breadcrumb

Will China Shut Out the Foreign Press?

Will China Shut Out the Foreign Press?

A ChinaFile Conversation

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 country. Visiting Beijing earlier this week, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden met reporters from The Times and Bloomberg and told them he had raised the issue in his meeting with China’s top leaders.  Next week in Washington, U.S. lawmakers will hold a roundtable under the auspices of the Congressional Executive Commission on China to discuss China’s treatment of the foreign press. We asked contributors to react to this news and suggest how the United States should respond.

UPDATE:

As we were editing the posts in this ongoing conversation, we contacted a New York Times reporter for an update on the situation in the Times’ Beijing and Shanghai bureaus. The following is from an email exchange with the reporter, who asked not to be named to avoid further complicating the visa delays faced by members of the Times’ China staff. —The Editors

After Vice-President Joe Biden took a forceful stand on the new threats against foreign journalists by China, some people have asked what exactly is different now. After all, foreign journalists in China have to apply at the end of every year for a renewal of their J-1 visa, which allows them to legally reside in the country, and there is sometimes uncertainty in the process. I recall a few instances in recent years where other correspondents, friends of mine, have had to wait until the last minute, as their visas inched toward expiration, before the authorities decided to process their renewal applications. In each case, the journalist had been given a stern, off-the-record lecture by officials at some point before the renewal process about their recent “negative” coverage or actions. And in each case, the journalist did think that expulsion was a possibility. They said the goal of the authorities was to coerce them into practicing self-censorship.

The actions being taken in recent weeks against The New York Times and Bloomberg News bring those tactics to a new level. For journalists at the Times, issuance of press cards — a government accreditation that must be renewed annually as the first step in the visa application process — stopped around November 13. That was the day that The Times published an investigative story on the business transactions between JPMorgan Chase and Wen Ruchun, the daughter of Wen Jiabao, the former prime minister. As Jill Abramson, our executive editor, has said in interviews this week, Chinese officials have in the last year admonished the paper’s correspondents and editors for reporting on the personal lives and family wealth of China’s leaders. Bloomberg News has received the same scoldings, for a series of stories it published last year. And both organizations have suffered what are in effect forms of economic sanctions, by having their websites blocked in China or, in the case of Bloomberg, terminal sales halted.

The process of getting a J-1 visa renewal can be confusing to an outsider. It goes in two stages at the end of every year — first, you get the new press card from the Foreign Ministry, then you apply for the visa itself. A few Times reporters applied for new press cards in the first week of November, when the process began, and received them within a week. In recent years, this has been the standard length of time it has taken foreign correspondents to renew press cards. The next step is to drop off a passport, copy of the new press card and other supporting documents at the Public Security Bureau’s entry-exit office, east of the Lama Temple. Officials there had said it would take fifteen working days this year to complete the processing of J-1 visas. In late November, the Times reporters who had submitted their paperwork were called back into the office and told to take back those documents—with no new visas inside their passports. Officials at the bureau told the reporters there was a problem, and that it was impossible to proceed.

This act of returning passports without visas during the renewal process had not happened before to any journalist I know. Along with the freeze on the issuance of press cards for Times reporters who had not gotten theirs earlier, this was a clear sign that the Times was in trouble. One Times journalist who showed up at the Foreign Ministry at the end of November to pick up his press card was told he could not get it, even though a ministry employee had called the bureau weeks earlier, before the publication of the Wen Ruchun story, to say the card was ready. The day he showed up, an employee at the front desk holding a card called out his name in Chinese, looked down at the card when he reached out for it, then scurried into an office and did not return. A second employee told him the card belonged to “another foreign journalist with the same name”—an unlikely scenario, to say the least.

Bloomberg is the other news organization dealing with the same problems right now. Between the two bureaus, two dozen journalists and their families are affected by the visa delay. In its scale, this campaign has no precedent. And officials no doubt intend for it to resonate with all journalists covering China. 

Do we fear expulsion? It’s impossible to discount the possibility, given what has happened in recent years to Melissa Chan, Andrew Higgins, Chris Buckley and Paul Mooney. Chris has been reporting for us from Hong Kong because China has yet to grant him a new J-1 visa. Our editors hired him from Reuters more than a year ago, and he was forced to leave China by Dec. 31 of last year when his visa for The Times did not materialize. In the cases of those journalists, there was little public outcry over their predicaments in the weeks before Chinese officials made decisions that forced them to leave the country or remain outside it. That is different now, since Vice President Biden and others have taken a vocal stand and have hinted at deeper repercussions. The United States government has firmly put this issue on the agenda.

