May Chen ’25

The Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions, Stanford, CA

This summer I worked at Stanford’s Center on China’s Economy and Institutions as a research assistant. The center focuses on developmental economics-based studies specifically in rural China, often using randomized controlled trials or surveys to better understand policy adjustments that can help prompt the economy. In the past few years, the Chinese government has piloted what is called the Social Credit System. To some degree, it is very similar to private companies or banks calculating a credit rating. However, it has also caused concerns because of its potential political affiliations. Before recent advancements, the collection of information was largely based on using a network of local informants in neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. But technological developments have largely changed China’s abilities. The main cause of concern with this program is then the potential wiggle room in the calculation of the score and the vagueness behind its definition. The score itself is framed as a tool to evaluate the “trustworthiness” of business entities and evaluates five factors: basic data, finance and taxation, governance, compliance and social responsibility. My job was essentially to better understand the effects of this program and what it means to have this score. As of right now, there isn’t a good understanding of how it has changed the market. Our hypothesis, however, is that it has the potential of affecting a company’s valuation.

My internship centered on understanding the existing research, collecting the data and drafting our manuscript. I focused on company value-based data and also the social credit score data, and had the opportunity to work with incredible mentors while developing my paper. I also had the pleasure of meeting professors outside of Stanford who are partnering with us. As a whole, it has been super exciting to see the paper go from data, to meaningful numbers, to an idea, to a story that we can share.

This experience has been incredibly beneficial and impactful for me. I have learned a lot about the research process and data analysis. It has also given me the chance to understand more about the laws and policies of my home country. Additionally, our goal to measure the real-life impact of these policies and results showing the significant interactions of policy with finance has been extremely exciting. The project has sparked my interest, and I would definitely like to work more with developmental economics to better understand the interactions between finance and law.

I would not have been able to enjoy this experience without the support of the Jones Greater China Internship. This summer has given me the opportunity of applying my knowledge back home. Looking forward, I will be continuing my work with Stanford even after this summer ends. As of right now, this manuscript may end up being three or four different papers; so, I am extremely excited to see what is next to come.