Nick Johnson’s Research on China

How does China’s economy shape our local and national landscape? That’s the question that Nick Johnson, Class of 2022, aimed to answer through a fellowship from UMaine’s Center for Undergraduate Research.
In his International Business class with Dr. Stefano Tijerina, class discussions about China-owned ND Paper in Old Town, Maine, piqued his interest in this topic. Nick decided he wanted to dig in deeper and asked Dr. Tijerina to be his faculty advisor for his CUGR fellowship research project. 
“He has been a champion of International Business and found the topic so interesting that he was the only student that followed my advice and applied to the CUGR process,” Dr. Tijerina says. “Nick was funded for the research and pushed through with an excellent project.”
Nick’s project titled “Measuring China’s Footprint in the American Economy” measured foreign direct investment from China throughout the United States. Nick examined how much money was coming into the U.S. from China each year. He also looked at how much stock had been built up in the economy. He found that most of China’s investment in the U.S. was in wholesale trade and manufacturing. “One of our most interesting findings was that in 2020, the United States received less from Mainland China than the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, and less from Hong Kong than Bermuda, Singapore, the Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands,” Nick says. “These are popular locations for shell companies, which could mean that our data does not represent the full picture of foreign direct investment from China in the U.S.” 
Nick and Dr. Tijerina took a broad methodological approach since they wanted to capture national and local data. “Collecting and analyzing data from sources like the Bureau of Economic Analysis and China’s Ministry of Commerce was relatively straightforward,” Nick says. “When we moved on to the local level, we ran into some challenges, mainly because there was a lack of consolidated, reliable data sources that we could draw from.” 
In Maine, specifically, the duo saw the ripple effect of the Chinese multinational ND Paper’s success in Old Town and Rumford. The Madison paper mill is being brought back online by a European company that is set to employ 120 people locally by 2023. 
“Before this project, I had never conducted research on this scale,” Nick says. “At first, I was intimidated by the scale of the project, but once we got started, it proved to be a rewarding experience that I learned a lot from.” Nick says that Dr. Tijerina was extremely helpful throughout the research process “His knowledge of international business dynamics is unparalleled, which brought the project together and helped me see the big picture in a way that I never had before.”
Nick, a finance major from North Berwick, Maine, is currently applying to graduate programs in the U.S. and abroad to pursue his interest in international business.