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  • Andrew J. Nathan

Andrew J. Nathan

Andrew J. Nathan

Andrew J. Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. He is also chair of the steering committee of the Center for the Study of Human Rights and chair of the Morningside Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Columbia. Nathan served as chair of the Department of Political Science, chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and director of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Before coming to Columbia in 1971, he taught at the University of Michigan. His teaching and research interests include Chinese politics and foreign policy, the comparative study of political participation and political culture, and human rights. 

Nathan is co-chair of the board of Human Rights in China, a member of the board of Freedom House, and a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch, Asia, which he chaired from 1995 to 2000.  He is the regular Asia book reviewer for Foreign Affairs magazine and a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Democracy, The China Quarterly, The Journal of Contemporary China, China Information, and others.

Professor Nathan is the author and co-author of numerous books, including, Peking Politics, 1918-1923 (University of California Press, 1976); Chinese Democracy (Alfred A. Knopf, 1985); China’s Crisis (Columbia University Press, 1990); and The Tiananmen Papers, co-edited with Perry Link (Public Affairs, 2001); among others.

Nathan’s articles have appeared in World Politics, Daedalus, The China Quarterly, Journal of Democracy, Asian Survey, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, The Asian Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, the International Herald Tribune, and elsewhere. His research has been supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and others.

Professor Nathan received a B.A. in History, summa cum laude (1963), an M.A. in East Asian Regional Studies (1965), and a Ph.D. in Political Science (1971) from Harvard University.

Affiliations: 

Columbia University
Human Rights in China

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Contributions by Andrew J. Nathan

Conversation

04.06.14

Spy Vs. Spy: When is Cyberhacking Crossing the Line...

VINCENT NI, CHEN WEIHUA & more

Vincent Ni: For a long time, Huawei has been accused by some American politicians of “spying on Americans for the Chinese government,” but their evidence has always been sketchy. They played on fear and possibility. I don’t agree or disagree with them, but when Chinese...

Conversation

03.02.14

A Racist Farewell to Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke

KAISER KUO, HYEON-JU RHO & more

Reacting to departing U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke’s February 27 farewell news conference in Beijing, the state-run China News Service published a critique by Wang Ping that called Ambassador Locke a “banana.” —The EditorsKaiser Kuo: Banana or Twinkie for “white-on-...

Conversation

01.06.14

Will Xi Jinping Bring a Positive New Day to China...

PAUL MOONEY, ANDREW J. NATHAN & more

Chinese President Xi Jinping, just over a year in office, recently made a rare appearance in public in a Beijing restaurant, buying a cheap lunch and paying for it himself. Shortly thereafter, President Xi delivered a brief televised New Year message from what appeared to be his...

Conversation

12.07.13

Will China Shut Out the Foreign Press...

THE EDITORS, WINSTON LORD & more

Some two dozen journalists employed by The New York Times and Bloomberg News have not yet received the visas they need to continue to report and live in China after the end of this year. Without them, they will effectively be expelled from the country. Visiting Beijing earlier...

Conversation

11.12.13

Spiked in China...

JOHN GARNAUT, SIDNEY RITTENBERG & more

Last weekend, The New York Times and later, The Financial Times reported that, according to Bloomberg News employees, Bloomberg editor in chief Matthew Winkler informed reporters by telephone on October 29 that Bloomberg would not publish their...

Conversation

10.08.13

Obama’s Canceled Trip to Asia: How Much Did It Matter...

WINSTON LORD, SUSAN SHIRK & more

Last week as the U.S. Federal Government shut down, President Obama canceled his planned trip to Indonesia and Brunei, where he was to have attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bali. Some foreign policy analysts have argued the canceled trip will inflict...

Conversation

08.28.13

Beijing, Why So Tense...

ANDREW J. NATHAN, ISABEL HILTON & more

Andrew Nathan:I think of the Chinese leaders as holding a plant spritzer and dousing sparks that are jumping up all around them.  Mao made the famous remark, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.”  The leaders have seen that terrifying truth confirmed in the pro...

