Anna Lisa Ahlers standing in front of a light grey background

© Arlett Mattescheck


Anna Lisa Ahlers

Lise Meitner Research Group Leader (Jan 2020-Sep 2025)

Dr., professor (University of Oslo)

Anna L. Ahlers is the founder and head of the Lise Meitner Research Group at the MPIWG which explores the many facets of China’s rapid and extensive ascent in the global system of science. In her current research projects, she analyzes authoritarianism and democracy as environmental factors for science and academia, the evolution of science policy in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and science-policy interactions in China’s (local) governance. She does so with a general interest in the global structures of science and their local varieties in the twenty-first century.

After studying sinology and political science at the University of Tübingen, Peking University, and Renmin University (PRC), Anna Ahlers completed her doctorate in China Studies at the University of Tübingen. Before joining the MPIWG in January 2020, she was a tenured Associate Professor in Modern Chinese Society and Politics at the University of Oslo, Norway. She has also worked at the University of Bonn (Forum Internationale Wissenschaft, FIW), the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), Academia Sinica (RoChina), and the University of Chicago where she was a Wigeland Visiting Professor in the academic year 2018/19. Between 2017 and 2022 she was a member of the Junge Akademie (BBAW und Leopoldina) and in 2020/21 a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (IAS). She is still closely connected to the FIW as an associate fellow.

In November 2023, Anna Ahlers was appointed Professor II in the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages (IKOS) at the University of Oslo (UiO), as part of a collaboration with the new Norwegian Research Centre on Geopolitics. At UiO she teaches an MA and a PhD course that introduces innovative approaches to studying China as a geopolitical actor in today’s world. Under her leadership, the Lise Meitner Research Group currently hosts the project “Knowledge for Scientific Cooperation: Research-based and Action-guiding China competence for German Academic Organizations” (Wi-Wi-Ko-China, 2023-2026), funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and jointly conducted with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The project synthesizes basic knowledge about China’s science system with experiences in German/European-Chinese research collaboration and aims to raise “China competence” among actors in German academia.

Anna Ahlers’ recent book publications include The Great Smog of China: A Short Event History of Air Pollution (co-authored with Mette Halskov Hansen and Rune Svarverud) and Democratic and Authoritarian Political Systems in 21st Century World Society (with Damien Krichewsky, Evelyn Moser and Rudolf Stichweh). See more in her publication list available below and her Google scholar profile. Anna Ahlers is a member of the editorial board of The Environments of East Asia series (Cornell University Press), a member of the international advisory board of the Routledge Studies on Local China series, an editor of Soziale Systeme/Social Systems, and a member of the executive committee of the European Journal of East Asian Studies.

Nachrichten & Presse

Anna Lisa Ahlers in den „Gemeinsamen Ausschuss zum Umgang mit sicherheitsrelevanter Forschung“ berufen


Anna Lisa Ahlers im Interview für MIT Technology Review über den Aufstieg Chinas


Neues BMBF-gefördertes Forschungsprojekt am MPIWG: „Wi-Wi-Ko-China"




From Technocracy to Scientocracy? Science-Policy Interactions in the Chinese Local State, 1990–2020


Knowledge for Academic Cooperation: Research-based and Action-Guiding China Expertise for German Science Organizations


Scientists, Politics, and Climate Change in China


Sino-Norwegian Centre for the Study of Society and Environment (SINORSE)


The Merton Project: Science and Political Regimes in the 21st Century


Turbulent Transmissions: The Public Roles of Chinese Scientists in the Covid-19 Crisis


No projects were found for this scholar.


Selected Publications

Ahlers, Anna L., Damien Krichewsky, Evelyn Moser, and Rudolf Stichweh (2021). Democratic and Authoritarian Political Systems in 21st Century World Society. Vol. 1: Differentiation, Inclusion, Responsiveness. Global Studies & Theory of Society 5. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.

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Ahlers, Anna L. (2014). Rural Policy Implementation in Contemporary China: New Socialist Countryside. London: Routledge.

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Ahlers, Anna L., Mette Halskov Hansen, and Rune Svarverud (2020). The Great Smog of China: A Short History of Air Pollution. Asia Shorts 4. Ann Arbour, MI: Association for Asian Studies.

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Shen, Yongdong and Anna L. Ahlers (2019). “Blue Sky Fabrication in China: Science-Policy Integration in Air Pollution Regulation Campaigns for Mega-Events.” Environmental Science and Policy 94: 135–142.

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Ahlers, Anna L. and Rudolf Stichweh (2022). “Die Bipolarität von Demokratie und Autoritarismus und ihre gesellschaftlichen Ursprünge.” Soziale Systeme 25 (2): 377–417.

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Ahlers, Anna L. (2022). “The Future of Global Science Relations.” Issues in Science and Technology 39 (1, Fall).

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Ahlers, Anna L. and Thomas Heberer (2021). “More Exchange at Eye-Level: European Research Cooperation with the People’s Republic of China.” Global Cooperation Research 3 (2): 19–23.

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External Presentations & Talks

Max Planck Lecture: China—The New Science Superpower? National Developments and Global Effects

Berlin Science Week

Program and Abstract
Governing the Airpocalypse—Insights from China's "War on Smog"

Cornell University

Cornell Contemporary China Initiative (CCCI)

Feature Articles

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