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U.S.-China Tensions: What Must Kerry Do?

U.S.-China Tensions: What Must Kerry Do?

A China File Conversation

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 to blame the U.S. for encouraging Japan in pushing its claims over the islands. (The assumption being that the U.S. wants to contain China, to keep China down.) So is war a real danger, and what should the U.S. do to defuse tensions?

Two weeks into John Kerry's tenure as Secretary of State, Nina Hachigian, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, who co-authored The Next American Century: How the U.S. Can Thrive as Other Powers Rise (Simon & Schuster, 2008), argues that there is much to be concerned about in U.S.-China relations.

Andy Wong/Getty Images
Then U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry is followed by embassy staff members upon his arrival at Tsinghua University May 26, 2009 in Beijing.

An excerpt of her recent piece:

“Beyond the immediate issues, a broader aspect of U.S. policy toward China needs attention: The United States and China have no shared vision for what their future bilateral relationship could or should look like. They have not articulated a clear understanding of how they could continue to co-exist in peace a decade or two down the road, and they need to develop a shared, tangible idea for the future of the relationship.

Without a credible alternative, the default prediction for the interaction between a rising power such as China and an established power such as the United States is based on what has come before: inevitable violent conflict. As China grows, the uncertainty about what will come next in the relationship will only increase. With no positive vision, some Americans will picture a much stronger, more aggressive China that the United States will need to confront, and many Chinese will imagine that America will inevitably seek to preserve what they see as its waning hegemony by lashing out even more than it already does. These dark visions could become self-fulfilling prophecies. Because the United States and China do not know where they are headed, they cannot know what policy steps to take now.”

Responses

Elizabeth Economy

Elizabeth Economy is the C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The author of The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future (Cornell University Press, 2004), Economy also co-edited China Joins the World: Progress and Prospects (with Michel Oksenberg, Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1999) and The Internationalization of Environmental Protection (with Miranda Schreurs, Cambridge University Press, 1997). She has published articles in foreign policy and scholarly journals, including Foreign Affairs, Harvard Business Review, and Foreign Policy, and op-eds in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and International Herald Tribune. Economy is vice chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of China and serves on the board of the China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development. She is a frequent guest on nationally broadcast television and radio programs, has testified before Congress on numerous occasions, and regularly consults for U.S. government agencies and companies. Economy is currently writing two books: one on China's rise and its geopolitical and strategic implications, and another, with Michael Levi, on China’s global quest for resources (forthcoming, Oxford University Press, 2013). Economy received her B.A. from Swarthmore College, her A.M. from Stanford University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. In 2008, she received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Vermont Law School. 

 I think Nina is right to identify a lack of shared vision as a serious challenge in the U.S.-China relationship. Unfortunately, I don’t think that at this point in time it is possible to have such a shared vision—beyond what we have always had, namely a stated commitment to peace and stability in the Asia Pacific and to free and open markets. I am fairly sure, for example, that part of our vision for the relationship includes a vastly reformed China (economically and politically)—probably in ways that the Chinese leadership is not interested in reforming, or at least not interested in reforming at the pace we would like. And China’s vision undoubtedly includes some changes in the U.S. role in the world that many here would find unpalatable.

In terms of what President Obama or the Secretary of State or Treasury could do within the very real constraints of our two countries’ differing visions and interests, I would suggest at a bare minimum laying out a plan for strengthening our economic relationship. It would be beneficial, for example, for both President Obama and soon-to-be-President Xi to lay out all the advantages that accrue from our bilateral trade to reinforce to people in both countries the benefits of working together. I don’t think either leader does even that much sufficiently. With that as a starting point, perhaps leaders in both countries could establish a two-three year time frame for completion of a bilateral investment treaty and a five to ten year negotiation period for a free trade agreement. We need to appreciate the benefits of the relationship and have concrete objectives for taking it to the next level.

To Dinda’s point about the growing talk of war and U.S. containment in China, it is really up to the Chinese leadership to manage this challenge. Frankly, to date, I don’t think that the Chinese leaders have seen it in their interest to dampen this type of rhetoric. In fact, at many points, the Chinese media have clearly stoked nationalism within the Chinese people. Belief within China that the United States is trying to contain China is not a function of the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute, it is a long-standing, frequently articulated perspective by some segments of society. Even U.S. efforts to work with China on environmental protection have been labeled in the past as efforts to keep China from growing economically. So while I agree that the United States should try to avoid giving substance to the Chinese containment narrative, I don't see this as primarily a U.S. responsibility. 

