. In practice, however, prison reforms typically aim to treat inmates more humanely. Most people view such reforms as a sign of moral progress rather than regress. A second question then arises—if it is correct to apply retributivism and give offenders their just deserts, how can we make sense of institutional reforms in which the human rights and welfare of inmates are protected to a greater degree?
My research project will propose and defend a theory of criminal punishment that will help to make sense of recent prison reforms in several societies such as Norway, New Zealand, and Taiwan. Three main aspects will be considered: first, the concept or definition of punishment; second, the justification problem of punishment; and third, the relationship between the theory and the practice of criminal punishment. Existing theories provide moral justification but no practical guidance, as the practical value and feasibility of these theories are not considered by the philosophers who propose them. This work aims to provide solid theoretical foundations for developing and implementing explicit policies and reforms.
To address the justification problem, and to make sense of recent institutional reform, I will propose a new theory of state punishment: the rights-protection theory. This theory holds that a citizen’s basic civil rights (typically those listed in the constitution of the state) both justify and constrain the government’s right to impose criminal punishment. I will describe this theory and then defend it against objections. I will also compare it with alternative theories and explain why the rights-protection theory is more appropriate for liberal democratic societies. I will show that, the rights-protection theory not only provides the best moral justification for such societies, but also offers them the most reasonable practical guidance for government-imposed punishment. By clarifying the overarching objectives of criminal justice, it will be possible to reform institutions of punishment appropriately to protect the rights of all citizens.
Dr. WANG Jun, “I want this place to survive and thrive:” Territorialization, moral citizenship, and mobile cultural workforce in China
The ascendency of cultural cities builds upon nodes where flows of ideas, population, capital and cultural/creative goods encounter with situated aspirations and practices (Kong 2014, Roy and Ong 2011). It raises the question for local governments to design and implement calculated policies to maintain desirable populations on their land, or in the Foucauldian sense, the technology of territorialization towards the “right” disposition of land and population. This proposed research stems from such a concern in understanding the technology of territorialization in developing cultural cities in China.
Labelled with a “flexible specialization” production mode, the cultural community seems to bear dual identities, that is, the creative class with “cool” jobs in “buzzing” places and, the cultural workforce who works on a project basis and thus lives precariously. The glamorized risk justifies the moral citizenship, which operates as the state-regulated mechanism of inclusion and exclusion (Hindess 2002, Schinkel and Van Houdt 2010). The moral citizenship detaches welfare entitlement from the place of residence and attaches welfare to the deserving group, who demonstrate their value to the economy.
A geographic dimension should be added to moral citizenship studies in China for two reasons. First, a large troop of migrant workers, who are self-employed and have little bargaining power, has joined the new economy and floats in various cultural cities or zones. Second, the hukou system, which has been deployed as an instrument to attract desired workforce and block others, has been reformed with neoliberal morality that promotes self-improvement. I will zoom into the sites of intersections to interrogate the technology of territorialization: how the new hukou with moral standard is instrumentalized to enable the productivity-oriented disposition of cultural workforce and cultural zones, leading to a dynamic process of de-territorialization and re-territorialization.
This study will contribute to the global discussions on how far and in what ways moral citizenship is construed to mobilize, fix, and/or block population segments who live with a precarious pattern. Therefore, the study will shed light on precarious geography. Investigating at the community level, this study attempts to explore techniques deployed by a range of actors engaged in multiple ways and a “more complex rendering of the relationship between simplification, control, and improvement.” Following the Foucauldian approach, the study will interrogate the technology of territorialization not only through ideological rhetoric or economic strategy but eventually through the political project of state space production (Elden 2006, Lemke 2001).
Dr. ZHANG Xiaoling, The curvilinear link between environment strategies and financial performance in the real estate firms: beyond static dichotomy of allies or adversaries
From natural resource scarcity and global warming to carbon emissions and prolonged haze pollution, environmental deterioration is becoming an increasingly serious problem. As a result, environment strategies have emerged as a priority for business sectors, at least rhetorically, since the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987. However, despite much literature (e.g., Orlitzky et al., 2003) pointing to the positive effects of corporate social performance on financial performance in general, the conventional wisdom of business sectors concerning their contribution to environmental protection is that the additional costs involved may erode financial performance. Real estate developers also face a similar concern, as there is a widespread perception that it is difficult to make a profit if developers intend to 'go green'. On the other hand, some researchers are equally convinced that going green can lead to better financial performance (e.g., Porter & van der Linde, 1995). The growing importance of articulating green concerns into business sectors is characterized by the lack of an empirically founded plausible theoretical model to understand how environment strategies affect a firm’s financial performance. Resolving this issue involves better understanding the interrelationship between Environment Strategies (ES) and Financial Performance (FP). That is, are ES and FP allies or adversaries?
In addition, the growing importance of articulating green concerns into business sectors is characterized by the lack of an empirically founded plausible theoretical model to understand how environment strategies affect a firm’s financial performance. Resolving this issue involves understanding the interrelationship between Environment Strategies (ES) and Financial Performance (FP).
In order to advance this long-standing and contentious debate both theoretically and empirically, this study will hypothesize a curvilinear relationship between environment strategy and financial performance for real estate business sector. In other words, we will investigate whether the two long-competing viewpoints (allies or adversaries) may be complementary. In this proposal, it is therefore hypothesized that, as real estate developers adopt more environment strategies, their financial returns will decline at first (in the short term), but then rebound as the environment strategies are increasingly adopted (in the long term).
Based on this hypothesis, two interconnected objectives are proposed: a) to model the link between ES and FP from the analysis of longitudinal industry data; and b) to test the ES-FP model empirically in the real estate business sector. To do this, the proposed research project will be conducted within the real estate business context based on a dataset of the annual reports, corporate social sustainability reports and global reporting initiatives of the 208 publicly traded firms in China from 2006 to 2014.
The research has potentially profound academic and practical merits. The theoretical model provides potential new answers to the enquiry of the conditional effects of ES on FP. Testing the ES-FP link using longitudinal data of real estate firms has not been carried out before. Also, the proposed ‘beyond dichotomy’ research approach represents a methodological advancement on previous similar studies that adopt an either ‘non-longitudinal’ or ‘subjective’ approach to data collection. In this regard, it may offer original academic value. Practically, it could help resolve the dilemma between government intervention and market value maximization by alerting business leaders to the benefits of implementing proactive environment strategies of their own (e.g., real estate developers mainly opting for green buildings).