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

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

A ChinaFile Conversation

Andrew Nathan:

The new Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping seems to be making some bold opening moves with its attacks on corruption and the announcement on February 5 of plans to reduce the polarization of incomes.  Does this mean Xi is leading China in new directions?  I think not.  The reforms are continuations of priorities long pursued by the Hu/Wen regime.

Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao came to power 10 years ago saying they needed to attack corruption and raise rural living standards. And, contrary to widespread perceptions, they acted on their words. Faster, tougher prosecutions of higher-level officials may not have rolled back corruption, but seem to have stopped it from getting worse, according to Andrew Wedeman’s recent book, Double Paradox: Rapid Growth and Rising Corruption in China (Cornell Unversity Press, 2012).

On the income side, Hu and Wen abolished the agricultural tax, extended free public education to nine years, loosened restrictions on labor migration, and started the arduous process of building a health insurance system—a mix of measures designed to improve peasant incomes in the short and long terms.  Last year, the World Bank and the Development Research Center of the State Council jointly published a report called China 2030: Building a Modern, Harmonious, and Creative High-Income Societywhich recommended further steps in the same direction, such as speeding liberalization of the hukou (household registration) system, enhancing the social safety net, and protecting land rights.  Since this report was conducted under the aegis of incoming Premier Li Keqiang, it surely forecasts the trend of social and economic policy in the coming years.

These are adaptive changes, not signals of a new direction.  The party knows it has to evolve if it is going to stay in power over a society in which expectations are constantly rising.

Responses

Susan Shirk

Susan L. Shirk is the chair of the 21st Century China Program and Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Relations at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at UC San Diego.  She also is director emeritus of the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. Currently she is an Arthur Ross Fellow at Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations.From 1997 to 2000, Shirk served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, with responsibility for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mongolia.Shirk’s most recent publications are her edited book, Changing Media, Changing China (Oxford, 2011) and China: Fragile Superpower (Oxford, 2007).

The choice of Wang Qishan to be the chief corruption fighter as the head of the CCP Central Discipline Commission looked like an encouraging sign. In his previous jobs, Wang impressed foreigners and Chinese alike for his decisiveness and economic sophistication. Many thought he was one of the most liberal leaders of his generation. He must know that fighting corruption through Party discipline is a losing battle, even with the addition of Netizen vigilantes who try to out corrupt officials by posting graphic exposes of their watches, houses, and mistresses. Wang certainly must realize that the essential element in fighting corruption is strengthening the independence of the legal system. Will Wang lead a drive for legal reform even though his formal responsibilities are limited to Party ‘justice?’”

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.

I agree with Susan’s point, and just want to note that strengthening the independence of the legal system is a major task of constitutional proportions. The reason corruption can’t now be fought effectively through the legal system is that courts, police, and prosecutors in China, like almost all other government agencies in China, operate under a principle of horizontal accountability. Judges (who have no security of tenure) don’t answer to superiors in a judicial bureaucracy; they answer to local power-holders (ultimately, the Party bosses) at the same administrative level. To change that system would mean changing both China’s written constitution and, more significantly, its unwritten rules of politics. And it’s not clear that senior leaders would want such a change. A court system that had enough independence to fight local corruption would also have enough independence to impose real limits on official power, and so far the Party has resolutely set its face against the idea of limited government and genuine separation of powers.

Barry Naughton

Barry Naughton is the So Kwanlok Chair of Chinese International Affairs at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Naughton is an authority on the Chinese economy, with an emphasis on issues relating to industry, trade, finance, and China’s transition to a market economy. Recent research focuses on regional economic growth in the People’s Republic of China and the relationship between foreign trade and investment and regional growth. His book, Growing Out of the Plan: Chinese Economic Reform, 1978-1993 (Cambridge University Press, 1995), is a comprehensive study of China’s development from a planned to a market economy that traces the distinctive strategy of transition followed by China, as well as China’s superior growth performance. It received the Ohira Memorial Prize in 1996.

Let’s face it, income distribution doesn’t usually generate much news. Calculations of income distribution require a lot of data and time; the discussions about measuring income distribution are dry as dust; and anyway income distribution usually changes so slowly that there’s not much new in the news anyway.

