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Sung-Ju Wu,

Sung-Ju Wu

Ph.D. student in Economics, 2018 - Present
My main research interests are applied microeconomics and applied game theory, with a focus on political economy and development. Entering National Taiwan University (NTU) as an undergraduate majoring in Political Science and later transferring to Economics, I have long been fascinated by the close relationship between these two subjects. My first empirical paper was written during the one-year exchange in University of Mannheim, Germany, and later presented in the 2014 annual meeting of the Taiwan Political Science Association. In the process, I tasted the great joy of conducting research and hence determined to pursue an academic career. While the Political Science coursework led me to many specific research topics, including political institutions and regime studies, those in Economics further opened my eyes to understand how political and economic institutions shape people’s incentives and constraints, and thus contribute to the overall development of a society. Above all, the training in Economics provides me with the theoretical and empirical tools to answer related questions rigorously. Feeling more inclined towards the methodology of economics, I enrolled in the Master’s program of Economics to undergo solid quantitative training, while maintaining a close cooperation with scholars in Political Science.

Currently I am conducting a new project with Prof. Hans Hanpu Tung from Department of Political Science, NTU, proposing a game-theoretic model of economic engagement strategies, in which a country deliberately expands the economic cooperation with another country so as to change the latter’s behavior. We modified the clientelism model from Stokes et al. (2013)2 with a single principal-agent setting, where the principal (a foreign country) distributes economic resources through a “political broker” (an ally in the targeted country) in exchange for higher support from the citizens (in the targeted country). This theoretical framework is further adopted to explain Beijing’s economic engagement strategies towards Taiwan and Hong Kong in recent years, and why this strategy seems to have failed.

Apart from the theoretical focus, I have incorporated a diverse set of empirical methods from econometrics and statistics in my research projects. Over the past year, I collaborated with Prof. Hans Hanpu Tung on a project analyzing the effect of the Sunflower student movement (which blocked the trade agreement between Taiwan and China in 2014) on Taiwanese support for democracy. Using support vector machine to predict the potential attitudes of survey respondents toward the movement before it actually happened, the paper found that respondents with a potential positive impression of the movement increased their support for democracy, while respondents who potentially disliked the movement became less supportive of democracy. From this experience, I have learned how to empirically estimate the causal effects of social unrest and gained a deeper understanding of how major political events contribute to the development of societies.

For future research, I plan to explore topics in development and political economy. For example, an intriguing puzzle worth studying is why nowadays more and more extreme parties and politicians come to power all over the world. Economic issues such as income inequality or free trade could have substantial influences on this phenomenon as well as the overall development of a society. To untangle this puzzle, I aim to undertake deeper training in economic theory and econometrics, and look for research opportunities with scholars in related area. In addition, I would like to study the theories and implications of dynamic games on account of its strong potential to depict the eternally changing nature of political and economic environment with stochastic shocks.


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