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.


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.


 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.

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...





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



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

Allen Carlson, Zha Daojiong
Last week, Akio Takahara, a professor at the University of Tokyo currently visiting Peking University, wrote a New York Times Op-Ed praising recent diplomatic efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and Chinese President Xi Jinping to deflect power from their nations’ nationalists. But it is in people-to-people contact that sustainable peace between the two northeast Asian powers lies, Takahara said, prompting the question, “What must China and Japan do to get along in 2015?”



Can China Conquer the Internet?

David Bandurski, Jeremy Goldkorn, Rogier Creemers, Xiao Qiang, Jason Q. Ng

Lu Wei, China’s new Internet Czar, recently tried to get the world to agree to...



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

Deborah Seligsohn, Orville Schell, Joanna Lewis

Last week, Ann Carlson and Alex Wang, environmental experts at UCLA Law School, called the November 12 U.S.-...



Xi Jinping’s Culture Wars

Stanley Rosen, Michael Berry, Jindong Cai , Sheila Melvin

Given China’s tightening restrictions on film, TV, art, writing, and journalism, and the reverberations from President...



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

Chen Weihua, Hugh White , Wu Jianmin, Graham Webster

Next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing (November 5-11) between Presidents Xi Jinping, Barack Obama, and other...



Are China’s Economic Reforms Coming Fast Enough?

Daniel H. Rosen, David Hoffman, Houze Song, Piin-Fen Kok

Economic data show a slowdown in China. At least two opposing views of what’s next for the world’s largest...



Rule of Law—Why Now?

Ira Belkin, Donald Clarke, Jerome A. Cohen, Harry Harding, Li Ling, Margaret Lewis, Keith Hand

In a recent essay, “How China’s Leaders Will Rule on the Law,” Carl Minzner looks at the question of why China’s...



Will Asia Bank on China?

Zha Daojiong, Damien Ma, Wu Jianmin

Last week The New York Times reported U.S. opposition to China’s plans...



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

Nicholas Bequelin, Sebastian Veg, David Schlesinger, Fu Hualing, Wong How Man, Teng Biao

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...



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

Richard Bernstein, Ely Ratner, Jeffrey Payne, James Palmer, Fu Hualing, Julia Famularo

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...



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...



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...



Hong Kong—Now What?

David Schlesinger, Mei Fong, Nicholas Bequelin

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...



Simon Leys Remembered

Isabel Hilton, Perry Link, Ian Buruma, Orville Schell

Isabel Hilton: When I heard the news of the death of Pierre Ryckmans, better known by his pen name,...



Zhou Yongkang’s Downfall

Sebastian Veg, Roderick MacFarquhar, Taisu Zhang, Richard McGregor, Zha Daojiong, Andrew Wedeman
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 first member of that body, the Party’s elite inner circle, to face such an inquest for corruption and abuses of power. We asked contributors for their reactions to the news.—The Editors



Alibaba: How Big a Deal Is It?

David Wolf, Duncan Clark, The Editors

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,...



How to Read China’s New Press Restrictions

David Schlesinger, Orville Schell, Rogier Creemers, Wen Yunchao

On June 30, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television posted a statement on its website warning Chinese...



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...



The Debate Over Confucius Institutes PART II

Gregory B. Lee, Michael Hill, Zha Daojiong, Stephen E. Hanson, Mary Gallagher, Marshall Sahlins, Mobo Gao , Alan R. Kluver, Avery Goldstein

Last week, ChinaFile published a discussion on the debate over Confucius Institutes–Chinese language and culture programs affiliated...



The Debate Over Confucius Institutes

Robert Kapp, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Perry Link, Winston Lord, Jerome A. Cohen, Isabel Hilton, Jonathan Mirsky, Steven I. Levine, David Wertime, Matteo Mecacci

Last week, the American Association of University Professors joined a growing...



Is a Declining U.S. Good for China?