Conversation

07.25.13

The Bo Xilai Trial: What’s It Really About...

JEROME A. COHEN, ANDREW J. NATHAN & more

China has charged disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai with bribery, abuse of power and corruption, paving the way for a potentially divisive trial. But what’s at stake goes beyond the fate of one allegedly corrupt official: Is it really a fight between factions in the...

Conversation

07.18.13

Xu Zhiyong Arrested: How Serious Can Beijing Be About Political Reform...

DONALD CLARKE, ANDREW J. NATHAN & more

Donald Clarke:When I heard that Xu Zhiyong had just been detained, my first thought was, “Again?” This seems to be something the authorities do every time they get nervous, a kind of political Alka Seltzer to settle an upset constitution. I searched the web site of The New...

Conversation

06.27.13

Is Xi Jinping’s Fight Against Corruption For Real...

RODERICK MACFARQUHAR, WINSTON LORD & more

Roderick MacFarquhar:Xi Jinping’s overriding aim is the preservation of Communist party rule in China, as he made clear in speeches shortly after his elevation to be China’s senior leader.  Like his predecessors, he is obsessed with the Gorbachev phenomenon and doesn't...

Conversation

06.13.13

Who’d You Rather Be Watched By: China or the U.S...

THE EDITORS, TAI MING CHEUNG & more

Editor’s note:Reports of U.S. gathering data on emails and phone calls have stoked fears of an over-reaching government spying on its citizens. Chinese artist Ai Weiwei worries that China will use the U.S. as an example to bolster its argument for surveillance on dissidents....

Conversation

06.11.13

What’s the Best Way to Advance Human Rights in the U.S.-China Relationship...

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN, SHARON HOM & more

Nicholas Bequelin:The best way to advance human rights in the U.S.-China relationship is first and foremost to recognize that the engine of human rights progress in China today is the Chinese citizenry itself. Such progress is neither the product of a gradual enlightenment of the...

Conversation

06.04.13

How Would Facing Its Past Change China’s Future...

DAVID WERTIME, ISABEL HILTON & more

David Wertime:The memory of the 1989 massacre of protesters at Tiananmen Square remains neither alive nor dead, neither reckoned nor obliterated. Instead, it hangs spectre-like in the background, a muted but latently powerful symbol of resistance.There’s no question that an...

Conversation

05.29.13

What Should Obama and Xi Accomplish at Their California Summit...

SUSAN SHIRK, ORVILLE SCHELL & more

Susan Shirk:It’s an excellent idea for President Obama and President Xi to spend two days of quality time together at a private retreat in Southern California. Past meetings between Chinese and American presidents have been too short, formal and scripted for them to develop a...

Conversation

05.07.13

Why Is a 1995 Poisoning Case the Top Topic on Chinese Social Media...

RACHEL LU, ANDREW J. NATHAN & more

With a population base of 1.3 billion people, China has no shortage of strange and gruesome crimes, but the attempted murder of Zhu Ling by thallium poisoning in 1995 is burning up China’s social media long after the trails have gone cold. Zhu, a brilliant and beautiful...

Conversation

04.30.13

What’s Really at the Core of China’s “Core Interests...

SHAI OSTER, ANDREW J. NATHAN & more

Shai Oster:It’s Pilates diplomacy—work on your core. China’s diplomats keep talking about China’s core interests and it’s a growing list. In 2011, China included its political system and social stability as core interests. This year, it has added a vast chunk of the...

Conversation

04.16.13

Why is China Still Messing with the Foreign Press...

ANDREW J. NATHAN, ISABEL HILTON & more

To those raised in the Marxist tradition, nothing in the media happens by accident.  In China, the flagship newspapers are still the “throat and tongue” of the ruling party, and their work is directed by the Party’s Propaganda Department.  That’s the first...

