Skip navigation
The Australian National University

Dr Thomas Cliff

PhD. (Chinese Studies, Ethnography)
Research Fellow
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
T: + 61 2 6125 0152

Areas of expertise

  • Government And Politics Of Asia And The Pacific 160606
  • Studies Of Asian Society 169903
  • Social Change 160805
  • Social And Cultural Anthropology 160104
  • Visual Arts And Crafts Not Elsewhere Classified 190599

Research interests

Experience of settler populations on China's frontiers. Empire and colonialism. Migration.

Entrepreneurs. Family and lineage. Informal institutions.

Risk and uncertainty. Unrest and stability maintenance. Welfare politics.




Tom Cliff is an ARC Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Culture, History, and Language at the Australian National University. Tom is currently investigating the role of the informal institutions of family and enterprise in responding to economic uncertainty and the ageing population in China.

The "Informal Life Politics" research group is exploring how people organise themselves to protect their health and livelihood from threats that emanate from state action or the lack of state action.

Tom has conducted long-term fieldwork in Xinjiang, and his book, Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang was published by Chicago University Press in June 2016.

Researcher's projects

Welfare Entrepreneurs and Paradoxes of Social Control in Rural China (ARC DECRA; DE180100622)

Family, Enterprise, and Civic Duty in Contemporary China

Business-Local State Relationships in China (ARC DP140101289, with Andrew Kipnis)

Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang

Current student projects

Stefanie Kam: Securitisation, Desecuritisation and Counter-Securitisation (PhD; Panel member)

Alana Tolman: Social and Political Aspects of Bruneian Tertiary Education Policy (Hons)

Xiaoxi Yuan: The Influence of English on Modern Chinese through the 20th century (MAPS)

Lucy Zheng: Power of Language: Political Slogans, Cyber Censorship and Increasing Nationalism in 2010s China (MAPS)




Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

Return to top

Updated:  22 March 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers