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Personal profile


Education Activities

Tom Cliff is a Lecturer in Anthropology and the political economy of China at the School of Culture, History, and Language, in the College of Asia and the Pacific.

He convenes the Bachelor of Philosophy (Humanities and Social Sciences), or PhB (HaSS) — the ANU's elite and demanding undergraduate research program in the HaSS disciplines.

He teaches ASIA2099/6099 “Social Power in China” and a PhB-specific Research Methods course.

He is the Deputy Director (Education) of the School of Culture, History, and Language in the College of Asia and the Pacific.

Research Activities

Tom's DECRA Project concerns industrial organization, charity innovation, and popular mobilization in rural China.

In 2018, Tom's first book _Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang_ (Chicago University Press, 2016) won the Association for Asian Studies' prestigious E Gene Smith prize for Best Book on Inner Asia.

Tom's current book project is a longitudinal study on categorisation and marginalisation through the Socialist and Post-Socialist eras in the PRC. 

Please see Google Scholar for recent publications.


Research interests

China's Motor: Entrepreneurs and private enterprise. Family and lineage. 

Institutions: of production, market, and social order.

Charity: State structures and mobilisation. Non-state welfare and public goods. 

Experiences: of frontier settlement; of the Socialist State-Owned Enterprise.

Current student projects

Haiyue XU: Daughters of the Transition

Dingwen QIU: Connection to China among Chinese overseas international students



Past student projects

Alex Pan: Competing Media Perspectives on China's Economic Situation, 1945-1949 (PhB; Supervisor)

Alana Tolman: Social and Political Aspects of Bruneian Tertiary Education Policy (Hons; Supervisor)

Yuan Xiaoxi: The Influence of English on Modern Chinese through the 20th century (MAPS; Supervisor)

Lucy Zheng: Power of Language: Political Slogans, Cyber Censorship and Increasing Nationalism in 2010s China (MAPS; Supervisor)

Li Linshan: Lineage Groups and Modernity in Contemporary Southeast China (MAPS; Supervisor)

Ingrid Mao: Contemporary Banality in China (PhB; Supervisor)

Xu Yiwen: Collective Parental Anxiety about After-Class Education in China (MA Advanced; Supervisor)

Stefanie Kam: Securitisation, Desecuritisation and Counter-Securitisation (PhD; Panel member)



PhD. (Chinese Studies, ANU)

Researcher's projects

Family, Enterprise, and Civic Duty in Contemporary China

Business-Local State Relationships in China (ARC DP140101289, with Andrew Kipnis)

Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang

Expertise Areas

  • Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific
  • Social Change
  • Studies of Asian Society


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