Susan L. Shirk is the chair of the 21st Century China Program and Research Professor of Political Science at the School of Global Policy & Strategy (GPS) at UC San Diego.  She also is director emeritus of the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. Currently she is an Arthur Ross Fellow at Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations.

From 1997 to 2000, Shirk served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, with responsibility for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mongolia.

Shirk’s most recent publications are her edited book, Changing Media, Changing China (Oxford, 2011) and China: Fragile Superpower (Oxford, 2007).

Last Updated: April 13, 2016

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...

Conversation

01.30.13

China, Japan and the Islands: What Do the Tensions Mean?

Orville Schell, John Delury & more
How did the Diaoyu, Spratly, and Paracel islands come to replace Taiwan as the main source of tension for maritime Asia? And how are we to explain the fact that China’s foreign policy toward its Asian neighbors has now morphed from such slogans as...

Viewpoint

11.15.12

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...

Viewpoint

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...

Viewpoint

06.11.12

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...

Books

04.24.12

Changing Media, Changing China

Susan L. Shirk (editor)
Thirty years ago, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made a fateful decision: to allow newspapers, magazines, television, and radio stations to compete in the marketplace instead of being financed exclusively by the government. The political and social implications of that decision are still unfolding as the Chinese government, media, and public adapt to the new information environment.Edited by Susan Shirk, one of America's leading experts on contemporary China, this collection of essays brings together a who's who of experts—Chinese and American—writing about all aspects of the changing media landscape in China. In detailed case studies, the authors describe how the media is reshaping itself from a propaganda mouthpiece into an agent of watchdog journalism, how politicians are reacting to increased scrutiny from the media, and how television, newspapers, magazines, and Web-based news sites navigate the cross-currents between the open marketplace and the CCP censors. China has over 360 million Internet users, more than any other country, and an astounding 162 million bloggers. The growth of Internet access has dramatically increased the information available, the variety and timeliness of the news, and its national and international reach. But China is still far from having a free press. As of 2008, the international NGO Freedom House ranked China 181 worst out of 195 countries in terms of press restrictions, and Chinese journalists have been aptly described as "dancing in shackles." The recent controversy over China's censorship of Google highlights the CCP's deep ambivalence toward information freedom.Covering everything from the rise of business media and online public opinion polling to environmental journalism and the effect of media on foreign policy, Changing Media, Changing China reveals how the most populous nation on the planet is reacting to demands for real news. —Oxford University Press

Books

04.24.12

China: Fragile Superpower

Susan L. Shirk
Once a sleeping giant, China today is the world's fastest growing economy—the leading manufacturer of cell phones, laptop computers, and digital cameras—a dramatic turn-around that alarms many Westerners. But in China: Fragile Superpower, Susan L. Shirk opens up the black box of Chinese politics and finds that the real danger lies elsewhere—not in China's astonishing growth, but in the deep insecurity of its leaders. China's leaders face a troubling paradox: the more developed and prosperous the country becomes, the more insecure and threatened they feel.Shirk, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for China, knows many of today's Chinese rulers personally and has studied them for three decades. She offers invaluable insight into how they think—and what they fear. In this revealing book, readers see the world through the eyes of men like President Hu Jintao and former President Jiang Zemin. We discover a fragile communist regime desperate to survive in a society turned upside down by miraculous economic growth and a stunning new openness to the greater world. Indeed, ever since the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, Chinese leaders have been afraid of its own citizens, and this fear motivates many of their decisions when dealing with the U.S. and other nations. In particular, the fervent nationalism of the Chinese people, combined with their passionate resentment of Japan and attachment to Taiwan, have made relations with this country a minefield. —Oxford University Press