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Headshot of Philip Thai with red brick background

Associate Professor of History

At Northeastern since 2013

Philip Thai is a historian of Modern China with research and teaching interests that include legal history, economic history, and diplomatic history. He is the author of China’s War on Smuggling: Law, Economic Life, and the Making of the Modern State, 1842-1965 (Columbia University Press and a Study of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, 2018). During the 2022-23 academic year, he will be in residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study as an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Frederick Burkhardt Fellow working on his new project, “In the Shadows of the Bamboo Curtain: Underground Economies across Greater China during the Cold War.” At the core of Professor Thai’s inquiries is understanding the complex interplay between law, society, and economy. His interdisciplinary work has been supported by a number of organizations, including the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), American Philosophical Society (APS), Fulbright-Hays Program, Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI).

Between his time as a graduate and undergraduate student, he spent several years as a consultant and financial analyst in the private sector. He is currently the Modern China Book Review Editor for the Journal of Asian Studies and an associate in research at Harvard University Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin Hurst Institute in Legal History, and a Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS China Studies Postdoctoral Fellow.

Read Professor Thai’s Faculty Spotlight.

 

View CV

American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship, for residence at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, 2022–23; American Philosophical Society (APS), Franklin Research Grant, 2019; Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2015–16

Books

In the Shadows of the Bamboo Curtain: Underground Economies across Greater China during the Cold War (manuscript in progress)

China’s War on Smuggling: Law, Economic Life, and the Making of the Modern State, 1842­–1965. Columbia University Press, Study of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute (2018). https://cup.columbia.edu/book/a/9780231185844

Articles and Book Chapters

“A Risky Business: The Tai Ping Insurance Company and Fire Insurance in China, 1928–1937,” Enterprise and Society (2020), 1–39. https://doi.org/10.1017/eso.2020.47

“Smuggling and Legal Pluralism on the China Coast: The Rise and Demise of the Joint Investigation Rules, 1864–1934,” in Clara Wing-chung Ho, Ricardo K. S. Mak, and Yue-him Tam, eds., Voyages, Migration, and the Maritime World: On China’s Global Historical Role: 165–85. De Gruyter (2018). https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110587685

“Introduction,” in “Binding Maritime China: Control, Evasion, and Interloping” (special issue guest editor with Eugenio Menegon and Xing Hang), Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Cultural Review 7.1 (2018), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1353/ach.2018.0000

“Old Menace in New China: Coastal Smuggling, Illicit Markets, and Symbiotic Economies in the Early People’s Republic,” Modern Asian Studies 51.5 (2017): 1561–97. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X16000688

“Law, Sovereignty, and the War on Smuggling in Coastal China, 1928–1937,” Law and History Review 34.1 (2016): 75–114. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0738248015000668

Other Publications

“The proven solution to pandemics President Trump continues to reject,” The Washington Post (2020). https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/05/19/prove-solution-pandemics-that-president-trump-continues-reject/

“Comment les droits de douane ont aidé à construire la Chine modern” (How tariffs helped build modern China), Le Grand Continent (2020). https://legrandcontinent.eu/fr/2020/01/16/comment-les-droits-de-douane-ont-aide-a-construire-la-chine-moderne/

“Xiandai Zhongguo jisi shi shuxie de licheng, wenti yu keneng” 现代中国缉私史书写的历程、问题与可能 (The course, problems, and possibilities of writing the history of anti-smuggling in modern China), Guangzhou Daxue xuebao (shehui kexue ban) 广州大学学报 (社会科学版) (Journal of Guangzhou University (social science edition)) 18.6 (2019): 108–12.
http://xb-sk.gzhu.edu.cn/CN/volumn/volumn_1199.shtml

“Tariffs and Unintended Consequences: The Case of China’s War on Smuggling,” Columbia University Press Blog (2018). http://www.cupblog.org/2018/07/19/tariffs-and-unintended-consequences-the-case-of-chinas-war-on-smuggling/

“Falü, zhuquan yu Zhongguo yanhai jisi zhi zhan” 法律、主权与中国沿海的缉私之战 (Law, Sovereignty, and the War on Smuggling in Coastal China), Falü shi yiping 法律史译评 (Legal history studies) 5 (2017): 333–62.

“Overseas Chinese, Coastal Smuggling, and Legal Pluralism in the People’s Republic of China,” H-Net World Legal History Blog (2016). https://networks.h-net.org/node/16794/blog/world-legal-history-blog/142600/overseas-chinese-coastal-smuggling-and-legal

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