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Lizhi Liu

Lizhi Liu

Ph.D. Candidate


Lizhi(Liz) Liu is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Stanford University. She studies the political economy of development, with a focus on trade, market institutions, and developing countries (especially China). She also received her M.S. in statistics at Stanford University.

In her dissertation, Lizhi seeks to propose a new theory of institutional development for developing countries by examining China’s booming e-Commerce market, where over 500 million active users generate more than 70 million transactions per day. She argues that, in the face of political obstacles to adopting strong formal institutions, the state can engage in “institutional outsourcing” - the delegation of its institutional functions to key private actors. She demonstrates that online trading platforms (e.g. Alibaba’s and have begun to privately supply market-supporting institutions to enforce contracts, prevent fraud, and settle disputes. Not only do platforms enforce rules, they also assist the state in creating and reforming formal market institutions through institutional experiments. For research design and theory testing, she triangulates a variety of methods including semi-structured interviews, historical institutional analysis, survey research, web-scraping, and a large-scale randomized field experiment. The dissertation presents the first systematic effort in political science to theorize the rise of e-Commerce and its impact on state-market relations.

Lizhi's research has been supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Weiss Family Program Fund, the Clausen Center of UC-Berkeley, the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation, Stanford Center for International Development (SCID), the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED), among others. She was the Bradley Fellow, the Pre-doctoral Fellow at SCPKU, Huoshui Young Scholar of Alibaba’s Research Institute, and the Guest Researcher of the Alibaba Research Center for Rural Dynamics.