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.

Talk is cheap, and in a paradoxical way I think the Obama pivot to Asia — or rebalancing, as the administration preferred to rename it—sends the right signal to Beijing. To be sure, it is hard for any observer — even us, much less policy makers in Beijing—to figure out what American strategy really is.  I sometimes even wonder whether it’s possible for a country with two parties that alternate in power, three branches of government, fifteen fairly independent executive departments, and 535 entrepreneurial legislators, to have a coherent strategy. For that very reason, the strategy has to be revealed in practice before can be understood. In practice, U.S. policy since Nixon has been to welcome and even assist in the rise of China. At the same time, U.S. policy has been to maintain and not diminish our longstanding strategic position in Asia—the alliances, the naval presence, the troop deployments, and all the rest.

All the talk of war exhaustion, the budget deficit, the fiscal cliff, and the sequester, and of the impact of these things on the U.S. military have understandably led to doubts both here and in Asia about whether the U.S. will continue to sustain its position in Asia. The pivot intended to signal that it would. Time will tell whether it actually does.

Either way, the Chinese need to know where the U.S. really stands. It’s understandable that they will test the U.S. in rhetoric and in action to find out where Washington’s bottom line lies. We American observers will find out the answer along with China.

Orville Schell

Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. He is a former professor and Dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Schell is the author of fifteen books, ten of them about China, and a contributor to numerous edited volumes. His most recent books are Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century (Random House, 2013) (co-authored with John Delury), Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-La from the Himalayas to Hollywood (Metropolitan Books, 2000), The China Reader: The Reform Years (Vintage, 1998), and Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of China's Leaders (Simon & Schuster, 1994). He is also a contributor to such magazines as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Granta, Wired, Newsweek, Mother Jones, The China Quarterly, and The New York Review of Books.Schell graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University in Far Eastern History, was an exchange student at National Taiwan University in the 1960s, and earned a Ph.D. (Abd) at the University of California, Berkeley in Chinese History. He worked for the Ford Foundation in Indonesia, covered the war in Indochina as a journalist, and has traveled widely in China since the mid-1970s.He is a Fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University, a Senior Fellow at the Annenberg School of Communications at USC, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Schell was a Fellow at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and the recipient of many prizes and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Overseas Press Club Award, and the Harvard-Stanford Shorenstein Prize in Asian Journalism.

I’ve just arrived in Beijing to catch the waning fireworks of the Chinese New Year celebrations, smack in the middle of an interim time bracketed by the two big official congresses, the first held by the Party last November and the second scheduled for the government to make its leadership transition this March. There’s a feeling in the air that big policy issues have been left waiting. U.S.-China relations are among those challenges left hanging. Indeed, with the U.S. election, President Obama's cabinet shuffle, and the ongoing game of musical chairs churning the White House and the Department of State, the same can be said of the climate in Washington.

So, Nina Hachigian’s description of U.S.-China relations as lacking any new, clear vision remains true. At the same time, there are areas of worrisome tension growing, especially around maritime issues. Even though Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, China’s next president, has said that he would like to see U.S.-China relations have a fresh start, it is unlikely that there will be a major “re-set” any time soon. Both Beijing and Washington seem far too root-bound by their own issues and inner- and inter-party politics to step out boldly into any kind of new mutual foreign policy framework.



However, what can at least happen—and should happen—is an effort by both presidents Obama and Xi to make contact as soon as possible to affirm in a very public way their intentions to upgrade and then carefully cultivate a better bilateral relationship.


If President Obama’s charge is largely a symbolic one, the practical question of then managing the relationship should logically go to Vice President Biden, who has adequate rank, now knows Xi as well as any American official, is a voluble, good-hearted person who is perfectly matched to the task of thawing out the freeze of formality that often enshrouds U.S.-China exchanges. What the U.S. side has lacked these past few years is precisely a Hank Paulson-like, go-to, China person of sufficient stature with whom the Chinese feel comfortable. 

Of course, if such a scheme of things is going to be successful in establishing a more personal diplomatic synapse between the two countries, a person comparable in status must be levitated on the Chinese side. When Hillary Clinton tried to pinch hit in this role, she found herself pared with Dai Bingguo, which was not only a mismatch in terms of stature, but never really catalyzed itself into a truly “special relationship.” 



