My major disciplinary focus is economics. My expertise lies in trade policy and export promotion, foreign investment, industrial development and sectoral studies, particularly in Southeast and East Asia. After retiring from DEV in 2006, I moved to Japan where, after six months as a visiting professor at Kobe University, I became Professor of Development Economics at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (‘APU’), returning to the UK in 2008; and I remained a visiting professor at APU until March 2017. Since retirement I also have held a visiting professorship at Soochow University in Taiwan. I serve as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, on the international advisory board of Asia Pacific World, and as a subject specialist for the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Vocational and Academic Qualifications. I have acted as a consultant for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the United Nations Development Programme, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Association of South East Asian Nations, the UK Department for International Development, and with the Harvard Institute for International Development.

My current research, in collaboration with colleagues in Japan, focuses on industrial policy and the automotive industry in Asia, for which I did fieldwork in Thailand in 2010 and 2011, Malaysia in 2012, Indonesia in 2013, the Philippines in 2014 and Viet Nam in 2015. I have just completed a book on automotive industrialisation in Southeast Asia (see publications below).  

I have continued to do PhD supervision at East Anglia since my retirement, including dissertations on the Brazilian motor industry (completed 2020), competition between the Malaysian and Chinese electronics industries (completed 2016), competition between the Mexican and Chinese motor industries (2012), Japanese identity since the Meiji Restoration (2009), and foreign investment in Mozambique (2009).

I have also continued to do external examining including doctoral theses for the Universities of Oxford (2019), Bristol (2018), London-SOAS (2015-6) and Bath (2015), and currently for the masters programme on Urban Economic Development at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit at University College London since 2017.

Selected key publications

Kaoru Natsuda, John Thoburn, Jiří Blažek, and Kozo Otsuka (forthcoming) “Industrial Policy and Automotive Development: A Comparative Study of Thailand and Czechia”, Eurasian Geography and Economics; date of final acceptance: 12 October 2020; DOI when published: 


Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn (2021), Automotive Industrialisation: Industrial Policy and Development in Southeast Asia:, London and New York: Routledge (xxi +267 pp.)

John Thoburn and Kaoru Natsuda (2018), ‘How to conduct effective industrial policy: a comparison of automotive development in the Philippines and Indonesia’, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, 23(4) November, pp.657-682


Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn (2018), ‘Industrial policy and the development of the automotive industry in the Philippines’, Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 39(3), September, pp.371-391


John Thoburn and Kaoru Natsuda (2017), ‘Comparative Policies for Automotive Development in Southeast Asia’, in Alve Hansen and Bo Nielsen (eds), Wheels of Change: Cars, Automobility and Development in Asia, London: Routledge, pp.17-36


Kaoru Natsuda, Kozo Otsuka and John Thoburn (2015), ‘Dawn of Industrialization: the Indonesia Automotive Industry’, Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, 51(1), pp.47-68

Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn (2014), ‘How Much Policy Space Still Exists Under the WTO? A Comparative Study of the Automotive Industry in Thailand and Malaysia’, Review of International Political Economy, 21(6), December, 1346-1377

Noriyuki Segawa, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn (2014), ‘Affirmative Action and Economic Liberalisation: the Dilemmas of the Malaysian Automotive Industry’, Asian Studies Review, 38(3), 38(3), September, 422-441

John Thoburn (2014), ‘Increasing Developing Countries’ Gains from Tin Mining: the Boom Years Prior to the Collapse of the International Tin Agreement’, in Max Ingulstad, Andrew Pechard and  Espen Storli (eds), Tin and Global Capitalism, 1850-2000: A History of “ the Devil’s Metal”, London: Routledge, ch.9, 221-239

John Thoburn (2013), ‘Viet Nam’, in A. Fosu (ed), Achieving Development Success: Strategies and Lessons from the Developing World, London: Oxford University Press,.99-118