Zha Daojiong, Gordon G. Chang, Ian Buruma, Hugh White , Chen Weihua, Peter Gries, Wu Jianmin

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.




25 Years On, Can China Move Past Tiananmen?

Xu Zhiyuan, Arthur Waldron, Ying Chan

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...



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

Robert Daly, Chen Weihua, Rogier Creemers, Jon R. Lindsay, Graham Webster, Tai Ming Cheung

On Monday, the United States Attorney General Eric Holder accused China of hacking American industrial...



The China-Vietnam Standoff: How Will It End?

Daniel Kliman, Ely Ratner, Orville Schell, Susan Shirk, Carlyle A. Thayer, Edward Friedman

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...



How is China Doing in Africa?

Tendai Musakwa, Kathleen McLaughlin, Cobus van Staden

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...



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

William Adams, Damien Ma, Zha Daojiong, Arthur R. Kroeber , Derek Scissors, Taisu Zhang

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...



What Obama Should Say About China in Japan

Yuki Tatsumi, Ely Ratner, Dan Blumenthal, Shogo Suzuki, Edward N. Luttwak, June Teufel Dreyer, Jerome A. Cohen, Wu Jianmin, Edward Friedman

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...



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

Ely Ratner, Hugh White , Isaac Stone Fish, M. Taylor Fravel

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s whirlwind tour of China this week saw a...



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

Vincent Ni, Chen Weihua, Andrew J. Nathan, Jerome A. Cohen

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...



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

Chen Weihua, Dorinda Elliott, David Schlesinger, David Bandurski, Ouyang Bin, Jeremy Goldkorn, Pin Ho, Ron Javers

On Monday, March 24, a thirteen-year veteran of Bloomberg News, ...



What Should Michelle Obama Accomplish on Her Trip to China?

Orville Schell, Vincent Ni, Leta Hong Fincher, Elizabeth Economy, Robert Kapp, Jindong Cai , Sheila Melvin

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...



Should China Support Russia in the Ukraine?

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

Alexander V. Pantsov: The Chinese Communist Party leadership has always maintained: “China believes in non-interference in internal affairs.” In the current Ukrainian situation it is the most we can expect from the P.R.C. because it is...



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

Kaiser Kuo, Hyeon-Ju Rho, Sidney Rittenberg, Andrew J. Nathan, Chen Weihua, Shen Dingli, Robert Kapp, Donald Clarke

Reacting to departing U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke’s February 27 farewell news...



How Responsible Are Americans for China’s Pollution Problem?

David Vance Wagner, Alex Wang, Elizabeth Economy, Isabel Hilton, Michael Zhao, Veerabhadran Ramanathan

David Vance Wagner: China’s latest “airpocalypse” has again sent air pollution in Beijing soaring to hazardous levels for...



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

Isabel Hilton, Donald Clarke, Robert Thurman, Matteo Mecacci, Vincent Ni, Edward Friedman

On February 21, the Dalai Lama visited United States President Barack Obama in the White House over the objections of the Chinese government. Beijing labels the exiled spiritual leader a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who seeks to use...



China in ‘House of Cards’

Steven Jiang, Donald Clarke, Kaiser Kuo, Evan Osnos

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



Are Ethnic Tensions on the Rise in China?

Enze Han, James Palmer, Robert Barnett, Nicholas Bequelin, James A. Millward, Rachel Harris, James Leibold, Uradyn E. Bulag, Nathan Hill, Elliot Sperling

On December 31, President Xi Jinping appeared on CCTV and extended his “New Year’s wishes to Chinese of all ethnic groups.” On January 15, Beijing...



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

Nicholas Lemann, Michel Hockx, Winston Lord, Matt Schiavenza, James Fallows, David Schlesinger, Paul Mooney, Orville Schell, Arthur Waldron

Last week, the White House said it was “very disappointed” in China for denying a visa to...



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...



