Global Political Economy Project Fellows Leading the Way on China-Focused Research
In August 2021, the Georgetown University Mortara Center for International Studies welcomed Meicen Sun and Philip Rogers as the 2021-2022 Global Political Economy Project (GPEP) Fellows. Over the last 10 months, they worked closely with mentors Abraham Newman and Kathleen McNamara, as well as other fellows and scholars in the Mortara community, contributing to GPEP’s work with their unique backgrounds and refreshing research ideas.
Information Policy as the Future of State Power
Meicen Sun is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she is also a research affiliate with the Initiative on the Digital Economy. Her research examines the effect of information policy on the future of innovation and state power.
Born and raised in China, Sun did not make China her academic focus until graduate school. After graduating from Princeton University with an undergraduate degree in politics, she went on to pursue a master’s degree in international relations at the University of Pennsylvania, with a focus on U.S.-China relations and China’s participation in international institutions.
“Sometime during my overseas fieldwork in the mid-2010s, error messages like ‘This site can't be reached’ started popping up in my Internet browser. I knew it wasn't a glitch,” she remembers telling herself. “If anything, I should drop everything else and look into it instead. And I did. That was my moment of realization that this, not the mushroom cloud, will be the face of state power of our time.”
At MIT, Sun studies the winners and losers of information flow restrictions and how evolving digital technology affects international politics, which has been the focus of her research at GPEP. She has also been an active participant in policy debates through fellowships at the World Economic Forum and the Pacific Forum, as well as participation in Track 1.5 and Track 2 dialogues.
Regulating Technological Innovation
Philip Rogers is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California (UC), Berkeley’s Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science. Focusing primarily on China, his research draws upon the nexus of law, policy, and business to study regulatory frameworks for technological innovation in domestic and international contexts.
Rogers’ interest in China stems from his desire to work for the U.S. government at a young age. As he learned the Chinese language, he became interested in the country, its people, and culture, especially the Chinese martial art of Taiji. After completing a Master of Public Policy degree and a Master of Arts degree in Chinese studies from the University of Michigan, he lived in China for five years. He spent his first year in Beijing studying the language and then moved to Shanghai to work on transnational corporate law cases as a paralegal with the Zhong Lun Law Firm, before returning to the United States to pursue Ph.D. studies at UC Berkeley.
Drawing from his experience, his research focuses on the crossroads of business, law, and policy in China, including Chinese variable interest entity structure, commercial law in Asia, intellectual property in China, standard essential patents, and China’s strategy for controlling tech standards. As a GPEP fellow, Rogers has been working on a paper examining patent development in China over the past 10 years, looking at both state policy and company practices.
Building Intellectual Community at Georgetown
Outside of their own research, the GPEP fellows are part of a close-knit Mortara community.
The ingenuity of Abe and Kate's brainchild that is GPEP lies in its spontaneity, said Sun, offering an environmental analogy.
“Plant some inquisitive minds and let them cross-pollinate. Free range. No pesticides. Organic. And better than anything that could have been designed. The route to/from the coffee machine at Mortara boasts an abnormally high rate of collision—between minds, resulting in ideas that you will read about down the road.”
The fellows are also part of the Mortara team bringing together scholars from Georgetown and beyond to share the latest research on a range of topics around global political economy.
“I have long thought of my own research more as the nexus of law, business, and public policy than traditional political science per se,” Rogers noted. “The events I have participated in at Georgetown over the last year have helped me to better appreciate both the challenges and the opportunities of making my research accessible to more diverse audiences.”
When they are not doing research, Sun enjoys checking out the Lauinger Library or catching student performances on campus, while Rogers can be seen practicing Taiji on the Healy Lawn.
A Transformative Experience
Once they conclude their GPEP fellowships, Sun will first pursue a post-doctoral fellowship with Stanford University’s Program on Democracy and the Internet this fall and then begin her assistant professorship with the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois-Champaign next year. Rogers will return to UC Berkley to complete his Ph.D. and is planning to either pursue an academic job or work in the policy realm.
The fellowship opportunity has been profoundly influential for both scholars.
“GPEP came at a crucial time in my academic career,” reflects Sun. “I’m thankful to have experienced it before I become a mentor to my future students.”
Rogers points to the way GPEP is breaking down intellectual silos to better understand forces central to twenty-first century power dynamics. “Being a part of it has provided me with a better sense of practical ways that I can contribute to that enterprise with my career,” he said.
Indeed, being a GPEP fellow has been one of the most transformative experiences in my time as a graduate student.
The Global Political Economy Project (GPEP) is a initiative based at the Mortara Center for International Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Led by Professors Abraham Newman and Kathleen McNamara, its goal is to recast the study of political economy in a global light, focusing on how global markets shape peoples’ lives and identifying how globalization might be harnessed for the greater good. The GPEP Pre-doctoral Fellowship is funded by the Open Society Foundations’ Economic Justice Program, the Georgetown University Board of Regents, and the Georgetown University Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues.