breadcrumb

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

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

A ChinaFile Conversation

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-the-inside” East Asian Americans, Oreo for African-Americans, coconut for South Asian-Americans, apple for Native Americans—these epithets are all products of the simplistic, groundless belief that one's “race” should correspond to a (rarely defined) set of behavioral norms, to a locus of identity and loyalty. As an ethnic Chinese who was born and raised in the States, “banana” (and later “Twinkie”) was a term I heard a lot, sometimes directed my way, sometimes said in reference to another American of East Asian extraction who wasn’t “Chinese” (or Japanese, or Korean, or Vietnamese) enough. These were also terms I frequently heard and still occasionally hear East Asian-Americans call themselves, often with distinct pride rather than self-deprecation. Whether it’s insulting depends very much on the context, and who’s on the receiving end.

In the context of this regrettable editorial, which was as subtle as a barking doberman, “banana man” was meant with unmistakable malice—that Locke is a “race traitor” who lacks the political loyalty to the Chinese nation that his blood should somehow confer. This is of course naive nonsense, and the patent ridiculousness of that phrase should have been obvious even to a writer totally unfamiliar with the complexities of the American discourse on race. But while there will be many Chinese—indeed, already have been many—who will object to the editorial’s broadsides against Ambassador Locke, I suspect they’ll focus much more on the irony that state media would call out Gary Locke for living well but projecting everyman simplicity rather than on the “banana” comment, as many American commentators have. The expectation that anyone with a Chinese phenotype will have a “Chinese heart” to match, even at multiple generations of remove, is widespread in Chinese society. The plasticity of identity in multiethnic societies—that what you “owe” the race or the old country as, say, an American is entirely up to you—is still a fairly alien concept for most Chinese. We see this at work in the way Chinese law enforcement treats naturalized Chinese with U.S., Canadian, or Australian citizenship. It reminds us of the truth in what the late Lucian Pye said about China’s fundamentally civilizational notion of itself.

In Ambassador Locke’s case, you’d think that the fact that he was in Beijing as the top representative of the U.S. government would dispel any expectation that his loyalties and identity should be to anywhere but Washington (the state or D.C.). Yet I would wager that even among his ardent admirers in China—the people who responded most positively to his backpack-toting, Starbucks buying, down-to-earth style—part of that admiration grew out of a sense that he was “one of us:” a Chinese person. Ambassador Locke reinforced this, deliberately or otherwise, with each visit to his ancestral home in Taishan, Guangdong. It was certainly useful to play to it, and it often worked. There was of course always that other edge to his Chineseness. In any case, to have expected color-blindness toward Ambassador Locke in China would be even more naive than to have expected it in the U.S. with President Obama.

Americans are certainly not immune to the kind of thinking that gives rise to “race traitor” accusations. It’s often there in the subtext when expatriates attack Mark Rowswell, the (white) Canadian with impeccable spoken Chinese who has for many years played the character Dashan on Chinese television. It’s implicit, alongside more reasonable objections, in criticism of white reporters who go on air for CCTV News. And it’s even there in the derision many feel for those who call themselves “eggs”—white people who’ve convinced themselves that they’re really "culturally Asian,” with a “yolk” consisting (their detractors might say) of an obsessive familiarity with Manga or anime, martial arts films, Eastern religion, TCM—and of course “yellow fever,” that creepy fetishistic attraction to East Asian women. Sure, “race traitor” is not being flung openly in The Globe and Mail or The New York Times. But it would hardly surprise me were subtler accusations of race treason to pop up on Fox.

Responses

Hyeon-Ju Rho

Hyeon-Ju Rho is an American public interest lawyer who has advocated for the rights of vulnerable groups in the U.S. and abroad. She began her career as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice as part of the Attorney General’s Honors Program, and later practiced poverty law as a staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center in New York City. Hyeon-Ju has also supported social justice movements internationally, as the Country Director of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative program in China. Hyeon-Ju is a graduate of Swarthmore College and New York University Law School, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar and co-founder of the annual Korematsu Lecture honoring Asian American contributions to the law.

Calling an Asian-American person a banana means, of course, that he is yellow on the outside, but white at the core. The banana critique suggests something interesting about the Chinese reaction to Gary Locke. Initially many thought that he might be easier to deal with than his predecessors because he was “one of us.” Disappointment set in when—surprise, surprise—Ambassador Locke stood firm in representing U.S. interests.

Ironically, one of the challenges Asian-Americans face in the U.S. is the sense that we are not American enough. One of America’s great shames was the mass incarceration of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II.  In recent decades, Asian-Americans have continued to face the suspicion that they are somehow not fully American.  In 1982, Vincent Chin, an immigrant of Chinese descent, was beaten to death in Detroit by men who blamed him for autoworker jobs lost to Japanese competition. In 1999, Dr. Wen Ho Lee, a naturalized U.S. citizen who had lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years, was wrongfully accused of stealing secrets for China.

Despite these injustices, the American ability to welcome and be shaped by the talents of immigrants from around the globe has always been one of its greatest strengths. That Ambassador Locke, a U.S. citizen of Chinese descent, could become the Governor of Washington State, a Secretary of Commerce, and a U.S. Ambassador is a testament to this.

The outdated notion of ethnicity reflected in the China News Service banana comment is part of a nationalist strand in the PRC polity that hopefully is a minority view.  And if being a banana means that Ambassador Locke is American to the core, I suspect that he might not mind the “insult” too much.

Sidney Rittenberg

Sidney Rittenberg is founder and president of the China consulting team Rittenberg Associates, Inc. He lived and worked in China for thirty-five years after World War II, when he joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in China following his US Army training in Chinese Language and Area Studies. During the Mao Zedong era, Rittenberg was held in solitary confinement for sixteen years on suspicion of being an American spy.Rittenberg is former Frey Distinguished Professor of Chinese History at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and is currently is Visiting Professor of China Studies at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington. He is a frequent keynote speaker at business seminars and has been the subject of numerous TV and media interviews, in both the USA and China. Rittenberg is co-author, with Pulitzer Prize winner Amanda Bennett, of The Man Who Stayed Behind (2001). He studied at the University of North Carolina and the U.S. Army Language School, Stanford University.

Wang Ping’s scurrilous and infantile personal attack on Gary Locke—well known for his personal integrity—visits new global shame on China’s state-owned media.

Wang’s title, “Farewell,” etc., is an attempt to gain traction by the use of a famous essay by Mao Zedong on the departure from China of Ambassador John Leighton Stuart in the  run up to the founding of the P.R.C. This cheap publicity trick, however, only adds to the shame, because of the contrast between the two essays.

(1) Mao’s essay (of which I was one of the translators) carefully avoids any disrespect for Ambassador Stuart, instead going out of its way to cite Stuart's record as a Japanese prisoner in WWII. Wang launches a personal attack on Ambassador Locke, using the political language of the Chinese gutter.

(2) Mao wrote during a bitter civil war, in which the U.S.A. was providing major military (arms), financial, and political support to his enemy, Chiang Kai-Shek. His scathing critique of Washington’s policy came naturally, under the circumstances. The state-owned, tightly-controlled “China News Service,” on the other hand, published this filth at a time when leaders of both China and the United States have openly declared their commitment to forging a “new type of relationship” between these two great powers.

How, then, are foreign readers to view this attack on Ambassador Locke? If the defense argument should be that “China News Service does not censor comment,” that would cause knowledgable observers to, as the Chinese saying goes, “Laugh their teeth out.” But any other defense would reveal a disturbing ambiguity in China's policy towards the United States.

I am far from happy with America’s foreign policy, including its China Policy. But that’s not the point here. The point is—how do we explain a Chinese media that indulges in such disreputable attacks, and in the hate campaign against all Japanese, when the state it represents is supposed to believe in internationalism, not in ultra-nationalism?

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.

To be sure, the editorial is scurrilous, racist, and incoherent (have the skies really gone blue in Beijing?), but its main concern seems to be with Locke’s effective projection of American “soft power.” This is a battlefront that increasingly obsesses the Chinese leaders, as seen in their denunciations of “universal values” and the enumeration of “seven themes that cannot be discussed,” among them constitutionalism, civil society, freedom of speech, and independent media. To the leaders, these themes are not matters of intellectual debate. They are positions on a political battlefield, where the Party is in a weak position because of the widespread popularity of these ideas in China and the obvious inability of the Chinese regime to fulfill them.

Just as the Chinese government sees the current events in Ukraine as yet another “color revolution” cynically engineered by the West to expand its strategic footprint, so too, Gary Locke carrying his bags is seen as a political act aimed at humiliating the Chinese leadership and weakening its hold on power. If these games had been played by a white ambassador, they could have been seen as just another set of funny foreign customs. Sending an ethnic Chinese to conduct this kind of propaganda action must seem to show a special deviousness on the part of the schemers in Washington.

Chen Weihua

Chen Weihua is a columnist and chief Washington correspondent for China Daily and the Deputy Editor of China Daily USA. He was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University from 2004 to 2005, a World Press Institute Fellow based at Macalester College in Minnesota in 1998, and a Freedom Forum Fellow at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1993-1994. Chen joined China Daily in 1987 after graduating from Fudan University in Shanghai with degrees in Microbiology and International Journalism. He has appeared on CCTV, ABC, NPR, KQED, and talked to groups such as the Brookings board delegation visiting China, Indian Young Entrepreneurs Delegation, and MBA students from U.S. and U.K. universities.

To me, the huge attention triggered by the article about Ambassador Gary Locke’s departure carried on the China News Service website is both warranted and unwarranted.

First, the unjustified part: The story, although on China News Service website, looks highly unlikely to be the work of its staff, let alone its editorial board. It looks more likely the creation of a blogger or freelancer, and an unsophisticated one.

The language used is simply too coarse from the standards and style of the China News Service I have observed over the years.

Second, Western media tends to interpret any article on Chinese news media as the view of the organization, but that is often not true. For example, many believe my weekly newspaper column represents the views of the paper or even the Chinese government. That is totally untrue. It is always my personal view.

In this sense, there is no need to make a big fuss of such an article, an ordinary one likely by a blogger. There are literally hundreds, if not millions, of different views on every single issue in China these days, especially when you follow social media.

Personally, I disagree with a lot of what the article said. In its coverage of the debate, NPR quoted me on its All Things Considered years ago talking about Locke’s appearing at the airport, carrying his own backpack and buying his own coffee. I praised him for being such a big contrast to the ostentatious behavior of many Chinese officials. Even if Locke was putting on a show, which I don’t think he was, it’s was a good show.

I would also give Locke credit if he was the one who started the PM2.5 reading. My column last week was about how China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection should become more powerful and accountable in the face of such severe smog shrouding much of China. PM2.5 readings allow more Chinese to recognize the severity and urgency of China’s environmental and health challenge.

Dramatically cutting the visa time for Chinese tourists benefits both countries. It has enabled more Chinese to visit the U.S. to open their eyes. At the same time, this has proved to be a smart policy for the U.S. because of the huge purchasing power of Chinese visitors.

Locke is American with Chinese ancestry and he is U.S. Ambassador to China, so there is no doubt that he represents the U.S., not China or Chinese. If everyone pledged loyalty to their ancestral hometown, there would be no United States. Many Chinese do not understand that the US is a nation of immigrants.

Shen Dingli

Shen Dingli is a professor and Associate Dean at Fudan University’s Institute of International Studies. He has taught international security, China-U.S. relations, and China’s foreign policy in China, the U.S., and the Semester at Sea program. His research and publication covers such topics as China-U.S. security relations, regional security and international strategy, arms control and nonproliferation, and foreign and defense policy of China and the U.S.. He is Vice President of the Chinese Association of South Asian Studies, the Shanghai Association of International Studies, the Shanghai Association of American Studies, and the Shanghai UN Research Association. Shen received his Ph.D. in Physics from Fudan in 1989 and did his post-doc in arms control at Princeton University from 1989 to 1991. He was an Eisenhower Fellow in 1996, and in 2002 advised then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on strategic planning of his second term. He is on the Global Council of Asia Society and was appointed by the Shanghai Municipality as Shanghai’s Conference Ambassador. He has co-edited seventeen books and published some 2000 papers and articles worldwide.

In a globalizing world, everyone should have the tolerance to recognize the dual identities of others, as both national citizens and global villagers. Obviously Ambassador Gary Locke is loyal to his country, the U.S. At the same time he must be concerned with all other countries including China, the country of his ancestors. But first and foremost, his allegiance is to his own country. This has nothing to do with his race or the “color,” of either of his skin or his core. It is hard to understand slandering a non-Chinese for failing to promote Chinese interests just because his ancestors were Chinese.

In fact Ambassador Locke acted in conformity with the trend that China is attempting to practice. He traveled coach class to Beijing, in compliance with former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage‘s rules that American officials, even at the level of ambassador, have to fly economy class if the flight time is less than 14 hours, unless they have an official appointment upon arrival. Ambassador Locke’s flight was half an hour shy of 14 hours and he didn’t have an official engagement on arrival, so he didn’t qualify to fly a more comfortable class. I am pleased to see that my country is now exerting tougher control over its own officials’ travel and accommodation. Ambassador Locke did, indeed, enjoy a coffee at Starbucks, but it is odd to conceive of this as a deliberate show to make himself seem more down-to-earth. He probably does the same kinds of things all the time in private. Even if his common touch were a deliberate performance, one ought to exercise civility in tolerating it. These days many people who do the same are commended for it.

Indeed Ambassador Locke has addressed human rights issues frequently despite China’s progress. But China has done the same with regard to other countries. Chairman Mao supported Dr. Martin Luther King’s civil movement for equal rights, and China supported Nelson Mandela’s anti-apartheid, and it still publishes U.S. Human Rights Reports, as long as America does so first. Fundamentally, China and the U.S. should engage in dialogue in such areas to truly implement a “new type of major country relationship,” rather than looking at one-sided stories about each other. Having said this, I am critical of Ambassador Locke for illegally bringing Chen Guangcheng into the U.S. Embassy, a clear breach of Chinese law. But, the Chinese government still allowed Chen to leave the country, showing its attachment to the importance of bilateral relations.

