The ChinaFile Conversation is a weekly discussion of China news, from a group of the world’s leading China experts.

Conversation

04.24.19

Is This the End of Belt and Road, or Just the Beginning?

Nadège Rolland, Adrian Zenz & more
On April 25-27, China’s government will host the leaders of dozens of countries to celebrate the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the signature foreign policy program of Xi Jinping. Since its founding in October 2013, the BRI now covers more than 150...

Conversation

04.08.19

How Should Europe Handle Relations with China?

Thorsten Benner, Ilaria Carrozza & more
When Xi Jinping visited Europe in late March, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker portrayed the future of EU-China relations in mixed terms: “We are strategic partners, and yes, rivals,” he said, “but competition among us is a good...

Conversation

04.04.19

Are Confucius Institutes Good for American Universities?

Kenneth Hammond, Lawrence C. Reardon & more
Confucius Institutes continue to incite controversy in America. Since 2006, China’s government has given more than $158 million to dozens of U.S. universities to host the institutes, which offer Chinese language classes and hold events. To critics,...

Conversation

03.28.19

What Does the Punishment of a Prominent Scholar Mean for Intellectual Freedom in China?

Donald Clarke, David Yeliang Xia & more
This week, Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University who in recent months has penned a series of essays critical of policies of the Chinese Communist Party and of its leader, Xi Jinping, was banned from teaching, relieved of his...

Conversation

03.01.19

The Future of China-U.S. Military Relations

Joel Wuthnow, Oriana Skylar Mastro & more
The U.S.-China military relationship has been relatively stable over the past few years. Both sides’ leaders recognize that effective relations between the two militaries help prevent crises and stabilize the broader bilateral relationship. Events...

Conversation

02.15.19

China is Upping Its Aid and Development Game. How Should the U.S. Respond?

Deborah Bräutigam, Mark Akpaninyie & more
During his September 2018 U.N. address, President Donald Trump threatened that the United States may decide to only give foreign aid to “those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.” In August, the White House attempted to cut foreign aid...

Conversation

02.08.19

Where Is China’s Foreign Policy Headed?

Zha Daojiong, Jessica Chen Weiss & more
In testimony last week before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats asserted that “China’s actions reflect a long-term strategy to achieve global superiority.” With China’s global influence and...

Conversation

02.02.19

What Do the Huawei Indictments Mean for the Future of Global Tech?

Adam Segal, Samm Sacks & more
The United States indictments against Huawei look set to significantly worsen already tense relations between China and the U.S. As America pressures allies to drop Huawei and other Chinese firms, U.S. and European officials point to China’s own...

Conversation

01.24.19

What Does Xi Want from Taiwan? (And What Can Taiwan Do About It?)

Brian Hioe, Jieh-min Wu & more
In a major speech in early January, China’s leader Xi Jinping called unification across the Taiwan Strait “the great trend of history,” and warned that attempts to facilitate Taiwan’s independence would be met by force. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-...

Conversation

01.11.19

With China on the Moon

Yangyang Cheng, Geremie R. Barmé & more
On January 2, China made history by successfully landing a vehicle on the far side of the moon. What does that milestone mean for China, the United States, and the future of space exploration?

Conversation

12.19.18

China’s Growing Footprint in Latin America

Benjamin Creutzfeldt, Rebecca Ray & more
Many Latin American countries experienced political change in 2018, with presidential elections in three of the largest countries—Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia—and transitions in Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, and Paraguay. Meanwhile, several...

Conversation

12.11.18

Is this the Beginning of a New Cold War?

Ali Wyne, Yuen Yuen Ang & more
Beyond complicating trade negotiations between the United States and China, the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has renewed concerns that the two countries are embarking on a new Cold War, based on economic preeminence and technological innovation...

Conversation

12.04.18

Did President George H.W. Bush Mishandle China?

James Mann, Wang Dan & more
ChinaFile contributors discuss 41st U.S. President George H.W. Bush’s legacy for U.S.-China relations. —The Editors

Conversation

11.27.18

How to Be a Chinese Scientist without Being China’s Scientist

Yangyang Cheng, Yu He & more
As trade tensions between the United States and China worsen, a new technological cold war looms, casting its shadow over American universities and research institutions. How should individual scientists of Chinese origin decide whether to accept a...

Conversation

11.20.18

Has the World Lost Sight of Tibet?

Gerald Roche, Lhadon Tethong & more
Since the incarceration of roughly a million Uighurs in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang over the last year, the situation in Tibet has gotten relatively less coverage in Western media. What is the current situation for human rights,...

Conversation

11.09.18

Forty Years on, Is China Still Reforming?

