Hanzhang Liu received her Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University in 2018. Her research interests include comparative authoritarian institutions and the political economy of development, with a special focus on China. Specifically, her work investigates how political institutions can be deployed to shape individual preference and mediate the relationship between the ruling elite and the masses, thus contributing to regime stability.
Hanzhang’s dissertation seeks to explain why meritocracy is adopted in authoritarian elite recruitment, despite its adverse impact on incumbent elites’ private interests. Focusing on the National Civil Service Examination (NCSE) in contemporary China, she develops a theory that centers on the role of upward mobility in regime dynamics. Drawing on an array of qualitative, quantitative, and experimental evidence, she shows that NCSE serves as an institution of upward mobility, which co-opts large numbers of non-elites with enhanced future prospects, reduces their discontent with existing inequalities, and hence strengthens regime survival. In addition, Hanzhang’s other projects examine political institutions in China — including college education and the state media — and their effects on individual attitude and behavior vis-à-vis the regime. Her work has been published in Political Science Research and Methods.