He is an economist whose research examines the historical development and industrialisation of Japan and East Asia as well as international trade and environmental issues. After receiving his doctorate in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, John worked for the United States Department of Commerce and the University of Maryland, College Park. He then joined the ANU in 2011 and was appointed Director of the Centre for Economic History in 2013.
John is also an associate of the Australia-Japan Research Centre at the ANU and an associate editor of the Australian Economic History Review. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Economic History.