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Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
Professor of Chinese Economy and Society
Director, China Global Center at Constructor University
School of Business, Social & Decision Sciences

Constructor University Bremen gGmbH
Res. IV | Campus Ring 1 | D-28759 Bremen

+49 421 200-3303
ttenbrink [at]
Research IV, Room 98
Office Hours: 

Wednesdays, 13:00-14:00 (during semester)

Research Interests: 
  • China and large emerging countries
  • Global Political Economy and International Relations
  • Comparative Politics, institutional analysis and institutional change
  • Social Theory, Historical and Political Sociology


Research projects:

Inclusion and Benefit Dynamics in the Chinese Welfare Regime (DFG Research Grant; SFB 1342, 2022-2025)
This project analyses how social insurance programmes in the People’s Republic of China have evolved from the 1990s to 2020 in terms of coverage and generosity of benefits. Specifically, we want to contribute to the understanding of social policy dynamics in the risk fields of old age, sickness, maternity, and unemployment. We scrutinize how national factors, global economic interdependence and ideational linkages in the East Asian region influence changes in coverage and generosity. Data preparation and analysis follow a mixed-methods approach. Headed by Tobias ten Brink and Armin Müller, the project team will run for four years, and is part of the Collaborative Research Center SFB 1342 “Global Dynamics of Social Policy” at the University of Bremen, funded by the German Research Foundation DFG (INST 144/479-1; 

Cooperation of European firms with Chinese universities: Forms and Effects (BMBF Research Grant, 2021-2024)
This project will provide evidence on collaborations between European firms and Chinese research institutions. We will identify collaboration patterns by scraping websites of leading Chinese universities, research institutes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and WeChat accounts. We ask: What forms of collaboration can be identified between Chinese research institutions and European firms? From the firm’s viewpoint, what effects does the collaboration generate? Under which conditions can more legitimacy and innovation be achieved? To answer these questions, we combine web-scraping, survey questionnaires and statistical analysis with qualitative methods. We expect a better understanding of university-industry collaboration in China, and a better assessment of the opportunities and risks of international university-industry collaboration. The project is co-led by Cornelia Storz (Goethe University Frankfurt) and funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research/Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF 01DO21007B

Challenges for the Stability of the Chinese Economic Model (DFG Research Grant, 2019-2023)
Headed by Tobias ten Brink, the project examines if and to what extent current socio-economic and political challenges are destabilizing China's state-permeated economic model. In particular, it asks whether recent reforms initiated under the Xi Jinping government tend to undermine or sustain the model. To take account of China’s regional heterogeneity, the research scope is not limited to aggregated national data. Three comparative case studies are conducted, which focus on industrial metropolises in the highly developed coastal province of Guangdong (here: Shenzhen), in the late-developing inland province of Hubei (here: Wuhan) and the structurally weak province of Liaoning (here: Shenyang). The project expects new insights into China’s development as well as a better understanding of the processes enabling institutional stabilization and of an incremental, path-dependent adaptation of models of capitalism. It is funded by DFG (TE 1069/6-1).

China in Europe Research Network (COST Action 18215, Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, 2019-2024)
Foreign direct investment from China to Europe has been growing strongly over the past decade. The perceived challenges posed by investment and other activities have led to increasing political and media attention across Europe, including calls for EU vetting and regulation of acquisitions. In this Cost Action, Tobias ten Brink (Management Committee member) participates among other researchers to  (a) pool and stimulate research on China’s deepening economic engagements with Europe (b) develop an interdisciplinary, holistic, cross-sectoral and pan-European understanding of the variegated impacts and strategies associated with these engagements; (c) comprehend likely political and geo-political consequences; and (d) generate input on policy implications. The action is based at VU Amsterdam, chaired by Nana de Graaff. See:

Public-Private Collaboration in China´s Innovative Rise: Effects and Mechanisms (DFG Research Grant, 2018-2021)
Globally, states are seeking to improve their economies’ innovation capacities. This is all the more relevant for emerging countries such as China in its attempt to avoid being stuck as a middle-income economy. This project uses insights from studies on industrial policy and the innovation systems literature to analyze sources of China’s recent innovative rise. Going beyond older forms of state-led developmentalism, it asks for the role of public-private networks to foster innovation, especially among local state actors, research institutes and (private and semi-private) firms. The project is jointly organized by Tobias ten Brink and Cornelia Storz (Goethe University Frankfurt). It is funded by DFG (TE 1069/5-1; TE 1069/5-2; STO 860/8-1).

