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China, One Year Later

In November 2012, seven men were appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s supreme governing body. At the time, economic headwinds, nationalist protests, and the Bo Xilai scandal presented huge challenges for the regime. Would the charismatic new president, Xi Jinping, and his reform-minded premier, Li Keqiang, live up to comparisons to Deng Xiaoping and Zhu Rongji, or would “China’s Century” be over before it had begun? It still may be too early to say, but a year later the Xi-Li regime has consolidated power and support within the party. Major pushes against corruption, bribery, and graft have been made. Economic reforms, including a new free trade zone in Shanghai, are well underway, and the sharp dip in growth of the past two years seems to have stabilized. Xi has worked to repair relations with China’s neighbors, which had been tarnished under Hu Jintao.

Even so, those who hope for reforms to China’s approach to civil and human rights have yet to see substantial progress. Xi’s “Chinese Dream” policy remains vague, and income inequality is staggeringly high. Furthermore, maritime disputes and the nationalist tone of Xi’s rhetoric have made imminent reconciliation with countries including Japan and the Philippines appear unlikely.

Nearly a year to the day after the seven leaders ascended to their posts, as a part of the Asia: Beyond the Headlines event series Asia Society held a special conversation with The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos; Dr. Susan Shirk of the University of California, San Diego; Former Ambassador to China J. Stapleton Roy; and moderator Orville Schell, who discussed China’s leadership transition so far—its successes, shortcomings, and controversies—as well as what the future may have in store for Zhongnanhai, China, and the world.

Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy is Founding Director Emeritus of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center. He retired from the Foreign Service in 2001 after a career...
Susan L. Shirk is the chair of the 21st Century China Program and Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Relations at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at UC San...
Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008. He is a correspondent in Washington, D.C. who writes about politics and foreign affairs. His forthcoming book about China’s rise (Farrar,...
Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. He is a former professor and Dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate...
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Viewpoint

04.09.14

Why Taiwan’s Protestors Stuck It Out

JOHN TKACIK

Some might say, “a half-million Taiwanese can’t be wrong.” That’s how many islanders descended upon their capital city, Taipei, on March 30 to shout their support for the several thousand students who have occupied the nation’s legislature for the past two weeks in a so...

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03.13.14

How Chinese Internet Censorship Works, Sometimes

JASON Q. NG

Earlier this week, Chinese Internet services blocked searches for the phrase mìshū bāng (秘书帮). Roughly translated as “secretaries gang,” the term relates to the speculation surrounding government probes into public officials linked to former security czar and...

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03.06.14

Can America Win in a New Era of Competition with China?

GEOFF DYER

Beijing was in a state of heightened anxiety and had been for weeks. Each day in the run-up to the National Day parade, the security measures seemed to get a little bit tighter. Our apartment building had a distant view of Jianguomen, which is the main east-west avenue that runs...

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02.27.14

Why Frank Underwood is Great for China’s Soft Power

YING ZHU

In depicting U.S. politics as just as vicious, if not more, sociopathic than its Chinese counterpart, House of Cards delivered a sweet Valentine’s Day gift to the Chinese government. The show handed the Chinese state an instant victory when the protagonist, a seasoned U.S....

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02.04.14

In Slickness and in Wealth

LETA HONG FINCHER

Under the harsh glare of a studio spotlight, bride-to-be Tong turns her face until it is almost completely in shadow. Tong is posing for a three-day session of wedding photographs at Shanghai’s premier Princess Studio, where couples spend between 3,000 RMB (U.S.$500) and 130,...

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01.14.14

Xi, Mao, and China’s Search for a Usable Past

PAUL GEWIRTZ

Since its founding, the United States has had understandable pride in its great achievements, but also has had to reckon with its complex moral history—beginning but hardly ending with the fact that our original Constitution accepted the evil of slavery and the terrible...

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01.02.14

Global Development and Investment

ELIZABETH ECONOMY & ZHA DAOJIONG

Framing questions: In what ways do the U.S. and Chinese approaches to development and foreign investment differ? Are they evolving, and how? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each approach both to the investing country and the recipient? In what ways are China and the United...

