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

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

A ChinaFile Conversation

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 world by the end of 2014, unseating the economy of the United States some five years ahead of earlier predictions by the International Monetary Fund. But does that matter?

Responses

William Adams

William Adams is a Senior International Economist for PNC Financial Services Group. He is responsible for forecasting economic conditions in China. Formerly Resident Economist at The Conference Board China Center, he has published extensive research on China’s economy.

There are two really fundamental challenges to coming to terms with China’s place in the global GDP rankings: ignorance and apathy. We don’t know, and we don’t care.

First our ignorance: GDP is really hard to measure. Just look at the huge revisions routinely made to GDP reports for the United States or the Eurozone, where statistical agencies have better resources, and face less political interference, than their Chinese counterparts. The measurement issues affecting China’s GDP reports are notorious: My favorite quip about them comes secondhand from Tom Orlik, Bloomberg’s China economist, who told me he once heard from a Chinese local government official that the government measures the economy using fiscal revenue instead of GDP because “GDP is opinion, fiscal revenue is fact.”

Ranking China’s GDP against that of other countries is messier still, since you have to pick an exchange rate to convert this sketchily-measured aggregate into U.S. dollars. The U.N. International Comparison Project’s estimate of the purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rate is the product of admirable and interesting research, but is still just one of many estimates. The Conference Board, where I used to work, was projecting in 2010 that, using their best estimate of a PPP exchange rate, China would overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in 2012.

Which takes us to the second challenge, our apathy. Say you prefer to use a market exchange rate to compare China's economy with that of the United States instead of messing around with PPP’s, which would make its economy around two thirds of the size of the economy of the United States. So what? China would still be superlative in many ways: the world’s largest producer and consumer of steel, the largest consumer of energy, the largest importer of soybeans, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Regardless of whether China makes a smooth transition to domestically-oriented growth or makes a hard landing, its footprint is such that focusing on GDP, or growth, has become a distraction from more fundamental issues. Damien Ma and I collectively call these scarcity: insufficient natural resources to feed an investment- and energy-intensive economy; insufficient land to produce the food Chinese consumers demand; a shrinking labor supply that forces wages up, squeezes low-end manufacturers, and pushes the economy out of export-oriented industries. There is more insight to be gained from thinking about these issues, in our opinion, than in wondering whether China becomes the world’s largest economy today, five years from now, or five years ago.

Damien Ma

Damien Ma is a Fellow at The Paulson Institute, where he focuses on investment and policy programs and the Institute’s research and think tank activities. He is the co-author of In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade.Previously, he was a lead China analyst at Eurasia Group, a political risk research and advisory firm. He specialized in analyzing the intersection between Chinese policies and markets, with a particular focus on energy and commodities, industrial policy, U.S.-China trade, and social and internet policies. His advisory and analytical work served a range of clients, from institutional investors and multinational corporations to the U.S. government. Prior to joining Eurasia Group, he worked at a public relations firm in Beijing, where he served clients ranging from Ford to Microsoft. He also was a manager of publications at the U.S.-China Business Council in Washington, D.C.Ma writes regularly for The Atlantic and publishes widely, including in Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, and Foreign Policy, as well as appearing in a range of broadcast media, such as the Charlie Rose show, Bloomberg, and the PBS NewsHour. He also served as an adjunct instructor at Johns Hopkins University’s Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Ma is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese and some Shanghainese dialect.

Let me briefly piggyback on Bill's comments with a couple points.  First, in hindsight, perhaps we should have titled our book the more tongue-in-cheek "China as #1: So What?" That is to say, the obsession over headline GDP is neither here nor there, even though it will inevitably dominate headlines. That a country four times the size of the United States would, short of cataclysmic economic fallout, someday grow into the world's largest economy should not elicit a modicum of surprise—it's basically a matter of when, not if. But whether China is still a $9 trillion economy in market exchange rate terms or closer to $14 trillion in PPP terms doesn't say anything about how to think about today's Chinese political economy. Aggregate GDP, as Bill said, is but one indicator that reflects some sense of general welfare, but is far from sufficient as an indicator to examine where China stands economically, socially, and politically. China is big, has always been that way, but its size is both a blessing and a curse.

Second, China has had a tremendously successful record in adding GDP every year for as long as I can remember. But when I talk to Chinese interlocutors, policymakers, and others, nobody seems particularly concerned about growth in and of itself. No one is obsessing over GDP figures, except maybe certain bureaucrats in the National Bureau of Statistics. And even the government itself is trying to slowly extricate itself from recent decades of GDP fetish. I suspect many Chinese will see this news and retort that "yeah, well, per capita GDP we're still about 1/6 that the United States." This is one problem in looking at China, it can be both an enormous economy and an unbalanced country in terms of development. It's somewhat akin to the European Union—both Poland and Germany can exist at the same time.

Third, instead of worrying themselves over GDP, the Chinese, both the public and officialdom, are preoccupied over all sorts of other sociopolitical issues. From accessing healthcare and higher education to safe milk and clean water (even core values), these are the central challenges that the "world's biggest economy" now have to deal with, and to deal with them urgently. We referred to them collectively as various dimensions of scarcity—some are policy-induced, some are secular trends—that will determine how China actually develops, rather than whether it grows in GDP terms.

The funny thing is that when a country gets wealthier and heftier economically, a different set of problems tend to arise that require a different set of policies. Richer countries have to deal with the costs of the "gangbuster growth" era and the dramatic social changes that have accompanied that growth. The tricky thing for China is that it is both wealthy and poor simultaneously, and it is being asked to grow and clean up at the same time. Not an envious position to be in.