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

Edward Friedman, Geoff Dyer, John Delury, Taisu Zhang, Elbridge Colby, Ely Ratner

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



Will Xi Jinping Bring a Positive New Day to China?

Paul Mooney, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell, Edward Friedman, Robert Kapp, The Editors

Chinese President Xi Jinping, just over a year in office, recently made a rare appearance in public in a Beijing restaurant, buying a cheap lunch and paying...



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

Pin Ho, Richard McGregor

Pin Ho:

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



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

Susan Shirk

Susan Shirk:

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



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

Chen Weihua, James Fallows, Tai Ming Cheung, Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt

Chen Weihua:

The Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is not a Chinese invention. The United States, Japan and some 20 other...



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

Mary Kay Magistad, Robert Kapp

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



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

Leta Hong Fincher, Vincent Ni, Isabel Hilton, Yong Cai

Leta Hong Fincher:

The Communist Party’s announcement that it will loosen the one-child policy is, of course, welcome news. Married couples will be allowed to have two children if only one of the spouses is an only child,...



Spiked in China?

John Garnaut, Sidney Rittenberg, Andrew J. Nathan, Dorinda Elliott, Vincent Ni, Jeremy Goldkorn, Emily Brill

Last weekend, The New York Times and later, ...



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

Wang Feng, Jeremy Goldkorn

The latest ChinaFile Conversation focuses on the case of Chen Yongzhou, the Guangzhou New Express journalist whose series of investigative reports exposed fraud at the Changsha, Hunan-based heavy machinery maker...



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

Barry Naughton, Shai Oster, Steve Dickinson, Gordon G. Chang

Following are ChinaFile Conversation participants’ reactions to “China: Superpower or Superbust?” in the November-...



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

Alex Wang, Isabel Hilton, Jeremy Goldkorn, Shai Oster

Alex Wang:

On Sunday, the start of the winter heating season in northern China brought the “airpocalypse” back with a...



Uncomfortable Bedfellows: How Much Does China Need America Now?

Bill Bishop, David Schlesinger, Arthur R. Kroeber , Robert Kapp, Isabel Hilton, Shai Oster

Bill Bishop:

The D.C. dysfunction puts China in a difficult place. Any financial markets turmoil that occurs because of a failure of Congress to do its job could harm China’s economy, and especially its exports. The...



CCTV Network News Broadcast

Following is a transcript of the network news broadcast of China Central Television on September 30, 2013:

央视网消息(新闻联播): ...



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

Winston Lord, Susan Shirk, Andrew J. Nathan, Michael Kulma

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



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...



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

Jonathan Landreth, Michael Berry, Jaime Wolf, Richard Peña, Sun Yunfan, Ying Zhu, Maya E. Rudolph

Jonathan Landreth:

Chinese writer and director Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin won the prize for the best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Though the dialogue and its fine translation and English subtitles...



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

Stanley Rosen, Jonathan Landreth, Vincent Ni, Michael Berry

Stanley Rosen:

Wang Jianlin, who personally doesn’t know much about film, made a splash when he...



What’s Behind China’s Recent Internet Crackdown?

Xiao Qiang, John Garnaut, Jeremy Goldkorn, Vincent Ni, Rogier Creemers, Isabel Hilton

Last weekend, Charles Xue Manzi, a Chinese American multi-millionaire investor and opinion leader on one of China’s most popular microblogs,...



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...



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

Chen Weihua, Vincent Ni, Massoud Hayoun

Chen Weihua:

Chinese truly believe that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. On the contrary, a U.S. air strike would only worsen the situation there. Chinese have seen many failures of U.S. intervention in...



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

Orville Schell, John Delury, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Peter C. Perdue, Joseph W. Esherick, Robert Kapp, Mary Kay Magistad

Orville Schell:

It is true that China is no longer beset by threats of foreign incursion nor is it a laggard in the world of economic development and trade. But being there and being steeped in an atmosphere of seemingly...



Beijing, Why So Tense?