So you have to give the Chinese government credit: in the past three weeks it has generated two big stories on income distribution. Now everybody can take a week off and welcome in the Year of the Snake!

The first big story was that the National Bureau of Statistics finally published an official estimate of China’s Gini coefficient, after not reporting any significant data on income distribution for nearly 10 years! The second big story was that the State Council released its “Opinions on Deepening the Reform of the Income Distribution System.” In both cases, the announcement of the document is good news: each of these documents reflects a new seriousness on the part of China’s economic policy-makers, and a willingness to tackle the fundamental economic issues that lie behind China’s critical social challenges. To be sure, it’s still a long way from here to meaningful changes, but these are important first steps, and in the right direction.

According to the numbers released, China’s Gini increased from 0.479 in 2003 up to .491 in 2008, and then declined slightly to 0.474 in 2012. (A Gini coefficient of zero reflects a perfectly equal distribution, and a coefficient of 1.0 means that a single person consumes all of the “pie.”)

How do we evaluate these new numbers? A first preliminary take: These numbers unambiguously show that China has become a much more unequal society in a very short time. China’s Gini hit bottom in 1982-83 with a Gini below 0.3, making it one of the world’s most equal societies; but within a mere twenty years China has become one of the world’s more unequal societies, with a Gini of 0.48. China’s Gini is today at the levels of historically high Latin American economies, and surpasses that of Mexico. Second, China, like all countries that calculate Ginis based on household surveys, misses a lot of high income households and off-the-books income. This effect is probably larger in China than other economies, and has generated a great deal of discussion lately. Finally, the improvement in the last few years may be real, since the higher unskilled wages, higher food prices, and new welfare systems of the past several years all have the potential to reduce inequalities.

The new income redistribution program, which involves increasing interest income; raising social security and welfare spending; and increasing the remittance of state-enterprise profits to the budget (so that they can be used for social spending), could be an important step toward solving China’s income disparity problem. But implementation will depend on the outcome of intense politicking and struggle for the control of resources. They are expressions of intent: it is quite likely that Premier Wen Jiabao insisted that this program—which was delayed for many months but which he clearly sees as part of his legacy—finally be pushed through before the end of his term.

This program is more than what it might appear to be.  It is not a mere wish list of unrealistic but well-intentioned measures designed to reduce inequality. According to some reports, early drafts were widely criticized and extensively revised because they didn’t have enough teeth.  Instead, the program is a remarkably thorough acknowledgement that improvement in China’s income distribution will require deep structural changes in the economy.

This program commits China’s leaders to begin to adopt a series of policies designed to shift power from the state-run corporate sector to the household sector. It attaches specific objectives and numbers to most of the policies. A program like this is inconceivable in our own political system—it contemplates a massive re-orientation of interests, albeit gradually. For that reason, nobody in their right mind would take it as a done deal, or anything more than—so far—a declaration of intentions. But as a declaration of intentions, it goes surprisingly far. The first step in overcoming the income distribution problem is to recognize that the problem is serious, and deeply embedded.  After these three weeks, we can say that China has officially recognized that fact.

 

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...
Susan L. Shirk is the chair of the 21st Century China Program and Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Relations at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at UC San...
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 ...
Barry Naughton is the So Kwanlok Chair of Chinese International Affairs at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Naughton is...

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03.10.14

Should China Support Russia in the Ukraine?

Alexander V. Pantsov, Alexander Lukin, Sergei Zamascikov, Yawei Liu, Edward Friedman
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

03.02.14

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

Kaiser Kuo, Hyeon-Ju Rho, Sidney Rittenberg, Andrew J. Nathan, Chen Weihua, Shen Dingli, Robert Kapp, Donald Clarke
Reacting to departing U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke’s February 27 farewell news conference in Beijing, the state-run China News Service published a critique by Wang Ping that called Ambassador Locke a “banana.”Kaiser Kuo:Banana or Twinkie for “white-on...

Conversation

02.27.14

How Responsible Are Americans for China’s Pollution Problem?