Simply put, if there are not going to be any big policy framework breakthroughs between the U.S. and China, the very least that we should have is two demonstrable custodians who have been specially designated on both sides to guide and oversee this crucial relationship.


Topics: 
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...
Elizabeth Economy is the C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The author of The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s...
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...
Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. He is a former professor and Dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate...

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

Chen Weihua, Dorinda Elliott & more
<p><em>On Monday, March 24, a thirteen-year veteran of Bloomberg News, <a href="http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/25/ex-bloomberg-editor-tells-why-he-left/?_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;ref=world&amp;_r=0...

Conversation

03.19.14

What Should Michelle Obama Accomplish on Her Trip to China?

Orville Schell, Vincent Ni & more
<p><em>Orville Schell:&nbsp; </em>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 <a href="http...

Conversation

03.10.14

Should China Support Russia in the Ukraine?

Alexander V. Pantsov, Alexander Lukin & more
<p><em>Alexander V. Pantsov:</em> 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...

Conversation

03.02.14

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

Kaiser Kuo, Hyeon-Ju Rho & more
<p><em>Reacting to departing U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke’s February 27 <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/id/54513468/ns/world_news-asia_pacific/t/us-envoy-stresses-human-rights-china-farewell-speech/" target="_blank"...

Conversation

02.27.14

How Responsible Are Americans for China’s Pollution Problem?

David Vance Wagner, Alex Wang & more
<p><em>David Vance Wagner</em>: China’s latest “airpocalypse” has again sent air pollution in Beijing <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-02/24/c_133138773.htm" target="_blank">soaring...

Conversation

02.22.14

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

Isabel Hilton, Donald Clarke & more
<p><em>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"...

Conversation

02.19.14

China in ‘House of Cards’

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

Conversation

02.13.14

Are Ethnic Tensions on the Rise in China?

Enze Han, James Palmer & more
<p><em>On December 31, President Xi Jinping <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QobjqUTdahQ" target="_blank">appeared</a> on CCTV and extended his “New Year’s wishes to Chinese of all ethnic groups.”...

Conversation

02.05.14

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

Nicholas Lemann, Michel Hockx & more
<p><em>Last week, the White House said it was <a href="http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/237720/white-house-very-disappointed-nyt-reporter-was-forced-to-leave-china/" target="_blank">“very...

Conversation

01.27.14

China’s Offshore Leaks: So What?

Paul Gillis & Robert Kapp
<p><em>Two recent stories by the <a href="http://www.icij.org/" target="_blank">International Consortium of Investigative Journalists</a> detailed China’s elite funneling money out of China to tax havens...

Conversation

01.21.14

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

Edward Friedman, Geoff Dyer & more
<p><em>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 <a href="http...

Conversation

01.06.14

Will Xi Jinping Bring a Positive New Day to China?

Paul Mooney, Andrew J. Nathan & more
<p><em>Chinese President Xi Jinping, just over a year in office, recently made a rare appearance in public in a Beijing restaurant, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVKD9Bs-7Fg" target="_blank">buying a...

Conversation

12.17.13

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

Pin Ho & Richard McGregor
<p><em>Pin Ho:</em></p><p>[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...

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
<p><em>Susan Shirk:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

11.27.13

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

Chen Weihua, James Fallows & more
<p><em>Chen Weihua:</em></p><p>The Air Defense Identification Zone (<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25062525" target="_blank">ADIZ</a>) is not a Chinese invention. The...

Conversation

11.24.13

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

Mary Kay Magistad & Robert Kapp
<p><em>Mary Kay Magistad:</em> Gary Locke succeeded in a way that few U.S. ambassadors to China have—in improving public perceptions of U.S. culture.&nbsp; Locke’s down-to-earth approachability and lack of ostentation certainly...

Conversation

11.19.13

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

Leta Hong Fincher, Vincent Ni & more
<p><em>Leta Hong Fincher:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

11.12.13

Spiked in China?

John Garnaut, Sidney Rittenberg & more
<p>Last weekend,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/09/world/asia/bloomberg-news-is-said-to-curb-articles-that-might-anger-china.html" target="_blank"><em>The New York Times</em></a>...

Conversation

10.30.13

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

Wang Feng & Jeremy Goldkorn
<p><em>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 <a href="...