Conversation

03.19.13

China’s New Leaders Say They Want to Fight Corruption. Can They? Will They...

ANDREW J. NATHAN & OUYANG BIN

In his first press conference after taking office as China's new premier, Li Keqiang declared that one of his top priorities would be to fight corruption, because “Corruption and the reputation of our government are as incompatible as fire and water.” This put Li on message...

Conversation

03.15.13

Is the One Child Policy Finished—And Was It a Failure...

DORINDA ELLIOTT, ALEXA OLESEN & more

Dorinda Elliott:China’s recent decision to phase out the agency that oversees the one-child policy has raised questions about whether the policy itself will be dropped—and whether it was a success or a failure.Aside from the burdens only children feel when it comes...

Conversation

02.15.13

U.S.-China Tensions: What Must Kerry Do...

DORINDA ELLIOTT, ELIZABETH ECONOMY & more

Dorinda Elliott:On a recent trip to China, I heard a lot of scary talk of potential war over the disputed Diaoyu Islands—this from both senior intellectual types and also just regular people, from an elderly calligraphy expert to a middle-aged history professor. People seemed...

Conversation

02.08.13

Rich, Poor and Chinese—Does Anyone Trust Beijing to Bust the Corrupt...

ANDREW J. NATHAN, SUSAN SHIRK & more

Andrew Nathan:The new Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping seems to be making some bold opening moves with its attacks on corruption and the announcement on February 5 of plans to reduce the polarization of incomes.  Does this mean Xi is leading China in new directions? ...

Viewpoint

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...

Books

12.12.12

China’s Search for Security

ANDREW J. NATHAN, ANDREW SCOBELL

Despite its impressive size and population, economic vitality, and drive to upgrade its military capabilities, China remains a vulnerable nation surrounded by powerful rivals and potential foes. The key to understanding China’s foreign policy is to grasp these geostrategic...

My First Trip

07.09.11

Nandehutu

ANDREW J. NATHAN

In 1972, a man named Jack Chen showed up in New York. He was the younger son of Eugene Chen, who had been an associate of Sun Yat-sen’s and intermittently foreign minister for various GMD governments. Jack’s mother was Trinidadian. He grew up there and did not speak much...

China’s New Rulers: What They Want

ANDREW J. NATHAN & BRUCE GILLEY

Following are the members of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, whose election is expected in November 2002, listed by their rank according to protocol, with their main Party and future state positions. Ages are given as of November 2002; the positions...

China’s New Rulers: The Path to Power

ANDREW J. NATHAN & BRUCE GILLEY

Following are the members of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, whose election is expected in November 2002, listed by their rank according to protocol, with their main Party and future state positions. Ages are given as of November 2002; the positions...

Conversation

04.06.14

Spy Vs. Spy: When is Cyberhacking Crossing the Line...

VINCENT NI, CHEN WEIHUA & more

Vincent Ni: For a long time, Huawei has been accused by some American politicians of “spying on Americans for the Chinese government,” but their evidence has always been sketchy. They played on fear and possibility. I don’t agree or disagree with them, but when Chinese...

Conversation

03.02.14

A Racist Farewell to Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke

KAISER KUO, HYEON-JU RHO & more

Reacting to departing U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke’s February 27 farewell news conference in Beijing, the state-run China News Service published a critique by Wang Ping that called Ambassador Locke a “banana.” —The EditorsKaiser Kuo: Banana or Twinkie for “white-on-...

Conversation

01.06.14

Will Xi Jinping Bring a Positive New Day to China...

PAUL MOONEY, ANDREW J. NATHAN & more

Chinese President Xi Jinping, just over a year in office, recently made a rare appearance in public in a Beijing restaurant, buying a cheap lunch and paying for it himself. Shortly thereafter, President Xi delivered a brief televised New Year message from what appeared to be his...

Conversation

12.07.13

Will China Shut Out the Foreign Press...

