The Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 7, 2001
May 7, 2001
VOL. 30, NO. 33


Political Scientist to Study Private Entrepreneurs in China

By Glenn Small
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Kellee Tsai, an assistant professor of political science who joined the faculty last fall, has received a National Science Foundation International Research Fellowship to study the political orientation of private entrepreneurs in China.

The two-year, $126,000 grant will help Tsai undertake an ambitious survey of 2,500 small-business owners throughout the country and help test the theory of whether economic well-being will translate into democratic reforms.

"I really didn't expect to get it on the first try," Tsai said, referring to the fellowship. "So I'll be starting my research project a little earlier than I thought."

If all goes well, Tsai will travel to China this summer and spend several months recruiting survey-takers in a number of regions. She'll return to Hopkins to teach next spring and then return to China.

In one of the evaluation letters from the NSF panel that endorsed her project, Tsai's proposal was described as "an ambitious survey and research agenda that are both timely and pertinent to the recent developments in China.

"The applicant is a highly qualified, very promising young scholar," it went on, "with the right mix of experiences and background to carry out the work."

Before coming to Hopkins, Tsai spent two years in residence at Harvard as an Academy Scholar and writing her dissertation. She received her doctorate in political science from Columbia University and taught for one year at Emory before coming to Hopkins.

Fieldwork in China is nothing new to Tsai. She spent a total of 23 months conducting her dissertation research in various parts of China in order to figure out how so many entrepreneurs could be financing new businesses, when private banks and lending are outlawed there.

She found, for example, such things as magazine clubs that were fronts for investment banks. To learn more, listen to a short interview with Tsai at