Given the intense complexity of China-U.S. relations, rather than issuing such questionable comments, it would be prudent to bid farewell to Ambassador Locke with openness and balance.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke is a professor at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in modern Chinese law, focusing particularly on corporate governance, Chinese legal institutions, and the legal issues presented by China’s economic reforms. He has previously been on the law faculties of the University of Washington School of Law and the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and has been a visiting professor at Duke Law School, New York University School of Law, and the UCLA School of Law. In addition to his academic work, he founded and maintains Chinalaw, the leading internet listserv on Chinese law, and writes the Chinese Law Prof Blog. He was educated at Princeton University (A.B.) and the University of London (M.Sc.), and received his law degree (J.D.) from Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Harvard Law Review. He has served as a consultant on Chinese law matters to a number of organizations, including the Financial Sector Reform and Strengthening Initiative (FIRST), the Asian Development Bank, and the Agency for International Development. He is a member of the New York bar and the Council on Foreign Relations.

This is a bit tangential to the main subject of this conversation, but Shen Dingli raises a very important issue in his post when he states, “I am critical of Ambassador Locke for illegally bringing Chen Guangcheng into the U.S. Embassy, a clear breach of Chinese law.” This is a serious accusation, and I don’t recall hearing it made at the time even by the Chinese government. If Locke really did violate Chinese law, the Chinese government and those who speak for it could be understandably angry. But did he? I would ask Prof. Shen to support this statement by identifying precisely which article of which law Gary Locke, or indeed Chen Guangcheng himself, violated when Chen entered the Embassy. Readers will appreciate that in this case, proving a negative—that there is no Chinese law prohibiting anything Locke or Chen did in this case—is impossible, whereas proving the affirmative—that there is such a law—should (if it’s true) be easy, especially if there’s a “clear breach.”

Shen Dingli

Shen Dingli is a professor and Associate Dean at Fudan University’s Institute of International Studies. He has taught international security, China-U.S. relations, and China’s foreign policy in China, the U.S., and the Semester at Sea program. His research and publication covers such topics as China-U.S. security relations, regional security and international strategy, arms control and nonproliferation, and foreign and defense policy of China and the U.S.. He is Vice President of the Chinese Association of South Asian Studies, the Shanghai Association of International Studies, the Shanghai Association of American Studies, and the Shanghai UN Research Association. Shen received his Ph.D. in Physics from Fudan in 1989 and did his post-doc in arms control at Princeton University from 1989 to 1991. He was an Eisenhower Fellow in 1996, and in 2002 advised then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on strategic planning of his second term. He is on the Global Council of Asia Society and was appointed by the Shanghai Municipality as Shanghai’s Conference Ambassador. He has co-edited seventeen books and published some 2000 papers and articles worldwide.

 The Chinese government asks all Chinese entering foreign embassies to do so in a "normal" way, i.e., to observe Chinese code (法规/规则), showing their identification and getting approval.  The government has the right not to approve some to enter.  The legal basis is the government’s code.  An action that does not observe it is illegal.  I believe all foreign embassies have agreed to this code.  But once Chinese have entered the embassies, Chinese law may not apply inside the physical mission there.

Such practice is quite universal.

Cheng Guangcheng was brought by U.S. embassy staff into the embassy, without observance of Chinese code. The Chinese government demanded that the U.S. side apologize and indicated that the embassy assured China it would prevent similar cases from recurring.

In making the above clarification, I have not made any comments on Chen himself.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke is a professor at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in modern Chinese law, focusing particularly on corporate governance, Chinese legal institutions, and the legal issues presented by China’s economic reforms. He has previously been on the law faculties of the University of Washington School of Law and the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and has been a visiting professor at Duke Law School, New York University School of Law, and the UCLA School of Law. In addition to his academic work, he founded and maintains Chinalaw, the leading internet listserv on Chinese law, and writes the Chinese Law Prof Blog. He was educated at Princeton University (A.B.) and the University of London (M.Sc.), and received his law degree (J.D.) from Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Harvard Law Review. He has served as a consultant on Chinese law matters to a number of organizations, including the Financial Sector Reform and Strengthening Initiative (FIRST), the Asian Development Bank, and the Agency for International Development. He is a member of the New York bar and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Unfortunately, Prof. Shen simply repeats his assertion that a rule about Chinese citizens entering foreign embassies exists, but has still not provided a source for the rule or its text. Without knowing what this alleged rule actually says (and details are important), there is no way of knowing if Chen or Locke did anything illegal. It might be useful to remind readers that at the time he entered the U.S. embassy, Chen was a free citizen, not in lawful custody, and not wanted for any offense.
 
As for Prof. Shen’s assertion that it is a “universal practice” for governments to require their nationals to get permission before entering foreign embassies, he is simply misinformed. I live just a short distance away from the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, and I can assure Prof. Shen that there are no American guards checking identification at the gate. The same is true for many other countries, including Canada and (I believe) all the EU countries.

Robert Kapp

Robert Kapp began his working career as an historian of twentieth century China at Rice University and the University of Washington. However, his main career contributions have been to the building of U.S.-China relations, most notably through his presidency of the Washington D.C.-based U.S.-China Business Council from 1994 to 2004. He currently serves as Strategic Advisor to the U.S.-China Specialty Group of the global public relations and government relations firm Burson-Marsteller, and as Senior China Advisor to the global law firm K&L Gates LLP. Among other nonprofit commitments, he chairs the China Member Committee of the Pacific Council on International Policy and serves on the Advisory Boards of the U.S.-China Education Trust and LinkAsia, an innovative program of LinkTV. Kapp received a Ph.D. from Yale.

The crude and derisive race-based assault on U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, however much its putative author might have wished, for domestic audiences, to mimic Mao Zedong's long-sanctified "Farewell, Leighton Stuart" anti-American essay from 1949, raises very serious concerns which must be promptly addressed.  Even as the Kunming horror, and the unfolding crises in Ukraine, tear us away from yesterday's news, this problem should not be allowed simply to fade away.

In its implications that Locke's Chinese ancestry should have ensured that China's interests (not those of the United States) would always be in the forefront of his priorities, it conjures the worst and potentially most corrosive American vision of China and the Chinese: as a nation defined by a tribalist "blood tie" identity, unable or unwilling to understand the modern world in anything but these most primeval of terms.  That vision of China, which, in my view, lurks beneath the surface of Western consciousness (remember the 19th century references to the Chinese as "Celestials") needs to stay buried, forever, if China and the world are now to live in harmony.  This cocky and disparaging essay, published in an official government-controlled environment, leads in the opposite direction; it is exactly what 21st century China should not be saying, to the U.S. or anyone else.

The essay also, in passing, is repellent and insulting to Chinese Americans, whether of the first or the fifth generation, suggesting that anyone "Chinese" who becomes "American" in effect becomes a "bad Chinese."

China News Service is an official body.  Simply noting that this essay was not an official statement by CNS is not sufficient.  CNS editors have official functions, and ultimately operate in a hierarchy of regime-defined authority.  Like other PRC organs, CNS presumably partakes of the current PRC concern over China's global "soft power," its "public diplomacy," and the conveying of benign images of China to the world.