Dynamics of Chinese Social Policy: The Interplay of National and International Influences (DFG Research Grant; SFB 1342, 2018-2021)
Barely noticed by Western publics, since the 1990s and especially since the mid-2000s, China has been implementing the largest social policy project in history. Although Chinese social policy does have its own traditions, its emergence and expansion have been influenced by international interdependencies of various origins. The project’s central question is: How have these internal and external influences affected and shaped Chinese social policy and which mechanisms were responsible? A team of researchers is studying this in pension, health and unemployment insurances. Headed by Tobias ten Brink and Liu Tao (University of Duisburg-Essen), the project will initially run for four years but can be extended to twelve years (INST 144/479-1). The reason for this is that the research is part of the new Collaborative Research Center SFB 1342 “Global Dynamics of Social Policy” at the University of Bremen, funded by the German Research Foundation DFG (

Fellowships and Awards: 

“Geisteswissenschaften International” – Award for Translation Funding in the Humanities and Social Sciences by the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, for the monograph “Chinas Kapitalismus. Entstehung, Verlauf, Paradoxien”, 2016

Max Planck Institute postdoctoral research grant, 2009-2011

Humanities International – Award for Translation Funding in the Humanities and Social Sciences by the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, for the PhD thesis “Geopolitik”, 2010

Fritz Thyssen Foundation research grant, 2008-2009

Hans Boeckler Foundation doctoral fellowship, 2004-2007

Research and Teaching Positions: 


Since 2016

Professor of Chinese Society and Business, Jacobs University Bremen


Visiting Professor for International Political Studies, University Witten/Herdecke


Research Fellow and Lecturer, Goethe University Frankfurt, Institute for Political Science


Theodor Heuss Lecturer, The New School for Social Research, New York


Visiting Scholar, MIT (Center for International Studies), Cambridge


Visiting Scholar, Sun Yat-Sen University (School of Government), Guangzhou, China


Habilitation (Post-doctoral degree), Goethe University Frankfurt


Postdoctoral and Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne

Since 2008

Research Fellow (since 2016: Associated Researcher), Institute for Social Research, Frankfurt


Visiting Scholar, East-West-Center, Honolulu


Lecturer, University of Applied Sciences Frankfurt


PhD, Political Science ("summa cum laude"), University of Frankfurt


PhD student as Hans Boeckler Fellow, Department of Social Sciences, University of Frankfurt; as of 2004 at the Institute for Social Research


Diplom (MA equivalent), Political Science, University of Frankfurt



A Chinese Bureaucracy for Innovation-Driven Development? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023 (with A. d. P. Gomes) (LINK)

Lesson-drawing under authoritarianism. Generosity and cost control in China’s hospital payment reforms. Asian Politics & Policy, 2023 (with A. Müller) (LINK)

Industrial policy and the creation of the electric vehicles market in China: Demand structure, sectoral complementarities, and policy coordination. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 47:1, 2023, 45-66 (with A. d. P. Gomes, R. Pauls) (LINK)

University satellite institutes as exogenous facilitators of technology transfer ecosystem development. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 48:1, 2023, 147-180 (with M. Conlé, H. Kroll, C. Storz) (PDF)

Chinas Aufstieg, Konflikte um Technologieführerschaft und „weaponized interdependence“. In: S. A. Schirm, A. Busch, S. Lütz, S. Walter, H. Zimmermann (Hrsg.): De-Globalisierung. Forschungsstand und Perspektiven. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2022  (LINK)

Innovation platforms as a tool for anchoring non-local knowledge: Smart specialisation strategies in Guangdong, China. Industry and Innovation, online first, 2022 (with M. Conlé, W. Zhao) (LINK)

