Associate Dean of Huzhou University in China Conducts Research at SJU

Monday, December 9, 2013

by Amanda Sapio '13

PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 4, 2013) – For more than ten years, Benjamin Liebman, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of economics, has researched the steel industry and its impact on world trade. Part of Liebman’s focus is on China, the top producer and consumer of coal, and the export tariffs China formerly placed on metallurgical coke, a derivative of coal, and a key ingredient used to make steel.

“Many countries have complained about steel subsidies implemented by the Chinese government,” says Liebman. “Export tariffs on metallurgical coke helped keep the material abundant for Chinese steel companies, which in turn kept production costs lower for Chinese steel companies and perhaps created an uneven playing field in the global steel industry.”

The U.S. and other countries brought their complaints to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) court, claiming that the Chinese were giving their steel companies an unfair advantage. The WTO agreed that tariffs should not be placed on metallurgical coke, and China was forced to remove the high export costs.

While living in China, Yongfeng Cao, Ph.D., associate dean at Huzhou University in Zejiang, China, read Liebman’s research and was intrigued by his findings. Cao requested to come to SJU on sabbatical to conduct further research with Liebman during the fall 2013 semester.

"Dr. Liebman and I are studying how the WTO ruling affected the price of metallurgical coke and the coal industry as a whole,” says Cao. “We hope to publish our research in a journal at the end of this semester.”

Cao and Liebman originally theorized that, if China removed tariffs on metallurgical coke, the coal industry would become a more level playing field for other countries. However, according to Cao and Liebman’s research, no changes have been made since the WTO ruling took place, leading them to believe that various other factors have contributed to China becoming a leader in the steel industry.

In addition to conducting research with Liebman, Cao has also spent time studying the English language and American culture. He and David Carpenter, Ph.D., associate professor of theology and Asian studies, have practiced their language skills together throughout the semester.

“Practicing Mandarin with Dr. Cao has been a great opportunity, especially because he has taught me a lot about China's educational system,” says Carpenter. “He is interested in learning about higher education in the U.S. as well, including how student evaluations are handled, how tenure and promotion decisions are made, and other details. Trying to discuss all of this in Chinese (for me) and in English (for him) has been quite a challenge, but also a lot of fun.”

Cao is interested in establishing a connection between international business and economics students at SJU and Huzhou University in China through an exchange program.  He has observed many of Liebman’s international trade classes and is intrigued by the collaborative atmosphere between students, especially because the environment is more formal in Chinese classrooms.

"I like the way teachers and students share ideas and discuss questions in class,” says Cao. “I also enjoy the atmosphere on campus. The students and teachers are very hard working. After spending a semester at SJU, I now have a deeper understanding of American culture.”

Media Contact

Kelly Welsh, Director of Communications/College of Arts and Sciences, University Communications, 610-660-1385,


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