China at the Tipping Point?

China at the Tipping Point?

The Turn Against Legal Reform

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, then law, and eventually politics. Events appeared to confirm these projections. As Chinese authorities opened up the economy in the late twentieth century, they also launched sweeping reforms of the nation’s legislative and judicial institutions.

The events of the past decade, however, have called these assumptions into question. From 2000 to 2011, per capita GDP in China more than quintupled, skyrocketing from US$949 to $5,445. But one-party rule remains intact under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and Chinese authorities have turned against many of the legal reforms that they themselves enacted back in the 1980s and 1990s. Lawyers have come under increased pressure. Political campaigns warning against rule-of-law norms have rippled through the courts. And under new policies making “stability maintenance” (weiwen) a top priority, central authorities have massively increased funding for extralegal institutions aimed at channeling, curtailing, and suppressing citizen discontent.

These shifts have choked off institutions for venting dissatisfaction and redressing ills that are key to the CCP’s continued resilience as an authoritarian regime. The changes have fueled social unrest, funneling citizen grievances into a rising tide of street protests instead of institutionalized legal or political participation. And they have led to new worries at the center regarding the danger posed by individual CCP officials (such as disgraced Chongqing CCP boss Bo Xilai) seizing parts of the weiwen apparatus for their own ends. For precisely these reasons, an increasing number of officials, academics, and activists have called on central authorities to revive flagging legal reforms in the wake of the November 2012 leadership succession.

China may indeed be at a tipping point. But it is not clear which way it will tip. Authorities may restart legal reform as part of a comprehensive program of political and institutional transformation. Or they may refuse, risking an escalating spiral of social and political turmoil. 1

In the 1970s and 1980s, CCP authorities turned their backs on decades of political radicalism and socialist economic policies. They launched extensive legal reforms aimed at building new structures to govern China.

Officials reopened law schools shuttered during the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76). They used academic and professional exchanges to aggressively import foreign legal concepts. They issued hundreds of new statutes and regulations, creating a comprehensive framework of civil, commercial, criminal, and administrative law. Authorities promoted court trials, conducted according to these newly promulgated laws, as the preferred venue for resolving ordinary civil or commercial grievances and disputes. In 1989, Chinese authorities even issued an administrative litigation law giving ordinary citizens limited rights to sue state authorities in court.

Reforms continued throughout the 1990s. Authorities professionalized the judiciary, moving away from the practice of staffing courts with former military officers. They removed definitions of lawyers as “state legal workers” and privatized the bar. By the early 2000s, the state-owned law firms of the 1980s had given way to an explosion of private firms, domestic and foreign alike. In 1997, central authorities adopted “rule according to law” (yifa zhiguo) as a core Party slogan. Parallel constitutional amendments followed two years later. Legal reform even emerged as a subject in China’s foreign relations, with U.S. and Chinese diplomats agreeing to initiate cooperative exchanges on legal reform.

Naturally, Chinese leaders aimed to advance their own interests through these reforms. Ideologically, they wanted an alternative source of legitimacy to Maoist revolutionary principles on which to ground their rule. Practically, they desired new mechanisms to help resolve the mounting social conflicts created by rapid economic development and urbanization. Law, litigation, and courts seemed to be the solution. Administratively, central leaders sought new ways to monitor their local officials and better respond to pervasive principal-agent problems within the bureaucracy. They also wanted to gather better information on domestic problems facing China. Allowing citizens a limited ability to challenge local officials through court channels, or to offer opinions through legislative ones, promised to help address these concerns.



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,...

As Andrew Nathan noted in 2003, these reforms helped to strengthen the internal stability of the Chinese state.2

They institutionalized CCP rule. They channeled popular discontent (regarding violations of citizens’ rights or official abuses of power) into institutions within the existing political system, rather than radical underground organizations seeking to overturn the party-state. Legal reforms also played an important role in foreign policy. Rule-of-law discussions with foreign governments, for example, provided a politically more acceptable forum for discussing human rights in advance of China’s 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization.

Central reforms emboldened bureaucrats farther down the ladder to push institutional change forward under the rule-of-law banner. By the late 1990s, Chinese legal academia was abuzz with discussions of constitutionalism and constitutional supremacy (xianfa zhishang). In 2001, the Supreme People’s Court (China’s highest judicial body) took the groundbreaking step of authorizing a provincial court to actually apply the (otherwise nonjusticiable) Chinese constitution in an individual case. Some local courts began to push the boundaries of their authority, independently proclaiming the invalidity of local rules and regulations that contradicted national law.3