Moving the Center. Adapting the Toolbox of Growth Model Research to Emerging Capitalist Economies. IPE Working Papers, Institute for International Political Economy, Berlin, 2022 (with D. Mertens, A. Nölke, C. May, M. Schedelik, A. Gomes) (LINK) 

The Introduction of Pension, Accident and Health Insurance in Urban China. In: F. Nullmeier, J. Kuhlmann (eds.), Causal Mechanisms in the Development of Social Insurance Institutions. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 33-66, 2022 (with A. Müller, T. Liu) (LINK

The diffusion of international models in China’s Urban Employees’ Social Insurance. Global Social Policy, online first, 2022 (with A. Müller) (LINK).  

Social Protection for Migrant Workers in China. In: F. Nullmeier, D. González de Reufels, H. Obinger (eds.), International Impacts on Social Policy. Short Histories in a Global Perspective. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 489-500, 2022 (with T. Liu) (LINK)

The Externalization of China's Technical Standardization Approach. Development and Change, 52:5, 1196-1221, 2021 (with T. Rühlig) (LINK)

China's Social Policy Response to Covid 19: Pragmatic Adjustment of Existing Welfare Institutions, Covid-19 Social Policy Response Series 25/2021, Bremen: CRC 1342, 2021 (with Y. Li, T. Liu) (PDF)

Innovation in emerging economies: How do university-industry linkages and public procurement matter for small businesses? Asia Pacific Journal of Management, online first, 2021 (with C. Storz, N. Zou) (PDF)

The agency of recipient countries on transnational policy-related knowledge transfer: From conditionality to elaborated autonomous policy learning, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 54:3, 51-72, 2021 (with A. Heinrich, G. Isabekova, A. Müller, H. Pleines) (PDF)

Provider Payment Reform for Chinese Hospitals: Policy Transfer and International Diffusion of International Models, IN-EAST Working Papers on East Asian Studies, 129, Universität Duisburg-Essen, 2021 (with A. Müller) (PDF)

Das chinesische Wirtschaftsmodell im Wandel. China-Dossier der Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, 2021 (LINK)

Causal Mechanisms in the Analysis of Social Policy Dynamics: Evidence from the Global South, Social Policy & Administration, Vol. 55, 2021 (with J. Kuhlmann) (LINK)

Technology Transfer Models for Knowledge-Based Regional Development: New R&D Institutes in Guangdong, China. Science and Public Policy, Vol. 48, 2021 (with M. Conlé, W. Zhao)  (LINK)

Policy Experimentation, Top-leader Intervention, and Elite Cooperation: Causal Mechanisms in the Making of China's Social Insurance System. SOCIUM CRC 1342 Working Paper Series, University of Bremen, 2021 (with A. Müller, T. Liu) (PDF)

China’s Rise in a Liberal World Order in Transition, Introduction to the Special Forum. Review of International Political Economy. DOI: 10.1080/09692290.2019.1709880, 2020 (with N. de Graaff, T. ten Brink, I. Parmar) (PDF)

State-permeated Capitalism in Large Emerging Economies. Basingstoke: Routledge (RIPE Series in Global Political Economy), 2020 (with A. Nölke, S. Claar, C. May) (LINK)

Varieties of Contestation: China’s Rise and the Liberal Trade Order. Review of International Political Economy, DOI: 10.1080/09692290.2019.1699145, 2019 (with C. Weinhardt) (PDF)

China's Capitalism. A Paradoxical Route to Economic Prosperity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019 (LINK)     
- Book Review Symposium, Socio-Economic Review, Vol. 18, 2020 (LINK)


A comprehensive list of Tobias ten Brink’s academic publications, talks and teachings is here (PDF).


Other Professional Activities: 

President’s Committee for Academic Research, Jacobs University, 2020  
Faculty Member, Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS), since 2016  
Member of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Jacobs University, since 2016  
Network Organizer (“Asian Capitalisms”) for annual SASE Conferences (Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics), since 2011 
Member of the board of the “Political Economy” section of the German Political Science Association (DVPW), 2012-2015  
Advisory Board “dms – der moderne staat”, since 2012