We are all still reporting and writing stories. But as Chris did last year, we’re also looking around our homes and wondering what we might have to pack in our bags in the coming weeks, what farewells we might have to say. All of us believe that engagement with China is part of our mission, both personal and professional, and that we are one of many bridges between China and the rest of the world. Our work only reflects the proper nuances, texture and voices—in other words, the true nature of China—if we’re on the ground. Living inside China, we listen to the people here. I’m hopeful there are Chinese officials who see the value in that, and who will make the right decision.

Responses

 What does it take to stop us from appeasing China on this issue? For decades we have rolled over with gymnastic rationalizations, and the result has been increased Chinese squeezing, especially under Xi as part of his general, ominous crackdown.The tired arguments for appeasement have prevailed while the Chinese have gone from selective visa harassment to mass delays and turndowns and expulsions, and the American media starts sliding toward self-censorship a la Bloomberg.

It is good that Biden raised this in all his meetings and publicly. We will have to see if this has an effect, but the prospects are grim.

There are two ways to move China (and other countries) on difficult issues: appeal to self interest and apply appropriate pressures. I assume Biden did the former, including the argument of media portrayals when Beijing seeks greater soft power. While necessary, this alone is not apt to be sufficient, especially under Xi who has launched the most sweeping repression and censorship since Tiananmen Square. Chinese leaders are much more concerned about political control than China’s image abroad.

Assuming Biden’s efforts don’t bear fruit (real, not token), it is long past time to retaliate. I am in no position to know which specific steps would be most appropriate and effective. Two areas come to mind, however: our own visa policy and our treatment of Chinese media in the U.S.

On the former, we could start delaying and withholding visas concerning Chinese media personnel here. It might be better to apply this to Chinese media executives or visa granting officials rather than innocent journalists who seek a balanced view of America (when their editors permit this). It would be nice to find some people to expel, but they might be difficult to identify.

As for treatment of Chinese media here, this is relevant not only because of the treatment of our journalists, but also the jamming of websites, Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. Again, I leave the choices to insiders, but areas that come to mind for retaliation include CCTV, Chinese radio and China Daily propaganda inserts in our newspapers. In all cases we should make clear, on background, that these are strictly to counter Chinese policies, and have zero to do with peoples’ views or reporting.

I know the counter arguments: How about the principle of free speech? This is precisely what taking action is all about. How about Chinese retaliation? If one is frozen by this concern, the Chinese will continue to have a field day. Whether it’s Air Defense Identification Zones or any other important issue, acquiescence in the face of provocation will fuel further pushing of envelopes.

This is a rare case where I am rooting for this Congress to get in the game.

The Chinese have significantly stepped up their attempts to intimidate the foreign media over the past four years. Prior to the 2008 Olympics, China made some small concessions in order to win the Olympics. After the games were over, however, things began to slide backward. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs started to delay issuing visas to foreign journalists as a form of intimidation and also began to use other threats to silence us.

Over the last two years, Melissa Chan of Al Jazeera and I have been refused visas to work in China. In both of our cases, the Chinese offered no reason, other than to say it was in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations. If a law has been violated, Beijing should say what it is. The silence says it all.

During my last three years in China, police in charge of journalist visas tried to intimidate me, giving me six- and then three-month visas—instead the normal one-year visa—a practice I saw as a veiled threat. One year at renewal time, the visa police insisted I bring my wife to their office, where we were taken to a back room and asked personal questions by two police officers that had nothing to do with our visas, the object being to let us know they were aware of where we went and what we did. It was obvious from the conversation that we’d been followed.

Even worse, during the brief Jasmine Revolution in China, in February and March 2011, Stephen Engle, a reporter for Bloomberg Television, was beaten in public view on the streets of Beijing. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied this, despite the fact that a video proved the beating’s occurrence. In some cases around that time, police visited the homes of journalist friends of mine, warning them not to cover the silent protests. Some colleagues also told me that MOFA threatened to refuse to renew their visas if they went to the scene of the protests.