THE EDITORS, WINSTON LORD & more

Some two dozen journalists employed by The New York Times and Bloomberg News have not yet received the visas they need to continue to report and live in China after the end of this year. Without them, they will effectively be expelled from the country. Visiting Beijing earlier...

Conversation

11.12.13

Spiked in China...

JOHN GARNAUT, SIDNEY RITTENBERG & more

Last weekend, The New York Times and later, The Financial Times reported that, according to Bloomberg News employees, Bloomberg editor in chief Matthew Winkler informed reporters by telephone on October 29 that Bloomberg would not publish their...

Conversation

10.08.13

Obama’s Canceled Trip to Asia: How Much Did It Matter...

WINSTON LORD, SUSAN SHIRK & more

Last week as the U.S. Federal Government shut down, President Obama canceled his planned trip to Indonesia and Brunei, where he was to have attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bali. Some foreign policy analysts have argued the canceled trip will inflict...

Conversation

08.28.13

Beijing, Why So Tense...

ANDREW J. NATHAN, ISABEL HILTON & more

Andrew Nathan:I think of the Chinese leaders as holding a plant spritzer and dousing sparks that are jumping up all around them.  Mao made the famous remark, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.”  The leaders have seen that terrifying truth confirmed in the pro...

Conversation

07.25.13

The Bo Xilai Trial: What’s It Really About...

JEROME A. COHEN, ANDREW J. NATHAN & more

China has charged disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai with bribery, abuse of power and corruption, paving the way for a potentially divisive trial. But what’s at stake goes beyond the fate of one allegedly corrupt official: Is it really a fight between factions in the...

Conversation

07.18.13

Xu Zhiyong Arrested: How Serious Can Beijing Be About Political Reform...

DONALD CLARKE, ANDREW J. NATHAN & more

Donald Clarke:When I heard that Xu Zhiyong had just been detained, my first thought was, “Again?” This seems to be something the authorities do every time they get nervous, a kind of political Alka Seltzer to settle an upset constitution. I searched the web site of The New...

Conversation

06.27.13

Is Xi Jinping’s Fight Against Corruption For Real...

RODERICK MACFARQUHAR, WINSTON LORD & more

Roderick MacFarquhar:Xi Jinping’s overriding aim is the preservation of Communist party rule in China, as he made clear in speeches shortly after his elevation to be China’s senior leader.  Like his predecessors, he is obsessed with the Gorbachev phenomenon and doesn't...

Conversation

06.13.13

Who’d You Rather Be Watched By: China or the U.S...

THE EDITORS, TAI MING CHEUNG & more

Editor’s note:Reports of U.S. gathering data on emails and phone calls have stoked fears of an over-reaching government spying on its citizens. Chinese artist Ai Weiwei worries that China will use the U.S. as an example to bolster its argument for surveillance on dissidents....

Conversation

06.11.13

What’s the Best Way to Advance Human Rights in the U.S.-China Relationship...

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN, SHARON HOM & more

Nicholas Bequelin:The best way to advance human rights in the U.S.-China relationship is first and foremost to recognize that the engine of human rights progress in China today is the Chinese citizenry itself. Such progress is neither the product of a gradual enlightenment of the...

Conversation

06.04.13

How Would Facing Its Past Change China’s Future...

DAVID WERTIME, ISABEL HILTON & more

David Wertime:The memory of the 1989 massacre of protesters at Tiananmen Square remains neither alive nor dead, neither reckoned nor obliterated. Instead, it hangs spectre-like in the background, a muted but latently powerful symbol of resistance.There’s no question that an...

Conversation

05.29.13

What Should Obama and Xi Accomplish at Their California Summit...

SUSAN SHIRK, ORVILLE SCHELL & more

Susan Shirk:It’s an excellent idea for President Obama and President Xi to spend two days of quality time together at a private retreat in Southern California. Past meetings between Chinese and American presidents have been too short, formal and scripted for them to develop a...