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11.18.13

Xi Jinping Refills an Old Prescription

ORVILLE SCHELL

The reforms called for by the Third Plenum of the Eighteenth Party Congress have been, like so much else in China over the past few decades, part of an ongoing Chinese quest for national unity, wealth, and power. But, for those of us steeped in Western political philosophy, such...

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11.07.13

Deciphering Xi Jinping’s Dream

OUYANG BIN

On November 9, the Chinese Communist Party will host its Third Plenary Session of the Eighteenth Central Committee. This conference will be a key to deciphering the ruling philosophy of the new Chinese leadership, who will run the country for the coming nine years.According to...

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11.01.13

What the Heck is China’s ‘Third Plenum’ and Why...

BARRY NAUGHTON

China’s economy is already two-thirds the size of the economy of the U.S., and it’s been growing five times as fast. But now, China’s economy is beginning to slow and is facing a raft of difficult problems.  If China’s leaders don’t address these problems, the...

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10.16.13

Innovation in Britain and What it Means for China

VINCENT NI

On the occasion of a high-level British delegation’s visit to Beiing this week, Vincent Ni, the long-time New York-based U.S. correspondent for the independent Caixin Media group, shared his views about China’s ability to innovate relative to what he saw in America and what...

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10.15.13

Trust Issues: Hong Kong Resists Beijing’s Advances

SEBASTIAN VEG

When Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, expectations were high—in Beijing and among the pro-mainland forces in Hong Kong—that identification with the Chinese nation would slowly but surely strengthen among the local population, especially among the younger...

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09.11.13

Beijing’s Air in 2013 or Ground Zero’s After 9/11:...

EMILY BRILL

When I moved to Beijing from New York in February to study Chinese, a question began to haunt me: Could Beijing’s air in 2013 be more dangerous than the toxic brew produced by the 9/11 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center, which hung over Lower Manhattan for months,...

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09.04.13

The Confessions of a Reactionary

TENG BIAO

This article first appeared in Life and Death in China (a multi-volume anthology of fifty-plus witness accounts of Chinese government persecution and thirty-plus essays by experts in human rights in China). When I wrote it [on the evening of June 3, 2013], Xu Zhiyong was under...

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09.03.13

China’s Higher Education Bubble

CARL MINZNER

The number of university graduates in China has exploded.In 1997, 400,000 students graduated from four-year university programs. Today, Chinese schools produce more than 3 million per year. But employment rates at graduation have plunged. And remote suburbs of Beijing and...

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08.22.13

How Bo Xilai Split the Party and Divided the People

OUYANG BIN

After the 1989 Tiananmen Incident, Chinese political struggles became milder and more mundane. Members of the Politburo and politicians of higher rank rarely were toppled (except for Chen Liangyu in 2006) and ideology seldom triggered significant rifts. Bo Xilai changed all that...

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08.09.13

Five Years On

JONATHAN LANDRETH

On August 8, 2008, I was in Beijing reporting on the media aspects of China’s first Olympic Games, and I am still amazed that the four-hour opening ceremony, as designed by film director Zhang Yimou, was seen by sixty-nine percent of China’s television audience, or roughly...

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07.16.13

CFIUS and the U.S. Senate’s Anti-China Bug

SAMUEL KLEINER

Last week, senators from both parties finally came together for a common objective: stopping the $4.7 billion sale of America’s largest pork producer to China. Their reason? The sale of Smithfield Farms to a Chinese company, Shuanghui, could pose a threat to America’s...

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07.11.13

China at the Tipping Point?

CARL MINZNER

What will be the future of China’s authoritarian political system?Many predicted that China’s rapid development over the past several decades would inevitably lead to gradual liberalization. Economic growth was expected to generate a cascade of changes—first to society,...

Viewpoint

07.10.13

How the Snowden Affair Might End Up Helping U.S.-China...

ORVILLE SCHELL & JOHN DELURY

The reason why both Americans and Chinese have become so nostalgic for the great Nixon/Kissinger-Mao Zedong/Zhou Enlai breakthrough in 1972 is because that was the last time that Sino-U.S. relations experienced a dramatic breakthrough. Now, most policy wonks on both sides sense...