For those reasons, it behooves China News Service to issue without delay an apology to Ambassador Locke and the American people whom he represented as American ambassador to China, and to indicate that those responsible for recruiting, editing, and publishing this cavalier and demeaning article have been appropriately dealt with. Such remedial actions would help to make up for the damage done to China's image, to say nothing of the offense committed against a dignified and accomplished American ambassador, and would actually speak well (not only to the wider world, but to the many people inside China who have spoken out against this offensive essay) of China's ability to acknowledge and learn from its mistakes, itself a too-often ignored element in any nation's public diplomacy.

Kaiser Kuo is Director of International Communications for Baidu. He is also co-host of the Sinica Podcast, a weekly discussion of current affairs in China, and is a guitarist and co-founder of the...
Hyeon-Ju Rho is an American public interest lawyer who has advocated for the rights of vulnerable groups in the U.S. and abroad. She began her career as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division...
Sidney Rittenberg is founder and president of the China consulting team Rittenberg Associates, Inc. He lived and worked in China for thirty-five years after World War II, when he joined the United...
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...
Chen Weihua is a columnist and chief Washington correspondent for China Daily and the Deputy Editor of China Daily USA. He was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University from 2004 to 2005, a World Press...
Shen Dingli is a professor and Associate Dean at Fudan University’s Institute of International Studies. He has taught international security, China-U.S. relations, and China’s foreign policy in China...
Robert Kapp began his working career as an historian of twentieth century China at Rice University and the University of Washington. However, his main career contributions have been to the building...
Donald Clarke is a professor at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in modern Chinese law, focusing particularly on corporate governance, Chinese ...

Share

Share/Save

Conversation

04.23.15

A New Era for China and Pakistan?

Andrew Small, Paul J. Smith & more
This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Islamabad and showered Pakistan with attention and promises of $46 billion in development support. What does this intensified Sino-Pakistani engagement mean for Asia and the rest of the world? —The...

Conversation

04.16.15

How Much Consumerism Can China Afford?

Andrew Batson & Matthew Crabbe
This week, a blockbuster movie celebrating speedy cars and the racing life landed atop China’s box office. The Hollywood import Fast and Furious 7 grossed $63 million in one day (as reported by Bloomberg), the most-ever for a single title in that...

Conversation

04.01.15

New Chinese Cyberattacks: What’s to Be Done?

Steve Dickinson, Jason Q. Ng & more
Starting last week, hackers foiled a handful of software providers that promote freedom of information by helping web surfers in China reach the open Internet. The attacks that drastically slowed the anti-censorship services of San Francisco-based...

Conversation

03.24.15

What Went Wrong With U.S. Strategy on China’s New Bank and What Should Washington Do Now?

Patrick Chovanec, Zha Daojiong & more
Now that much of Europe has announced its intentions to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), was Washington’s initial opposition a mistake? Assuming the AIIB does get off the ground, what might it mean for future...

Conversation

03.18.15

Dark Days for Women in China?

Rebecca E. Karl, Leta Hong Fincher & more
With China’s recent criminal detention of five feminist activists, gender inequality in China is back in the spotlight. What does a crackdown on Chinese women fighting for equal representation say about the current state of the nation’s political...

Conversation

03.11.15

Is China Really Cracking Up?

Suisheng Zhao, Arthur R. Kroeber & more
On March 7, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by David Shambaugh arguing that “the endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun...and it has progressed further than many think.” Shambaugh laid out a variety of signs he believes...

Conversation

03.03.15

Why Has This Environmental Documentary Gone Viral on China’s Internet?

Angel Hsu, Michael Zhao & more
[Updated: March 6,  2015] Our friends at Foreign Policy hit the nail on the head by headlining writer Yiqin Fu's Monday story "China's National Conversation about Pollution Has Finally Begun." What happened? Well, in the...

Conversation

02.27.15

Are China and Russia Forging a New Ideological Bloc?

Jacqueline N. Deal, Wu Jianmin & more
With evidence of ties strengthening between Beijing and Moscow—over energy contracts, the handling of the Ukraine, and their diplomats' stance toward outside interference in internal affairs, especially if it's perceived as coming from...

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

02.05.15

What’s the Case for Heads of State Meeting the Dalai Lama?

Francesco Sisci, Robert Barnett & more
On Thursday in Washington, the Dalai Lama attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast hosted by President Barack Obama, angering China's leaders in Beijing who have long called the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader a "splittist" and...

Conversation

01.29.15

Is China’s Internet Becoming an Intranet?

George Chen, Charlie Smith & more
With Astrill and several other free and paid-subscription virtual private networks (VPNs) that make leaping China’s Great Firewall possible now harder to use themselves after government interference "gummed" them up, the world wide web...

Conversation

01.26.15

Does Size Matter? (In the U.S. and Chinese Economies, That Is...)

Taisu Zhang
Last week, President Obama’s State of the Union Address touted a U.S. economic recovery. Meanwhile, China’s economic growth is slowing and Ma Jiantang, head of the National Bureau of Statistics, has said that China’s economy, contrary to overseas...

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

01.08.15

What Does Hong Kong’s Post-Protest Report Signal For Relations with Beijing?

David Schlesinger, Joseph Cheng & more
This week, we saw the release of the official government “Report on the Recent Community and Political Situation in Hong Kong.” It concluded: "It is the common aspiration of the Central Authorities [in Beijing], the [Hong Kong Special...

Conversation

12.19.14

Just How Successful Is Xi Jinping?

Ian Johnson & Trey Menefee
Last week, Arthur Kroeber, Editor of the China Economic Quarterly opined that “…the Chinese state is not fragile. The regime is strong, increasingly self-confident, and without organized opposition.” His essay, which drew strong, if divided,...

Conversation

12.16.14

What Must China and Japan Do to Get Along in 2015?

Allen Carlson & Zha Daojiong
Last week, Akio Takahara, a professor at the University of Tokyo currently visiting Peking University, wrote a New York Times Op-Ed praising recent diplomatic efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and Chinese President Xi Jinping to deflect...

Conversation

12.03.14

Can China Conquer the Internet?

David Bandurski, Jeremy Goldkorn & more
Lu Wei, China’s new Internet Czar, recently tried to get the world to agree to a model of information control designed by the Chinese Communist Party. Regular contributors comment below and we encourage readers to share their views on our Facebook...

Conversation

11.19.14

Was the U.S.-China Climate Deal Worth the Wait?

Deborah Seligsohn, Orville Schell & more
Last week, Ann Carlson and Alex Wang, environmental experts at UCLA Law School, called the November 12 U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change "monumental." "No two countries are more important to tackling the problem than the...

Conversation

11.12.14

Xi Jinping’s Culture Wars

Stanley Rosen, Michael Berry & more
Given China’s tightening restrictions on film, TV, art, writing, and journalism, and the reverberations from President Xi Jinping’s recent speech on culture, we asked contributors why they think Beijing has decided to ramp up its involvement in the...

