Tom Cliff is an ethnographer of Chinese political economy at the Australian National University.


Education Activities

Tom is the Deputy Director (Education) of the School of Culture, History, and Language, and the founding convenor of the Bachelor of Philosophy (Humanities and Social Sciences), or PhB (HaSS) — the ANU's elite and demanding undergraduate research program in the HaSS disciplines. He teaches ASIA2099/6099 “Social Power in China” and a PhB-specific Research Methods course.


Research Activities

Tom is currently writing a book on social mobilisation and the structure-agency problem in the context of non-state welfare and industrial restructuring in rural China. Tom’s book project-in-waiting is a biographical and ethnographic study of categorisation and the realms of political consciousness through the Socialist and Post-Socialist eras in the PRC.


In 2018, Tom's first book Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang (Chicago University Press, 2016) won the Association for Asian Studies' prestigious E Gene Smith prize for Best Book on Inner Asia.


Please see Google Scholar for recent publications.


Research Interest

China's Motor: Entrepreneurs and private enterprise. Family and lineage. 

Institutions: of production, market, and social order.

Charity: State structures and mobilisation. Non-state welfare and public goods. 

Experiences: of frontier settlement; of the Socialist State-Owned Enterprise.