Citizens used the new channels to protect their own interests. Civil and administrative cases multiplied. Farmers employed central authorities’ rule-of-law rhetoric to challenge illegal local exactions and land seizures. By the early 2000s, a cadre of public-interest lawyers and legal activists (such as Chen Guangcheng) had emerged. They fused public-interest lawsuits and savvy media strategies to push for deeper reform, with some resounding successes. In 2003, after a migrant named Sun Zhigang died at the hands of city authorities in Guangzhou (Canton), three legal academics mounted a petition to the national legislature challenging the legality and constitutionality of the extrajudicial administrative system used to detain him. At the same time, extensive media coverage generated a public uproar regarding official abuses in Sun’s case and similar ones. Remarkably, central authorities yielded—annulling the entire detention system nationwide.4

The Counterreaction

Despite the hopeful signs visible nearly a decade ago, officials have turned against their earlier reforms. Some concerns are practical. Late twentieth-century reforms were designed to steer civil and commercial disputes into trials before local courts. But rural China has limited legal resources. Trained judges and licensed lawyers are in short supply. Courts remain institutionally weak and commonly find it hard to enforce their verdicts. As China entered the twenty-first century, such problems led to violent showdowns between local courts and aggrieved citizens seeking justice, as well as surging numbers of extralegal petitions and protests to higher authorities regarding lower-court decisions.

Other concerns are explicitly political. State media have cautioned that “judicial concepts . . . not in accordance with [Chinese] national sentiment have ‘blown into the East from the West.’”5 Party authorities have warned that some judges have falsely used concepts such as “the supremacy of the law” as an excuse to avoid or oppose CCP leadership in judging cases.6

This has generated a backlash. Since the early 2000s, Chinese authorities have shifted citizen disputes away from court trials that are decided according to law. Judges face new pressures to resolve cases through closed-door mediation. Community mediation institutions dating from the era of Chairman Mao Zedong (d. 1976) have been dusted off and revived. New extralegal Party-led “coordination sessions” have been created, under the rubric of mediation, to handle those cases that officials fear are most likely to generate social protest.

In some areas, these efforts have permitted meaningful local experiments that may respond better to rural needs than the formal legal channels emphasized during the late twentieth century. In others, they have become convenient rationales for local authorities to abandon legal norms entirely as they seek to shore up social stability at all costs, whether by suppressing the legitimate grievances of individual petitioners or by caving in to mass complaints with no legal basis, but backed by many angry citizens.

Party authorities have also attempted to rein in politically wayward judges. In 2006, CCP officials launched new campaigns within the court system stressing loyalty to the Party and cautioning against Western rule-of-law norms. In 2008, central authorities installed a CCP functionary with no formal legal experience as head of the Supreme People’s Court. There followed the so-called Three Supremes (sange zhishang) campaign—an effort to remind judges that CCP policies and “the people’s will” are equal to (or above) the constitution. Lest anyone miss the message, both law school curricula and the national bar examination were amended to include the content of these campaigns as mandatory subjects.

Lawyers have come under increased pressure. Party campaigns have labeled them “socialist legal workers” and pressed for creation of CCP cells within law firms. Loyalty oaths to the Party are now required to obtain a license to practice law. Authorities have escalated harassment and abuse of well-known public-interest lawyers and legal activists by shuttering the organizations of some and subjecting others to imprisonment, house arrest, and periodic disappearance or torture.

In short, CCP leaders are trying to neuter the very rule-of-law pressures that they themselves unleashed in the late twentieth century. They have sought to close down rhetoric (constitutionalism), channels (court trials), and social forces (lawyers) that activists had used to mobilize for greater change. And they have reasserted control over state actors (judges and courts) who might have been tempted to forget the realities of Communist Party control.

Where such concerns are absent, reforms have continued. In the area of criminal justice, for instance, Chinese authorities have developed noncustodial pilot programs for juvenile offenders. The 2012 Criminal Procedure Law creates additional protections for juveniles facing interrogation and trial. With regard to death-penalty cases, Chinese judicial authorities have made efforts to increase transparency and improve judicial review. As a result, foreign experts estimate that the number of executions in China has dropped by roughly half since 2007, to about four thousand in 2011.7

Tough central policies have generated a range of perverse effects. Ironically, they have heightened social unrest. Many citizens with environmental or land grievances against local authorities have concluded that the best chance for obtaining redress does not lie within state legal institutions that have been gradually undermined. Instead, they are increasingly resorting to direct (and sometimes violent) collective street actions, seeking to force central officials to intervene and local authorities to cave in. In response, central authorities have greatly increased the funding and influence of domestic-security organs. This has permitted some local governments to devolve into quasi-feudal satrapies in which officials use massive funds (and the politically correct justification of “maintaining social stability”) to suppress legitimate citizen complaints, hide their own misdeeds, and enrich themselves through corruption.

Reform on the Rebound or Descent to Disorder?

