Calvin Chen

Associate Professor of Politics; Chair of Asian Studies
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 "Communist Legacies, Postcommunist Transformations, and the Fate of Organized Labor in Russia and China" (with Rudra Sil) in Studies in Comparative International Development, v.41, n.2 (Summer 2006), pp.62-87 and a book, Some Assembly Required: Work, Community, and Politics in China's Rural Enterprises (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2008).

Recent Campus News

The spring 2019 MHC Semester in D.C. students pose with Sen. Edward Markey. From left: Olivia Vejcik, Izabella Czejdo, Brigit Wolf, Sen. Markey, Sarah Bloomgarden, Maya Hoffman and Associate Professor Calvin Chen.

“Transformational growth”

Meeting with Sen. Ed Markey is a typical assignment for the students in Mount Holyoke’s MHC Semester in D.C. program.

large posed group shot of about 50 mostly women on stairs and floor

Careers in Public Service 2019

Forty Mount Holyoke students talked careers in advocacy, policy, politics and more with accomplished alumnae mentors.

Rep. Pelosi with MHC Semester in DC students

In the room where it happens

Mount Holyoke students in the pilot MHC Semester in D.C. program began by meeting with Rep. Nita Lowey ’59 and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The 2018 Careers in Public Service cohort posed in the U.S. Capitol.

On the ground with public service

Mount Holyoke students spent two intensive days in the nation’s capital exploring careers in public service.

Photo of the capital building in Washington D.C.

MHC Semester in D.C. begins fall 2018

Mount Holyoke students can now study and work in the nation’s capital — advancing the College’s legacy of shaping leaders in politics, policy and advocacy.

Recent Publications

Chen, C. “Some Assembly Required: Work, Community, and Politics in China’s Rural Enterprises” (2008) Harvard University Press.