Dr Thomas Cliff

Research Fellow
School of Culture, History and Language

Tom Cliff is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow in the School of Culture, History, and Language at the Australian National University. Tom is currently investigating non-state welfare and public goods provision in rural China.

The research is centrally concerned with charity "model" innovation, model dissemination and the spread of ideas, and state charity mobilisation.

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.

Research interests

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.


  • Thum, R, Jacobs, J, Cliff, T et al 2018, 'The Rise of Xinjiang Studies: A JAS New Author Forum', Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 77, no. 1, pp. 7-18pp.
  • Cliff, T, Morris-Suzuki, T & Wei, S, eds, 2018, The Living Politics of Self-Help Movements in East Asia, Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.
  • Cliff, T 2018, 'Concept Essay One: Ignoring the Attention-Seeking State', in T Cliff, T Morris-Suzuki & S Wei (ed.), The Living Politics of Self-Help Movements in East Asia, Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore, pp. 17-27pp.
  • Cliff, T 2018, 'Survival as Citizenship, or Citizenship as Survival? Imagined and Transient Political Groups in Urban China', in T Cliff, T Morris-Suzuki & S Wei (ed.), The Living Politics of Self-Help Movements in East Asia, Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore, pp. 29-55.
  • Cliff, T 2017, 'Face funds: Political maneuvers around nonstate welfare in rural China', China Review (HK), vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 151-178.
  • Cliff, T 2016, Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.
  • Cliff, T 2015, 'Post-Socialist Aspirations in a Neo-Danwei', The China Journal, vol. 73, pp. 132-157.
  • Cliff, Thomas 2014 “Artificial Light, Beijing”, [Photo Essay], The China Story, January 28 http://www.thechinastory.org/2014/01/artificial-light-beijing/
  • Cliff, T 2013, 'Peripheral Urbanism: Making History on China's Northwest Frontier', China Perspectives, vol. 3, pp. 13-23.
  • Cliff, T 'Un urbanisme à la périphérie: Écrire l’histoire à la frontière nord-ouest de la Chine', Perspectives Chinois, No. 3, 2013, pp. 15-26.
  • Cliff, T 2012, 'The Partnership of Stability in Xinjiang: State-Society Interactions Following the ]uly 2009 Unrest', The China Journal, vol. July 2012, no. 68, pp. 79-105.
  • Cliff, T 2010, China and the Partnership of Stability in Xinjiang, pp. Online.
  • Cliff, T 2009, 'Neo Oasis: The Xinjiang Bingtuan in the Twenty-first Century', Asian Studies Review, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 83-106.
  • Cliff, T 2014, 'Book Review:Photography and China,' The China Journal, vol. 72, pp. 217-219.
  • Cliff, T 2013, 'Book Review: Brush and Shutter: Early Photography in China', The China Journal, vol. 70, pp. 271-273.
  • Cliff, T 2013, 'Book Review: 'Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land'', The China Journal, vol. 70, pp. 240-242.
  • Cliff, T 2012, 'Book Review: The Uyghurs: Strangers in Their Own Land', The China Journal, vol. 68, pp. 268-270.
  • Cliff, T 2011, 'Book Review: 21st-century China: Views from Australia', The China Journal, vol. 65, no. January 2011, pp. 219-220.
  • Cliff, T 2009, 'Book Review: Community Matters in Xinjiang 1880-1949: Towards a Historical Anthropology of the Uyghur', The China Journal, vol. 62, pp. 137-138.
  • Cliff, T 2008, 'Book Review: Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang', The China Journal, vol. 59, pp. 193-194.