Andrew J. Nathan, Isabel Hilton, Ouyang Bin, Shai Oster

Andrew Nathan:

I think of the Chinese leaders as holding a plant spritzer and dousing sparks that are jumping up all around them.  Mao made the famous remark, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.”  The leaders have seen...



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...



What Should China Do to Reverse its Tourism Deficit?

Leah Thompson, Damien Ma, Christine Lu

Recent news stories and industry studies show that fewer international visitors are choosing China as their destination. January-June...



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

David Wertime, Duncan Clark, Orville Schell, Ouyang Bin, Rogier Creemers, Ethan J. Leib

David Wertime:

Simon Denyer’s recent article (...



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...



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

Arthur R. Kroeber , David Schlesinger, Damien Ma, Steve Dickinson

Arthur Kroeber:

The environment for foreign companies in China has been getting steadily tougher since 2006, when the nation came to the end of a five-year schedule of market-opening measures it pledged as the price of...



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

Jerome A. Cohen, Andrew J. Nathan, John Garnaut

China has charged disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai with bribery, abuse of power and corruption, paving the way...



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

Barry Naughton, James McGregor, Arthur R. Kroeber , Gordon G. Chang

Barry Naughton:

Paul Krugman in a recent post (“How Much Should We Worry About a China Shock...



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

Donald Clarke, Andrew J. Nathan, Jeremy Goldkorn, Carl Minzner, Ira Belkin

Donald Clarke:

When I heard that Xu Zhiyong had just been detained, my first thought was, “Again?” This seems to be something the authorities do every time they get nervous, a kind of political Alka Seltzer to settle an upset...



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

Arthur R. Kroeber , Steve Dickinson, James Fallows, Damien Ma

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



What Is the “Chinese Dream” Really All About?

Stein Ringen, Jeremy Goldkorn, Robert Kapp

Stein Ringen:

I’m coming to the view that the ‘Chinese Dream’ is a signal from the leadership of great import that has much to say about the nature of the Chinese state. It is striking, in my opinion, how effectively and...



How Would Accepting Gay Culture Change China?

Fei Wang, Steven Jiang

Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the core provisions of the...



Is Xi Jinping’s Fight Against Corruption For Real?

Roderick MacFarquhar, Winston Lord, Bill Bishop, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell, Bill Bikales, William Overholt

Roderick MacFarquhar:

Xi Jinping’s overriding aim is the preservation of Communist party rule in China, as he made clear in speeches shortly after his elevation to be China’s senior leader.  Like his predecessors, he is...



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

Matt Schiavenza

Matt Schiavenza:

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



How Should the World Prepare for a Slower China?

Arthur R. Kroeber , Patrick Chovanec

Get Ready for a Slower China

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 tighten substantially in the...



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

Shai Oster, Steve Dickinson

For today’s ChinaFile Conversation we asked contributors to react to the following excerpt from an op-ed published on Monday June 17 in the...



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

Tai Ming Cheung, Andrew J. Nathan, Jeremy Goldkorn

Reports of U.S. gathering data on emails and phone calls have stoked fears of an over-reaching government spying on its citizens. Chinese artist...



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

Nicholas Bequelin, Sharon Hom, Joshua Rosenzweig, Andrew J. Nathan, Aryeh Neier, James J. Silk

Nicholas Bequelin:

The best way to advance human rights in the U.S.-China relationship is first and foremost to recognize that the engine of human rights progress in China today is the Chinese citizenry itself. Such progress...



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

Winston Lord, Orville Schell, J. Stapleton Roy, James Fallows

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



How Would Facing Its Past Change China’s Future?

David Wertime, Isabel Hilton, Ouyang Bin, Wu Guoguang, Dorinda Elliott, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell

David Wertime:

The memory of the 1989 massacre of protesters at Tiananmen Square remains neither alive nor dead, neither reckoned nor obliterated. Instead, it hangs spectre-like in the background, a muted but latently...