Zha Daojiong

Zha Daojiong, a Senior Arthur Ross Fellow at the Center on U.S. China Relations at the Asia Society, is a Professor of International Political Economy at Peking University, where he specializes in studying such non-traditional security topics as energy, food, and trans-boundary water use. His recent research interest has expanded to political/societal risk management for Chinese foreign direct investment in developing as well as developed economies. His Area Studies expertise covers Southeast Asia, the trans-Pacific region, and Africa. Zha is the author and editor of several books, including Managing Regional Energy Vulnerabilities in East Asia (Routledge, 2013), Building a Neighborly Community: Post-Cold War China, Japan, and Southeast Asia (Manchester University Press, 2006), The International Political Economy of China’s Oil Supply Security (in Chinese, 2005), and China’s International Relations in the 21st Century: Dynamics of Paradigm Shifts (University Press of America, 2000). He has published dozens of academic articles in refereed journals in English and Chinese. Prior to his tenure at Peking University (since 2007), he taught at the University of Macao, the International University of Japan, and Renmin University of China. Zha studied at the University of Hawaii, where he received his Ph.D. in Political Science.

China as Number One? Using purchasing power parity (PPP) as a measure, the World Bank’s International Comparison Program says that by the end of 2014 China is going to surpass the United States as the largest economy.

When the Bank formally adopted the PPP methodology back in the early 1990s and thus elevated China’s ranking, there were two general strands of reactions in the Chinese media. One was that this represented Western recognition of China’s real bargaining power, against the backdrop of sanctions imposed in response to China’s handling of domestic instability in the summer of 1989. The other was that the new ranking might as well be a Western propaganda ploy to trick China and the Chinese people to be less hard-working and, by extension, China should instead double its efforts to grow its economy.

China’s leaders, throughout the 1990s, constantly championed the notion that China needed the rest of the world to continue to develop and, by the same token, the rest of the world needed China just as much. Translated into policy, China worked to join the World Trade Organization, applied, twice, to host the Olympics Games, and constantly used ‘linking up with the international track’ as a domestic slogan to drive home the necessity of reform.

Then, in 2010, China was pronounced to have passed Japan as the second largest world economy, measured in GDP. The Chinese media and society took the new ranking in greater strides. It was just another day. As a matter of fact, by then, millions more ordinary Chinese are traveling to the United States, Europe, Japan, as well as the rest of the world. Aggregate numbers hardly passed the test of the human eye: gaps in standards of living are only too visible to ignore.

This time around, it is more likely for the Chinese society to react to the new ranking by the World Bank as just another announcement. After all, just the choking smog that routinely blankets a third of the landmass of China is powerful enough to remind ourselves that China is still way behind in terms of the quality of daily life.

Some pundits, both Chinese and foreign, may begin to connect the new ranking with China’s status, role, and responsibility in the global and regional economic and political systems. But, it is hard to see those articulations resonate with choices on the ground. In this sense, China—both its government and people—has indeed matured.

This does not and indeed should not imply that the time has come for China to disembark itself from the international track. As Chinese government leaders like to repeat these days, reform has to be an agenda in a continuous tense, not the past perfect. For the reform agenda to be effectual, China just has to continue to internationalize.

Arthur R. Kroeber

Arthur R. Kroeber is Managing Director of GaveKal Dragonomics, an independent global economic research firm, and Editor of its journal, China Economic Quarterly. He is a non-resident senior fellow of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center, where his research focuses on China’s engagement with global economic institutions. Mr Kroeber is based in Beijing, where he has lived since 2002.Before joining GaveKal Dragonomics, Mr Kroeber worked for fifteen years as a financial journalist and economic analyst in China, Taiwan, and India. He has written for Foreign Policy, The Economist, The Far Eastern Economic Review, Fortune, and Wired and is a contributor to the opinion pages of The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. He is a member of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, the Fernand Braudel Institute of International Economics, and the board of the Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business at Indiana University.

I agree with Bill and Damien that this is a "who cares?" moment. It has been obvious for quite some time that China would soon overtake the U.S. in sheer economic size. If one doesn't accept the current PPP conversion rate then just wait five or ten years and China will be bigger at market exchange rates. But basically, all that this shift tells us is that China has way more people than the U.S.— 4.2 times as many, to be exact. So, as soon as China stopped being fantastically poorer (per capita) than the U.S., and became simply a lot poorer, its total economy surpassed that of the U.S. (And still lags that of the European Union, which is arguably the world's biggest economy, if one takes economic integration rather than political boundaries as the criterion.) Big deal.

Staying in the league-tables discussion for a moment, there are two major economic dimensions in which China still lags the U.S., Europe and Japan. The first is living standards. Even if we accept the current PPP measurement, per capita GDP in China is only 1/4 that in the U.S., and the gap in average living standards is even greater, because in the US about 2/3 of GDP consists of household consumption whereas in China that figure is barely over 1/3. In other words, for a given amount of per-capita GDP (at market exchange rates), the average American household consumes twice as many goods and services as its Chinese counterpart. China has recorded a lot of economic growth by installing a huge amount of capital equipment, the fruits of which accrue mainly to the small number of capital-owners—many of them foreign companies. It still has a lot to do in spreading the benefits of growth more broadly to its citizenry.

The second is what generally goes under the name of "innovation"—that is, the ability to create new sources of economic growth and vitality. Some headlines have declared that China is now the world's "top economic power." This is simply false. It is the biggest national economy by volume. But the center of technological change in the world is still the U.S., and arguably the United States' centrality in this role is even more pronounced now than it was ten or fifteen years ago. There is little evidence that China is anywhere close to becoming the engine-room of the global economy.

But fundamentally Damien is right that this "who's on top?" discussion misses all that is truly interesting, namely how China and other countries manage social tensions, income distribution and other problems arising from high speed economic growth. Because of its sheer bulk, China is indeed wealthy and poor at the same time, and the responses to that paradox are a far more fascinating target of study than the mere size of the economy.

Derek Scissors

Derek M. Scissors is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Asian economic issues and trends. In particular, he focuses on the Chinese and Indian economies and U.S. economic relations with China and India. Scissors is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University, where he teaches a course on the Chinese economy.Before joining AEI, Scissors was a senior research fellow in the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation. He has also worked in London for Intelligence Research Ltd., taught economics at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, and served as an action officer in international economics and energy for the U.S. Department of Defense.Scissors has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago, and a doctorate in international political economy from Stanford University. 

I agree with the group, but would go farther. The International Comparison Program has gone off the rails. It doesn’t make sense to compare two countries’ PPP-adjusted GDP and say one is larger. Not for any countries at any time.

PPP is intended to better understand personal income. Annual income of $500 in Bangladesh is horrifying low but buys more than $500 in Australia. First, we must compare buying power across all of Bangladesh and Australia, then adjust for vastly different goods and services available—not easy. And it’s harder for larger countries. There’s an average price between New York and Louisiana we can compare to the average between Shanghai and Tibet? Strains belief.

Unfortunately, there’s a bigger problem. PPP is about purchasing power, not economic size. That comparable goods and services are cheaper in Bangladesh than Australia doesn’t mean Bangladesh’s economy suddenly got much bigger. The claim China will soon be #1 cites GDP, which combines personal and government consumption, investment, and trade. PPP struggles with personal consumption. To apply it to all of GDP is a bridge too far.

An illustration. China has grown faster than the U.S. for decades; what’s unclear is the remaining gap. There’s a $2 trillion gap in PPP-adjusted GDP in 2011 and a $7 trillion gap in standard GDP in 2013. There’s also a $35 trillion gap.

Not a typo. GDP measures what happened in an economy, not how big it is. GDP resets to zero each year. But economies don’t reset to zero - the stuff is still there. It’s there even if we hide it under a mattress and it’s omitted from GDP. The right measure of economic size is national wealth – what we have, not calendar year transactions.

Credit Suisse estimates global private wealth. At mid-2013, it has Chinese private wealth at $22 trillion and American at $72 trillion. Private wealth isn’t everything. But you can’t pass a country in economic size with $50 trillion less private wealth.

As a check, the Federal Reserve estimates U.S. private wealth at $80 trillion at the end of 2013. Net public debt cuts American wealth to $65-70 trillion. China’s government owns a great deal through state enterprises but those firms also owe a great deal. The net wealth of the Chinese state on top of the wealth of the Chinese people is uncertain, but $10 trillion appears generous.

This puts China between $30 and $35 trillion, about $35 trillion behind the US. The gap has not closed in the past three years, as the US emerged from the crisis and Chinese firms borrowed heavily. Plainly, China won’t catch up soon. It may not catch up at all.

Taisu Zhang

Taisu Zhang is an Associate Professor at the Duke University School of Law. He received his Ph.D., J.D., and B.A. from Yale University. He writes in the fields of comparative legal and economic history, property theory, and contemporary Chinese law. His current book project studies the sociocultural origins and economic consequences of land-pawning institutions in early modern China and England.

I just want to add a wrinkle to this excellent discussion: While it is indisputably true that, from a purely economic perspective, the “Chinese GDP (PPP) to surpass U.S.” story is meaningless, it does not necessarily follow that it is equally meaningless in a political or social sense. As Professor Zha has already alluded to in his comment, there are plenty of people, both Chinese and foreign, who will trumpet this story for a variety of purposes. To me, at least, it is not clear that they will make no real difference.

For starters, the psychological impact of being “No. 1 in GDP” could be quite significant in certain Chinese intellectual and political circles. The idea that China has finally “bested” the U.S. in “national power” will very likely resonate with a deep and centuries-long national obsession—among both elites and the general populace—with measures of aggregate wealth and military power. One can, for example, easily see it fanning the flames of the increasingly vocal and influential Neo-Leftist movement, which draws much of its popular support from various strands of aggressive and often virulent nationalism. Whether these psychological effects will have any material influence on political activity, particularly in the realm of foreign policy (where, lest we forget, aggregate “national power” is actually a meaningful concept), is at least an open question. There is sufficient ideological uncertainty and conflict among China’s intellectual and political elite these days that this sort of substantively vapid but symbolically powerful “news” could nonetheless generate major waves.

In addition, this story will almost certainly provide fresh fodder for the “China as a rising threat” geopolitical narratives that seem to sell so well in the mainstream American media, and perhaps in Washington as well. The sensationalist tone of The Economist article itself is arguably an example of this. If one takes a particularly cynical view of American democracy, the general public, ill-informed and short-sighted, often seems particularly susceptible to waves of paranoia about the “rise” of foreign competitors (Japan in the 1970s and 80s, and now China), and such paranoia often translates into concrete legislation and policy via demagogic politics. Reality may not be quite so dismal, but it is hard to deny that there is at least some kernel of truth to such cynicism—in which case the social and political impact of this “news item” in the U.S. may well be completely disproportionate to its actual economic significance.

The previous commentators are basically unanimous in their belief that economically meaningless “milestones” will be psychologically dismissed by both policymakers and the general population. Were people only so rational.