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06.05.13

A Re-Opening to China?

PAUL GEWIRTZ

Five months into his second term, President Obama is about to undertake the most important diplomatic initiative of his presidency: an effort to reshape the relationship with China. With little fanfare thus far but considerable boldness on both sides, President Obama and China’...

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05.13.13

Maoism: The Most Severe Threat to China

OUYANG BIN

Ma Licheng (马立诚) is a former Senior Editorials Editor at People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s most important mouthpiece, and the author of eleven books. In 2003, when Japan’s then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to the Yasukuni Shrine inflamed China’s...

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04.26.13

Sino-American Relations: Amour or Les Miserables?

WINSTON LORD

Winston Lord, former United States Ambassador to China, tells us he recently hacked into the temples of government, pecking at his first-generation iPad with just one finger—a clear sign that both Beijing and Washington need to beef...

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04.05.13

Christopher Hill on North Korea’s Provocations

OUYANG BIN

The first months of 2013 have seen a rapid intensification of combative rhetoric and action from North Korea. In the sixteen months since Kim Jong-un assumed leadership of the country, North Korea has run through the whole litany of provocations his father’s regime had deployed...

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03.19.13

For Many in China, the One Child Policy is Already...

LESLIE T. CHANG

Before getting pregnant with her second child, Lu Qingmin went to the family-planning office to apply for a birth permit. Officials in her husband’s Hunan village where she was living turned her down, but she had the baby anyway. She may eventually be fined $1,600—about what...

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02.25.13

Xi Jinping Should Expand Deng Xiaoping’s Reforms

ZHOU RUIJIN

A month after the conclusion of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 18th National Congress, the new Secretary General of the CCP and Central Military Commission, comrade Xi Jinping, left Beijing to visit Shenzhen, the first foothold of China’s economic reforms. He placed a...

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01.24.13

China at the Tipping Point?

PERRY LINK & XIAO QIANG

Of all the transformations that Chinese society has undergone over the past fifteen years, the most dramatic has been the growth of the Internet. Information now circulates and public opinions are now expressed on electronic bulletin boards with nationwide reach such as Tianya...

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01.15.13

Will Xi Jinping Differ from His Predecessors?

ANDREW J. NATHAN

As part of our continuing series on China’s recent leadership transition, Arthur Ross Fellow Ouyang Bin sat down with political scientist Andrew Nathan, who published his latest book, China’s Search for Security, in September.In the three videos below, Nathan discusses newly...

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01.13.13

Is Xi Jinping a Reformer? It’s Much Too Early to Tell

RACHEL BEITARIE & JEFFREY WASSERSTROM

Last weekend, Nicholas Kristof wrote in the pages of The New York Times that he feels moderately confident China will experience resurgent economic reform and probably political reform as well under the leadership of recently installed Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping...

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11.15.12

Age of China’s New Leaders May Have Been Key to...

SUSAN SHIRK

Earlier this week, before the new Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) and Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party were announced, I argued that the Party faces the difficult problem of how to allocate power in the absence of an open and legitimate leadership selection process. I...

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11.14.12

The Future of Legal Reform

CARL MINZNER

Carl Minzner, Professor of Law at Fordham University, talks here about the ways China’s legal reforms have ebbed and flowed, speeding up in the early 2000s, but then slowing down again after legal activists began to take the government at its word, attempting to use the letter...

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11.14.12

Change in Historical Context

PETER C. PERDUE

China’s Communist Party has only ruled the country since 1949. But China has a long history of contentious transfers of power among its ruler. In these videos, Yale historian, Peter C. Perdue, an expert on China's last dynasty, the Qing, puts China’s current leadership...

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11.14.12

Are You Happier Than You Were Ten Years Ago?

J. MICHAEL EVANS

“Many Chinese feel that they have not participated in the economic benefits of an economy that has been growing very rapidly,” says Michael Evans, a vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group and head of growth markets for the Wall Street investment bank. Nowadays, many...

