Eddie Zeng, a graduate student in the Department of Political Science at
the University of Michigan, has been awarded The Hamilton Prize in
recognition of the best paper delivered at the annual Alexander Hamilton
Center Graduate Student Conference on Political Economy.

The prize was awarded at the Hamilton Center's fifth annual
conference, staged this past May at New York University.  Select graduate
students from across the world gathered at the conference in order to
present their work and share ideas.  According to the Hamilton Center's
website, papers were to focus on "how individual and political incentives
interact to create constraints and opportunities for citizens, political
leaders, and entrepreneurs in the private or public sector to address
policy issues."  This connects with the mission of the NYU-based center, which is to "provide clear, explicit, and compelling ties between logic, evidence, and policy conclusions."

Zeng's paper focused on the interaction between the central government and
provincial leaders in China, with particular attention to housing policies.

"The main research question," says Zeng, is "how does the center's control
over the appointment of provincial leaders affect the latter's incentives
to implement central policies?"  

An answer to this question, he believes, will help political scientists gain insight into "the motivations of local officials in a unitary, authoritarian system."  Zeng sees China as a
particularly appropriate site for studies of the relationship between central and local government. 

"China is one of the most decentralized [countries] in the world," he says, "and provinces in China are granted enormous power to make economic decisions."

For Zeng, this prize-winning paper connects with broader interests.  Future work, he says, will help political scientists understand the logic of local government behavior in China.  

Historically, Chinese provinces have a strong tendency of striving for de facto self-rule and evading central control,"  he explains.  "The paper is the beginning of a larger project to examine the way Beijing maintains control over provinces in the context of economic decentralization."

As he continues to take his work forward, Zeng remains both pleased and surprised by the award.  "Given that there are so many excellent papers presented at the conference, me winning the award is a much bigger puzzle than the one I tried to answer in the paper. Anyway, it feels good when your hard work turns into something."

(Damien Picariello is a doctoral student in Political Theory.)