Conversation

10.31.14

What Should Obama and Xi Say to Each Other at APEC?

Chen Weihua, Hugh White & more
Next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing (November 5-11) between Presidents Xi Jinping, Barack Obama, and other leaders from around the world, is billed as the Chinese capital's highest-profile international event...

Conversation

10.23.14

Are China’s Economic Reforms Coming Fast Enough?

Daniel H. Rosen, David Hoffman & more
Economic data show a slowdown in China. At least two opposing views of what’s next for the world’s largest economy have just been published: one skeptical, from David Hoffman at The Conference Board, and one cautiously optimistic, from Dan Rosen and...

Conversation

10.17.14

Rule of Law—Why Now?

Ira Belkin, Donald Clarke & more
In a recent essay, “How China’s Leaders Will Rule on the Law,” Carl Minzner looks at the question of why China’s leaders have announced they will emphasize rule of law at the upcoming Chinese Communist Party plenum slated to take place in Beijing...

Conversation

10.14.14

Will Asia Bank on China?

Zha Daojiong, Damien Ma & more
Last week The New York Times reported U.S. opposition to China's plans to launch a regional development bank to rival the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. If, as some say, the the launch is a fait accompli, should Washington focus...

Conversation

10.01.14

Is This the End of Hong Kong As We Know It?

Nicholas Bequelin, Sebastian Veg & more
Over the past week, tens of thousands of Hong Kong people have occupied the streets of their semi-autonomous city to advocate for the democratic elections slated to launch in 2017. The pro-democracy protestors have blocked major roads in the...

Conversation

09.26.14

Should the U.S. Cooperate with China on Terrorism?

Richard Bernstein, Ely Ratner & more
Richard Bernstein: Of course, they should.  But can they?  Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in the United States, China has defined almost any dissent from its policies there as examples of international terrorism.  It...

Conversation

09.19.14

China and Climate Change: What’s Next?

Angel Hsu & Barbara A. Finamore
Climate Week at the United Nations General Assembly is upon us and we asked a group of experts to bring us up-to-date about the areas where progress on climate change looks most possible for China, now the world's largest emitter of greenhouse...

Conversation

09.12.14

Is a Trade War with China Looming?

Arthur R. Kroeber & Donald Clarke
As Alibaba gets ready to sell shares on Wall Street, U.S. investors will be focused on Chinese companies getting a fair shake here in America even as some big U.S. brand names (Microsoft, Chrysler, et al) are being shaken down by China's newly...

Conversation

09.02.14

Hong Kong—Now What?

David Schlesinger, Mei Fong & more
David Schlesinger:Hong Kong’s tragedy is that its political consciousness began to awaken precisely at the time when its leverage with China was at its lowest ebb.Where once China needed Hong Kong as an entrepôt, legal center, financial center,...

Conversation

08.11.14

Simon Leys Remembered

Isabel Hilton, Perry Link & more
Isabel Hilton: When I heard the news of the death of Pierre Ryckmans, better known by his pen name, Simon Leys, I began to hunt in my bookshelves for the now yellowing and grimy copies of Chinese Shadows and The Chairman’s New Clothes: Mao and the...

Conversation

07.31.14

Zhou Yongkang’s Downfall

Sebastian Veg, Roderick MacFarquhar & more
On July 29, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Chinese Communisty Party announced it was investigating ex-security czar Zhou Yongkang “on suspicion of grave violations of discipline.” Zhou, who retired from the Politburo...

Conversation

07.24.14

Alibaba: How Big a Deal Is It?

David Wolf, Duncan Clark & more
When Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba goes public some time after Labor Day it is expected be one the largest initial public offerings in history. This week, a story in The New York Times shed light on ties between Alibaba and the sons and grandsons...

Conversation

07.17.14

How to Read China’s New Press Restrictions

David Schlesinger, Orville Schell & more
On June 30, China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television posted a statement on its website warning Chinese journalists not to share information with their counterparts in the foreign press corps. Most major...

Conversation

07.09.14

The U.S. and China Are At the Table: What’s At Stake?

William Adams & Zha Daojiong
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew are in Beijing this week for the sixth session of the high level bilateral diplomatic exchange known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue. We asked contributors what's likely...

Conversation

07.01.14

The Debate Over Confucius Institutes PART II

Gregory B. Lee, Michael Hill & more
Last week, ChinaFile published a discussion on the debate over Confucius Institutes–Chinese language and culture programs affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education—and their role on university campuses. The topic, and several of the...

Conversation

06.23.14

The Debate Over Confucius Institutes

Robert Kapp, Jeffrey Wasserstrom & more
Last week, the American Association of University Professors joined a growing chorus of voices calling on North American universities to rethink their relationship with Confucius Institutes, the state-sponsored Chinese-language programs...

Conversation

06.11.14

Is a Declining U.S. Good for China?

Zha Daojiong, Gordon G. Chang & more
Zha Daojiong:Talk of a U.S. decline is back in vogue. This time, China features more (if not most) prominently in a natural follow-up question: Which country is going to benefit? My answer: certainly not China.Arguably, the first round of “U.S.-in-...

Conversation

06.02.14

25 Years On, Can China Move Past Tiananmen?

Xu Zhiyuan, Arthur Waldron & more
Xu Zhiyuan:Whenever the massacre at Tiananmen Square twenty-five years ago comes up in conversation, I think of Faulkner’s famous line: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”Some believe that China’s economic growth and rise to international...

Conversation

05.19.14

Is This the Best Response to China’s Cyber-Attacks? 

Robert Daly, Chen Weihua & more
On Monday, the United States Attorney General Eric Holder accused China of hacking American industrial giants such as U.S. Steel and Westinghouse Electric, making unprecedented criminal charges of cyper-espionage against Chinese...

Conversation

05.09.14

The China-Vietnam Standoff: How Will It End?

Daniel Kliman, Ely Ratner & more
Daniel Kliman:Five thousand miles from Ukraine, off the coast of Vietnam, China is taking a page from Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s playbook. Beijing’s recent placement of a huge oil drilling rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea leverages...

Conversation

05.07.14

How is China Doing in Africa?

Tendai Musakwa, Kathleen McLaughlin & more
On his current weeklong tour of Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola, and Kenya, Premier Li Keqiang announced a new $12 billion aid package intended to address China’s “growing pains” in Africa. China is by turns lauded for bringing development to the...

Conversation

04.30.14

Will China’s Economy Be #1 by Dec. 31? (And Does it Matter?)

William Adams, Damien Ma & more
On April 30, data released by the United Nations International Comparison Program showed China’s estimated 2011 purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rate was twenty percent higher than was estimated in 2005. What does this mean? China's...

Conversation

04.22.14

What Obama Should Say About China in Japan

Yuki Tatsumi, Ely Ratner & more
On Wednesday, Barack Obama will land in Tokyo beginning a week-long trip to four of China's neighbors—but not to China itself.In Obama’s stops in Tokyo, Seoul, Manila, and Kuala Lampur, the specter of China will loom large. This will be...

Conversation

04.12.14

China, Japan, and the U.S.—Will Cooler Heads Prevail?

