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Spiked in China?

Spiked in China?

A ChinaFile Conversation

 
 

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 29 that Bloomberg would not publish their investigative story linking China’s wealthiest men to the country’s top leaders, because of concerns the story would anger the Chinese government and might elicit retribution in the form of denied visas for reporters. Winkler denied the employees’ allegations, telling the Times the stories “were active and not spiked.” The story was first broken by the Taiwan-based Next Media Animation, which published this animated video on the subject.

Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry informed journalist Paul Mooney, who has been reporting in China for 18 years, that he would not be granted a journalist visa—a necessary credential for foreigners reporting in China—to work for Reuters.

Both the Bloomberg and the Times have had their websites blocked in China and residency visas for new reporters denied since publishing stories on the wealth of the families of China’s leaders last year. The Times story on the the family of former premier Wen Jiabao, won a Pulitzer Prize. The Times Bloomberg’s “Revolution to Riches” series on the fortunes of leaders including Xi Jinping was awarded Asia Society’s Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Journalism on Asia

We asked ChinaFile contributors for their reactions. —The ChinaFile Editors

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that The Financial Times published its story about Bloomberg on Friday. The Financial Times’ story was published on Sunday.

Responses

Full credit to the unnamed employees cited in the article and to Ed Wong at the New York Times for getting this back-story out. If Bloomberg doesn’t have the heft and self-respect to stand by the work of the most formidable team of forensic reporters on the planet, then who does? Mr Winkler now has the opportunity to show that it was all a misunderstanding by publishing the ‘active’ stories in coming weeks. It might save him (and Mr. Bloomberg) from having to dodge questions for the rest of his career about his logic of bending and spiking stories for the satisfaction of Nazi Germany.

You are so right, John.

I think Bloomberg will either self-correct or crumble as a reputable news agency. They should not waste time on inconsequential or murky stories, but to expose major wrongs, especially those that violate Chinese law, CCP regulations, and Chinese public morality, is a major contribution to both China and the world.

The Bloomberg Politburo, which should be backing up its fine journalists, seems to have no clue on how to deal with Chinese issues. The reference to Nazi Germany is both monstrously insulting and, for Bloomberg, hopelessly counter-productive. The Bloomberg bureaucracy should be constantly contacting, negotiating, influencing in support of their China teams, not cracking the whip and hardening the resistance.

Those in China who seriously seek reform will definitely benefit from good journalism, both Chinese and international. Any real Marxist should know that ideas and values cannot be unified by pressure, as in Mao’s day, because the entire economic base and China’s global position have irrevocably changed since then. Only wide and active popular support can enable Xi/Li to break through the opposition of Big SOE conglomerates, Big Banks, and “Big Mules” to carry out the necessary deep-going reforms. Fine journalists like Mike Forsythe and Shai Oster should be viewed as allies, not enemies.

Wake up, Bloomberg–These are the “Times that try men’s souls”!

I’ve been banned from China since the publication in 2001 of The Tiananmen Papers, which I coedited — and that wasn’t even the first time — so I’m familiar with the Chinese government’s efforts to shape its image abroad by the use of punishments and rewards, such as the denial or approval of visas, access, and business opportunities. I don’t want to throw stones at Bloomberg — we still don’t know the whole story. But there’s no doubt that the Chinese government has become more coarse and threatening toward all those both abroad and at home who challenge its official stories on history, ethnic relations, the purity of the ruling party, and the rightness of the Chinese dream. Beijing’s treatment of foreigners is related to its treatment of its own people, like the purging of outspoken academics, crackdowns on civil society activists, and perp walks of domestic bloggers and newspaper reporters. This is not just a tactical tightening during the Third Plenum but a long-term trend, using the government’s growing resources of money and power to shape more aggressively what people can say about China

But why is the Party so anxious to do this? In his August 19 speech to the Thought Propaganda Work Conference, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping described ideology as a battleground between the ruling Party and Western “enemy forces,” a battleground on which defeat would spell the end of CCP rule. For the system to survive, Xi said, the Party must maintain exclusive control of the “right to speak,” intellectuals must bind themselves to the Party, and 1.3 million Chinese must believe unanimously whatever the Party tells them to believe. A training film for military cadres created by the Chinese National Defense University described the whole range of China’s relations with the outside world as a Western plot to subvert Chinese people’s faith in their own system. The film even warned that exchange visits with the U.S. military would undermine the loyalty of Chinese officers.