Working in China, our computers often are targeted with malware that is very likely coming from state agencies. More recently, friends have told me about being hauled into police stations, where police shouted at them and videoed them being interrogated.

This is not the behavior we expect from responsible nations.

The Chinese government is able to do all of this because foreign media organizations and governments have for the most part declined to speak out openly to criticize this treatment, instead relying on discussions behind closed doors. Something can be done, but it’s going to take more than just expressing displeasure. I’m not in favor of limiting the freedom of expression of Chinese journalists in the United States, but if the U.S. State Department also delayed the approvals of visas for Chinese journalists and media executives trying to work in the United States, there’s no doubt in my mind that Beijing would soon get the message, and that Beijing’s unacceptable behavior would stop. China has more than 700 state journalists working in the U.S., which is roughly triple the number of American reporters in China. Right now, there’s limited freedom of expression because for years we’ve allowed Beijing to act with impunity. Delaying visa approvals will limit the freedom of the Chinese media for a short period of time, but it will soon provide a far greater degree of freedom of the media on both sides than currently exists. We stand up for free trade, but take reciprocal action regarding trade issues. Why not do this with the media as well?

Is China really willing to see the bureaus of major U.S. news organizations shut down and thereby jeopardize relations with the United States? Will China be willing to allow it’s own reporters to be limited in their ability to report on the United States? I expect that the Chinese will delay approving the visas for The New York Times and Bloomberg journalists until the final days of this year, and may even give shorter visas of a few months, as they did to me in the past. The hope is that this will be enough to frighten journalists into submission—the Chinese proverbial act of killing the chicken to scare the monkeys. And it’s working. One foreign journalist told me recently that he was delaying doing a sensitive story until his visa was approved later this month. How many journalists over the coming year will have second thoughts about reporting on certain issues?

The reality is that China’s tactics are not going to work in the long run. The Party’s problems are the result of its own failed and abusive policies, and these problems aren’t going to disappear by kicking out foreign journalists.  The widespread use of social media by China’s citizens has grown beyond Beijing’s ability to control it. Chinese citizens and journalists already are doing an excellent job of making injustices known throughout China and the world. Instead of attacking the foreign media, the Party needs to reflect on its own behavior and policies so it can see why there is so much reporting that leaves it embarrassed.

I’m not sure the U.S. can convince Beijing of the merits of a free press—not if by “Beijing” we mean the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party. The present squeeze the Party is putting on American reporters and media organizations working—or trying to work—in China reminds me of the pressure the Party exerted against both the U.S. Embassy itself and many foreign NGOs back in 2011 in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring. Then, scores of activities—cultural events, school programs, ambassadorial visits—sponsored by the U.S.Embassy and other Western missions were canceled or interfered with. The pressure then was also directed at Chinese citizens, who were detained, beaten or placed under house arrest for expressing ideas deemed to be too liberal.

Thankfully, then, Americans and the world could read all about this repression in The New York Times or on Bloomberg online. Maybe soon, that will not be so easy. The Times, for its part, has been steadfast and often brilliant in its coverage of China. At the moment, the Bloomberg record is more complicated, with some signs that the company may be trimming its political coverage to protect its lucrative, private sector business information stream. Both the Times and The Wall Street Journal have been hurt financially and journalistically by Beijing’s effectively blocking both companies’ ambitious Chinese-language Web sites.

The Chinese Communist Party continues to believe that its way of life and leadership is threatened from without, that China has certain “characteristics” that preclude  “Western” notions of free speech and human rights. Meanwhile, many Chinese people have already defined free speech, a free press and freedom of assembly as “universal” human rights. Vice President Joe Biden and the rest of the Obama administration might direct their efforts at persuading the CCP leaders that the existential threat to them is not from without—where most civilized nations have long issued reciprocal press credentials to foreign nationals—it is from within. It’s certainly not spring just now in Beijing, nor is it spring in many Arab capitals. But there is hope. And hope has a way of springing.

A U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty is near the top of the cooperation agenda for the two nations. It would be an important agreement for both sides, and China may in fact want it even more than the U.S. does.

One of the prerequisites for good investing is accurate information. If China tightens its restrictions on American journalists and/or if the U.S. retaliates by limiting P.R.C. journalists in the U.S., information flow will diminish markedly and businesses and governments on both sides will be unable to make informed investment decisions. Preaching to the Chinese about American values will not help move the Chinese on this issue, but making it about economics might.

