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David Sands '07 Studied Importation of Chinese Cars to U.S. as Levitt Fellow

Investigated Economic Differences Between China and the U.S.

By Lisbeth Redfield
Posted August 29, 2006
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While most people worried about their gas consumption this summer, David Sands '07 (Bozeman, Mont.) was far more interested in who made the car than how much gas it required. The rising senior had a Levitt Fellowship to investigate the economic differences between China and the U.S. by examining the importation of Chinese cars to America. Advised by the William R. Kenan Professor of Government Cheng Li, Sands worked on a project titled, "Are the Chinese Coming? An Assessment of China's Attempt to Enter the U.S. Auto Market."

Sands explained that his project centered around two connected goals, the first of which was to investigate Chinese business strategies regarding entry into the U.S. market. Sands then took the observed strategies and used them to illuminate "critical differences" in government policies between China and the U.S. As he put it, he hoped to "address some important academic questions regarding the relationship between government policy and multi-national corporations, [and] shed valuable light on the complex and fluid dynamics of U.S.-China relations."

He pointed to the differences in regulatory policies in the two countries as an example of what he looked at in his study. Conditions, vehicle safety and emission standards vary greatly, Sands explained. "While this may on the surface appear simply to be an obstacle that Chinese car manufacturers must overcome when selling their cars in America," the discrepancies in regulatory standards in fact "raise important questions about social and environmental justice." He focused particularly on the Chinese company Geely Automotive Holding, which is currently trying to break into the U.S. auto market.

Sands conducted his research through finding and analyzing data in newspapers, magazines, journals, Web sites and business plans. He also carried out interviews and observed Chinese and American cars at auto shows.

Sands came to his research with two years of summer work behind him. He had worked previously as a research assistant at a Libertarian think-tank and welcomed the opportunity to pursue his own project. He referred to his summer's work as "enjoyable and stimulating because it is…concerned only with fact."

With a government major and economics minor, it is evident why Sands plans to continue his research on this topic and use it as the basis for an honors thesis. On campus he is a research assistant for Professor Li, who praised Sands' "insights about China and Sino-U.S. relations." Sands plans to attend law school after his graduation from Hamilton, eventually to practice law or work in government.

The grant which funds his work is the Levitt Research Fellowship, given by the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center. This grant is intended to fund research in a public affairs issue and allows a student to spend 10 weeks working closely with a faculty advisor.

-- Lisbeth Redfield

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