Talk about a finger in a dike! These utterances reek of flop sweat. The Party must be feeling very fragile if it believes that the circulation of ideas like constitutionalism, individualism, and human rights; public discussion of events like the Cultural Revolution and June Fourth; and criticisms of extra-legal “black jails” will lead to its overthrow.

China’s ability to withhold visas is an extremely powerful weapon, which the Party uses to great effect. The visa question has insidious ways of sowing the seeds of self-censorship. I am ashamed to admit that I personally have worried about the risk of reporting on sensitive topics, such as human rights lawyers: what if they don’t let me back in? My decision to not write that story—at least not yet—proves that I am complicit in China’s control games. After all, there are plenty of other interesting subjects to pursue, right? When I was editor of Asiaweek magazine in 2001, we put Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi on the cover as the region’s most powerful communicator. We knew it would piss off Beijing, but then again, we could do so with little real risk: our magazine had very little at stake in China. Time magazine, with a significant circulation in China, got banned for publishing a piece about Falun Gong and spent years trying to get back in.

The fact that Paul Mooney, who courageously writes about civil society and China’s downtrodden (his series on the disabled was cited by the Oz Prize jury this year, too), has been refused a visa will probably successfully scare many journalists off of chasing “negative” stories. (The old ‘kill the chicken to scare the monkeys’ tactic proves effective again and again.)

Bloomberg’s apparent skittishness this time round is especially surprising given the fact that the Asia Society’s Oz Prize this year went to Bloomberg for a series on a similar subject. The Oz Prize jury—as Oz’s daughter, I am one of the jurors—recognized Bloomberg not only because the reporting was astonishing, but also because the jurors viewed such exposes as potentially game-changing for China.

Why? Because Chinese journalists can’t do what the western press can. They receive strict guidance from the Party on what they can and can’t publish. So stories like the ones published last year by Bloomberg matter in China. They quickly circulate among intellectuals and the elite. One might even argue that reports of the massive wealth of powerful families helped prompt Xi Jinping to launch his current attack on corruption.

Andy’s right: we don’t know the whole story about the Bloomberg decision. But its editors can still do the right thing. As an editor who still believes that journalism is a higher calling, with a profound social responsibility, I hope they publish those reports, which Winkler insists are still “active,” in the weeks to come.

Bloomberg Editor Matthew Winkler reportedly is interested in how foreign journalists worked in Nazi Germany. He might have been looking at tactics foreign correspondents adopted to get information out during Hitler’s rule.

Not long before Hitler’s downfall, another group of western journalists started to file reports from the Soviet Union. Contrary to what many of us think today, some of their works were rather flattering to the U.S.S.R. According to historians their motives were varied; a few of these journalists genuinely were impressed by Joseph Stalin, while others feared losing access and influence and, potentially, their jobs.

Today these journalists would be labelled “useful idiots”—duped into saying good things about bad regimes. But their number included some eminent figures, such as the 1932 Pulitzer Prize winner Walter Duranty.

When the truth finally emerged about the horrors of Stalin’s regime, many campaigned for the Pulitzer Board to revoke this honor. However, seventy-one years after the Prize was awarded, the Board finally decided not to do so because “there was not clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception…”

How people in the future look at Bloomberg will depend on what the company does today. Bloomberg essentially is a conglomerate of a financial services company and a data company. Do the interests of one part of the business determine the operation of the other? Details have yet to emerged from this perplexing event, but it will be interesting to see how Bloomberg responds.