Carl Minzner, Aaron Halegua & more
In late October, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the “Reform and Opening Up” policy, China’s Chairman Xi Jinping visited the southern metropolis of Shenzhen, the first major laboratory for the Party’s post-Mao economic reforms. Like his...

Conversation

10.17.18

The Taxman Cometh for Fan Bingbing. So How Widespread Is Tax Evasion in China?

Wei Cui, Donald Clarke & more
Mega-famous Chinese actress Fan Bingbing emerged from months of silence to admit on Weibo that she had evaded taxes and owed over U.S.$100 million worth of civil fines to Chinese authorities. In a remarkable apology, Fan wrote that, “without good...

Conversation

10.12.18

Is America Overreacting to the Threat of Chinese Influence?

Isaac Stone Fish, Taisu Zhang & more
American civil and political discourse has seen a growing number of reports about worrying Chinese governmental influence in the United States. Most recently, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence decried the “malign influence” of China in the United...

Conversation

09.25.18

Should the Vatican Compromise with China?

Pamela Kyle Crossley, Francesco Sisci & more
Amidst a crackdown on Christianity in China, on September 22 the Vatican and Beijing provisionally reached a major agreement: Pope Francis will recognize seven excommunicated bishops Beijing appointed, in exchange for more influence on who Beijing...

Conversation

09.10.18

Is the Trade War Hurting Xi Jinping Politically?

Roselyn Hsueh, Andrew J. Nathan & more
What are the domestic politics for Xi Jinping of a trade war? How much is the trade war actually hurting China’s economy? And what other effects is this having on China, and on Xi’s ability to govern?

Conversation

08.20.18

How To Fight China’s Sharp Power

Thorsten Benner, Insa Ewert & more
There is a debate raging about China’s sharp power and how to defend against it, whether it’s investment screening, shuttering Confucius institutes, or forcing visa reciprocity for journalists. But how does a fractious, divided world not only resist...

Conversation

08.07.18

We’re a Long Way from 2008

Kate Merkel-Hess, Maura Cunningham & more
On August 8, 2008, China’s then Chairman Hu Jintao told a group of world leaders visiting Beijing to attend the Olympics that “the historic moment we have long awaited is arriving.” Indeed, awarding the Games to China in 2001 sparked a fierce debate...

Conversation

08.01.18

What Would a U.S. War—or Peace—with Iran mean for China?

Jarrett Blanc, Michael Kovrig & more
China is the largest buyer of Iranian oil, Iran’s largest trading partner, and arguably its most important positive political relationship. What do Trump’s threats to Iran mean for China’s relationship with the country? And how would a war between...

Conversation

07.30.18

China May Become the World’s Leader in AI. But at What Cost?

Andrew Batson, Virgilio Bisio & more
The unprecedented amounts of data Chinese tech giants like Baidu and Alibaba collect is helping accelerate China’s development of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) applications, including facial recognition, automated retail operations, and...

Conversation

07.12.18

Can China Replace the U.S. in Europe?

Jan Weidenfeld, Isabel Hilton & more
The G7 debacle reminded Europeans the problems with relying on a fraying transatlantic partnership. Meanwhile, China has been playing a larger role on the continent, increasing its investment and its political influence. On July 6-7, Bulgaria held...

Conversation

06.26.18

Should the U.S. Start a Trade War with China over Tech?

Jack Zhang, Graham Webster & more
At an already volatile moment in the United States’ trade relationship with China, the Treasury Department appears to be planning new restrictions on Chinese investment into what the White House calls “industrially significant technology” in the U.S...

Conversation

06.14.18

One Year After They Almost Went to War, Can China and India Get Along?

Joel Wuthnow, Selina Ho & more
One year ago, the Chinese and Indian armies faced off at Doklam, a disputed Himalayan area on the border between China, India, and the tiny kingdom of Bhutan. While the two sides didn’t go to war over the border as they did in 1962, tensions were...

Conversation

06.04.18

How Should the World Respond to Intensifying Repression in Xinjiang?

Rian Thum, Rachel Harris & more
Deliberate, systematic human rights abuses are happening in China’s northwest. Reporting and research published in recent weeks shows that the Chinese government is targeting the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region’s roughly 11 million Muslims for “re...

Conversation

05.18.18

Does China Have a Jobs Problem?

Geoffrey Crothall, Ivan Franceschini & more
In a surprise Sunday tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump said he supported helping the phone-maker ZTE, a Chinese tech giant which has been one of the hardest hit from U.S.-China trade tensions. “Too many jobs in China lost,” he wrote. Though Trump...

Conversation

05.11.18

Do American Companies Need to Take a Stance on Taiwan?

J. Michael Cole, Frances Kitt & more
China’s airline regulator recently sent a letter to 36 international air carriers requiring them to remove from their websites references implying that Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau are not part of China. In a surprisingly direct May 5 statement, the...