The fall of rising Party star Bo Xilai in the first half of 2012 dramatically drew attention to these problems. Central leaders voiced concern about the ability of one of their own to amass huge, unchecked personal power and to challenge the low-key collective leadership norms that had prevailed since the beginning of the reform period two decades ago. Liberal scholars and officials used the Bo affair to criticize the CCP’s turn against legal reform since the early 2000s.

Over the past year, indications have emerged that the counterreaction against legal reform may have now generated a backlash of its own. Central authorities have moved to downgrade the power of the CCP political-legal apparatus. The new CCP general secretary, Xi Jinping, has begun to revive language regarding law and legal reform that had gone into eclipse in recent years. Top Party leaders have issued new calls for applying rule-of-law principles to the task of upholding social stability. A new State Council white paper suggests that recent political campaigns in the judiciary may be wound down.

If implemented, such changes might represent a tipping point in Chinese legal reform. Central authorities may have recognized that if China is to solve its pressing problems, it will need meaningful institutions that can place independent checks on official power and provide bottom-up channelsfor citizen participation.

China today might be on the verge of a complex transition that parallels developments in South Korea and Taiwan during the 1970s and 1980s. In both cases, authoritarian powerholders pursued gradual political reform, opened the institutions of government to increasing levels of external civic pressure, and slowly but successfully shifted to more liberal systems of government. Today, both countries belong securely in the ranks of the world’s developed democracies.

But it remains uncertain that China will steer such a hopeful course. The CCP’s ruling elite could end up rejecting reform rather than embracing it. If so, China in the twenty-first century might resemble nineteenth-century Russia more than twentieth-century South Korea or Taiwan.

Like China today, late nineteenth-century Czarist Russia enjoyed decades of economic growth at rates that outpaced those of the United States and European nations, notwithstanding a bureaucratic-authoritarian political system that foreign observers saw as badly outdated. As the century drew to a close, speculation ran rampant as to when Russia might surpass Western powers in economic and military might.

Russia also found itself in the throes of massive domestic change. Military humiliation at the hands of Western powers in the first international war of the industrial age (the Crimean War of 1853–56) had exposed Russia’s technological inferiority. As a result, the Russian imperial state initiated extensive economic and social reforms. Serfdom was abolished and peasants received more rights. Industrialization reworked the fabric of Russian life, bringing a tide of rural migrants to urban factories. Worker protests over conditions and pay began to erupt with increasing frequency. The new social media of the era—printed periodicals—permitted an educated elite to rapidly disseminate ideas throughout the country, often resorting to allusions or coded language to avoid imperial censors.

Czarist authorities launched sweeping legal reforms as well. They imported foreign legal institutions including models of legal education; a professional bar; Western-style courts and juries; and civil, commer- cial, and criminal codes. Excitement was palpable. “The slogans in the air in the 1860s were due process, open court proceedings, trial by jury, and irremovable judges.”8 Officials even established local representa- tive assemblies with limited powers of self-government.

Citizens took eagerly to these new channels. Reformers sought to use local assemblies to gradually push the imperial regime in a more liberal direction. Radical activists took advantage of legal novelties such as open court proceedings and independent judges in order to turn trials into platforms calling for greater political change. In 1878, a young anarchist named Vera Zasulich became an instant media sensation when, after her arrest for trying to assassinate an imperial governor, the trial judge resisted government efforts to tamper with the case; her lawyer managed to turn the public proceedings into an indictment of police brutality; a jury of sympathetic citizens returned a verdict of “not guilty”; and crowds erupted into public demonstrations upon her release.

Such developments caused serious worry among political elites. As in China today, rule-of-law institutions came under increasing suspicion from an authoritarian regime dead set against fundamental political reform—particularly after anarchists assassinated the reformist Czar Alexander II in 1881. Under his successor, Russian authorities launched a two-decade–long rollback of liberal policies. They curtailed public trials, limited the rights of juries, asserted control over bar associations, removed political trials from the regular court system, and drastically reduced the powers of local assemblies.

Beginning in the late 1870s, imperial authorities also built up an extensive police state (one might call it “social-stability maintenance with Russian characteristics”). They increasingly took responsibility for upholding law and order out of the hands of judges and gave it to the police, including the Okhrana (the Czarist secret service). Agents of the latter enjoyed dramatically expanded powers that allowed them to detain and internally exile anyone even suspected of political crimes.

Of course, these measures did not succeed in stamping out all dissent. The existence of private property meant that there were limits on imperial power. Wealthy patrons continued to employ reformist intellectuals, despite state efforts to isolate them. Dissident authors continued to find markets for their works, notwithstanding state efforts to censor them.

The key result of Czarist counterreform in the late nineteenth century was to radicalize society. The imperial turn against law convinced moderates that gradual reform of the regime was impossible. Decades of indiscriminate state repression pushed together liberal constitutionalists, anarchist terrorists, religious nationalists, radical socialists, and ordinary citizens outraged by violations of their rights. And it drove all of them to adopt ever more extreme political positions.