William Adams is a Senior International Economist for PNC Financial Services Group. He is responsible for forecasting economic conditions in China. Formerly Resident Economist at The Conference Board...
Damien Ma is a Fellow at The Paulson Institute, where he focuses on investment and policy programs and the Institute’s research and think tank activities. He is the co-author of In Line Behind a...
Zha Daojiong, a Senior Arthur Ross Fellow at the Center on U.S. China Relations at the Asia Society, is a Professor of International Political Economy at Peking University, where he specializes in...
Arthur R. Kroeber is Managing Director of GaveKal Dragonomics, an independent global economic research firm, and Editor of its journal, China Economic Quarterly. He is a non-resident senior fellow of...
Derek M. Scissors is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Asian economic issues and trends. In particular, he focuses on the Chinese and Indian economies...
Taisu Zhang is an Associate Professor at the Duke University School of Law. He received his Ph.D., J.D., and B.A. from Yale University. He writes in the fields of comparative legal and economic...

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01.08.15

What Does Hong Kong’s Post-Protest Report Signal For Relations with Beijing?

David Schlesinger, Joseph Cheng, Denise Y. Ho, Ho-fung Hung, Frank Ching, Louisa Lim, Mark L. Clifford
This week, we saw the release of the official government “Report on the Recent Community and Political Situation in Hong Kong.” It concluded: "It is the common aspiration of the Central Authorities [in Beijing], the [Hong Kong Special...

Conversation

12.19.14

Just How Successful Is Xi Jinping?

Ian Johnson, Trey Menefee
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 divided,...

Conversation

12.16.14

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...

Conversation

12.03.14

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 a model of information control designed by the Chinese Communist Party. Regular contributors comment below and we encourage readers to share their views on our Facebook...

Conversation

11.19.14

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.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change "monumental." "No two countries are more important to tackling the problem than the...

Conversation

11.12.14

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 Xi Jinping’s recent speech on culture, we asked contributors why they think Beijing has decided to ramp up its involvement in the...

Conversation

10.31.14

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 leaders from around the world, is billed as the Chinese capital's highest-profile international event...

Conversation

10.23.14

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 economy have just been published: one skeptical, from David Hoffman at The Conference Board, and one cautiously optimistic, from Dan Rosen and...

Conversation

10.17.14

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 leaders have announced they will emphasize rule of law at the upcoming Chinese Communist Party plenum slated to take place in Beijing...

Conversation

10.14.14

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 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...

Conversation

10.01.14

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 elections slated to launch in 2017. The pro-democracy protestors have blocked major roads in the...

Conversation

09.26.14

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...

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...

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...

Conversation

09.02.14

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 center, financial center,...

Conversation

08.11.14

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, 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...

Conversation

07.31.14

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...

Conversation

07.24.14

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, a story in The New York Times shed light on ties between Alibaba and the sons and grandsons...

Conversation

07.17.14

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 journalists not to share information with their counterparts in the foreign press corps. Most major...

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...

Conversation

07.01.14

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 with China’s Ministry of Education—and their role on university campuses. The topic, and several of the...

Conversation

06.23.14

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 chorus of voices calling on North American universities to rethink their relationship with Confucius Institutes, the state-sponsored Chinese-language programs...

Conversation

06.11.14

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.Arguably, the first round of “U.S.-in-...

Conversation

06.02.14

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 growth and rise to international...

Conversation

05.19.14

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 giants such as U.S. Steel and Westinghouse Electric, making unprecedented criminal charges of cyper-espionage against Chinese...

Conversation

05.09.14

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 South China Sea leverages...

Conversation

05.07.14

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...

Conversation

04.22.14

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 loom large. This will be...

Conversation

04.12.14

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 tense exchange with his Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan, over the intention behind America's "pivot" to Asia, followed by a more measured back-and...

Conversation

04.06.14

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 disagree with...

Conversation

03.26.14

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, 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...

Conversation

03.19.14

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 Obama and Xi at Sunnylands last year, will most...

Conversation

03.10.14

Should China Support Russia in the Ukraine?

Alexander V. Pantsov, Alexander Lukin, Sergei Zamascikov, Yawei Liu, Edward Friedman
Alexander V. Pantsov: The Chinese Communist Party leadership has always maintained: “China believes in non-interference in internal affairs.” In the current Ukrainian situation it is the most we can expect from the P.R.C. because it is not able to...

Conversation

03.02.14

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

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

Conversation

02.27.14

How Responsible Are Americans for China’s Pollution Problem?

David Vance Wagner, Alex Wang, Elizabeth Economy, Isabel Hilton, Michael Zhao, Veerabhadran Ramanathan
David Vance Wagner: China’s latest “airpocalypse” has again sent air pollution in Beijing soaring to hazardous levels for days straight. Though the Chinese government has made admirable progress recently at confronting the long-term air pollution...

Conversation

02.22.14

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

Isabel Hilton, Donald Clarke, Robert Thurman, Matteo Mecacci, Vincent Ni, Edward Friedman
On February 21, the Dalai Lama visited United States President Barack Obama in the White House over the objections of the Chinese government. Beijing labels the exiled spiritual leader a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who seeks to use...

Conversation

02.19.14

China in ‘House of Cards’

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

Conversation

02.13.14

Are Ethnic Tensions on the Rise in China?

Enze Han, James Palmer, Robert Barnett, Nicholas Bequelin, James A. Millward, Rachel Harris, James Leibold, Uradyn E. Bulag, Nathan Hill, Elliot Sperling
On December 31, President Xi Jinping appeared on CCTV and extended his “New Year’s wishes to Chinese of all ethnic groups.” On January 15, Beijing officials detained Ilham Tohti, a leading Uighur economist and subsequently accused him of “separtist...

