bio

I am an assistant professor in the department of history at Villanova University, about thirty minutes outside Philadelphia. My research interests include: modern China, south and east Asia, histories and theories of political economy and capitalism, and global and comparative history.

My book Tea War: A history of capitalism in China and India was published by Yale University Press in 2020 as part of the Weatherhead Studies in East Asia series with Columbia University. I relied upon archival materials found in China, India, and the UK, trying to bring together the histories of the Chinese and Indian tea industries into a global and comparative study of capitalism in the “rest” of the world. In spring 2022, it won the Ralph Gomory prize from the Business History Conference. More in the book section.

Right now, I am developing a second project centered on the connections between Hong Kong and Guangdong in southern China and taking place across the 1970s and eighties. From this vantage point, I hope to rethink a series of late-twentieth century transformations involving: “reform and opening” in China, the “miracle” economies of east Asia’s “flying geese” and “four tiger” societies, and, more broadly, global political economy. This period is often narrated as a story of the breakdown of Fordism from the standpoint of the north Atlantic, viz., the rise of “neoliberalism.” What I am trying to figure out is: how does our view of the modern world change when we pay serious attention to events taking place at the same moment in the Asia-Pacific?

I am also a member of the Critical China Scholars collective, a group of humanists and social scientists committed to advancing solidarity amidst mounting tensions between the US and China.

Since the outset of the Covid pandemic, I have been part of a podcast called Time to Say Goodbye with journalists Jay Kang and Tammy Kim. We cover topics spanning global politics and culture, Asia, and Asian America. Here’s our episode on The Dig with Daniel Denvir in April 2021. We were also featured by Vulture as one of the top podcasts of 2021.

I grew up in the Seattle suburbs and spent just over a decade in New York City as a student, with time in Asia mixed in. Outside of contemplating the world’s problems, I spend most of my time thinking about my next bowl of Asian noodles (wide, dry, very spicy) (below) and NBA basketball. With the departure of the Seattle Supersonics (2008, RIP), I have become an NBA generalist. Stephen Curry is my all-time favorite player. If you agree, then we will get along! If you disagree, then you are part of the problem.

      email address: aliu01 at villanova.edu