Trade Openness and Political Risks in Less-developed Countries: Three Essays



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This dissertation consists of three essays that integrate trade's distributional theories in the fields of international political economy and authoritarian politics to advance existing knowledge on trade politics in developing countries and emerging markets. The core theoretical framework is that trade openness affects individuals' preferences and behaviors through its distributional impacts on local labor markets. In developing countries and emerging markets, economic globalization especially trade openness, increases the total welfare of the labor population (Stolper-Samuelson Theorem") but widens the economic risks and income gap between traded and domestic firms (New new trade theory"). In the first essay, I address a substantive question: does trade openness lead to mass protests in the context of developing countries and emerging markets? Conventional wisdom based on the factor endowment theory predicts that trade openness tends to stabilize these countries that have a comparative advantage of exporting labor-intensive goods. However, this paper finds that trade openness is robustly associated with a higher probability of experiencing mass protests among less-developed countries. It also finds that political competition moderates the causal relationship between trade openness and mass protests. Specifically, trade-related mass protests are more likely to occur in closed regimes. Also, this paper empirically confirms the mechanism that trade openness is associated with the increase of income inequality among these countries in recent decades. The second essay addresses a substantive question: how trade openness affects Chinese citizens' social protection preferences? Linking the distributional insights from the ``new new trade theory" with the risk model of social policy, this paper argues that trade openness increases individuals' demand for social protection, and the relationship is stronger among private-sector employees. My third essay investigates the changes in gender equality perceptions by looking at trade's positive job market effect on women's job participation in Chinese provinces. More jobs are created when China expands its traded/exported industries. Therefore, women's rising economic positions shape how the public perceives women's economic and political positions. This paper finds evidence that trade is positively associated with more equalized gender-based norms by using survey data and archival macro-economic indicators in 2012. Also, it corroborates that trade improves gender equality perceptions through its positive effect on women's job participation.



Trade Openness, Political Risks, Less-developed Countries