Conversation

02.05.14

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

Nicholas Lemann, Michel Hockx, Winston Lord, Matt Schiavenza, James Fallows, David Schlesinger, Paul Mooney, Orville Schell, Arthur Waldron
Last week, the White House said it was “very disappointed” in China for denying a visa to another journalist working for The New York Times in Beijing, forcing him to leave the country after eight years. What else should the U.S. government...

Conversation

01.27.14

China’s Offshore Leaks: So What?

Paul Gillis, Robert Kapp
Two recent stories by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists detailed China’s elite funneling money out of China to tax havens in the Caribbean. We asked contributors to weigh the impact of the revelations.

Conversation

01.21.14

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

Edward Friedman, Geoff Dyer, John Delury, Taisu Zhang, Elbridge Colby, Ely Ratner
How should the United States respond to China’s new level of assertiveness in the Asia Pacific? In the past few months as Beijing has stepped up territorial claims around China's maritime borders—and in the skies above them—the Obama...

Conversation

01.06.14

Will Xi Jinping Bring a Positive New Day to China?

Paul Mooney, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell, Edward Friedman, Robert Kapp, The Editors
Chinese President Xi Jinping, just over a year in office, recently made a rare appearance in public in a Beijing restaurant, buying a cheap lunch and paying for it himself. Shortly thereafter, President Xi delivered a brief televised New Year...

Conversation

12.17.13

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

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

Conversation

12.07.13

Will China Shut Out the Foreign Press?

Winston Lord, Paul Mooney, Ron Javers, Bill Bishop, Andrew J. Nathan, Perry Link, Jeremy Goldkorn, Chen Weihua, Orville Schell
Some two dozen journalists employed by The New York Times and Bloomberg News have not yet received the visas they need to continue to report and live in China after the end of this year. Without them, they will effectively be expelled from the...

Conversation

12.03.13

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

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

Conversation

11.27.13

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

Chen Weihua, James Fallows, Tai Ming Cheung, Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt
Chen Weihua:The Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is not a Chinese invention. The United States, Japan and some 20 other countries declared such zones in their airspace long time ago.China’s announcement of its first ADIZ in the East China Sea...

Conversation

11.24.13

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

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

Conversation

11.19.13

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

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

Conversation

11.12.13

Spiked in China?

John Garnaut, Sidney Rittenberg, Andrew J. Nathan, Dorinda Elliott, Vincent Ni, Jeremy Goldkorn, Emily Brill
Last weekend, The New York Times and later, The Financial Times reported that, according to Bloomberg News employees, Bloomberg editor in chief Matthew Winkler informed reporters by telephone on October...

Conversation

10.30.13

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

Wang Feng, Jeremy Goldkorn
The latest ChinaFile Conversation focuses on the case of Chen Yongzhou, the Guangzhou New Express journalist whose series of investigative reports exposed fraud at the Changsha, Hunan-based heavy machinery maker Zoomlion. Chen later was arrested and...

Conversation

10.25.13

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

Barry Naughton, Shai Oster, Steve Dickinson, Gordon G. Chang
Following are ChinaFile Conversation participants’ reactions to “China: Superpower or Superbust?” in the November-December issue of The National Interest in which author Ian Bremmer says that China’s state-capitalism is ill-equipped to absorb the...

Conversation

10.22.13

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

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

Conversation

10.16.13

Uncomfortable Bedfellows: How Much Does China Need America Now?

Bill Bishop, David Schlesinger, Arthur R. Kroeber, Robert Kapp, Isabel Hilton, Shai Oster
Bill Bishop:The D.C. dysfunction puts China in a difficult place. Any financial markets turmoil that occurs because of a failure of Congress to do its job could harm China’s economy, and especially its exports. The accumulation of massive foreign-...

Conversation

10.10.13

CCTV Network News Broadcast

Following is a transcript of the network news broadcast of China Central Television on September 30, 2013:央视网消息(新闻联播): 9月30日上午,在中华人民共和国64周年国庆前夕,On the morning of September 30th, on the eve of the 64th anniversary of the People's Republic of...

Conversation

10.08.13

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

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

Conversation

10.07.13

Why Is Xi Jinping Promoting Self-Criticism?

Stephen C. Angle, Taisu Zhang
Critics both within and without China have suggested that Xi Jinping’s promotion of self-criticism by Communist Party cadres has at least two motives: it promotes the appearance of concern with lax discipline while avoiding deeper reform, and it...

Conversation

09.27.13

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

Jonathan Landreth, Michael Berry, Jaime Wolf, Richard Peña, Sun Yunfan, Ying Zhu, Maya E. Rudolph
Jonathan Landreth:Chinese writer and director Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin won the prize for the best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Though the dialogue and its fine translation and English subtitles by Tony Rayns are exemplary, I...

Conversation

09.24.13

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

Stanley Rosen, Jonathan Landreth, Vincent Ni, Michael Berry
Stanley Rosen:Wang Jianlin, who personally doesn’t know much about film, made a splash when he purchased America’s No. 2 movie theater chain AMC at a price many thought far too high for what he was getting.  A number of knowledgeable people...

Conversation

09.17.13

What’s Behind China’s Recent Internet Crackdown?

Xiao Qiang, John Garnaut, Jeremy Goldkorn, Vincent Ni, Rogier Creemers, Isabel Hilton
Last weekend, Charles Xue Manzi, a Chinese American multi-millionaire investor and opinion leader on one of China’s most popular microblogs, appeared in handcuffs in an interview aired on China Central Television (CCTV). Xue is just the most visible...

Conversation

09.13.13

What Can China and Japan Do to Start Anew?