Conversation

05.07.18

Can China Afford to Play Hardball with the U.S.?

Zha Daojiong & William Foster
In the midst of roiling trade tensions between the United States and China, last week Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin led a delegation of Donald Trump’s top economic advisors to Beijing. Demands were made in both directions and talks were...

Conversation

04.25.18

Does China Want the Koreas to Reconcile?

Bo Zhiyue, Zhang Baohui & more
This Friday, April 27, the South Korean and North Korean leaders will meet in the demilitarized zone dividing their estranged countries to discuss improving relations and possibly even formally ending the Korean War, which has continued in the form...

Conversation

04.18.18

A Ban on Gay Content, Stopped in Its Tracks

Siodhbhra Parkin, Steven Jiang & more
On April 13, China’s major microblogging platform Sina Weibo announced that, in order to create “a sunny and harmonious” environment, it would remove videos and comics “with pornographic implications, promoting bloody violence, or related to...

Conversation

04.11.18

China’s Communist Party Takes (Even More) Control of the Media

Stanley Rosen, Chris Fenton & more
China’s Communist Party made moves last month to solidify and formalize its (already substantial) control over the country’s media. China’s main state-run broadcasters are to be consolidated into a massive new “Voice of China” under the management...

Conversation

03.28.18

Kim Jong-un Visits Beijing

Sung-Yoon Lee, Ankit Panda & more
After two days of rumors, on Wednesday March 28, the official news agencies of China and North Korea announced that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un had just completed a visit to Beijing. The “unofficial visit,” as Xinhua put it, was Kim’s first...

Conversation

03.20.18

What Is the Significance of China’s #MeToo Movement?

Aaron Halegua, Kevin Lin & more
As the #MeToo movement has swept America, it has also made waves in greater China. On the mainland, the most widely publicized incident involved Luo Xixi’s allegation in a January 2018 Weibo post that her professor at Beihang University, Chen Xiaowu...

Conversation

03.13.18

When Trump and Kim Meet, What Will Xi Do?

Zha Daojiong, Sergey Radchenko & more
On March 8, South Korea’s National Security Advisor announced that Donald Trump had agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by May. Although now-ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson previously downplayed the announcement, a summit...

Conversation

03.06.18

China’s Military Spending

Dhruva Jaishankar, Dennis J. Blasko & more
On March 5, during the opening of the National People’s Congress, China’s annual parliament, Beijing announced it plans to spend U.S.$175 billion on its military in 2018, an 8.1 percent rise from 2017. China’s military budget is the world’s second...

Conversation

03.02.18

How Will Trump’s Tariffs Affect U.S.-China Relations?

Derek Scissors, Donald Clarke & more
Arguing that America is harmed by other countries’ trade practices, President Donald Trump said on March 1 that the U.S. will impose a new 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. “People have no idea how badly...

Conversation

02.25.18

Xi Won’t Go

Richard McGregor, Taisu Zhang & more
In a surprise Sunday move, Beijing announced that the Communist Party leadership wants to abolish the two-term limit for China’s president and vice president, potentially paving the way for China’s 64-year-old President Xi Jinping to stay in power...

Conversation

02.15.18

Is American Policy toward China Due for a ‘Reckoning’?

Charles Edel, Elizabeth Economy & more
Former diplomats Kurt M. Campbell and Ely Ratner argue that United States policy toward China, in administrations of both parties, has relied in the past on a mistaken confidence in America’s ability to “mold China to the United States’ liking.”...

Conversation

02.05.18

Is the Belt and Road Anti-Democratic?

Nadège Rolland, Tim Summers & more
During her visit to Beijing, Shanghai, and Wuhan January 31-February 2, Prime Minister Theresa May attempted to improve her country’s trade relations with China—an increasingly important partner for the post-Brexit United Kingdom. And yet, May was...

Conversation

02.01.18

Should Pacific Island Nations Be Wary of Chinese Influence?

Jenny Hayward-Jones, Graeme Smith & more
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s three-day visit to China, from January 31 to February 2, has amplified ongoing debates in Europe about the costs and benefits of engagement with China and of Chinese investment. Attention to China’s role in...

Conversation

01.24.18

Is China Really a ‘Threat’ to the U.S.?

James Holmes, Zha Daojiong & more
In a move presaging tougher policies towards China, the Department of Defense’s National Defense Strategy announced that the “revisionist powers” China and Russia are the “central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security.” And on January 22, Donald...

Conversation

01.18.18

Are China’s Blue Skies Here to Stay?

Li Shuo, Angel Hsu & more
In mid-January, the environmental group Greenpeace announced dramatic improvements in air quality across China. In 74 Chinese cities, measurements of PM2.5, the fine particles that have been a major contributor to the country’s choked skies,...