The U.S. should link the journalist visa issue to the bilateral investment treaty negotiations by insisting the agreement contains language guaranteeing fair treatment of each others’ correspondents, a reciprocal number of journalist visas etc.

That message needs to come from the White House before the end of the year. If Beijing balks, then the Obama administration should call off the BIT talks.

May I respectfully suggest a broader frame for this discussion beyond the question — important though it is — of media freedom? As everyone knows, Perry Link and I have been denied visas to visit China since the publication of The Tiananmen Papers in 2001.  Many other academics have been denied visas for varying periods of time to punish them for unwelcome scholarly work.  Some have been punished not even for what they wrote but just for addressing unwelcome topics, such as Xinjiang.  Then there are reported attempts by Chinese diplomats to dissuade some universities from inviting certain speakers or from holding conferences on certain topics; reported interference by Chinese authorities in activities proposed by some universities that host Confucius Institutes; and, most concerning of all, proactive self-censorship by scholars in anticipation of potential Chinese government disapproval.  Beyond news media and academia, we hear of censorship and self-censorship in the movie industry and in Internet industries; among foundations and NGOs seeking to work in China; and among businesses, business advisors, and consultants in other fields who feel they need to preserve access in order to succeed in China.  I don’t think Beijing has a missionary impulse to export its model of authoritarian rule to other countries.  But without really trying, it has begun to extend its system of fear-enforced conformity to the West.  I think it is a trend worth resisting, not only in journalism but across the board.

I second what Andy Nathan writes, and would underscore his point that fear of blacklists induces “proactive self-censorship” in China scholars, especially younger ones who feel their careers might be at stake.  When self-censorship happens, the costs are not just to the scholars concerned but to their students and to the broader public who read what they write (or can’t read what they don’t write).

I feel ambivalent when friends who work in or near the U.S. government tell me they have been working, behind the scenes, to get me, Andy Nathan and others off of blacklists. Of course I feel grateful, but I also sense a misconception of the problem. Getting certain names off of blacklists solves some problems of research access for the people of those names; but the much larger problem of self-censorship that comes from fear of blacklists cannot be solved by removing names from blacklists.  The institition of the blacklist itself needs to go—or the fear will stay, and the accommodations in scholarship will stay.

The other side will say that the U.S. also denies visas. Yes, and it does so for several reasons.  But those reasons do not include attempts to control the ways in which the Chinese public perceives the U.S. (It’s almost funny to imagine U.S. visa officials trying to do this.) There is nothing parallel here.

You Americans have a very powerful tool at your disposal: you can revoke and deny visas. Use that tool.

Update: This tool does not have to be directed at journalists - it would be far more effective to squeeze executives at state owned media companies.

I am deeply concerned by the call for the United States to retaliate by limiting the number of Chinese journalists coming to work in and visit the United States.

This is wrong on multiple fronts.

First, we all know that two wrongs don’t make a right. Retaliation with a similar action only means that you endorse such action. It simply weakens your original argument for press freedom.

Second, it’s easy to simply label the Chinese news media as government propaganda. If you delve deep into the Chinese news media landscape today, it’s far more complicated than that, and it’s not black and white, just like China today. There are many Chinese journalists who are practicing the same professionalism and demonstrating the same courage as their counterparts in the U.S. and other countries.

Third, letting an increasing number of Chinese journalists work in the U.S. exposes them to the international news media and the news media in the U.S. It’s having a positive effect.

U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has proposed retaliation measures against Chinese journalists in years past, but his bill was never passed

I believe exactly the opposite should happen. The U.S. should invite more Chinese journalists to come to the U.S. to learn from their counterparts, whether it’s The New York Times, NPR, Democracy Now or Al-Jazeera America. That includes issuing visas to Chinese journalists (and journalists from any other countries) working in the U.S.

It’s just like having the 230,000 Chinese students enrolled in the U.S. colleges and universities. It’s bound to have a positive impact on their life. It’s also like the numerous fellowships and scholarships the U.S. government and private programs provide to Chinese students, scholars and journalists.

The Chinese journalists working in the U.S. bring a new perspective to the issues, whether it’s concerning China, China-U.S. relations or regional and global issues. It’s just like the growing international news media operating in the U.S. now. It’s a good thing. This is true regardless of the unique nature of the Chinese news media—its government ownership.