Paula S. Harrell, Chen Weihua
Paula S. Harrell:While the media keeps its eye on the ongoing Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute, heating up yet again this week after Chinese naval ships and aircraft were spotted circling the area, a parallel, possibly game-changing development in...

Conversation

09.09.13

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

Chen Weihua, Vincent Ni, Massoud Hayoun
Chen Weihua:Chinese truly believe that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. On the contrary, a U.S. air strike would only worsen the situation there. Chinese have seen many failures of U.S. intervention in the Middle East in the past...

Conversation

09.05.13

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

Orville Schell, John Delury, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Peter C. Perdue, Joseph W. Esherick, Robert Kapp, Mary Kay Magistad
Orville Schell:It is true that China is no longer beset by threats of foreign incursion nor is it a laggard in the world of economic development and trade. But being there and being steeped in an atmosphere of seemingly endless political and...

Conversation

08.28.13

Beijing, Why So Tense?

Andrew J. Nathan, Isabel Hilton, Ouyang Bin, Shai Oster
Andrew Nathan:I think of the Chinese leaders as holding a plant spritzer and dousing sparks that are jumping up all around them.  Mao made the famous remark, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.”  The leaders have seen that...

Conversation

08.21.13

Is Xi Jinping Redder Than Bo Xilai Or Vice Versa?

Michael Anti, Shai Oster
Michael Anti:Competing for Redness: The Scarlet Bo vs the Vermilion Xi?Bo Xilai, the fallen Chinese princeling famous for leading a “Red Songs” communist campaign in southwest China's megacity Chongqing, is on trial today, live-Twittered from...

Conversation

08.15.13

What Should China Do to Reverse its Tourism Deficit?

Leah Thompson, Damien Ma, Christine Lu
Recent news stories and industry studies show that fewer international visitors are choosing China as their destination. January-June arrivals in Beijing are down 15% from the same period in 2012 and more Chinese than ever before are spending their...

Conversation

08.07.13

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

David Wertime, Duncan Clark, Orville Schell, Ouyang Bin, Rogier Creemers, Ethan J. Leib
David Wertime:Simon Denyer’s recent article (“In China, Communist Party Takes Unprecedented Step: It Is Listening,” The Washington Post, August 2, 2013) provides a valuable look at some of the ways that Chinese authority mines domestic micro-...

Conversation

08.01.13

How Dangerous Are Sino-Japanese Tensions?

Jerome A. Cohen
Sino-Japanese relations do not look promising at the moment. Obviously, the Diaoyu-Senkaku dispute is not the only factor in play but it does focus nationalist passions on both sides. Yet both countries are capable of wiser conduct if their leaders...

Conversation

07.30.13

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

Arthur R. Kroeber, David Schlesinger, Damien Ma, Steve Dickinson
Arthur Kroeber:The environment for foreign companies in China has been getting steadily tougher since 2006, when the nation came to the end of a five-year schedule of market-opening measures it pledged as the price of admission to the World Trade...

Conversation

07.25.13

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

Jerome A. Cohen, Andrew J. Nathan, John Garnaut
China has charged disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai with bribery, abuse of power and corruption, paving the way for a potentially divisive trial. But what’s at stake goes beyond the fate of one allegedly corrupt official: Is it really a fight...

Conversation

07.23.13

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

Barry Naughton, James McGregor, Arthur R. Kroeber, Gordon G. Chang
Barry Naughton:Paul Krugman in a recent post (“How Much Should We Worry About a China Shock?” The New York Times, July 20, 2013) tells us NOT to worry about the impact of a slowing China on global exports, but to be worried, very worried about the...

Conversation

07.18.13

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

Donald Clarke, Andrew J. Nathan, Jeremy Goldkorn, Carl Minzner, Ira Belkin
Donald Clarke:When I heard that Xu Zhiyong had just been detained, my first thought was, “Again?” This seems to be something the authorities do every time they get nervous, a kind of political Alka Seltzer to settle an upset constitution. I searched...

Conversation

07.16.13

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

Arthur R. Kroeber, Steve Dickinson, James Fallows, Damien Ma
Last week the U.S. Senate held hearings to question the CEO of meat-producer Smithfield Farms, about the proposed $4.7 billion sale of the Virginia-based company to Shuanghui International, China’s largest pork producer. The sale is under review by...

Conversation

07.09.13

What Is the “Chinese Dream” Really All About?

Stein Ringen, Jeremy Goldkorn, Robert Kapp
Stein Ringen:I’m coming to the view that the ‘Chinese Dream’ is a signal from the leadership of great import that has much to say about the nature of the Chinese state. It is striking, in my opinion, how effectively and rapidly the system swung into...

Conversation

07.03.13

How Would Accepting Gay Culture Change China?

Fei Wang, Steven Jiang
Last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the core provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act is not only “a stride toward greater equality in the United States, but also a shift that will reverberate far beyond our shores,” wrote...

Conversation

06.27.13

Is Xi Jinping’s Fight Against Corruption For Real?

Roderick MacFarquhar, Winston Lord, Bill Bishop, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell, Bill Bikales, William Overholt
Roderick MacFarquhar:Xi Jinping’s overriding aim is the preservation of Communist party rule in China, as he made clear in speeches shortly after his elevation to be China’s senior leader.  Like his predecessors, he is obsessed with the...

Conversation

06.25.13

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

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

Conversation

06.21.13

How Should the World Prepare for a Slower China?

Arthur R. Kroeber, Patrick Chovanec
Get Ready for a Slower ChinaThe recent gyrations on the Chinese interbank market underscore that the chief risk to global growth now comes from China. Make no mistake: credit policy will tighten substantially in the coming months, as the government...

