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, that will explore the many facets of China’s stunning ascent in the global system of science in recent decades qualitatively and quantitatively. Her own research focuses on the current political regime as an environmental factor for science in the PR China, and the interactions of scientific standards and practices with societal values and ethical principles in China, in academic collaboration, and in world science.

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), Zhejiang University (PR China), 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 will be 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 executive committee of the European Journal of East Asian Studies (Brill) and associate editor of the Journal of Chinese Governance (Routledge).


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


No projects were found for this scholar.

Selected Publications

Ahlers, A. L., Krichewsky, D., Moser, E., & Stichweh, R. (in press). Democratic and Authoritarian Political Systems in 21st Century World Society. Vol. I.: Differentiation, Inclusion, Responsiveness. Bielefeld: Transcript.

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

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Ahlers, A. L., Halskov Hansen, M., & Svarverud, R. (in press). The Great Smog of China: a Short History of Air Pollution. Ann Arbour: Association for Asian Studies.

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Ahlers, A. L., & Shen, Y. (2018). Breathe Easy? Local Nuances of Authoritarian Environmentalism in China’s Battle Against Air Pollution. The China Quarterly, 234, 299-319. doi:10.1017/S0305741017001370.

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Shen, Y., & Ahlers, A. L. (2019). Blue Sky Fabrication in China: Science-Policy Integration in Air Pollution Regulation Campaigns for Mega-Events. Environmental Science and Policy, 94, 135-142. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2018.12.005.

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Digital Media & Features

Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities

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

Cornell University

Cornell Contemporary China Initiative (CCCI)

News & Press

New interdisciplinary Lise Meitner Research Group to focus on China in the global system of science