I cannot imagine a worse suggestion to the problem faced by The New York Times and Bloomberg News than limiting visas to Chinese journalists.

Following is a response we received by email from a veteran U.S.-based China scholar who asked not to be named for fear of being denied a visa to China:

I am glad to see that in saying “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” Chen Weihua agrees with the other commenters here that China’s action in denying visas is wrong; I look forward to an article or op-ed in the China Daily saying this.

At the same time, however, I can’t agree with the way he and others making similar arguments ground those arguments in simple and abstract moral maxims instead of informed analysis of the complex world as it is. We are told that you can’t defend freedom of the press by restricting freedom of the press. This is like saying that you can’t preserve peace by preparing for war. It sounds paradoxical at first, but once we go beyond first impressions to think a bit more, we can see that there may well be situations where that’s precisely what you can do. As for whether two wrongs make a right in this case, the question is entirely an empirical one. If threatening to withhold visas for Chinese journalists causes the Chinese government to change its visa policy for U.S. (and other) journalists, well, then, this policy will have made a right. The idea that such a threat “weakens your original argument for press freedom” misunderstands how policy is made. The Chinese government does not make visa policy for foreign journalists based on reasoned arguments for press freedom. It makes visa policy based on how it views its interests.

I understand the misgivings of those who feel uncomfortable with a retaliatory policy that restricts access to foreign journalists. The solution here is simple: let’s come up with a policy that does not involve restricting such access. I’m not sure why the discussion of this issue seems to take for granted that the choices are either to retaliate in kind or to do nothing. If China were to block U.S. soybean exports to China, would anyone think the U.S.’s only option was to retaliate by blocking Chinese soybean exports to the U.S.? The options are limitless and not confined simply to restricting visas to Chinese journalists.

This brings me to my last point: surely it is incumbent on any critic of the strategy of retaliation in kind to offer an alternative strategy for accomplishing the same end (unless of course they are satisfied with the status quo). But those who have objected to retaliation in kind (at least those I have read) have offered none at all, let alone one with a reasonable prospect of success. I am especially disappointed that Mr. Chen did not do so; given that he “cannot imagine a worse suggestion” than retaliation in kind, it should have been simple to come up with a better one.

I agree with Chen Weihua that it would not only be counter-productive, but a violation of the U.S.’s own most vaunted principles of a free press, to deny visas to Chinese journalists as a form of retaliation for the visa and access problems American journalists now confront in China. However, refusing to take this tit-for-tat approach raises a crucial question: What is the right approach?

I think that Vice President Biden’s raising this issue with Party Secretary General Xi Jinping and then meeting with American journalists in Beijing was a good start: It brought government attention to the issue, which both sides have different interests in resolving.

But before calling in any more governmental pressure, perhaps the major U.S. media outlets could get together on some civil society organization’s auspices, write a protest, send a delegation to Beijing, request a meeting with high-ranking officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Central Propaganda Department and the State Council’s Information Office, and then hold a very public press conference. In other words, having tried to find a remedy to this important impasse through private channels, begin to take their grievance.

U.S. media outlets have a legitimate need to see the access question resolved because without resolution they risk being unable to cover China in a responsible and comprehensive way. Moreover, being shut out of China damages their competitiveness as businesses in the global media market, which in turn raises the question of whether Chinese actions are not forms of trade discrimination that violate rules set forth by the W.T.O. and agreed to by China.

The last thing Chinese leaders should want is to find themselves at odds with the global press in the middle of a costly campaign to garner more “soft power” for China, a country which already wins very low marks from neighbors when it comes to trust, something Chinese officials tirelessly speak about when explaining what is wrong with foreign relations between them and other countries.

A new and high visibility public grievance brought before the W.T.O., or some other kind of restraint of trade challenge initiated by some of the world’s major media outlets against the Chinese Government for shutting down foreign company websites because they do not like their reportage, or, for preventing legitimate representatives of such companies— namely, journalists—from gaining access of China, will shatter Beijing’s chances at establishing “mutual trust” with its neighbors and only will cause China grave embarrassment and loss of face.