Conversation

01.10.18

Trump on China in 2018: Lover or Hater?

Ryan Hass, Aaron L. Friedberg & more
On December 28, 2017, Donald Trump told The New York Times “I like very much” China’s Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping, adding, “He treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China.” In the same interview, Trump also...

Conversation

12.19.17

Trump’s National Security Strategy and China

Zha Daojiong, Pamela Kyle Crossley & more
On December 18, U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced the United States’ new national security strategy. He called China a “strategic competitor,” and, along with Russia, called it a “revisionist power.” Those two nations, Trump said, are...

Conversation

12.13.17

Is Chinese Investment Good for Workers?

Aaron Halegua, Yu Zheng & more
China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a $1 trillion plan to deepen economic relations between itself and up to 60 other countries worldwide through large investments in infrastructure, construction, and other projects. Many commentators have...

Conversation

12.06.17

Apple in China: WTF?

Samuel Wade, Shaun Rein & more
In November, the non-profit watchdog Freedom House called China “the worst abuser of Internet freedom” of the 65 countries it surveyed. And yet, on December 3, Apple CEO Tim Cook keynoted China’s annual World Internet Conference. “The theme of this...

Conversation

11.30.17

The Beijing Migrants Crackdown

Jeremiah Jenne, Lucy Hornby & more
After a fire in a Beijing apartment building catering to migrant workers killed at least 19 people on November 18, the city government launched a 40-day campaign to demolish the capital’s “unsafe” buildings. Many Beijing residents view the campaign...

Conversation

11.27.17

What Does Mugabe’s Resignation Mean for China?

David Shinn, Huang Hongxiang & more
On November 15, soldiers placed the 93-year-old Robert Mugabe under house arrest. Mugabe had ruled Zimbabwe since the country gained independence in 1980. On November 21, he resigned after 37 years in power. China, Zimbabwe’s largest foreign...

Conversation

11.14.17

Was the Trump-Xi Summit in Beijing a Hit or a Miss?

Isaac Stone Fish, Zha Daojiong & more
On November 8 and 9, Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping and Donald Trump held their first Beijing-based summit, a year after Trump’s surprise victory and just weeks after the predictable announcement Xi would serve a second term. During the visit...

Conversation

11.02.17

Trump Goes to Asia

Ely Ratner, David Dollar & more
Chinese officials like to talk about practicing “win-win” diplomacy. Their American counterparts sometime joke that this means China wins twice. From November 3 to November 14, Donald Trump will visit Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines,...

Conversation

10.27.17

What’s the Takeaway from the 19th Party Congress?

Jessica Batke, Peter Mattis & more
The day after the Party Congress ended on October 24, Xi Jinping strode across the stage of the massive Great Hall of the People with the six newly announced members of the 19th Politburo Standing Committee, the body that rules China. What might...

Conversation

10.16.17

What to Watch at China’s Party Congress

Ho-fung Hung, Taisu Zhang & more
The Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress, a hugely important political meeting usually held once every five years, will begin on October 18 in Beijing. Like many events involving China’s ruling party, the most important decisions and...

Conversation

10.06.17

Is China the Future of Bitcoin, or Its Past?

Andrew Collier, Isaac Mao & more
China often dominates the market for Bitcoin, a virtual currency managed by a decentralized network of computers: at points over the last few years, China may have accounted for more than 75 percent of Bitcoin trading. Energy subsidies there make it...

Conversation

09.27.17

How are NGOs in China Faring under the New Law?

Holly Snape, Anthony Saich & more
In September 2016, Beijing implemented a new law governing charities, which changed the ways domestic charitable organizations can register and fundraise. Then in January 2017, Beijing began implementation of a new law on the management of foreign...

Conversation

09.21.17

What Will China Do if the U.S. Attacks North Korea?

Shen Dingli, Bonnie S. Glaser & more
During a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, U.S. President Donald Trump warned that if North Korea threatened the United States or its allies, he would “totally destroy” the nation. As tensions continue to rise between...

Conversation

09.15.17

Bannon Says the U.S. Is at ‘Economic War with China.’ Is He Right?

Paul Haenle, Jacqueline N. Deal & more
Steve Bannon, whose controversial views on China remain hugely influential in the White House, is visiting Hong Kong this week to speak at a China investment conference. In August, before he left his White House position as chief strategist, Bannon...

Conversation

09.06.17

China’s Communist Party Is About to Meet. Here’s What You Should Know.

Matthias Stepan, Victor Shih & more
The Chinese Communist Party will hold its 19th Party Congress on October 18, marking the end of the first term of General Secretary Xi Jinping. In a leadership reshuffle, Xi is expected to promote allies to the Party’s key decision-making body, the...