Anna Lisa Ahlers

© Arlett Mattescheck


Anna Lisa Ahlers

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


Anna L. Ahlers is currently assembling a Lise Meitner Research Group at the MPIWG, China in the Global System of Science, which will explore the many facets of China’s stunning ascent in the global system of science in recent decades qualitatively and quantitatively. Her own current research projects focus on the political regime as an environmental factor for science, and the intersections and interactions of scientists/scholars with the government in local policy-making in the PR China.

Anna Ahlers studied sinology and political science at the University of Tübingen, Peking University, and Renmin University (PR China), and holds a PhD in China Studies from 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 (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. She is a member of the Junge Akademie (BBAW und Leopoldina) and was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in 2020/21.

Anna Ahlers has published widely on the political system of the PR China, especially on local governance, forms of regime legitimation, the implementation of rural reconstruction programs, and the urban “war against smog,” and, in a more comparative perspective, on the bipolarity of authoritarianism and democracy in the 21st century. She is a member of the editorial board of The Environments of East Asia series (Cornell University Press), an editor of Soziale Systeme (De Gruyter), a member of the executive committee of the European Journal of East Asian Studies (Brill), and associate editor of the Journal of Chinese Governance (Routledge).


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


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


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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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Ahlers, Anna L. and Yongdong Shen (2018). “Breathe Easy? Local Nuances of Authoritarian Environmentalism in China’s Battle Against Air Pollution.” The China Quarterly 234: 299–319.

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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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MPIWG Events

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

Digital Media & Features

News & Press

Research Workshop "Science, Foreign Policy, and the PRC" (Deadline July 20, 2021)


New open-access book series "Environments of East Asia" by Cornell University Press


"Can we trust Chinese Covid-19 science?" MPIWG scholars quoted in Observer article by Laura Spinney