All this is coming precisely at the time when China has managed at last to reach the precipice of its long-desired level of global respect. After accomplishing so much over the last three and half decades in their progress toward becoming a daguo, a “big power,” that seeks a “new great power relationship” with the U.S., this is not the way constructive partners act. Denying access to the foreign correspondents from either country is behavior, as Chen Weihua suggests, that would be wrong if engaged in by the U.S., and it is equally wrong, not to say counter-productive when engaged in by China.

The only way for to China to win its historical struggle to become a respected rising power is to conduct itself in a manner that is fully deserving of respect. Arbitrarily discriminating against media outlets whose reporters write well-researched and accurate reports about the leaders of any country is not a way to gain such respect. Otherwise the goal of respectability will remain elusive.

I very much like Orville’s ideas of bringing public pressure on the Chinese in the ways he suggests.The W.T.O. route is also okay to highlight the issue but would take forever as a trade remedy.

The comments so far all censure China and wring hands, but most,aside from Orville’s, either offer no response to Beijing or aim at the straw man of hurting Chinese journalists here. My original submission specifically said we might want to avoid these innocents who often try to report objectively when their editors let them. What about other targets such as Chinese media executives or visa officials? I also pointed to other issues such as website blocking and jamming of our radios, and cited the field day CCTV, Chinese radio and China Daily have in our media. What should we do on these fronts?

And if efforts like Orville’s good ideas fail?

I asked what would it take to stop appeasing the Chinese on these issues. Apparently we still have a ways to go.

First, as someone who has worked closely with Chinese journalists, both inside and outside of China, I’d like to agree with my friend Chen Weihua when he says that many of those journalists have exhibited growing professionalism, and have become, if not totally independent of their Press and Propaganda cadres, then at least more adept at looking at the situation on the ground, both at home and abroad, and reporting what they see and hear, not purely the Party line. This has been something of a long march, and sometimes a dangerous one for the Chinese reporters and editors so inclined.

As it is, there are already substantially more visa-holding Chinese reporters and editors working in the U.S. than there are visa-holding American reporters and editors working in China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. I am encouraged that some of our Chinese colleagues are improving their professional skills and even becoming somewhat more independent of the propaganda bureaucracy. But, right now, there are some two dozen American reporters being threatened directly with visa denials by the Chinese government. Before we even think of letting in larger numbers of Chinese reporters, let’s make certain that responsible Chinese officials take their wildly ill-advised threat off the table and return to handling news coverage between our two countries in a professional and statesmanlike manner. Then, to paraphrase Mao, let a hundred flowers bloom, at least on the foreign news front.

ChinaFile is a new not-for-profit, English-language, online magazine published by the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society. We hope to help facilitate a broad, well-informed, nuanced,...
Winston Lord was U.S. Ambassador to China from 1985 to 1989. He was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs in 1993. Before assuming his duties, Ambassador Lord...
Paul Mooney is an American freelance journalist who has reported on China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong since 1985. His articles have appeared in Newsweek, The Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, The...
As Executive Editor of Newsweek International, Ron Javers was responsible for the editorial oversight of all of Newsweek’s worldwide editions, most of which he created and launched. In 2003, working...
Bill Bishop is an American who lives in Beijing. He is the writer of the blogs Sinocism, where he collects links to news and interest pieces on China, and Digicha, where he writes about Chinese...
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...
Perry Link is Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies at Princeton University and Chancellorial Chair for Teaching Across Disciplines at the University of California at Riverside. He has published...
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...
Chen Weihua is a columnist and chief Washington correspondent for China Daily and the Deputy Editor of China Daily USA. He was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University from 2004 to 2005, a World Press...
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...

Conversation

10.31.14

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

CHEN WEIHUA & HUGH WHITE

Next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing (November 5-11) between Presidents Xi Jinping, Barack Obama, and other leaders from around the world, is billed as the Chinese capital's highest-profile international event since the 2008 Olympics. Local law...

Conversation

10.23.14

Are China’s Economic Reforms Coming Fast Enough?

DANIEL H. ROSEN, DAVID HOFFMAN & more

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

Conversation

10.17.14

Rule of Law—Why Now?

IRA BELKIN, DONALD CLARKE & more

In a recent essay, “How China’s Leaders Will Rule on the Law,” Carl Minzner looks at the question of why China’s leaders have announced they will emphasize rule of law at the upcoming Chinese Communist Party plenum slated to take place in Beijing October 20-23. Why have...

