Eric focuses his work on international relations and comparative politics, but his scholarly interests range broadly through political science, sociology, history, China studies, and security studies. His ongoing research projects center on foreign policy, military decision making, and strategy, with a regional focus on China and Taiwan. Highly pro- ficient in both modern and classical Chinese, he blends archival research, social network analysis, and quantitative methods as he works to incorporate East Asian cases and theories into general theories of international relations and organizational decision-making processes.
Book Project 1. Disobedience in China’s Military
Eric’s first book project, Disobedience in China’s Military, draws on data from China to explain both why military commanders sometimes disobey direct orders and also which forms their disobedient acts ultimately take. Military organizations are critical actors in international relations and domestic politics alike, but we still lack a clear understanding of how individual choices are made in military contexts, not to mention how individual choices in the military can cascade outwards and lead to consequences like military coups or rebellions. This book manuscript argues that commanders’ social network positions and identities determine when and how they choose to disobey their orders. To support this argument, the book draws on unusually rich archival data from the Sino-French War (1883-85) – including thousands of pages of memoirs and official documents in classical Chinese – as well as contemporary reporting about Chinese commanders’
decision-making processes. Gathered during more than two years of work in archives in Beijing and Taipei, with support from Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, the U.S. National Security Education Program, and NYU Shanghai, these materials have allowed reconstruction of the decision-making environments of several Chinese commanders in great detail. In so doing, the project demonstrates that disobedience, resistance, and dissent can often be generative, for instance by spurring innovation or adaptation. The book is also able to explicitly link micro-level, individual decisions about discrete orders to meso-level outcomes such as battlefield effectiveness, civil-military relations, treatment of civilians, nationalism, and state power. Eric has also recently published an article paving the way for this project in the European Journal of International Relations, titled “Rogues, Degenerates, and Heroes: Disobedience as Politics in Military Organizations.”
Book Project 2. The Ferment of China’s Rise: The Impact of Beijing’s “Influence Activities”
Eric has also begun a second book project, tentatively titled The Ferment of China’s Rise, that aims to expand our understanding of China’s expanding global presence. In particular, the manuscript examines both China’s foreign policy activities and the responses to them around the world. In an attempt to move past simplistic narratives, this project draws on fieldwork and interviews in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and the United States in an attempt to answer two questions. First, what, if anything, is new about China’s attempts to influence other countries’ politics? Second, what explains the differences in responses to these activities? Why has New Zealand, for instance, remained relatively sanguine about China while Washington has developed a bipartisan consensus that China is a strategic competitor?