What Should Obama and Xi Accomplish at Their California Summit?

Susan Shirk, Orville Schell, David Wertime, Robert Kapp, Elizabeth Economy, Andrew J. Nathan, Winston Lord

Susan Shirk:

It’s an excellent idea for President Obama and President Xi to spend two days of quality time together at a private retreat in Southern California. Past meetings between Chinese and American presidents have been...



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

Michael Kulma, Mark Frazier, Susan Shirk

Mike Kulma:

Earlier this week at an Asia Society forum on U.S.-China economic relations, Dr. Henry Kissinger remarked that when the U.S. first started down the path of normalizing relations with China in the early 1970s, the...



China: What’s Going Right?

Michael Zhao, James Fallows, Orville Schell, Jeremy Goldkorn

Michael Zhao:

On a recent trip to China, meeting mostly with former colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, I got a dose of optimism and hope for one aspect of the motherland. In terms of science, or laying down a...



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

Alex Wang, John C. Balzano, Isabel Hilton, Alexa Olesen, Jeremy Goldkorn

The month my wife and I moved to Beijing in 2004, I saw a bag of oatmeal at our local grocery store prominently labeled: “NOT POLLUTED!” How funny that this would be a selling point, we thought.

But 7 years later as we prepared to...



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

Rachel Beitarie, Massoud Hayoun, Tai Ming Cheung

Rachel Beitarie:

Xi Jinping’s four point proposal for a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement is interesting not so much for its content, as for its source. While China has maintained the appearance of being involved in Middle...



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

Rachel Lu, Andrew J. Nathan, Susan Jakes, Dorinda Elliott, Sun Yunfan, Xiao Qiang, Jeremy Goldkorn, Shai Oster

With a population base of 1.3 billion people, China has no shortage of strange and gruesome crimes, but the attempted murder of Zhu Ling by thallium poisoning in 1995 is burning up China’s social media long after the trails have gone cold. Zhu, a...



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

Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Susan Shirk, Wang Yizhou

On April 30, as tensions around China’s claims to territories in the South- and East China Seas continued to simmer, we began what proved to be a popular ChinaFile Conversation, asking the question,...



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

Shai Oster, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell, Susan Shirk, Tai Ming Cheung, John Delury

Shai Oster:

It’s Pilates diplomacy—work on your core. China’s diplomats keep talking about China’s core interests and it’s a growing list. In 2011, China included its political system and social stability as core...



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

Jonathan Landreth, Ying Zhu, Jeremy Goldkorn, Shai Oster

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



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

Orville Schell, Michael Kulma

Orville Schell:

When Stephen A. Schwarzman announced his new $300 million program aimed at sending foreign scholars to...



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

Patrick Chovanec, Barry Naughton, Damien Ma

Slower Chinese GDP growth is not a bad thing if it’s happening for the right reasons. But it’s not happening for the right reasons.

Instead of reining in credit to try to curb over-investment, Chinese authorities have allowed a...



Why is China Still Messing with the Foreign Press?

Andrew J. Nathan, Isabel Hilton, Jonathan Landreth, Orville Schell, Dorinda Elliott

To those raised in the Marxist tradition, nothing in the media happens by accident.  In China, the flagship newspapers are still the “throat and tongue” of the ruling party, and their work is directed by the Party’s Propaganda Department....



Why Is Chinese Soft Power Such a Hard Sell?

Jeremy Goldkorn, Donald Clarke, Susan Jakes, David Shambaugh, Bill Bishop, Jonathan Landreth

Jeremy Goldkorn:

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



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

Winston Lord, Susan Shirk, Orville Schell, Michael Kulma, Ouyang Bin

Winston Lord:





Bird Flu Fears: Should We Trust Beijing This Time?

David Wertime, Yanzhong Huang, Isabel Hilton, Donald Clarke, Susan Jakes, Dorinda Elliott, James Fallows

David Wertime:

A new strain of avian flu called H7N9 has infected at least seven humans and killed three in provinces near the...