Conversation

10.14.14

Will Asia Bank on China?

ZHA DAOJIONG, DAMIEN MA & more

Last week The New York Times reported U.S. opposition to China's plans to launch a regional development bank to rival the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. If, as some say, the the launch is a fait accompli, should Washington focus instead on figuring how how best to...

Conversation

10.01.14

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

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN, SEBASTIAN VEG & more

Over the past week, tens of thousands of Hong Kong people have occupied the streets of their semi-autonomous city to advocate for the democratic elections slated to launch in 2017. The pro-democracy protestors have blocked major roads in the downtown area and police fired teargas...

Conversation

09.26.14

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

RICHARD BERNSTEIN, ELY RATNER & more

Richard Bernstein: Of course, they should.  But can they?  Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in the United States, China has defined almost any dissent from its policies there as examples of international terrorism.  It has also consistently tried to win western...

Conversation

09.19.14

China and Climate Change: What’s Next?

ANGEL HSU & BARBARA A. FINAMORE

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

Conversation

09.12.14

Is a Trade War with China Looming?

ARTHUR R. KROEBER & DONALD CLARKE

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

Conversation

09.02.14

Hong Kong—Now What?

DAVID SCHLESINGER, MEI FONG & more

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

Conversation

08.11.14

Simon Leys Remembered

ISABEL HILTON, PERRY LINK & more

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

Conversation

07.31.14

Zhou Yongkang’s Downfall

SEBASTIAN VEG, RODERICK MACFARQUHAR & more

On July 29, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Chinese Communisty Party announced it was investigating ex-security czar Zhou Yongkang “on suspicion of grave violations of discipline.” Zhou, who retired from the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012, is the...

Conversation

07.24.14

Alibaba: How Big a Deal Is It?

DAVID WOLF, DUNCAN CLARK & more

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

Conversation

07.17.14

How to Read China’s New Press Restrictions

DAVID SCHLESINGER, ORVILLE SCHELL & more

On June 30, China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television posted a statement on its website warning Chinese journalists not to share information with their counterparts in the foreign press corps. Most major non-Chinese news organizations rely...

Conversation

07.09.14

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

WILLIAM ADAMS & ZHA DAOJIONG

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew are in Beijing this week for the sixth session of the high level bilateral diplomatic exchange known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue. We asked contributors what's likely to happen and what's at stake.—The...

Conversation

07.01.14

The Debate Over Confucius Institutes PART II

GREGORY B. LEE, MICHAEL HILL & more

Last week, ChinaFile published a discussion on the debate over Confucius Institutes–Chinese language and culture programs affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education—and their role on university campuses. The topic, and several of the responses we posted, resulted in...

Conversation

06.23.14

The Debate Over Confucius Institutes

ROBERT KAPP, JEFFREY WASSERSTROM & more

Last week, the American Association of University Professors joined a growing chorus of voices calling on North American universities to rethink their relationship with Confucius Institutes, the state-sponsored Chinese-language programs whose policies critics say are...

Conversation

06.11.14

Is a Declining U.S. Good for China?

ZHA DAOJIONG, GORDON G. CHANG & more

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

Conversation

06.02.14

25 Years On, Can China Move Past Tiananmen?

XU ZHIYUAN, ARTHUR WALDRON & more

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

Conversation

05.19.14

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

ROBERT DALY, CHEN WEIHUA & more

On Monday, the United States Attorney General Eric Holder accused China of hacking American industrial giants such as U.S. Steel and Westinghouse Electric, making unprecedented criminal charges of cyper-espionage against Chinese military officials. Almost immediately,...

Conversation

05.09.14

The China-Vietnam Standoff: How Will It End?

DANIEL KLIMAN, ELY RATNER & more

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

Conversation

05.07.14

How is China Doing in Africa?

TENDAI MUSAKWA, KATHLEEN MCLAUGHLIN & more

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

Conversation

04.30.14

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

WILLIAM ADAMS, DAMIEN MA & more

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

Conversation

04.22.14

What Obama Should Say About China in Japan

YUKI TATSUMI, ELY RATNER & more

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

Conversation

04.12.14

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

ELY RATNER, HUGH WHITE & more

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

Conversation

04.06.14

Spy Vs. Spy: When is Cyberhacking Crossing the Line?

