Professor Elizabeth Thurbon

Professor Elizabeth Thurbon

BEc. (Soc. Sci) (Hons I, Uni Medal) PhD Syd

Arts,Design & Architecture
School of Social Sciences

Elizabeth is Deputy Head of School (Research) and Professor of International Political Economy in the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture (ADA) at UNSW Sydney. She has previously held an Asia Society Australia-Korea Fellowship (2021-2022) and a UNSW Scientia Fellowship (2019-2022), as well as Visiting Fellowships at Seoul National University (as a Korea Foundation Fellow) and China Foreign Affairs University.

Elizabeth's research examines the state and its strategic role in the process of national techno-industrial development, adaptation, and transformation. Her most significant contributions to the field examine varieties of economic statecraft, the rise and transformation of East Asia's developmental states, the state's strategic role in the clean energy shift, and the political economy of international trade and investment agreements, with a particular focus on the impact of these agreements on states' policy 'room to move'. She has written widely on these topics for academic and popular audiences.

Her most recent book Developmental Environmentalism (Oxford University Press, 2023) provides the first comprehensive account of East Asia’s green energy shift, and is co-authored with SY Kim, H Tan and J Mathews. The book highlights the powerful and symbiotic role of state ambition, geo-strategic competition, and capitalist market dynamics in driving forward the region’s greening efforts. Drawing on cutting-edge Developmental State and Schumpeterian theorizing, the book shows how state actors in East Asia are engaging in a sophisticated kind of economic statecraft, strategically harnessing the capitalist market dynamics of ‘creative-destruction’ to advance their transformative green ambitions through green growth. These strategies have important implications for the future of the global green shift in an era of geostrategic rivalry.

Her previous book Developmental Mindset (Cornell University Press) offers a fresh way of conceptualising developmental states and of analysing their emergence and evolution. Her 2018 article 'Power Paradox' (with Linda Weiss) offers a new conceptualisation of US state power and was awarded the AIPEN Richard Higgott Journal Article Prize in 2019. Her 2019 article 'Economic Statecraft at the Frontier' (with Linda Weiss) examines the emergence of a new variety of economic statecraft in East Asia. Her 2021 article "More Creative Than Destructive?" (with SY Kim, John Mathews and Hao Tan) offers a new way of conceptualising and analysing the state's strategic role in the clean energy shift. And her 2021 Chapter 'Australia and the Rules of International Trade and Finance' outlines what it would take for Australia to promote a truly development-friendly trade and investment regime - and to become a better development partner for our regional neighbours. 

Elizabeth is currently a Chief Investigator on three major collaborative grants: an Australian Research Council Discovery Project examining East Asia’s Clean Energy Transition (with SY Kim, J Mathews and H Tan), an Academy of Korean Studies Laboratory Project Grant examining Korea’s past, present and future development trajectory (with Keun Lee, DJ Kim, Js Shin J Song and C-y Wong), and a Department of Defence Strategic Policy Grant examining Weaponised Trade and its implications for Australia (with Lisa Toohey and Markus Wagner) - under the auspices of the NUW Alliance (University of Newcastle, UNSW Sydney, and the University of Wollongong). 

Since 2008, Elizabeth has served as a Board Member of the Jubilee Australia Research Centre, a NGO dedicated to research-based advocacy on questions of social, economic and environmental justice in the Asia-Pacific, with a particular focus on promoting Australian government and corporate accountability:

Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. in Government (International Political Economy) from the University of Sydney. She also completed her Economics (Social Sciences) Degree at Sydney University, where she was awarded first-class Honours and the University Medal for Academic Excellence.

Research Areas

Developmental states, clean energy transitions, economic statecraft, government-business relations, techno-industrial transformation, institutional/ideational change, state capacity.