Ely Ratner, Hugh White & more
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's whirlwind tour of China this week saw a tense exchange with his Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan, over the intention behind America's "pivot" to Asia, followed by a more measured back-and...

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

03.26.14

The Bloomberg Fallout: Where Does Journalism in China Go from Here?

Chen Weihua, Dorinda Elliott & more
On Monday, March 24, a thirteen-year veteran of Bloomberg News, Ben Richardson, news editor at large for Asia, resigned. A few days earlier, company Chairman Peter Grauer said that the news and financial information services company founded in 1981...

Conversation

03.19.14

What Should Michelle Obama Accomplish on Her Trip to China?

Orville Schell, Vincent Ni & more
Orville Schell:  Looking at the challenges of rectifying U.S.-China relations and building some semblance of the "new kind of a big power relationship" alluded to by presidents Obama and Xi at Sunnylands last year, will most...

Conversation

03.10.14

Should China Support Russia in the Ukraine?

Alexander V. Pantsov, Alexander Lukin & more
Alexander V. Pantsov: The Chinese Communist Party leadership has always maintained: “China believes in non-interference in internal affairs.” In the current Ukrainian situation it is the most we can expect from the P.R.C. because it is not able to...

Conversation

02.27.14

How Responsible Are Americans for China’s Pollution Problem?

David Vance Wagner, Alex Wang & more
David Vance Wagner: China’s latest “airpocalypse” has again sent air pollution in Beijing soaring to hazardous levels for days straight. Though the Chinese government has made admirable progress recently at confronting the long-term air pollution...

Conversation

02.22.14

What Can the Dalai Lama’s White House Visit Actually Accomplish?

Isabel Hilton, Donald Clarke & more
On February 21, the Dalai Lama visited United States President Barack Obama in the White House over the objections of the Chinese government. Beijing labels the exiled spiritual leader a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who seeks to use...

Conversation

02.19.14

China in ‘House of Cards’

Steven Jiang, Donald Clarke & more
China figures heavily in the second season of the Netflix series House of Cards, but how accurately does the show portray U.S.-China relations? Steven Jiang, a journalist for CNN in Beijing, binged-watched all thirteen recently-released web-only...

Conversation

02.13.14

Are Ethnic Tensions on the Rise in China?

Enze Han, James Palmer & more
On December 31, President Xi Jinping appeared on CCTV and extended his “New Year’s wishes to Chinese of all ethnic groups.” On January 15, Beijing officials detained Ilham Tohti, a leading Uighur economist and subsequently accused him of “separtist...

Conversation

02.05.14

What Should the U.S. Do about China’s Barring Foreign Reporters?

Nicholas Lemann, Michel Hockx & more
Last week, the White House said it was “very disappointed” in China for denying a visa to another journalist working for The New York Times in Beijing, forcing him to leave the country after eight years. What else should the U.S. government...

Conversation

01.27.14

China’s Offshore Leaks: So What?

Paul Gillis & Robert Kapp
Two recent stories by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists detailed China’s elite funneling money out of China to tax havens in the Caribbean. We asked contributors to weigh the impact of the revelations.

Conversation

01.21.14

Time to Escalate? Should the U.S. Make China Uncomfortable?

Edward Friedman, Geoff Dyer & more
How should the United States respond to China’s new level of assertiveness in the Asia Pacific? In the past few months as Beijing has stepped up territorial claims around China's maritime borders—and in the skies above them—the Obama...

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

12.17.13

Why Is China Purging Its Former Top Security Chief, Zhou Yongkang?

Pin Ho & Richard McGregor
Pin Ho:[Zhou Yongkang’s downfall] is the second chapter of the “Bo Xilai Drama”—a drama begun at the 18th Party Congress. The Party’s power transition has been secret and has lacked convincing procedure. This [lack of transparency] has triggered...

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

12.03.13

What Posture Should Joe Biden Adopt Toward A Newly Muscular China?

Susan Shirk
Susan Shirk:United States Vice President Joseph Biden is the American political figure who has spent the most time with Xi Jinping and has the deepest understanding of Xi as an individual. Before Xi’s selection as P.R.C. president and C.C.P. general...

Conversation

11.27.13

Why’s the U.S. Flying Bombers Over the East China Sea?

Chen Weihua, James Fallows & more
Chen Weihua:The Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is not a Chinese invention. The United States, Japan and some 20 other countries declared such zones in their airspace long time ago.China’s announcement of its first ADIZ in the East China Sea...

Conversation

11.24.13

What Should the Next U.S. Ambassador to China Tackle First?

Mary Kay Magistad & Robert Kapp
Mary Kay Magistad: Gary Locke succeeded in a way that few U.S. ambassadors to China have—in improving public perceptions of U.S. culture.  Locke’s down-to-earth approachability and lack of ostentation certainly helped. So did the...

Conversation

11.19.13

What Will the Beginning of the End of the One-Child Policy Bring?

Leta Hong Fincher, Vincent Ni & more
Leta Hong Fincher:The Communist Party’s announcement that it will loosen the one-child policy is, of course, welcome news. Married couples will be allowed to have two children if only one of the spouses is an only child, meaning that millions more...

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

10.30.13

Trial By TV: What Does a Reporter’s Arrest and Confession Tell Us About Chinese Media?

Wang Feng & Jeremy Goldkorn
The latest ChinaFile Conversation focuses on the case of Chen Yongzhou, the Guangzhou New Express journalist whose series of investigative reports exposed fraud at the Changsha, Hunan-based heavy machinery maker Zoomlion. Chen later was arrested and...

Conversation

10.25.13

Can State-Run Capitalism Absorb the Shocks of ‘Creative Destruction’?

Barry Naughton, Shai Oster & more
Following are ChinaFile Conversation participants’ reactions to “China: Superpower or Superbust?” in the November-December issue of The National Interest in which author Ian Bremmer says that China’s state-capitalism is ill-equipped to absorb the...

Conversation

10.22.13

Why’s China’s Smog Crisis Still Burning So Hot?

Alex Wang, Isabel Hilton & more
Alex Wang:On Sunday, the start of the winter heating season in northern China brought the “airpocalypse” back with a vengeance.Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang Province and home to 11 million people, registered fine particulate (PM2.5) pollution...

Conversation

10.16.13

Uncomfortable Bedfellows: How Much Does China Need America Now?

Bill Bishop, David Schlesinger & more
Bill Bishop:The D.C. dysfunction puts China in a difficult place. Any financial markets turmoil that occurs because of a failure of Congress to do its job could harm China’s economy, and especially its exports. The accumulation of massive foreign-...

Conversation

10.10.13

CCTV Network News Broadcast

Following is a transcript of the network news broadcast of China Central Television on September 30, 2013:央视网消息(新闻联播): 9月30日上午,在中华人民共和国64周年国庆前夕,On the morning of September 30th, on the eve of the 64th anniversary of the People's Republic of...

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

10.07.13

Why Is Xi Jinping Promoting Self-Criticism?

Stephen C. Angle & Taisu Zhang
Critics both within and without China have suggested that Xi Jinping’s promotion of self-criticism by Communist Party cadres has at least two motives: it promotes the appearance of concern with lax discipline while avoiding deeper reform, and it...

