If I help students develop a passion for economics, the willingness to critically question ongoing social and global changes, and the ability to formulate and analyze economic questions using proper research methodology, then I know I’ve been successful.

Christine Ngo

According to Professor Christine Ngo, economics, mainstream economic arguments are severely limited when it comes to understanding the dynamic economic transformations of developing countries.

"My research cuts across many disciplines, including law, economics, politics and public policy," she explains. With a doctorate in economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and a law degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law, Ngo is well positioned to examine economic and social issues from a variety of angles.

Much of Ngo's research has focused on the industrial development of Vietnam, a communist country whose single-party government has adopted both state control and free-market approaches to development. She examines how rent management — a configuration of economic incentives and pressures applied by the government and other institutions — has shaped the path of Vietnam's economic development.

Ngo also studied rent management in terms of foreign investment. "I looked at rent-seeking dynamics among Vietnam, China and Japan in relation to Vietnam's motorcycle industry from the mid-1990s to the late 2000s," she explains. "Vietnam's policy was largely unsuccessful in the short term. However, the competition among the multinational corporations, coupled with high market demands domestically, eventually led to significant technological adoption and learning in the production chain."

Ngo developed a theoretical and analytical model called developmental rent-management analysis (DRMA) to use in case-study analysis. "The DRMA is intended to be inductive," she says. "In developing countries, statistical data is seldom credible even if it is available. Therefore, analytical case studies are key to studying transformative events and development processes." According to Ngo, the framework offers scholars, field researchers and policymakers an alternative analytical approach that provides a better understanding of the constraints on an industry, the complexity of a country's political economy and the historical episodes of economic development.

Ngo says her goal is to combine economics and the social sciences to inspire her students to question, engage and bring about meaningful social change. "If I help them develop a passion for economics, the willingness to critically question ongoing social and global changes, and the ability to formulate and analyze economic questions using proper research methodology, then I know I've been successful."

Posted September 2018