+61 (2) 93853622
137 Morven Brown
  • Books | 2022
    2022, Developmental Environmentalism: State Ambition and Creative Destruction in East Asia's Clean Energy Shift, Oxford University Press, London
    Books | 2016
    2016, Developmental Mindset: The Revival of Financial Activism in South Korea, Cornell University Press, Ithaca
    Books | 2007
    Weiss L; Thurbon EC; Mathews J, 2007, National Insecurity, Original, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, NSW
    Books | 2004
    Weiss L; Thurbon EC; Mathews J, 2004, How to Kill a Country, 1, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, NSW
  • Book Chapters | 2021
    2021, 'Australia and the Rules of International Trade and Finance', in Conley Tyler M; Gyngell A; Wakefield B (ed.), Australia and the Rules-Based International Order
    Book Chapters | 2020
    2020, 'The State of Development in a Globalized World', in Vivares E (ed.), The Routledge Handbook to Global Political Economy: Conversations and Inquiries, Routledge,
    Book Chapters | 2020
    2020, 'The state of development in a globalized world: Perspectives on advanced and industrializing countries', in The Routledge Handbook to Global Political Economy: Conversations and Inquiries, pp. 58 - 73
    Book Chapters | 2017
    Thurbon EC, 2017, 'Lessons from South Korea: A Developmental Mindset Makes a Difference when Governing the Financial Economy', in Bohoslavsky JP; Raffer K (ed.), Sovereign Debt Crises: What Have We Learned?, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 236 - 253,
    Book Chapters | 2016
    Thurbon EC; Weiss L, 2016, 'The Developmental State in the late 20th Century', in Jhosh J; Kattel R; Reinert E (ed.), Handbook of Alternative Theories of Economic Development, Edward Elgar
    Book Chapters | 2016
    Thurbon EC, 2016, 'Trade and Industry Policy: The Growing Partisan Divide', in Beeson M; Hameiri S (ed.), Navigating the New International Disorder: Australia In World Affairs 2011-2015, Oxford University Press
    Book Chapters | 2014
    Thurbon E, 2014, 'Australia: Public purchasing and innovation: The Australian case', in Public Procurement, Innovation and Policy: International Perspectives, pp. 35 - 63,
    Book Chapters | 2014
    Weiss L; Thurbon E, 2014, 'The Business of Buying American: Public Procurement as Trade Strategy', in Ikenberry J; Trubowitz P (ed.), American Foreign Policy: Theoretical Essays, edn. 7, Oxford University Press
    Book Chapters | 2013
    Thurbon EC, 2013, 'Globalization and Industrial Governance: A View from Australia', in Tazreiter C; Tham SY (ed.), Globalization and Social Transformation in the Asia-Pacific, Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, Basingstoke, UK, pp. 78 - 93,
    Book Chapters | 2012
    Thurbon EC, 2012, 'From Developmentalism to Neoliberalism and Back Again? Governing the Market in Australia from the 1980s to the Present', in Chang K-S; Fine B; Weiss L (ed.), Developmental Politics in Transition : the neoliberal era and beyond, edn. 1, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 274 - 298
    Book Chapters | 2012
    Thurbon EC, 2012, 'Ideas and Industrial Governance: Has the Influence of Neoliberalism been Overstated?', in Neoliberalism: Beyond the Free Market, edn. 1, Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, Cheltnam, pp. 180 - 203,
    Book Chapters | 2007
    2007, 'The Developmental Logic of Financial Liberalisation in Taiwan', in Garside W (ed.), Institutions and Market Economies: The Political Economy of Growth and Development, Palgrave Macmillan, UK, pp. 87 - 106,
  • Journal articles | 2022
    2022, 'Correction: Gone with the wind: how state power and industrial policy in the offshore wind power sector are blowing away the obstacles to East Asia’s green energy transition', Review of Evolutionary Political Economy,
    Journal articles | 2022
    2022, 'Explaining divergent National Responses to Covid-19: An Enhanced State Capacity Framework', New Political Economy, 27, pp. 697 - 712,
    Journal articles | 2022
    2022, 'Gone with the wind: how state power and industrial policy in the offshore wind power sector are blowing away the obstacles to East Asia’s green energy transition', Review of Evolutionary Political Economy,
    Journal articles | 2021
    2021, 'Developmental State or Economic Statecraft? Where, Why and How the Difference Matters', New Political Economy, 26, pp. 472 - 489,
    Journal articles | 2021
    2021, 'Economic statecraft at the frontier: Korea’s drive for intelligent robotics', Review of International Political Economy, 28, pp. 103 - 127,
    Journal articles | 2021
    2021, 'More ‘Creative’ Than ‘Destructive’? Synthesizing Schumpeterian and Developmental State Perspectives to Explain Mixed Results in Korea’s Clean Energy Shift', Journal of Environment and Development, 30, pp. 265 - 290,
    Journal articles | 2021
    2021, 'Overcoming incumbent resistance to the clean energy shift: How local governments act as change agents in coal power station closures in China', Energy Policy, 149,
    Journal articles | 2020
    2020, 'Introduction: Finance, Development and the State in East Asia', New Political Economy, 25, pp. 315 - 319,
    Journal articles | 2020
    2020, 'The Future of Financial Activism in Taiwan? The Utility of a Mindset-centred Analysis of Developmental States and Their Evolution', New Political Economy, 25, pp. 320 - 336,
    Journal articles | 2018
    Weiss L; Thurbon E, 2018, 'Power paradox: how the extension of US infrastructural power abroad diminishes state capacity at home', Review of International Political Economy, 25, pp. 779 - 810,
    Journal articles | 2016
    2016, 'Trade Agreements and the Myth of Policy Constraint in Australia', Australian Journal of Political Science, 51, pp. 636 - 651,
    Journal articles | 2015
    Kim SY; Thurbon E, 2015, 'Developmental Environmentalism: Explaining South Korea’s Ambitious Pursuit of Green Growth', Politics and Society, 43, pp. 213 - 240,
    Journal articles | 2015
    Thurbon EC, 2015, 'Ten Years Since the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement: Where to for Australia's Trade Policy?', Australian Journal of International Affairs
    Journal articles | 2015
    2015, 'The Abandonment of Procurement-Linked Strategic Activism in Australia: Standing Still with Room to Move', Australian Journal of International Affairs, 69, pp. 577 - 594,
    Journal articles | 2014
    2014, 'The Developmental State: A Conceptual Defence', Critique Internationale, 63, pp. 59 - 75,
    Journal articles | 2006
    Thurbon EC; Weiss L, 2006, 'From Player to Pawn: Howard`s Trade Legacy', Australian Journal of Public Affairs, February, pp. Web - Web
    Journal articles | 2006
    2006, 'Free trade in mad cows: how to kill a beef industry', Australian Journal of International Affairs, 60, pp. 376 - 399,
    Journal articles | 2006
    2006, 'Investing in Openness: The Evolution of FDI Strategyin South Korea and Taiwan', New Political Economy, 11, pp. 1 - 22,
    Journal articles | 2006
    2006, 'The Business of Buying American: Public Procurement as Trade Strategy in the USA', Review of International Political Economy, 13, pp. 701 - 721,
    Journal articles | 2004
    2004, 'Where there`s a will there`s a way: Governing the market in times of uncertainty', Issues and Studies, 401, pp. 61 - 72
    Journal articles | 2003
    2003, 'Ideational inconsistency and institutional inertia: Why financial liberalisation in South Korea went horribly wrong', New Political Economy, 8, pp. 341 - 361,
    Journal articles | 2001
    2001, 'Two Paths to Financial Liberalisation: South Korea and Taiwan', Pacific Review, 14, pp. 241 - 268,
  • Conference Papers | 2011
    Thurbon EC, 2011, 'Same But Different: Reviving the Developmental State Model by Revisiting its Ideational Foundations', in APSA Conference 2011 Full Papers (online), Australian Political Studies Association, Canberra, presented at Australian Political Studies Association Conference 2011: Crisis, Uncertainty and Democracy, Canberra, 26 September 2011 - 28 September 2011,
    Preprints |
    Weaponised Trade: Mapping the Issues for Australia, ,