Conversation

09.27.13

Can China’s Leading Indie Film Director Cross Over in America?

Jonathan Landreth, Michael Berry & more
Jonathan Landreth:Chinese writer and director Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin won the prize for the best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Though the dialogue and its fine translation and English subtitles by Tony Rayns are exemplary, I...

Conversation

09.24.13

A Shark Called Wanda—Will Hollywood Swallow the Chinese Dream Whole?

Stanley Rosen, Jonathan Landreth & more
Stanley Rosen:Wang Jianlin, who personally doesn’t know much about film, made a splash when he purchased America’s No. 2 movie theater chain AMC at a price many thought far too high for what he was getting.  A number of knowledgeable people...

Conversation

09.17.13

What’s Behind China’s Recent Internet Crackdown?

Xiao Qiang, John Garnaut & more
Last weekend, Charles Xue Manzi, a Chinese American multi-millionaire investor and opinion leader on one of China’s most popular microblogs, appeared in handcuffs in an interview aired on China Central Television (CCTV). Xue is just the most visible...

Conversation

09.13.13

What Can China and Japan Do to Start Anew?

Paula S. Harrell & Chen Weihua
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...

Conversation

09.09.13

What Are Chinese Attitudes Toward a U.S. Strike in Syria?

Chen Weihua, Vincent Ni & more
Chen Weihua:Chinese truly believe that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. On the contrary, a U.S. air strike would only worsen the situation there. Chinese have seen many failures of U.S. intervention in the Middle East in the past...

Conversation

09.05.13

To Reform or Not Reform?—Echoes of the Late Qing Dynasty

Orville Schell, John Delury & more
Orville Schell:It is true that China is no longer beset by threats of foreign incursion nor is it a laggard in the world of economic development and trade. But being there and being steeped in an atmosphere of seemingly endless political and...

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

08.21.13

Is Xi Jinping Redder Than Bo Xilai Or Vice Versa?

Michael Anti & Shai Oster
Michael Anti:Competing for Redness: The Scarlet Bo vs the Vermilion Xi?Bo Xilai, the fallen Chinese princeling famous for leading a “Red Songs” communist campaign in southwest China's megacity Chongqing, is on trial today, live-Twittered from...

Conversation

08.15.13

What Should China Do to Reverse its Tourism Deficit?

Leah Thompson, Damien Ma & more
Recent news stories and industry studies show that fewer international visitors are choosing China as their destination. January-June arrivals in Beijing are down 15% from the same period in 2012 and more Chinese than ever before are spending their...

Conversation

08.07.13

What Will Come out of the Communist Party’s Polling the People Online?

David Wertime, Duncan Clark & more
David Wertime:Simon Denyer’s recent article (“In China, Communist Party Takes Unprecedented Step: It Is Listening,” The Washington Post, August 2, 2013) provides a valuable look at some of the ways that Chinese authority mines domestic micro-...

Conversation

08.01.13

How Dangerous Are Sino-Japanese Tensions?

Jerome A. Cohen
Sino-Japanese relations do not look promising at the moment. Obviously, the Diaoyu-Senkaku dispute is not the only factor in play but it does focus nationalist passions on both sides. Yet both countries are capable of wiser conduct if their leaders...

Conversation

07.30.13

Is Business in China Getting Riskier, Or Are Multinationals Taking More Risks?

Arthur R. Kroeber, David Schlesinger & more
Arthur Kroeber:The environment for foreign companies in China has been getting steadily tougher since 2006, when the nation came to the end of a five-year schedule of market-opening measures it pledged as the price of admission to the World Trade...

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

07.23.13

What Would a Hard Landing in China Mean for the World?

Barry Naughton, James McGregor & more
Barry Naughton:Paul Krugman in a recent post (“How Much Should We Worry About a China Shock?” The New York Times, July 20, 2013) tells us NOT to worry about the impact of a slowing China on global exports, but to be worried, very worried about 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...

Conversation

07.16.13

What’s the Senate’s Beef with China’s Play for American Pork?

Arthur R. Kroeber, Steve Dickinson & more
Last week the U.S. Senate held hearings to question the CEO of meat-producer Smithfield Farms, about the proposed $4.7 billion sale of the Virginia-based company to Shuanghui International, China’s largest pork producer. The sale is under review by...

Conversation

07.09.13

What Is the “Chinese Dream” Really All About?

Stein Ringen, Jeremy Goldkorn & more
Stein Ringen:I’m coming to the view that the ‘Chinese Dream’ is a signal from the leadership of great import that has much to say about the nature of the Chinese state. It is striking, in my opinion, how effectively and rapidly the system swung into...

Conversation

07.03.13

How Would Accepting Gay Culture Change China?

Fei Wang & Steven Jiang
Last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the core provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act is not only “a stride toward greater equality in the United States, but also a shift that will reverberate far beyond our shores,” wrote...

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

06.25.13

How Badly Have Snowden’s Leaks Hurt U.S.-China Relations?

Matt Schiavenza
Matt Schiavenza:In the understatement of the day, the United States is unhappy with the recent developments of the Edward Snowden situation. Just three days ago, Washington was in negotiations with Hong Kong to file a warrant for Snowden's...

Conversation

06.21.13

How Should the World Prepare for a Slower China?

Arthur R. Kroeber & Patrick Chovanec
Get Ready for a Slower ChinaThe recent gyrations on the Chinese interbank market underscore that the chief risk to global growth now comes from China. Make no mistake: credit policy will tighten substantially in the coming months, as the government...

Conversation

06.18.13

What’s Right or Wrong with This Chinese Stance on Edward Snowden?

Shai Oster & Steve Dickinson
For today’s ChinaFile Conversation we asked contributors to react to the following excerpt from an op-ed published on Monday June 17 in the Global Times about Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old American contract intelligence analyst who last...

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

06.06.13

What Would the Best U.S.-China Joint Statement Say?

Winston Lord, Orville Schell & more
As we approach the June 7-8 meeting in California of U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping we are holding a small contest. We have asked ChinaFile Conversation regulars and a few guests to envision their ideal Sunnylands...

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

05.23.13

China and the Other Asian Giant: Where are Relations with India Headed?

Michael Kulma, Mark Frazier & more
Mike Kulma:Earlier this week at an Asia Society forum on U.S.-China economic relations, Dr. Henry Kissinger remarked that when the U.S. first started down the path of normalizing relations with China in the early 1970s, the economic relationship and...

Conversation

05.21.13

U.S.-China Economic Relations—What Will the Next Decade Bring?

Orville Schell & Patrick Chovanec
On Monday, within hours of the announcement that Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet U.S. President Barack Obama on a visit to California on June 7-8, Tung Chee-hwa, the former Chief Executive and President of the Executive Council of Hong Kong,...

Conversation

05.16.13

China: What’s Going Right?

Michael Zhao, James Fallows & more
Michael Zhao:On a recent trip to China, meeting mostly with former colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, I got a dose of optimism and hope for one aspect of the motherland. In terms of science, or laying down a solid foundation for better...

