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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.

Last Updated: April 24, 2014
Affiliations: 

Columbia University
Human Rights in China

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Contributions by Andrew J. Nathan

Conversation

04.06.16

China in the Panama Papers

Andrew J. Nathan, Bill Bishop & more
The overseas wealth of several relatives of senior Chinese leaders has come to light in an International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) report, part of the analysis by a group of media outlets of more than 11 million documents leaked...

Conversation

03.21.16

Cracks in Xi Jinping’s Fortress?

Andrew J. Nathan, Rana Mitter & more
Two remarkable documents emerged from China last week—the essay “A Thousand Yes-Men Cannot Equal One Honest Advisor,” which appeared on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and an open letter calling for Xi Jinping’s...

Conversation

12.23.15

China in 2016

Andrew J. Nathan, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian & more
What should China watchers be watching most closely in China in 2016? What developments would be the most meaningful? What predictions can be made sensibly?

Media

11.09.15

Can the China Model Succeed?

Daniel A. Bell, Timothy Garton Ash & more
Is this a new model? Is authoritarian capitalism, Leninist capitalism, something that has durability? Have the rules changed about how countries develop? That used to be, remember, that open markets led ineluctably to open societies. How does it...

Conversation

11.05.15

The China-Taiwan Summit

Richard Bernstein, Andrew J. Nathan & more
This Saturday, for the first time since 1949, the leaders of China and Taiwan will meet face to face. Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou will meet in Singapore, not as Presidents, but—to sidestep one of many lingering areas of conflict since the Chinese...

Viewpoint

11.05.15

The Problem With the China Model

Andrew J. Nathan
The ideological competition between democracy and authoritarianism was supposed to have died with the Cold War. But it has returned with a vengeance, powered above all by the rise of China. Now comes a book by a respected scholar that purports to...

Conversation

10.16.15

Is There a China Model?

Daniel A. Bell, Timothy Garton Ash & more
The most recent public event in our ChinaFile Presents series, which we held October 15 in New York, was a discussion of the philosopher Daniel A. Bell’s controversial book, The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy, co-...

Conversation

09.22.15

Xi Jinping’s Message to America

Taisu Zhang, Graham Webster & more
China’s President Xi Jinping addressed an audience of more than 700 American businesspeople in Seattle on Tuesday evening on the first stop on his first state visit to the United States. Regular ChinaFile Contributors who watched the speech offer...

Conversation

05.21.15

Censorship and Publishing in China

Andrew J. Nathan, Zha Jianying & more
This week, a new PEN American Center report “Censorship and Conscience: Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship,” by Alexa Olesen, draws fresh attention to a perennial problem for researchers, scholars, and creative writers trying to...

Conversation

02.12.15

Is Mao Still Dead?

Rebecca E. Karl, Michael Schoenhals & more
It has long been standard operating procedure for China’s leaders to pay tribute to Mao. Even as the People’s Republic he wrought has embraced capitalist behavior with ever more heated ardor, the party he founded has remained firmly in power and his...

Conversation

01.16.15

Why Did The West Weep for Paris But Not for Kunming?

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Taisu Zhang & more
In the days since the attacks that killed 12 people at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Chinese netizens have watched the outpouring of solidarity. As our colleagues at Foreign Policy reported earlier this week, the...

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...

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.”Kaiser 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...

Conversation

12.07.13

Will China Shut Out the Foreign Press?

Winston Lord, Paul Mooney & 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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Conversation

06.13.13

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

Tai Ming Cheung, Andrew J. Nathan & more
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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Conversation

04.06.16

China in the Panama Papers

Andrew J. Nathan, Bill Bishop & more
The overseas wealth of several relatives of senior Chinese leaders has come to light in an International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) report, part of the analysis by a group of media outlets of more than 11 million documents leaked...

Conversation

03.21.16

Cracks in Xi Jinping’s Fortress?

Andrew J. Nathan, Rana Mitter & more
Two remarkable documents emerged from China last week—the essay “A Thousand Yes-Men Cannot Equal One Honest Advisor,” which appeared on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and an open letter calling for Xi Jinping’s...

Conversation

12.23.15

China in 2016

Andrew J. Nathan, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian & more
What should China watchers be watching most closely in China in 2016? What developments would be the most meaningful? What predictions can be made sensibly?

Media

11.09.15

Can the China Model Succeed?

Daniel A. Bell, Timothy Garton Ash & more
Is this a new model? Is authoritarian capitalism, Leninist capitalism, something that has durability? Have the rules changed about how countries develop? That used to be, remember, that open markets led ineluctably to open societies. How does it...

Conversation

11.05.15

The China-Taiwan Summit

Richard Bernstein, Andrew J. Nathan & more
This Saturday, for the first time since 1949, the leaders of China and Taiwan will meet face to face. Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou will meet in Singapore, not as Presidents, but—to sidestep one of many lingering areas of conflict since the Chinese...

Viewpoint

11.05.15

The Problem With the China Model

Andrew J. Nathan
The ideological competition between democracy and authoritarianism was supposed to have died with the Cold War. But it has returned with a vengeance, powered above all by the rise of China. Now comes a book by a respected scholar that purports to...

Conversation

10.16.15

Is There a China Model?

Daniel A. Bell, Timothy Garton Ash & more
The most recent public event in our ChinaFile Presents series, which we held October 15 in New York, was a discussion of the philosopher Daniel A. Bell’s controversial book, The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy, co-...

Conversation

09.22.15

Xi Jinping’s Message to America

Taisu Zhang, Graham Webster & more
China’s President Xi Jinping addressed an audience of more than 700 American businesspeople in Seattle on Tuesday evening on the first stop on his first state visit to the United States. Regular ChinaFile Contributors who watched the speech offer...

Conversation

05.21.15

Censorship and Publishing in China

Andrew J. Nathan, Zha Jianying & more
This week, a new PEN American Center report “Censorship and Conscience: Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship,” by Alexa Olesen, draws fresh attention to a perennial problem for researchers, scholars, and creative writers trying to...

Conversation

02.12.15

Is Mao Still Dead?

Rebecca E. Karl, Michael Schoenhals & more
It has long been standard operating procedure for China’s leaders to pay tribute to Mao. Even as the People’s Republic he wrought has embraced capitalist behavior with ever more heated ardor, the party he founded has remained firmly in power and his...

Conversation

01.16.15

Why Did The West Weep for Paris But Not for Kunming?

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Taisu Zhang & more
In the days since the attacks that killed 12 people at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Chinese netizens have watched the outpouring of solidarity. As our colleagues at Foreign Policy reported earlier this week, the...

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...

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.”Kaiser 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...

Conversation

12.07.13

Will China Shut Out the Foreign Press?

Winston Lord, Paul Mooney & 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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Conversation

06.13.13

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

Tai Ming Cheung, Andrew J. Nathan & more
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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...