Conversation

10.25.13

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

Barry Naughton, Shai Oster & more
<p><em>Following are ChinaFile Conversation participants’ reactions to <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/article/china-superpower-or-superbust-9269?page=1" target="_blank">“China: Superpower or Superbust?”...

Conversation

10.22.13

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

Alex Wang, Isabel Hilton & more
<p><em>Alex Wang:</em></p><p>On Sunday, the start of the winter heating season in northern China brought the <a href="http://www.chinafile.com/airpocalypse-now-china-tipping-point" target="_blank...

Conversation

10.16.13

Uncomfortable Bedfellows: How Much Does China Need America Now?

Bill Bishop, David Schlesinger & more
<p><em>Bill Bishop:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

10.10.13

CCTV Network News Broadcast

<p>Following is a transcript of the network news <a href="http://news.cntv.cn/2013/10/01/VIDE1380638280415972.shtml%20" target="_blank">broadcast</a> of China Central Television on September 30, 2013:</p>...

Conversation

10.08.13

Obama’s Canceled Trip to Asia: How Much Did It Matter?

Winston Lord, Susan Shirk & more
<p><em>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...

Conversation

10.07.13

Why Is Xi Jinping Promoting Self-Criticism?

Stephen C. Angle & Taisu Zhang
<p>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,...

Conversation

09.27.13

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

Jonathan Landreth, Michael Berry & more
<p><em>Jonathan Landreth:</em></p><p>Chinese writer and director Jia Zhangke’s <em>A Touch of Sin</em> won the prize for the best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Though the dialogue and its...

Conversation

09.24.13

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

Stanley Rosen, Jonathan Landreth & more
<p><em>Stanley Rosen:</em></p><p>Wang Jianlin, who personally doesn’t know much about film, made a splash when he <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-21/china-s-wanda-group-to-buy-amc-cinema-chain-for...

Conversation

09.17.13

What’s Behind China’s Recent Internet Crackdown?

Xiao Qiang, John Garnaut & more
<p><em>Last weekend, Charles Xue Manzi, a Chinese American multi-millionaire investor and opinion leader on one of China’s most popular microblogs, <a href="http://news.cntv.cn/2013/09/15/VIDE1379202482346211.shtml?utm_source=The...

Conversation

09.13.13

What Can China and Japan Do to Start Anew?

Paula S. Harrell & Chen Weihua
<p><em>Paula S. Harrell:</em></p><p>While the media keeps its eye on the ongoing Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/10/japan-workers-disputed-islands-china"...

Conversation

09.09.13

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

Chen Weihua, Vincent Ni & more
<p><em>Chen Weihua:<br /></em></p><p>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...

Conversation

09.05.13

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

Orville Schell, John Delury & more
<p><em>Orville Schell:</em><br /><br />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...

Conversation

08.28.13

Beijing, Why So Tense?

Andrew J. Nathan, Isabel Hilton & more
<p><em>Andrew Nathan:</em><br /><br />I think of the Chinese leaders as holding a plant spritzer and dousing sparks that are jumping up all around them.&nbsp; Mao made the famous remark, “A single spark can start a...

Conversation

08.21.13

Is Xi Jinping Redder Than Bo Xilai Or Vice Versa?

Michael Anti & Shai Oster
<p><em>Michael Anti:</em></p><p><strong>Competing for Redness: The Scarlet Bo vs the Vermilion Xi?</strong></p><p>Bo Xilai, the fallen Chinese princeling famous for leading a “Red Songs”...

Conversation

08.15.13

What Should China Do to Reverse its Tourism Deficit?

Leah Thompson, Damien Ma & more
<p>Recent news stories and industry studies show that fewer international visitors are choosing China as their destination. January-June <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/14/world/asia/china-foreign-tourism-falls-and-smog-may-be-...

Conversation

08.07.13

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

David Wertime, Duncan Clark & more
<p><em>David Wertime:</em></p><p>Simon Denyer’s recent article (<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-china-government-mines-public-opinion/2013/08/02/33358026-f2b5-11e2-ae43-b31dc363c3bf_story.html?...

Conversation

08.01.13

How Dangerous Are Sino-Japanese Tensions?

Jerome A. Cohen
<p>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...

Conversation

07.30.13

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

Arthur R. Kroeber, David Schlesinger & more
<p><em>Arthur Kroeber:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

07.25.13

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

Jerome A. Cohen, Andrew J. Nathan & more
<p><a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/25/us-china-politics-bo-idUSBRE96O01U20130725" target="_blank">China has charged disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai</a> with bribery, abuse of power and...

