Ho-fung Hung featured in JHU Arts & Sciences Weekly

Ho-fung Hung featured in JHU Arts & Sciences Weekly
Describe your primary research or scholarship, and tell us what is most exciting about your current project.
One major focus of my research has been how the rise of China reshapes the global political economy and generates new identities and conflicts. Taking many steps back from the torrent of news headlines to examine historical data and long-term trends, we can always discover deep, underlying forces that shape current events. For example, many people suppose the deteriorating U.S.-China relations originated from the policy and actions of President Trump and President Xi. But after investigating years of corporate financial reports, corporate lawsuit databases, and under-the-radar lobbying activities in both countries, I find the rivalry between the two countries is rooted in China’s state-backed companies’ increasing aggressiveness at the expense of U.S. companies in the Chinese and world markets after the global financial crisis of 2008. The turn from profitable collaboration to intensifying competition between U.S. and Chinese corporations, coupled with the geopolitical tension over the South China Sea, Taiwan, and other issues dating back to the 1990s, created today’s dicey situation. From a longer-term perspective, this development of intercapitalist competitions into geopolitical rivalry is disturbingly similar to the UK-Germany rivalry at the turn of the 20th century, though with many differences.     

Share a best practice or tip for successful teaching or mentoring.
When I assign readings to students, I often refrain from introducing my take in the beginning. I would let them develop their readings first through pre-class reading memos and open-floor discussions in class. Students with different intellectual backgrounds and motivated by different questions often come up with different insights, appreciations, and critiques of the readings. Discussion based on the diverse perspectives on the same readings is always an excellent learning process for everyone, including myself. In mentoring individual students, my advice always includes “staying curious.” PhD students can easily lose interest in theories and research outside their immediate field after delving into their own research. To stay curious about the development in other fields – kind of getting out of your intellectual comfort zone – can expose students to ideas that keep them connected to the wider academic communities. It can also offer them insights that may be eventually relevant to their research, directly or indirectly.   

What do you like to do outside of work?
Having two teenage children, I have been spending most of my time outside with them – while they are developing their independent life and will leave home soon. Over the last two years, we spent much time in outdoor activities during the pandemic, including kayaking, biking, hiking, BBQ, archery, and traveling. Last summer, before the Delta variant hit and when things started to open up, we made a 10-day trip to Italy and let the kids take full control of the itinerary planning for the first time. We are delighted to learn how much they grew up during the trip. They shared a lot of newly gained knowledge, views of the world, and complaints they normally reserve for their friends. Besides the pandemic’s disruptions, the last two years of lockdown and cancellations also allowed us to rediscover the fun of the outdoors and family trips. If there is any upside to the pandemic, this would be it.