Conversation

06.18.13

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

Shai Oster, Steve Dickinson
For today’s ChinaFile Conversation we asked contributors to react to the following excerpt from an op-ed published on Monday June 17 in the Global Times about Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old American contract intelligence analyst who last...

Conversation

06.13.13

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

Tai Ming Cheung, Andrew J. Nathan, Jeremy Goldkorn
Reports of U.S. gathering data on emails and phone calls have stoked fears of an over-reaching government spying on its citizens. Chinese artist Ai Weiwei worries that China will use the U.S. as an example to bolster its argument for surveillance on...

Conversation

06.11.13

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

Nicholas Bequelin, Sharon Hom, Joshua Rosenzweig, Andrew J. Nathan, Aryeh Neier, James J. Silk
Nicholas Bequelin:The best way to advance human rights in the U.S.-China relationship is first and foremost to recognize that the engine of human rights progress in China today is the Chinese citizenry itself. Such progress is neither the product of...

Conversation

06.06.13

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

Winston Lord, Orville Schell, J. Stapleton Roy, James Fallows
As we approach the June 7-8 meeting in California of U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping we are holding a small contest. We have asked ChinaFile Conversation regulars and a few guests to envision their ideal Sunnylands...

Conversation

06.04.13

How Would Facing Its Past Change China’s Future?

David Wertime, Isabel Hilton, Ouyang Bin, Wu Guoguang, Dorinda Elliott, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell
David Wertime:The memory of the 1989 massacre of protesters at Tiananmen Square remains neither alive nor dead, neither reckoned nor obliterated. Instead, it hangs spectre-like in the background, a muted but latently powerful symbol of resistance...

Conversation

05.29.13

What Should Obama and Xi Accomplish at Their California Summit?

Susan Shirk, Orville Schell, David Wertime, Robert Kapp, Elizabeth Economy, Andrew J. Nathan, Winston Lord
Susan Shirk:It’s an excellent idea for President Obama and President Xi to spend two days of quality time together at a private retreat in Southern California. Past meetings between Chinese and American presidents have been too short, formal and...

Conversation

05.23.13

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

Michael Kulma, Mark Frazier, Susan Shirk
Mike Kulma:Earlier this week at an Asia Society forum on U.S.-China economic relations, Dr. Henry Kissinger remarked that when the U.S. first started down the path of normalizing relations with China in the early 1970s, the economic relationship and...

Conversation

05.21.13

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

Orville Schell, Patrick Chovanec
On Monday, within hours of the announcement that Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet U.S. President Barack Obama on a visit to California on June 7-8, Tung Chee-hwa, the former Chief Executive and President of the Executive Council of Hong Kong,...

Conversation

05.16.13

China: What’s Going Right?

Michael Zhao, James Fallows, Orville Schell, Jeremy Goldkorn
Michael Zhao:On a recent trip to China, meeting mostly with former colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, I got a dose of optimism and hope for one aspect of the motherland. In terms of science, or laying down a solid foundation for better...

Conversation

05.14.13

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

Alex Wang, John C. Balzano, Isabel Hilton, Alexa Olesen, Jeremy Goldkorn
The month my wife and I moved to Beijing in 2004, I saw a bag of oatmeal at our local grocery store prominently labeled: “NOT POLLUTED!” How funny that this would be a selling point, we thought.But 7 years later as we prepared to return to the US,...

Conversation

05.10.13

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

Rachel Beitarie, Massoud Hayoun, Tai Ming Cheung
Rachel Beitarie:Xi Jinping’s four point proposal for a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement is interesting not so much for its content, as for its source. While China has maintained the appearance of being involved in Middle East politics for years,...

Conversation

05.07.13

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

Rachel Lu, Andrew J. Nathan, Susan Jakes, Dorinda Elliott, Sun Yunfan, Xiao Qiang, Jeremy Goldkorn, Shai Oster
With a population base of 1.3 billion people, China has no shortage of strange and gruesome crimes, but the attempted murder of Zhu Ling by thallium poisoning in 1995 is burning up China’s social media long after the trails have gone cold. Zhu, a...

Conversation

05.02.13

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

Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Susan Shirk, Wang Yizhou
On April 30, as tensions around China’s claims to territories in the South- and East China Seas continued to simmer, we began what proved to be a popular ChinaFile Conversation, asking the question, What's Really at the Core of China’s ‘Core...

Conversation

04.30.13

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

Shai Oster, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell, Susan Shirk, Tai Ming Cheung, John Delury
Shai Oster:It’s Pilates diplomacy—work on your core. China’s diplomats keep talking about China’s core interests and it’s a growing list. In 2011, China included its political system and social stability as core interests. This year, it has added a...

Conversation

04.25.13

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

Jonathan Landreth, Ying Zhu, Jeremy Goldkorn, Shai Oster
Last week, DreamWorks Animation (DWA), the Hollywood studio behind the worldwide blockbuster Kung Fu Panda films, announced that it will cooperate with the China Film Group (CFG) on an animated feature called Tibet Code, an adventure story based on...

Conversation

04.23.13

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

Orville Schell, Michael Kulma
Orville Schell:When Stephen A. Schwarzman announced his new $300 million program aimed at sending foreign scholars to Tsinghua University in Beijing the way Rhodes Scholarship, set up by the businessman and statesman Cecil Rhodes in 1902 began...

Conversation

04.18.13

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

Patrick Chovanec, Barry Naughton, Damien Ma
Slower Chinese GDP growth is not a bad thing if it’s happening for the right reasons. But it’s not happening for the right reasons.Instead of reining in credit to try to curb over-investment, Chinese authorities have allowed a renewed explosion in...