Conversation

07.23.13

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

Barry Naughton, James McGregor & more
<p><em>Barry Naughton:</em></p><p>Paul Krugman in a recent post (<a href="http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/20/how-much-should-we-worry-about-a-china-shock/" target="_blank">“How Much...

Conversation

07.18.13

Xu Zhiyong Arrested: How Serious Can Beijing Be About Political Reform?

Donald Clarke, Andrew J. Nathan & more
<p><em>Donald Clarke:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

07.16.13

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

Arthur R. Kroeber, Steve Dickinson & more
<p><span style="font-size: 13.3333339691162px; line-height: 1.538em;">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...

Conversation

07.09.13

What Is the “Chinese Dream” Really All About?

Stein Ringen, Jeremy Goldkorn & more
<p><em>Stein Ringen</em><em>:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

07.03.13

How Would Accepting Gay Culture Change China?

Fei Wang & Steven Jiang
<p><em>Last week's <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/06/26/us/annotated-supreme-court-decision-on-doma.html" target="_blank">U.S. Supreme Court decision</a> to strike down the core...

Conversation

06.27.13

Is Xi Jinping’s Fight Against Corruption For Real?

Roderick MacFarquhar, Winston Lord & more
<p><em>Roderick MacFarquhar:</em></p><p>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. &nbsp;...

Conversation

06.25.13

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

Matt Schiavenza
<p><em>Matt Schiavenza:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

06.21.13

How Should the World Prepare for a Slower China?

Arthur R. Kroeber & Patrick Chovanec
<p><strong>Get Ready for a Slower China</strong><br /><br />The 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...

Conversation

06.18.13

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

Shai Oster & Steve Dickinson
<p><em>For today’s ChinaFile Conversation we asked contributors to react to the following excerpt from an <a href="http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/789238.shtml">op-ed published on Monday June 17 in the</a><a...

Conversation

06.13.13

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

Tai Ming Cheung, Andrew J. Nathan & more
<p><em>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 <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/11/nsa-surveillance...

Conversation

06.11.13

What’s the Best Way to Advance Human Rights in the U.S.-China Relationship?

Nicholas Bequelin, Sharon Hom & more
<p><em>Nicholas Bequelin:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

06.06.13

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

Winston Lord, Orville Schell & more
<p><em>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...

Conversation

06.04.13

How Would Facing Its Past Change China’s Future?

David Wertime, Isabel Hilton & more
<p><em>David Wertime:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

05.29.13

What Should Obama and Xi Accomplish at Their California Summit?

Susan Shirk, Orville Schell & more
<p><em>Susan Shirk:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

05.23.13

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

Michael Kulma, Mark Frazier & more
<p><em>Mike Kulma:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

05.21.13

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

Orville Schell & Patrick Chovanec
<p><em>On Monday, within hours of the announcement that <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/20/us-usa-china-obama-idUSBRE94J0UQ20130520" target="_blank">Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet U.S...

Conversation

05.16.13

China: What’s Going Right?

Michael Zhao, James Fallows & more
<p><em>Michael Zhao:</em><br /><br />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...

Conversation

05.14.13

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

Alex Wang, John C. Balzano & more
<p>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.</p><p>But 7 years later as we...

Conversation

05.10.13

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

Rachel Beitarie, Massoud Hayoun & more
<p><em>Rachel Beitarie:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

05.07.13

Why Is a 1995 Poisoning Case the Top Topic on Chinese Social Media?

Rachel Lu, Andrew J. Nathan & more
<p>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...

Conversation

05.02.13

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

Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Susan Shirk & more
<p><em>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, <a href="http://www...

Conversation

04.30.13

What’s Really at the Core of China’s “Core Interests”?

Shai Oster, Andrew J. Nathan & more
<p><em>Shai</em> <em>Oster</em>:</p><p>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...

Conversation

04.25.13

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

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

Conversation

04.23.13

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

Orville Schell & Michael Kulma
<p><em>Orville Schell</em>:</p><p>When Stephen A. Schwarzman announced his new <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/schwarzman-scholars-in-china-2013-4" target="_blank">$300 million program...

Conversation

04.18.13

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

Patrick Chovanec, Barry Naughton & more
<p>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.</p><p>Instead of reining in credit to try to curb over-investment, Chinese authorities have...