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11.13.12

China’s Next Leaders: A Guide to What’s at Stake

SUSAN SHIRK

Just a little more than a week after the American presidential election, China will choose its own leaders in its own highly secretive way entirely inside the Communist Party. What’s at stake for China—and for the rest of the world—is not just who will fill which leadership...

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11.09.12

Pragmatism and Patience

HAMID BIGLARI

Hamid Bilgari, Vice Chairman of Citicorp, the strategic arm of Citigroup, is a leader in international investment banking. Bilgari says that pragmatism and patience are the dominant qualities exhibited by cultures facing major change, such as the leadership transition at...

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11.08.12

Who is Xi Jinping?

ORVILLE SCHELL

In an era of great change and economic uncertainty around the world, one might expect a leadership transition at the top of one of the world’s rising powers to shine a light on that country’s prospective next leaders so the public might form an opinion of them and decide...

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11.07.12

Peering Inside the ‘Black Box’

ORVILLE SCHELL

Just hours after the United States voted for its next president, China, too, is preparing for a leadership change—although much less is known about that process, which begins Thursday with the start of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. In an attempt to...

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11.05.12

The Big Enterprise

ORVILLE SCHELL

In days of yore, when a new dynasty was established in China and a new emperor was enthroned, it was known as dashi, “The Big Enterprise,” and it usually involved mass social upheaval and civil war. The latter-day version of changing leaders now takes place at Party...

Caixin Media

11.02.12

18 Reforms for the Party’s 18th Congress

CAIXIN

China’s leadership handover comes at a critical moment for society and the economy, and changes are in order.The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party this month comes at a critical time described by economist Wu Jinglian as “a tipping point for China’s economic...

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10.29.12

Hollywood Film Summit Draws Chinese Movie Moguls

JONATHAN LANDRETH

LOS ANGELES—Hollywood and Chinese movie makers and industry hangers-on will gather Tuesday at the third annual Asia Society U.S.-China Film Summit on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles.At a gala dinner Tuesday night, organizers Peter Shiao of ORB Media and...

Media

10.26.12

Myanmar Envy

BI CHENG

Chinese netizens’ reactions to tentative democratic reforms in neighboring Myanmar, including to the recent repeal of censorship rules for private publishers by the Southeast Asian nation’s reformist government, reflect just how closely it’s possible for average Chinese to...

Viewpoint

06.11.12

Dirty Air and Succession Jitters Clouding Beijing’s...

STEPHEN OLIVER & SUSAN SHIRK

Last week the Chinese government accused the U.S. Embassy and consulates of illegally interfering in China’s domestic affairs by publishing online hourly air-quality information collected from their own monitoring equipment. (While the critiques didn’t name the U.S., the U.S...

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05.30.12

The Sweet and the Sour in China-U.S. Relations

WINSTON LORD

At this very hour, one early May, just shy of a half century ago, I married a girl from Shanghai and we launched our joint adventure.Ever since, Bette Bao and I have practiced the precept of Adam Smith—division of labor. She manages our finances and real estate. I changed the...

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05.20.12

Chen Guangcheng: A Hopeful Breakthrough?

ORVILLE SCHELL

The arrival of the celebrated Chinese rights activist, Chen Guangcheng in the U.S. after years of prison and house arrest, raises the larger question of what the whole incident will come to mean in terms of the status of dissidents in China and in U.S.-China relations.In the...

DISCUSSION

The Popularity of Chinese Patriotism

MARTIN BERNAL

Fundamentally China is a sellers’ market. The first half of this century, when there was a glut of books, seems to have been the exception. Since 1949 a veil has once more been drawn over the center of the mysterious east, and the situation has reverted to that of the...

Mao’s China

MARTIN BERNAL

To most Westerners China is not a part of the known world and Mao is not a figure of our time. The ignorant believe he is the leader of a host of martians whose sole occupation is plotting the destruction of civilization and the enslavement of mankind. The more sophisticated say...

Contradictions

MARTIN BERNAL

Professor Schurmann is not modest. Near the beginning of his book he writes: “translations from Chinese, Russian and Japanese are my own, and hundreds of articles had to be read in the original Chinese with precision and at the same time extensively. It was important to...