Xiaojun Li

Associate Professor

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

The impact of investor-state arbitrations on foreign direct investment and domestic public opinion : evidence from FDI flows, elite interviews and a survey experiment (2023)

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is among the most studied phenomena in international economic relations and presents a dilemma: it can drive economic growth in recipient countries, but it may tempt governments to expropriate foreign investors to redistribute wealth. Scholars noted that when countries expropriate, they may suffer damages to their reputation as safe investment destinations, thereby discouraging future FDI, especially when investors lodge complaints at international institutions.In the dissertation, I leverage a multi-method approach to examine the economic and political consequences of investor-state disputes on FDI and domestic public opinion. I apply three different research methods to three different sources of evidence: bilateral FDI flows, original elite interviews and a survey experiment.Two chapters focus on reputational theories of FDI, which posit that investment arbitrations generate reputational cues which investors use for locational decisions. Most studies assume that arbitrations damage the trustworthiness of the recipient country, regardless of the outcome. Complementing the literature, in Chapter 1 I argue that when countries settle a dispute their reputation can improve, thereby influencing FDI, and present results from a statistical analysis of FDI flows. In Chapter 2, I leverage process-level evidence from original interviews to test and explore causal steps and observable implications derived from the assumptions of existing reputational theories.FDI can have salient economic and political consequences for voters, beyond governments and investors. In Chapter 3, I identify the factors influencing public preferences for government behavior in investor-state disputes and empirically examine them in a survey experiment fielded in the United States. The results show that citizens are more likely to support their government litigating the dispute (rather than settling it) when there were prior disputes with companies from the same partner country, or when the partner country is authoritarian. Other economic factors seem to have a lesser influence on public support, including concerns about jobs or the amount of investment.The dissertation contributes to the empirical literature on FDI, investment treaties and dispute settlement, and their economic and political impact. The findings can inform policy discussions on economic treaties, the international investment regime, and transparency in international investment practices.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

The hunting target: interpreting the continuing US economic sanctions on Huawei as a non-state actor (2022)

In 2018, the Trump administration imposed similar economic sanctions on two Chinese telecommunication multinational companies (MNCs), Huawei and ZTE. US sanctions on Huawei not only persist until today but also seem to escalate. On the contrary, ZTE’s sanctions lasted shortly and are now lifted. Why are sanctions lifted for ZTE but persisted for Huawei? Existing scholarly views often approach the subject of economic sanctions from a state’s perspective. However, these state-centric thoughts do not comprehensively fit into the case of Huawei and ZTE, since the two cases present similarities in many proposed conditions. By utilizing J.S.Mill’s method of difference, I examine the difference in three sources of MNCs’ power proposed by the bargaining model, I argue that the size of a firm provides the greatest source of power to counter the impact of economic sanctions, therefore allowing Huawei to refuse to comply to US sanctions, which eventually resulted in persistence of US economic sanctions. The finding of this paper provides a firm-level explanation of the ongoing sanctions on Huawei and fills the gap in analyzing the effectiveness of economic sanctions.

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The wild, wild web: explaining variation in ASEAN member-state cyber policy (2022)

Cyberspace, as a global commons not under the jurisdiction of one actor alone, requires regional or global coordination in its governance. With respect to the former, regional organisations comprising multiple state actors have been active in taking a leadership role in governance. However, compliance is not always observed, for various reasons. As such, why might some states comply with the regional organisation’s policy strategy while others do not? This paper focuses on this question by means of examining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has been active in prescribing policy recommendations that its member-states ought to follow. Indeed, there exists a variation in member-state compliance with these policies, and this paper seeks to elaborate on two distinct explanations at separate levels of analysis on why this is the case. The first explanation approaches the question from a state-level perspective, and posits that external leverage exerted by a state actor in China is responsible for creating fluctuations in compliance. The second takes an organisational-level approach and hypothesises that it is ASEAN’s own foundational principles of (1) non-interference in sovereign affairs, and (2) consensus-based decision-making which cause the variation observed. Using qualitative methods of process tracing in examining state documents and case studies of ASEAN’s history in regional governance, this paper concludes that the linkage between external leverage and variation in compliance is weakly seen, and cannot be conclusively verified. On the other hand, through the case study of ASEAN’s governance of regional pollution, it can be seen that variation in compliance can be traced to ASEAN’s inability to do more in regional governance than recommend best policies and use moral suasion to convince its member-states to comply.

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