Conversation

04.16.13

Why is China Still Messing with the Foreign Press?

Andrew J. Nathan, Isabel Hilton & more
<p>To those raised in the Marxist tradition, nothing in the media happens by accident.&nbsp; 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...

Conversation

04.11.13

Why Is Chinese Soft Power Such a Hard Sell?

Jeremy Goldkorn, Donald Clarke & more
<p><em>Jeremy Goldkorn:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

04.09.13

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

Winston Lord, Susan Shirk & more
<p><em>Winston Lord:</em></p><p>No.</p><p>&nbsp;</p>

Conversation

04.03.13

Bird Flu Fears: Should We Trust Beijing This Time?

David Wertime, Yanzhong Huang & more
<p><em>David Wertime:</em></p><p>A new strain of avian flu called H7N9 has <a href="http://www.who.int/csr/don/2013_04_03/en/index.html" target="_blank">infected at least seven humans and...

Conversation

04.02.13

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

Jeremy Goldkorn, Isabel Hilton & more
<p><em>Jeremy Goldkorn:</em></p><p>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 <a href="...

Conversation

03.28.13

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

Patrick Chovanec, Damien Ma & more
<p><em>Patrick Chovanec:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

03.26.13

Can China Transform Africa?

Jeremy Goldkorn, Isabel Hilton & more
<p><em>Jeremy Goldkorn:</em></p><p>The question is all wrong. China is already transforming Africa, the question is how China is transforming Africa, not whether it can. From the “<a href="http://www...

Conversation

03.19.13

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

Andrew J. Nathan & Ouyang Bin
<p>In his first <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/world/asia/li-keqiang-chinas-premier-offers-plan-of-economic-and-social-reforms.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">press conference</a>...

Conversation

03.15.13

Is the One Child Policy Finished—And Was It a Failure?

Dorinda Elliott, Alexa Olesen & more
<p><em style="border-style: initial; border-color: initial; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;">Dorinda Elliott:</em></p><p>China’s recent&nbsp;<a href="http://...

Conversation

03.13.13

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

Sun Yunfan, Orville Schell & more
<p><em>This week, the <a href="http://www.chinafile.com/blog" target="_blank">ChinaFile Conversation</a> is a call for reactions to an article about China's current generation gap, written by James...

Conversation

03.08.13

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

Dorinda Elliott & Bill Bishop
<p><em>Dorinda Elliott:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

03.06.13

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

Orville Schell, Susan Shirk & more
<p><em>Orville Schell:</em></p><p>What may end up being most significant about the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/06/world/asia/china-said-to-back-new-sanctions-against-north-korea.html" target=...

Conversation

03.01.13

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

Daniel H. Rosen, Orville Schell & more
<p><em>Daniel Rosen:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

02.27.13

How Long Can China Keep Pollution Data a State Secret?

Elizabeth Economy, Orville Schell & more
<p><em>Elizabeth Economy</em>:</p><p>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...

Conversation

02.22.13

Will Investment in China Grow or Shrink?

Donald Clarke & David Schlesinger
<p><em>Donald Clarke:</em></p><p>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...

Conversation

02.20.13

Cyber Attacks—What’s the Best Response?

James Fallows, Xiao Qiang & more
<p>With regular ChinaFile Conversation contributor <a href="http://www.chinafile.com/contributor/Elizabeth%20Economy" target="_blank">Elizabeth Economy</a> on the road, we turned to her colleague <a href=...

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
<p><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">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...

Conversation

02.08.13

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

Andrew J. Nathan, Susan Shirk & more
<p><em>Andrew Nathan</em>:</p><p>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 <a href="%20http://...

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02.06.13

Airpocalypse Now: China’s Tipping Point?

Alex Wang, Orville Schell & more
<p>The recent run of air pollution in China, we now know, has been worse than the air quality in <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-30/beijing-air-akin-to-living-in-smoking-lounge-chart-of-the-day.html" target="...

Conversation

02.01.13

China’s Cyberattacks — At What Cost?

James Fallows, Donald Clarke & more
<p><em>James Fallows: </em>Here are some initial reactions on the latest <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/31/technology/chinese-hackers-infiltrate-new-york-times-computers.html?_r=0" target="_blank"...

Conversation

01.30.13

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

Orville Schell, John Delury & more
<p>How did the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaoyuki/Diaoyu" target="_blank">Diaoyu</a>, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...