Further, as imperial rule entered its waning years, hard-line policies helped to prevent the emergence of any organized and institutionalized political opposition. Like China today, imperial Russia had no Taiwanese dangwai (outside the party) movement, no South Korean opposition political parties, no Polish Solidarity trade union. It crushed any effort to organize these. This produced a surface veneer of political stability. But it also ensured that no coherent force existed to step into the void and pick up the power lying in the streets once the Czarist state finally crumbled. Instead, there was only a chaotic assortment of military strongmen, popular mobs, radicalized intellectuals, and—detraining ominously at the Finland Station—committed underground revolutionaries hardened by decades of repression.

Of course, China is not there . . . yet. Despite increasing domestic unrest, slowing economic growth, and rising tensions with neighbors, central leaders retain a firm grip on the levers of power. And despite the recent official turn against legal reforms, most activists still hope for (and seek) gradual reform of the Chinese state. They do not desire a radical upheaval that would shatter it. They want a soft rather than a hard landing.

But the risk of a hard landing is real. Pressures are building. Open legal and political channels are needed to funnel them in the direction of gradual change. If China does not build these now, it will not simply tip into transition, but rather plummet into cataclysm.


  1. Some content and language are adapted from Carl Minzner, “China’s Turn Against Law,” American Journal of Comparative Law 59 (Fall 2011): 935–84.
  2. Andrew J. Nathan, “China’s Changing of the Guard: Authoritarian Resilience,”Journal of Democracy 14 (January 2003): 13–15.
  3. Keith J. Hand, “Understanding China’s System for Addressing Legislative Conflicts,” Columbia Journal of Asian Law (forthcoming 2013).
  4. Keith J. Hand, “Using Law for a Righteous Purpose: The Sun Zhigang Incident and Evolving Forms of Citizen Action in the People’s Republic of China,” Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 45, no. 1 (2006): 127–31.
  5. Wei Lihua and Jiang Xu, “Sifa shenpan zhong de renmin qinghuai yu qunzhong luxian” [Popular sentiment and the mass line in judicial trial work], China Court Web, 22 June 2011, available in Chinese only at
  6. Minzner, “China’s Turn Against Law,” 947.
  7. “Dui Hua Estimates 4,000 Executions in China, Welcomes Open Dialogue,” Dui Hua Website, 12 December 2011, available at
  8. Richard Pipes, Russia Under the Old Regime (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974), 295.
Carl Minzner is Professor of Law at Fordham University. An expert in Chinese law and governance, Minzner has written extensively on these topics in both academic journals and the popular press. His...

This article first appeared in the Journal of Democracy.





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J. Stapleton Roy, Susan Shirk, Evan Osnos, Orville Schell
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...



Deciphering Xi Jinping’s Dream

Ouyang Bin, Roderick MacFarquhar
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...



What the Heck is China’s ‘Third Plenum’ and Why Should You Care?

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...



Stark Choices for China’s Leaders

Damien Ma, William Adams
One Beijing morning in early November 2012, seven men in dark suits strode onto the stage of the Great Hall of the People. China’s newly elected Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Chairman Xi Jinping stood at the center of the ensemble, flanked on each...



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...



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,...



The Urgency of Partnership

Paula S. Harrell
While the media keeps its eye on the ongoing Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute, heating up yet again this week after Chinese naval ships and aircraft were spotted circling the area, a parallel, possibly game-changing development in China-Japan...



Beijing’s Air in 2013 or Ground Zero’s After 9/11: Which Was Worse?

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...



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...



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...



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...



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...



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...



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

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...



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...



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...



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...



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...



‘Hi! I’m Fang!’ The Man Who Changed China

Perry Link
In China in the 1980s, the word renquan (“human rights”) was extremely “sensitive.” Few dared even to utter it in public, let alone to champion the concept. Now, nearly three decades later, a grassroots movement called weiquan (“supporting rights”)...



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

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...



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...



A Beginning for China’s Battered Women

Ying Zhu
Like it or not, it takes an American woman to give a face, bring a voice, and deliver a victory to battered women in China. On February 3, a milestone court decision in Beijing granted a divorce to Kim Lee, a victim of domestic abuse, from her...



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...



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...



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...



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

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...



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,...



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...



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...



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...



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...



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...



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...



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...



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...



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...



Dirty Air and Succession Jitters Clouding Beijing’s Judgment

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...



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...



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...



China Plays the Market

Orville Schell, Todd Lappin
With the Chinese stock market in turmoil earlier this month, Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations, wrote about the dramatic crash for The Guardian: “Why China’s Stock Market Bubble Was Always Bound To Burst.”...