Xiao's research interest includes China's rural changes, the Chinese 'go-out', the technopolitics of (water) infrastructure and the political economy of development. She is working as a team member to investigate the nature and impacts of the restructuring of China’s agriculture and rural society. She works with Professor Christine Wong, Dr Sarah Rogers, Dr Brooke Wilmsen, and Dr Zoe Wang to examine the (re)configurations of and relations between land, labour, and capital in China's agricultural sector. Xiao coordinates the project’s survey design with key partners from China Agricultural University, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Yunnan University and the China Three Gorges University.
project investigated the goals, practices and consequences of Chinese overseas dam building, with a focus on Ghana.