2018-2022:  Academy of Korean Studies Laboratory Grant (with CIs Profs Keun Lee, Djun-kil Kim, Jang-sup Shin, Jaeyong Song, and Chan-yuan Wong).  "Following via a Detour to Converge or Forging a New Path to Diverge? A Comparative Study of Korea’s Development Trajectory". AKS-2018-LAB-1250001

2019-2021: Australia Research Council Discovery Project (with CIs Dr Sung-Young Kim, Prof John Mathews, and A/Prof Hao Tan). "East Asia's Clean Energy Shift: Drivers, Enablers, Obstacles, Outcomes". DP190103669

2019-2022: UNSW Scientia Fellowship   

2021-2022: Commonwealth Department of Defence Strategic Policy Grant (with CIs Lisa Toohey and Markus Wagner) 'Weaponised Trade and its implications for Australia'. A grant under the auspices of the NUW Alliance (University of Newcastle, UNSW Sydney, and the University of Wollongong)

Select Media Contribitions

2020: 'Why some advanced countries fail to deal with COVID-19' East Asia Forum. 7 May. (with Linda Weiss). 

2020: 'Want an economic tonic Mr Morrison? Use that stimulus money to turbocharge renewables' The Conversation. April. (with H. Tan, J. Mathews and S-Y Kim)

2020: 'It might sound 'batshit insane' but Australia could soon export sunshine to Asia via a 3,800km cable.' The Conversation. 26 February. (with J. Mathews, H. Tan and S-Y Kim) 

2020: 'The Mother of All Power.' Progress in Political Economy. 2 February. (with Linda Weiss) 

2019: 'Grand Opportunities for Australia's Hydrogen Industry - and for a Strategic Regional Rebalancing.'  East Asia Forum.  19 December. (with S-Y Kim, J. Mathews and H. Tan).

2019: 'China Succeeds in Greening not Because, but in spite of, its Authoritarian Government'. The Conversation, 28 May.  (with S-Y Kim, J. Mathews and H. Tan).

2017: 'Future of the TPP' Sunday Roundtable with Tom Switzer, Radio National 27 January

2017:  ‘There’s No Point in Australia’s Push to Ratify the TPPThe Conversation. 25 January 

2016: ‘Why Trump is Right, and Wrong, about Killing off the TPPThe Conversation. 23 November. (With Linda Weiss)

2016: ‘The Growing Partisan Divide on TradeAustralian Outlook. 19 December

2015: ‘Five things you need to know about the TPPThe Conversation (with Tim Harcourt, Jeffrey Wilson and Belinda Townsend) 6 October.

2015: ‘How Australia’s Trade Policy Approach is Harming Australian FirmsDemocracy Renewal, 8 December. 

2015:  'The Abandonment of Procurement-Linked Strategic Activism in AustraliaAustralian Outlook (AIIA) 4 December. 

Recent Senate Submissions / Testimony

2017: Joint Senate Select Committee Inquiry into the Commonwealth Government Procurement Framework. Reported on June 28 2017. 

2016: Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee Inquiry into the Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. September 2016. 

2016: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Review of the Australia-US FTA Implementation. May 2016.

Affiliation and Memberships

  • Australian Political Studies Association (APSA)
  • Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE)
  • International Studies Association (ISA)
  • Korea Research Institute (KRI)
  • Jubilee Australia (Member, Research Advisory Board)

My Teaching