What came to mind when I first read about this developing drama, is something my journalistic mentor, a veteran Chinese journalist, told me before I entered this industry: journalism is “a job requires you consciously reflect the reality.” Perhaps no one will find out what a writer really thinks during the era in which they write, but the passage of time will reveal their inclinations.

“The difficulty,” as William Dean Howells, another preeminent American journalist put it almost a century ago, “is to know conscience from self-interest.” 

It’s a shame that Bloomberg and the New York Times are not more willing to put their crack forensic reporters to work on unravelling the links between America’s political elite and its wealthiest citizens, to find out who gained how much from the Iraq war, and who is making a mint from the NSA’s surveillance programs.

But that is not a justification for pulling punches in China. If that’s what Bloomberg actually did. The New York Times did a follow up story today, quoting Mayor Bloomberg who affirmed Matthew Winkler’s denial that the stories had been spiked:

At the news conference Tuesday, Mr. Bloomberg cited Mr. Winkler’s response, and defended the news service. “No one thinks that we are wusses and not willing to stand up and write stories that are of interest to the public and that are factually correct,” he said.

Maybe things are more complicated than the earlier Times story had us believe: news rooms are noisy, messy places, occupied by people with large egos and differing motivations. Maybe the New York Times even got the whole story wrong? I also sympathize with the challenges of running an information business in China.

However, since 1997 I have edited and published various print periodicals and websites based in Beijing. They have sometimes been shut down, blocked and harassed by the authorities. These enterprises have always brought a far greater personal risk to me than anything that Mr Winkler is ever likely to encounter in his comfortable Manhattan office. Bloomberg’s own reporters in China and elsewhere have taken plenty of risks to life, limb and career, apparently for the allegedly spiked story, and for other stories that did get published.

So I have to say that that if the New York Times story is true, we can only conclude that Mr Winkler is, in Mayor Bloomberg’s words, a wuss.

Postscript: After publishing this piece, @roanmartigan on Twitter reminded me that the people who take the biggest risks in the pursuit of foreign media coverage of China are the Chinese news assistants, people who perform thankless tasks often without the benefit of a byline, at low pay, and sometimes at great risk to themselves and sometimes even their families.

 

Dear Jeremy,

I read your reaction to the recent reports about Bloomberg News and its coverage of China with great interest.

You wrote: “Maybe things are more complicated than the earlier Times story had us believe: news rooms are noisy, messy places, occupied by people with large egos and differing motivations. Maybe The New York Times even got the whole story wrong?”

Huh?

Every story has two sides—and Edward Wong reported both sides. In this story, as Wong explains, you have the four Bloomberg employees on one side describing “the turmoil since October” and Bloomberg’s senior/top editors on the other. And, as Wong explains, the four employees “spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs.” In any case, their accounts are one set of FACTS. Unless Wong is Lara Logan, he likely cross-checked the accounts.

Then, there’s the other side. The top editors. That side is also presented to readers. However, sometimes, a source will react flatfootedly, especially if the journalist is posing questions or raising issues which have never been asked and especially if the source is in an extremely high position of power and/or public figure. Do you think Wong and his colleagues did not approach Winkler et al. ? In fact, they did, and they declined to speak. Quoting from Wong’s report:

Mr. Winkler and several other senior executives at Bloomberg declined to discuss his conference calls with reporters and editors in Hong Kong. Mr. Winkler said in an email on Friday that the articles in question were not killed. “What you have is untrue,” he said. “The stories are active and not spiked.” His statement was echoed by the senior editor on the articles, Laurie Hays. 

So, which part, exactly, of the Times’ report do you think could be “wrong?”

Moreover, has anyone at Bloomberg asked the Times for corrections? Winkler only said the stories were not killed, but have been held, which is what the Times reported: “The stories are active and not spiked.” Of course, they can say that because now that the Times has published its story, Bloomberg can retrieve the stories from the delete bin and make them “active” or even publish them if the embarrassment at home gets to be more troubling than the pressure they feel in Beijing.