Kaoru Natsuda, Noriyuki Segawa and John Thoburn (2013) ‘Liberalization, Industrial Nationalism, and the Malaysian Automotive Industry’, Global Economic Review, 42 (2), 113-134

Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn (2013) ‘Industrial Policy and the Development of the Automotive Industry in Thailand’, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, 18 (3), 413-437

Kaoru Natsuda, Kunio Igusa, Aree Wiboonpongse and John Thoburn (2012), ‘One Village One Product – rural development strategy in Asia: the case of OTOP in Thailand’, Canadian Journal of Development Studies (33)3, September, 369–385

John Thoburn (2011), ‘From Tin to Petroleum’, in Rajah Rasiah (ed), Malaysian Economy: Unfolding Growth and Social Change, Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, pp.37-55

Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn (2011), ‘Meeting the challenge of China: the Vietnamese garment industry in the post-MFA era’, Global Networks, 11 (3), 355-79

Kaoru Natsuda, Kenta Goto and John Thoburn (2010), ‘Challenges to the Cambodian garment industry in the global garment value chain’, European Journal of Development Research, 22 (4), 469-493

John Thoburn (2009), The impact of world recession on the textile and garment industries of Asia, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Vienna, Working Paper 17/2009

John Thoburn, Kirsten Sutherland and Nguyen Thi Hoa (2007), ‘Globalisation and restructuring in the textiles sector on households in Vietnam: impacts on households’, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, vol.12, no.3, August,: 345-366

Michael Tribe, John Thoburn and Richard Palmer-Jones (eds) (2005), Development Economics and Social Justice: Essays in Honour of Ian Livingstone, London: Ashgate (283pp)

John Thoburn (2004), ‘Globalisation and Poverty in Vietnam: [editorial] introduction and overview’, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, vol.9, no.2, pp.127-144

Khalid Nadvi and John Thoburn (2004), ‘Vietnam in the global garment and textile value chain: impacts on firms and workers’, Journal of International Development, special issue on Globalisation, Production, Employment and Poverty, January, vol.16, no.1, pp.111-123

Simon Roberts and John Thoburn (2003), ‘Adjusting to trade liberalisation: the case of firms in the South African textile sector’, Journal of African Economies, vol.12, no1, pp.74-103

J.T. Thoburn (2000) ‘Development studies education in universities in the new millennium: a United Kingdom perspective’, Journal of International Development Studies (journal of the Japan Society for International Development), vol.9, no.2, December, pp.49-62

J.T. Thoburn, (1997) ’Enterprise reform, domestic competition and export competitiveness: the case of China’, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy (special issue on Privatization and Public Enterprise Reform in the Asia-Pacific Region, ed. Colin Kirkpatrick), 2(2), pp.166-177

J.T. Thoburn (1994), Tin in the World Economy (Edinburgh University Press) [224pp.]

J.T. Thoburn and M. Takashima (1992), Industrial Subcontracting in the United Kingdom and Japan  (Avebury, Aldershot) [161pp.]

J.T. Thoburn, H.M. Leung, E. Chau and S.H.Tang (1990), Foreign Investment In China Under the Open Policy: The Experience of Hong Kong Companies (Avebury/Gower). 207pp.

J.T. Thoburn, Primary Commodity Exports and Economic Development: Theory, Evidence and a Study of Malaysia (1977 and 1984) (John Wiley & Sons, London, 1977 ; Japanese-language edition published by Taga Shuppan Ltd., Tokyo, 1984) [326 pp and 405 pp]

J.T. Thoburn (1977), ‘Commodity Prices and Appropriate Technology - some Lessons from Tin Mining’, Journal of Development Studies, vol.14, no.1, October  [pp 35-52]

J.T. Thoburn (1973), ‘Exports and the Malaysian Engineering Industry: A Case Study of Backward Linkage’, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics,vol.35,no.2,  May [91-117]

J.T. Thoburn (1973), ‘Exports and Economic Growth in West Malaysia’, Oxford Economic Papers,vol.25,no.1, March [pp 88-111]


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