Wenkai He is an associate professor in the Division of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His research interest is the comparative political economy of state formation. His book Paths toward the Modern Fiscal State: England, Japan, and China (Harvard University Press, 2013) examines the process of institutional development through which states managed to centralize the collection of indirect taxes to raise long-term financial resources and thus significantly enhance state capacity.
At Radcliffe, He will expand his exploration of the early modern state to look at how the concept of public interest or public good was used to justify state power through improving social welfare in England (1550–1688), Japan (1700–1850), and China (1700–1840). The key to the maintenance of social order and governance in fiscally decentralized early modern states was a norm legitimating state power through public welfare. Upon this basis, the state and social actors could cooperate, negotiate, and even dispute the means and ends of social policies.
He earned his doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has received an International Dissertation Research Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council and was an An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard. His work has been funded by the Research Grant Council of Hong Kong. Paths toward the Modern Fiscal State was a cowinner of the 2014 Barrington Moore Book Award.