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

Jeremy Goldkorn, Isabel Hilton, David Wertime, Orville Schell

Jeremy Goldkorn:

On March 22, before the foreign media or Apple themselves seemed to have grasped the seriousness of the CCTV attacks on the Californian behemoth, I wrote a post on ...



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

Patrick Chovanec, Damien Ma, Donald Clarke, Barry Naughton

Patrick Chovanec:

This week’s news that Brazil and China have signed a $30 billion currency swap agreement gave a renewed boost to excited chatter over the rising influence of China’s currency, the renminbi (RMB)....



Can China Transform Africa?

Jeremy Goldkorn, Isabel Hilton, Donald Clarke

Jeremy Goldkorn:

The question is all wrong. China is already transforming Africa, the question is how China is transforming Africa, not whether it can. From the “...



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

Andrew J. Nathan, Ouyang Bin

In his first press conference after taking office as China’s new...



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

Dorinda Elliott, Alexa Olesen, Andrew J. Nathan, Ouyang Bin, Michael Zhao

Dorinda Elliott:

China’s recent decision to phase out the agency that oversees the one-child policy...



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

Sun Yunfan, Orville Schell, Damien Ma

This week, the ChinaFile Conversation is a call for reactions to an article about China’s current generation gap, written by James Palmer, a Beijing-based...



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

Dorinda Elliott, Bill Bishop

Dorinda Elliott:

At this week’s National People’s Congress, outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao proclaimed that the government kept housing prices from rising too fast. Really? I wonder what my 28-year-old Shanghainese friend Robert...



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

Orville Schell, Susan Shirk, Suzanne DiMaggio, Ouyang Bin, Winston Lord, John Delury

Orville Schell:

What may end up being most significant about the new draft...



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

Daniel H. Rosen, Orville Schell, Jonathan Landreth

Daniel Rosen:

There have not been many new topics in U.S.-China economic relations over the past decade: the trade balance, offshoring of jobs, Chinese holding of U.S. government debt, whether China’s currency is undervalued...



How Long Can China Keep Pollution Data a State Secret?

Elizabeth Economy, Orville Schell, Donald Clarke, Susan Shirk, Isabel Hilton

Elizabeth Economy:

The environment is center stage once again in China. A Chinese lawyer has requested the findings of a national survey on soil pollution from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and been denied on the...



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...



Cyber Attacks—What’s the Best Response?

James Fallows, Xiao Qiang, Bill Bishop, Tai Ming Cheung

With regular ChinaFile Conversation contributor Elizabeth Economy on the road, we turned to her colleague...



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

Dorinda Elliott, Elizabeth Economy, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell

Dorinda Elliott:

On a recent trip to China, I heard a lot of scary talk of potential war over the disputed Diaoyu Islands—this from both senior intellectual types and also just regular people, from an elderly calligraphy...



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

Winston Lord, Tai Ming Cheung, Elizabeth Economy, John Delury

China is increasingly frustrated with North Korea and may even see more clearly that its actions only serve to increase allied unity, stimulate Japanese militarism and accelerate missile defense. For all these...



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

Andrew J. Nathan, Susan Shirk, Donald Clarke, Barry Naughton

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...



Airpocalypse Now: China’s Tipping Point?

Alex Wang, Orville Schell, Elizabeth Economy, Michael Zhao, James Fallows, Dorinda Elliott

The recent run of air pollution in China, we now know, has been worse than the air quality in airport smoking...



China’s Cyberattacks — At What Cost?

James Fallows, Donald Clarke, Orville Schell, Elizabeth Economy, Dorinda Elliott, Xiao Qiang, Bill Bishop

James Fallows: Here are some initial reactions on the latest hacking news.




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

Orville Schell, John Delury, Susan Shirk, Damien Ma, Isabel Hilton

How did the Diaoyu,...