Conversation

05.14.13

Why Can’t China Make Its Food Safe?—Or Can It?

Alex Wang, John C. Balzano & more
The month my wife and I moved to Beijing in 2004, I saw a bag of oatmeal at our local grocery store prominently labeled: “NOT POLLUTED!” How funny that this would be a selling point, we thought.But 7 years later as we prepared to return to the US,...

Conversation

05.10.13

What’s China’s Game in the Middle East?

Rachel Beitarie, Massoud Hayoun & more
Rachel Beitarie:Xi Jinping’s four point proposal for a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement is interesting not so much for its content, as for its source. While China has maintained the appearance of being involved in Middle East politics for years,...

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

05.02.13

Does Promoting “Core Interests” Do China More Harm Than Good?

Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Susan Shirk & more
On April 30, as tensions around China’s claims to territories in the South- and East China Seas continued to simmer, we began what proved to be a popular ChinaFile Conversation, asking the question, What's Really at the Core of China’s ‘Core...

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

04.25.13

Hollywood in China—What’s the Price of Admission?

Jonathan Landreth, Ying Zhu & more
Last week, DreamWorks Animation (DWA), the Hollywood studio behind the worldwide blockbuster Kung Fu Panda films, announced that it will cooperate with the China Film Group (CFG) on an animated feature called Tibet Code, an adventure story based on...

Conversation

04.23.13

How Would You Spend (the Next) $300 Million on U.S.-China Relations?

Orville Schell & Michael Kulma
Orville Schell:When Stephen A. Schwarzman announced his new $300 million program aimed at sending foreign scholars to Tsinghua University in Beijing the way Rhodes Scholarship, set up by the businessman and statesman Cecil Rhodes in 1902 began...

Conversation

04.18.13

How Fast Is China’s Slowdown Coming, and What Should Beijing Do About It?

Patrick Chovanec, Barry Naughton & more
Slower Chinese GDP growth is not a bad thing if it’s happening for the right reasons. But it’s not happening for the right reasons.Instead of reining in credit to try to curb over-investment, Chinese authorities have allowed a renewed explosion in...

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

04.11.13

Why Is Chinese Soft Power Such a Hard Sell?

Jeremy Goldkorn, Donald Clarke & more
Jeremy Goldkorn:Chairman Mao Zedong said that power comes out of the barrel of a gun, and he knew a thing or two about power, both hard and soft. If you have enough guns, you have respect. Money is the same: if you have enough cash, you can buy guns...

Conversation

04.09.13

Is China Doing All it Can to Rein in Kim Jong-un?

Winston Lord, Susan Shirk & more
Winston Lord:No. 

Conversation

04.03.13

Bird Flu Fears: Should We Trust Beijing This Time?

David Wertime, Yanzhong Huang & more
David Wertime:A new strain of avian flu called H7N9 has infected at least seven humans and killed three in provinces near the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai, with the first death occurring on March 4. Meanwhile, in the last month, about 16,000 pigs...

Conversation

04.02.13

Why Did Apple Apologize to Chinese Consumers and What Does It Mean?

Jeremy Goldkorn, Isabel Hilton & more
Jeremy Goldkorn:On March 22, before the foreign media or Apple themselves seemed to have grasped the seriousness of the CCTV attacks on the Californian behemoth, I wrote a post on Danwei.com that concluded:“The signs are clear that regulators and...

Conversation

03.28.13

Will China’s Renminbi Replace the Dollar as the World’s Top Currency?

Patrick Chovanec, Damien Ma & more
Patrick Chovanec:This week’s news that Brazil and China have signed a $30 billion currency swap agreement gave a renewed boost to excited chatter over the rising influence of China’s currency, the renminbi (RMB). The belief, in many quarters, is...

Conversation

03.26.13

Can China Transform Africa?

Jeremy Goldkorn, Isabel Hilton & more
Jeremy Goldkorn:The question is all wrong. China is already transforming Africa, the question is how China is transforming Africa, not whether it can. From the “China shops”—small stores selling cheap clothing, bags, and kitchenware—that have become...

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

03.13.13

China’s Post 1980’s Generation—Are the Kids All Right?

Sun Yunfan, Orville Schell & more
This week, the ChinaFile Conversation is a call for reactions to an article about China's current generation gap, written by James Palmer, a Beijing-based historian, author, and Global Times editor. The article, first published by Aeon in the U...

Conversation

03.08.13

Will China’s Property Market Crash, and So What If It Does?

Dorinda Elliott & Bill Bishop
Dorinda Elliott:At this week’s National People’s Congress, outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao proclaimed that the government kept housing prices from rising too fast. Really? I wonder what my 28-year-old Shanghainese friend Robert thinks about that. He and...

Conversation

03.06.13

Are Proposed Sanctions on North Korea a Hopeful Sign for U.S.-China Relations?

Orville Schell, Susan Shirk & more
Orville Schell:What may end up being most significant about the new draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council to impose stricter sanctions on North Korea, which China seems willing to sign, may not be what it amounts to in terms of...

Conversation

03.01.13

Is America’s Door Really Open to China’s Investment?

Daniel H. Rosen, Orville Schell & more
Daniel Rosen:There have not been many new topics in U.S.-China economic relations over the past decade: the trade balance, offshoring of jobs, Chinese holding of U.S. government debt, whether China’s currency is undervalued and intellectual property...

Conversation

02.27.13

How Long Can China Keep Pollution Data a State Secret?

Elizabeth Economy, Orville Schell & more
Elizabeth Economy:The environment is center stage once again in China. A Chinese lawyer has requested the findings of a national survey on soil pollution from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and been denied on the grounds that the...

Conversation

02.22.13

Will Investment in China Grow or Shrink?

Donald Clarke & David Schlesinger
Donald Clarke:I don’t have the answer as to whether investment in China will grow or shrink, but I do have a few suggestions for how to think about the question. First, we have to clarify why we want to know the answer to this question: what do we...

Conversation

02.20.13

Cyber Attacks—What’s the Best Response?

James Fallows, Xiao Qiang & more
With regular ChinaFile Conversation contributor Elizabeth Economy on the road, we turned to her colleague Adam Segal, Maurice R. Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Segal said that “the time for...

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...

Conversation

02.13.13

North Korea: How Much More Will China Take and How Should the U.S. Respond?

Winston Lord, Tai Ming Cheung & more
China is increasingly frustrated with North Korea and may even see more clearly that its actions only serve to increase allied unity, stimulate Japanese militarism and accelerate missile defense. For all these reasons the U.S. should lean on Beijing...

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

02.06.13

Airpocalypse Now: China’s Tipping Point?

Alex Wang, Orville Schell & more
The recent run of air pollution in China, we now know, has been worse than the air quality in airport smoking lounges. At its worst, Beijing air quality has approached levels only seen in the United States during wildfires.All of the comparisons to...

Conversation

02.01.13

China’s Cyberattacks — At What Cost?

James Fallows, Donald Clarke & more
James Fallows: Here are some initial reactions on the latest hacking news.We call this the “latest” news because I don’t think anyone, in China or outside, is actually surprised. In my own experience in China, which is limited compared with many of...

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...