Emily,

I think you are reacting to the wrong part of my little text which more or less follows the hoary classical tradition of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The synthesis is calling Mr Winkler is wuss. Read my text again out loud with a sarcastic British accent! 

 

UPDATE: From the New York Post:

Bloomberg L.P. has put a reporter suspected of leaking news about a controversial China story on unpaid leave, The Post has learned.

Michael Forsthye was escorted from Bloomberg’s Hong Kong office on Nov. 14, sources said, after he was fingered as the person who leaked embarrassing claims about how the news and data giant spiked a story that could have angered leaders in China.

Now we know for sure that Winkler is not only a wuss and a coward, but a knave and a scoundrel.

 

News organizations seek leaks all the time — but look how Bloomberg responds when one of its employees seems to have leaked. How is China’s treatment of people who reveal unwelcomed news different from Bloomberg’s?

Prize-winning reporter Michael Forsythe went to a meeting, and then he disappeared from the building.

And he is obviously being forced by some clause in his contract to remain silent while, according to Bloomberg he is “on leave.”

So, what next? If Mr. Forsythe’s story is “active not spiked,” as Matt Winkler told Edward Wong at the Times when is Bloomberg News planning to publish that piece? And how can Bloomberg do what Winkler said was the additional work necessary to publish it with its reporter on forced leave?

One last question: Bloomberg CEO Daniel Doctoroff is hosting this year’s Committee to Protect Journalists’ Annual International Press Freedom Award Dinner next week. What if the Committee decides to make Mr. Forsythe a last-minute honoree?

John Garnaut is the author of the e-book The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo (Penguin, 2013) and served as a China correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald from 2007-2013....
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...
Dorinda Elliott is Editor at Large at ChinaFile. In her “day job,” she is Global Affairs Editor at Condé Nast Traveler, where she spearheads coverage of global issues and corporate social...
Vincent Ni is currently Europe Correspondent at Caixin Media based in London. Previously, he was North America Correspondent based in New York. Since the Egyptian revolution in 2011, he has been...
Jeremy Goldkorn is the Founder and Director of Danwei, a research firm that tracks Chinese media and Internet. Danwei has been publishing a popular website about Chinese media since 2003. After...
Emily Brill is a journalist and native New Yorker. She is studying Mandarin in Beijing, following two semesters in Seoul, where she was a Master’s student at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of...

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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 the canceled trip will inflict...

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 softens up potential targets of...

Conversation

09.27.13

Can China’s Leading Indie Film Director Cross Over in...

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 found that as the screening...

Media

09.26.13

Execution or Murder? Chinese Look for Justice in Street...

TEA LEAF NATION

This morning, a Chinese street vendor named Xia Junfeng was executed. Xia had been found guilty of murdering two urban enforcers, known colloquially as chengguan, in 2009. Xia’s lawyers argued he acted in self-defense, presenting six eyewitness accounts and statements from...

Conversation

09.24.13

A Shark Called Wanda—Will Hollywood Swallow the...

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 felt that the money could have...

Conversation

09.17.13

What’s Behind China’s Recent Internet Crackdown?

THE EDITORS, XIAO QIANG & more

The Editors: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 blogger to be...

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 China-Japan relations has gone...

Conversation

09.09.13

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

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 decade.The U.S. clearly is...

Conversation

09.05.13

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

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 economic tension where questions of...

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 terrifying truth confirmed in the pro...

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 Jinan in Shandong province, east...

Conversation

08.15.13

What Should China Do to Reverse its Tourism Deficit?

THE EDITORS, LEAH THOMPSON & more

The Editors: 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 money to travel...

Conversation

08.07.13

What Will Come out of the Communist Party’s Polling...

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-blogging platforms like Weibo...

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 can manage to rise above the...

Conversation

07.30.13

Is Business in China Getting Riskier, Or Are...

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 Organization. Soon after the WTO-...

Conversation

07.25.13

The Bo Xilai Trial: What’s It Really About?