VINCENT NI, CHEN WEIHUA & more

Vincent Ni: For a long time, Huawei has been accused by some American politicians of “spying on Americans for the Chinese government,” but their evidence has always been sketchy. They played on fear and possibility. I don’t agree or disagree with them, but when Chinese...

Conversation

03.26.14

The Bloomberg Fallout: Where Does Journalism in China...

CHEN WEIHUA, DORINDA ELLIOTT & more

On Monday, March 24, a thirteen-year veteran of Bloomberg News, Ben Richardson, news editor at large for Asia, resigned. A few days earlier, company Chairman Peter Grauer said that the news and financial information services company founded in 1981 by Michael Bloomberg "had" to...

Conversation

03.19.14

What Should Michelle Obama Accomplish on Her Trip to...

ORVILLE SCHELL, VINCENT NI & more

Orville Schell:  Looking at the challenges of rectifying U.S.-China relations and building some semblance of the "new kind of a big power relationship" alluded to by presidents Obama and Xi at Sunnylands last year, will most certainly require a multi-stage ongoing effort....

Conversation

03.10.14

Should China Support Russia in the Ukraine?

ALEXANDER V. PANTSOV, ALEXANDER LUKIN & more

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

Conversation

03.02.14

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

KAISER KUO, HYEON-JU RHO & more

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.” —The EditorsKaiser Kuo: Banana or Twinkie for “white-on-...

Conversation

02.27.14

How Responsible Are Americans for China’s Pollution...

DAVID VANCE WAGNER, ALEX WANG & more

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

Conversation

02.22.14

What Can the Dalai Lama’s White House Visit Actually...

ISABEL HILTON, DONALD CLARKE & more

On February 21, the Dalai Lama visited United States President Barack Obama in the White House over the objections of the Chinese government. Beijing labels the exiled spiritual leader a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who seeks to use violence to free Tibet from Chinese rule. The...

Conversation

02.19.14

China in ‘House of Cards’

STEVEN JIANG, DONALD CLARKE & more

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

Conversation

02.13.14

Are Ethnic Tensions on the Rise in China?

ENZE HAN, JAMES PALMER & more

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

Conversation

02.05.14

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

NICHOLAS LEMANN, MICHEL HOCKX & more

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

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.—The Editors

Conversation

01.21.14

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

THE EDITORS, EDWARD FRIEDMAN & more

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

Conversation

12.17.13

Why Is China Purging Its Former Top Security Chief,...

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 unimaginably huge...

Conversation

12.03.13

What Posture Should Joe Biden Adopt Toward A Newly...

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 secretary he served as vice...

Conversation

11.27.13

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

CHEN WEIHUA, JAMES FALLOWS & more

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

Conversation

11.24.13

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

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 initiatives of shortening waits for U.S....

Conversation

11.19.13

What Will the Beginning of the End of the One-Child...

LETA HONG FINCHER, VINCENT NI & more

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

Conversation

11.12.13

Spiked in China?

JOHN GARNAUT, SIDNEY RITTENBERG & more

Last weekend, The New York Times and later, The Financial Times reported that, according to Bloomberg News employees, Bloomberg editor in chief Matthew Winkler informed reporters by telephone on October 29 that Bloomberg would not publish their...

Conversation

10.30.13

Trial By TV: What Does a Reporter’s Arrest and...

THE EDITORS, WANG FENG & more

The Editors: 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 then, last...

Conversation

10.25.13

Can State-Run Capitalism Absorb the Shocks of ‘...

THE EDITORS, BARRY NAUGHTON & more

The Editors: 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 shocks to...

Conversation

10.22.13

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

ALEX WANG, ISABEL HILTON & more

Alex Wang:On Sunday, the start of the winter heating season in northern China brought the “airpocalypse” back with a vengeance.Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang Province and home to 11 million people, registered fine particulate (PM2.5) pollution levels beyond 500, the top...

Conversation

10.16.13

Uncomfortable Bedfellows: How Much Does China Need...

BILL BISHOP, DAVID SCHLESINGER & more

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

Conversation

10.08.13

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

WINSTON LORD, SUSAN SHIRK & more

Last week as the U.S. Federal Government shut down, President Obama canceled his planned trip to Indonesia and Brunei, where he was to have attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bali. Some foreign policy analysts have argued 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...