David Vance Wagner, Alex Wang, Elizabeth Economy, Isabel Hilton, Michael Zhao, Veerabhadran Ramanathan
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, Robert Thurman, Matteo Mecacci, Vincent Ni, Edward Friedman
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, Kaiser Kuo, Evan Osnos
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, Robert Barnett, Nicholas Bequelin, James A. Millward, Rachel Harris, James Leibold, Uradyn E. Bulag, Nathan Hill, Elliot Sperling
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, Winston Lord, Matt Schiavenza, James Fallows, David Schlesinger, Paul Mooney, Orville Schell, Arthur Waldron
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, John Delury, Taisu Zhang, Elbridge Colby, Ely Ratner
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, Orville Schell, Edward Friedman, Robert Kapp, The Editors
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, Ron Javers, Bill Bishop, Andrew J. Nathan, Perry Link, Jeremy Goldkorn, Chen Weihua, Orville Schell
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, Tai Ming Cheung, Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt
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, Isabel Hilton, Yong Cai
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, Andrew J. Nathan, Dorinda Elliott, Vincent Ni, Jeremy Goldkorn, Emily Brill
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, Steve Dickinson, Gordon G. Chang
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, Jeremy Goldkorn, Shai Oster
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, Arthur R. Kroeber, Robert Kapp, Isabel Hilton, Shai Oster
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, Andrew J. Nathan, Michael Kulma
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, Jaime Wolf, Richard Peña, Sun Yunfan, Ying Zhu, Maya E. Rudolph
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, Vincent Ni, Michael Berry
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, Jeremy Goldkorn, Vincent Ni, Rogier Creemers, Isabel Hilton
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, Massoud Hayoun
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, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Peter C. Perdue, Joseph W. Esherick, Robert Kapp, Mary Kay Magistad
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, Ouyang Bin, Shai Oster
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, Christine Lu
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, Orville Schell, Ouyang Bin, Rogier Creemers, Ethan J. Leib
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, Damien Ma, Steve Dickinson
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, John Garnaut
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, Arthur R. Kroeber, Gordon G. Chang
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, Jeremy Goldkorn, Carl Minzner, Ira Belkin
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, James Fallows, Damien Ma
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, Robert Kapp
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, Bill Bishop, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell, Bill Bikales, William Overholt
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, Jeremy Goldkorn
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, Joshua Rosenzweig, Andrew J. Nathan, Aryeh Neier, James J. Silk
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, J. Stapleton Roy, James Fallows
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, Ouyang Bin, Wu Guoguang, Dorinda Elliott, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell
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, David Wertime, Robert Kapp, Elizabeth Economy, Andrew J. Nathan, Winston Lord
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, Susan Shirk
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, Orville Schell, Jeremy Goldkorn
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, Isabel Hilton, Alexa Olesen, Jeremy Goldkorn
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, Tai Ming Cheung
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, Susan Jakes, Dorinda Elliott, Sun Yunfan, Xiao Qiang, Jeremy Goldkorn, Shai Oster
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, Wang Yizhou
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, Orville Schell, Susan Shirk, Tai Ming Cheung, John Delury
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, Jeremy Goldkorn, Shai Oster
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, Damien Ma
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, Jonathan Landreth, Orville Schell, Dorinda Elliott
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, Susan Jakes, David Shambaugh, Bill Bishop, Jonathan Landreth
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, Orville Schell, Michael Kulma, Ouyang Bin
Winston Lord:No. 

Conversation

04.03.13

Bird Flu Fears: Should We Trust Beijing This Time?

David Wertime, Yanzhong Huang, Isabel Hilton, Donald Clarke, Susan Jakes, Dorinda Elliott, James Fallows
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, David Wertime, Orville Schell
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, Donald Clarke, Barry Naughton
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, Donald Clarke
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, Andrew J. Nathan, Ouyang Bin, Michael Zhao
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, Damien Ma
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, Suzanne DiMaggio, Ouyang Bin, Winston Lord, John Delury
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, Jonathan Landreth
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, Donald Clarke, Susan Shirk, Isabel Hilton
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, Bill Bishop, Tai Ming Cheung
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, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell
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, Elizabeth Economy, John Delury
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

02.06.13

Airpocalypse Now: China’s Tipping Point?

Alex Wang, Orville Schell, Elizabeth Economy, Michael Zhao, James Fallows, Dorinda Elliott
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, Orville Schell, Elizabeth Economy, Dorinda Elliott, Xiao Qiang, Bill Bishop
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, Susan Shirk, Damien Ma, Isabel Hilton
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...