Calvin Chen

Calvin Chen

Assistant Professor of Politics

"By looking at the stories and activities of ordinary citizens, students will not only better understand the broader world in which we live, but more importantly, learn something about themselves, their own priorities and values. What animates my teaching is the possibility of examining and sharing diverse ideas and experiences, ones that reflect more enduring truths. I hope self-reflection remains a central part of students' lives outside the classroom and beyond Mount Holyoke College."

108 Skinner Hall

Joined MHC: 2002


  • University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D., M.A., B.A.


Political economy of East Asia; Chinese politics; comparative politics; work and labor politics; rural economic development; public administration.

An expert in the political economy of East Asia, Calvin Chen doesn't limit himself to studying famous politicians and formal political institutions. He researches the ordinary lives of the working people of China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea and discovers extraordinary day-to-day endeavors that ultimately shape a nation economically and politically.

In the 1990s, for example, Chen lived and labored alongside Chinese workers in Zhejiang province south of Shanghai, seeking to understand how former farmers in two townships had made such a success of collective and private manufacturing enterprises. He found a family-style structure of relationships built on trust and support, a structure that led to cooperation, productivity, and reward for all involved. The successful structure reminds us of the great power of ordinary people and their grassroots ideas, says Chen.

Chen has won numerous grants and scholarships for his research, which has included work in China and Taiwan, as well as a study of communism in East Europe and Russia in the post-cold war era. His writings include a coauthored manuscript, "Labor Politics in Post-Socialist Russia and China: Belated Convergence or Divergent Transformations?," and a book manuscript, Economic Reform, Local Networks, and the Politics of Production in Contemporary China. Chen's comparative historical courses, such as East Asian Politics and Politics of Work, contribute to a broad, integrated politics curriculum and an effective major in Asian studies.

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