Conversation

05.07.13

Why Is a 1995 Poisoning Case the Top Topic on Chinese Social Media...

RACHEL LU, ANDREW J. NATHAN & more

With a population base of 1.3 billion people, China has no shortage of strange and gruesome crimes, but the attempted murder of Zhu Ling by thallium poisoning in 1995 is burning up China’s social media long after the trails have gone cold. Zhu, a brilliant and beautiful...

Conversation

04.30.13

What’s Really at the Core of China’s “Core Interests...

SHAI OSTER, ANDREW J. NATHAN & more

Shai Oster:It’s Pilates diplomacy—work on your core. China’s diplomats keep talking about China’s core interests and it’s a growing list. In 2011, China included its political system and social stability as core interests. This year, it has added a vast chunk of the...

Conversation

04.16.13

Why is China Still Messing with the Foreign Press...

ANDREW J. NATHAN, ISABEL HILTON & more

To those raised in the Marxist tradition, nothing in the media happens by accident.  In China, the flagship newspapers are still the “throat and tongue” of the ruling party, and their work is directed by the Party’s Propaganda Department.  That’s the first...

Conversation

03.19.13

China’s New Leaders Say They Want to Fight Corruption. Can They? Will They...

ANDREW J. NATHAN & OUYANG BIN

In his first press conference after taking office as China's new premier, Li Keqiang declared that one of his top priorities would be to fight corruption, because “Corruption and the reputation of our government are as incompatible as fire and water.” This put Li on message...

Conversation

03.15.13

Is the One Child Policy Finished—And Was It a Failure...

DORINDA ELLIOTT, ALEXA OLESEN & more

Dorinda Elliott:China’s recent decision to phase out the agency that oversees the one-child policy has raised questions about whether the policy itself will be dropped—and whether it was a success or a failure.Aside from the burdens only children feel when it comes...

Conversation

02.15.13

U.S.-China Tensions: What Must Kerry Do...

DORINDA ELLIOTT, ELIZABETH ECONOMY & more

Dorinda Elliott:On a recent trip to China, I heard a lot of scary talk of potential war over the disputed Diaoyu Islands—this from both senior intellectual types and also just regular people, from an elderly calligraphy expert to a middle-aged history professor. People seemed...

Conversation

02.08.13

Rich, Poor and Chinese—Does Anyone Trust Beijing to Bust the Corrupt...

ANDREW J. NATHAN, SUSAN SHIRK & more

Andrew Nathan:The new Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping seems to be making some bold opening moves with its attacks on corruption and the announcement on February 5 of plans to reduce the polarization of incomes.  Does this mean Xi is leading China in new directions? ...

Viewpoint

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...

Books

12.12.12

China’s Search for Security

ANDREW J. NATHAN, ANDREW SCOBELL

Despite its impressive size and population, economic vitality, and drive to upgrade its military capabilities, China remains a vulnerable nation surrounded by powerful rivals and potential foes. The key to understanding China’s foreign policy is to grasp these geostrategic...

My First Trip

07.09.11

Nandehutu

ANDREW J. NATHAN

In 1972, a man named Jack Chen showed up in New York. He was the younger son of Eugene Chen, who had been an associate of Sun Yat-sen’s and intermittently foreign minister for various GMD governments. Jack’s mother was Trinidadian. He grew up there and did not speak much...

China’s New Rulers: What They Want

ANDREW J. NATHAN & BRUCE GILLEY

Following are the members of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, whose election is expected in November 2002, listed by their rank according to protocol, with their main Party and future state positions. Ages are given as of November 2002; the positions...

China’s New Rulers: The Path to Power

ANDREW J. NATHAN & BRUCE GILLEY

Following are the members of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, whose election is expected in November 2002, listed by their rank according to protocol, with their main Party and future state positions. Ages are given as of November 2002; the positions...