THE EDITORS, JEROME A. COHEN & more

The Editors: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 between factions in...

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 indirect and unanticipated...

Conversation

07.18.13

Xu Zhiyong Arrested: How Serious Can Beijing Be About...

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 the web site of The New...

Conversation

07.16.13

What’s the Senate’s Beef with China’s Play for...

THE EDITORS, ARTHUR R. KROEBER & more

The Editors: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 the Committee on...

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 action to interpret and...

Conversation

07.03.13

How Would Accepting Gay Culture Change China?

THE EDITORS, FEI WANG & more

The Editors: 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 novelist and...

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 Gorbachev phenomenon and doesn't...

Conversation

06.25.13

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

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 arrest, a process which the U.S. hoped...

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 tries to push loan growth from...

Conversation

06.18.13

What’s Right or Wrong with This Chinese Stance on...

THE EDITORS, SHAI OSTER & more

The Editors: 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 week in Hong Kong...

Conversation

06.13.13

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

THE EDITORS, TAI MING CHEUNG & more

Editor’s note: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 dissidents....

Conversation

06.11.13

What’s the Best Way to Advance Human Rights in the U....

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 a gradual enlightenment of the...

Conversation

06.06.13

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

THE EDITORS, WINSTON LORD & 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 summit and then write the joint...

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.There’s no question that an...

Conversation

05.29.13

What Should Obama and Xi Accomplish at Their California...

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 scripted for them to develop a...

Conversation

05.23.13

China and the Other Asian Giant: Where are Relations...

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 trade between the two...

Conversation

05.21.13

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

JONATHAN LANDRETH, ORVILLE SCHELL & more

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, introduced former U.S....

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 science to come, things are...

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, what was once a joke had...

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, its top leaders, so far,...

Conversation

05.07.13

Why Is a 1995 Poisoning Case the Top Topic on Chinese...

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 brilliant and beautiful...

Conversation

05.02.13

Does Promoting “Core Interests” Do China More Harm...

THE EDITORS, STEPHANIE T. KLEINE-AHLBRANDT & 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 Interests’? The participants...

Conversation

04.30.13

What’s Really at the Core of China’s “Core...

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 vast chunk of the...

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 a series of recent Chinese...

Conversation

04.23.13

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

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 sending American scholars to Oxford...

Conversation

04.18.13

How Fast Is China’s Slowdown Coming, and What Should...

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 credit in an effort to fuel...

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.  That’s the first...

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, and respect.Israel and Saudi...

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, 1,000 ducks, and a few swans...

Conversation

04.02.13

Why Did Apple Apologize to Chinese Consumers and What...

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 establishment media would both...

Conversation

03.28.13

Will China’s Renminbi Replace the Dollar as the World...

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 that the renminbi is well on...

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 ubiquitous in Southern...

Conversation

03.19.13

China’s New Leaders Say They Want to Fight Corruption...

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 water.” This put Li on message...

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 burdens only children feel when it comes...

Conversation

03.13.13

China’s Post 1980’s Generation—Are the Kids All...

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.K., “The Balinghou: Chinese...

Conversation

03.08.13

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

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 his fiancée could never...

Conversation

03.06.13

Are Proposed Sanctions on North Korea a Hopeful Sign...

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 denuclearizing the DPRK, but what it...

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 protection problems have...

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 information is a state secret. (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 think it will tell us? This...

Conversation

02.20.13

Cyber Attacks—What’s the Best Response?

JONATHAN LANDRETH, JAMES FALLOWS & more

Jonathan Landreth:With regular ChinaFile Conversation contributor Elizabeth Economy on the road, I 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 naming and...

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 history professor. People seemed...

Conversation

02.13.13

North Korea: How Much More Will China Take and How...

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 to—at last—not only help...

Conversation

02.08.13

Rich, Poor and Chinese—Does Anyone Trust Beijing to...

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 leading China in new directions? ...

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 London, Los Angeles, and New...

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 yours, I’ve seen the...

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: “Keep our heads down, and...