Conversation

04.16.13

Why is China Still Messing with the Foreign Press?

Andrew J. Nathan, Isabel Hilton, Jonathan Landreth, Orville Schell, Dorinda Elliott
To those raised in the Marxist tradition, nothing in the media happens by accident.  In China, the flagship newspapers are still the “throat and tongue” of the ruling party, and their work is directed by the Party’s Propaganda Department...

Conversation

04.11.13

Why Is Chinese Soft Power Such a Hard Sell?

Jeremy Goldkorn, Donald Clarke, Susan Jakes, David Shambaugh, Bill Bishop, Jonathan Landreth
Jeremy Goldkorn:Chairman Mao Zedong said that power comes out of the barrel of a gun, and he knew a thing or two about power, both hard and soft. If you have enough guns, you have respect. Money is the same: if you have enough cash, you can buy guns...

Conversation

04.09.13

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

Winston Lord, Susan Shirk, Orville Schell, Michael Kulma, Ouyang Bin
Winston Lord:No. 

Conversation

04.03.13

Bird Flu Fears: Should We Trust Beijing This Time?

David Wertime, Yanzhong Huang, Isabel Hilton, Donald Clarke, Susan Jakes, Dorinda Elliott, James Fallows
David Wertime:A new strain of avian flu called H7N9 has infected at least seven humans and killed three in provinces near the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai, with the first death occurring on March 4. Meanwhile, in the last month, about 16,000 pigs...

Conversation

04.02.13

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

Jeremy Goldkorn, Isabel Hilton, David Wertime, Orville Schell
Jeremy Goldkorn:On March 22, before the foreign media or Apple themselves seemed to have grasped the seriousness of the CCTV attacks on the Californian behemoth, I wrote a post on Danwei.com that concluded:“The signs are clear that regulators and...

Conversation

03.28.13

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

Patrick Chovanec, Damien Ma, Donald Clarke, Barry Naughton
Patrick Chovanec:This week’s news that Brazil and China have signed a $30 billion currency swap agreement gave a renewed boost to excited chatter over the rising influence of China’s currency, the renminbi (RMB). The belief, in many quarters, is...

Conversation

03.26.13

Can China Transform Africa?

Jeremy Goldkorn, Isabel Hilton, Donald Clarke
Jeremy Goldkorn:The question is all wrong. China is already transforming Africa, the question is how China is transforming Africa, not whether it can. From the “China shops”—small stores selling cheap clothing, bags, and kitchenware—that have become...

Conversation

03.19.13

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

Andrew J. Nathan, Ouyang Bin
In his first press conference after taking office as China's new premier, Li Keqiang declared that one of his top priorities would be to fight corruption, because “Corruption and the reputation of our government are as incompatible as fire and...

Conversation

03.15.13

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

Dorinda Elliott, Alexa Olesen, Andrew J. Nathan, Ouyang Bin, Michael Zhao
Dorinda Elliott:China’s recent decision to phase out the agency that oversees the one-child policy has raised questions about whether the policy itself will be dropped—and whether it was a success or a failure.Aside from the...

Conversation

03.13.13

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

Sun Yunfan, Orville Schell, Damien Ma
This week, the ChinaFile Conversation is a call for reactions to an article about China's current generation gap, written by James Palmer, a Beijing-based historian, author, and Global Times editor. The article, first published by Aeon in the U...

Conversation

03.08.13

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

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

Conversation

03.06.13

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

Orville Schell, Susan Shirk, Suzanne DiMaggio, Ouyang Bin, Winston Lord, John Delury
Orville Schell:What may end up being most significant about the new draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council to impose stricter sanctions on North Korea, which China seems willing to sign, may not be what it amounts to in terms of...

Conversation

03.01.13

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

Daniel H. Rosen, Orville Schell, Jonathan Landreth
Daniel Rosen:There have not been many new topics in U.S.-China economic relations over the past decade: the trade balance, offshoring of jobs, Chinese holding of U.S. government debt, whether China’s currency is undervalued and intellectual property...

Conversation

02.27.13

How Long Can China Keep Pollution Data a State Secret?

Elizabeth Economy, Orville Schell, Donald Clarke, Susan Shirk, Isabel Hilton
Elizabeth Economy:The environment is center stage once again in China. A Chinese lawyer has requested the findings of a national survey on soil pollution from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and been denied on the grounds that the...

Conversation

02.22.13

Will Investment in China Grow or Shrink?

Donald Clarke, David Schlesinger
Donald Clarke:I don’t have the answer as to whether investment in China will grow or shrink, but I do have a few suggestions for how to think about the question. First, we have to clarify why we want to know the answer to this question: what do we...

Conversation

02.20.13

Cyber Attacks—What’s the Best Response?

James Fallows, Xiao Qiang, Bill Bishop, Tai Ming Cheung
With regular ChinaFile Conversation contributor Elizabeth Economy on the road, we turned to her colleague Adam Segal, Maurice R. Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Segal said that “the time for...

Conversation

02.15.13

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

Dorinda Elliott, Elizabeth Economy, Andrew J. Nathan, Orville Schell
Dorinda Elliott:On a recent trip to China, I heard a lot of scary talk of potential war over the disputed Diaoyu Islands—this from both senior intellectual types and also just regular people, from an elderly calligraphy expert to a middle-aged...

Conversation

02.13.13

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

Winston Lord, Tai Ming Cheung, Elizabeth Economy, John Delury
China is increasingly frustrated with North Korea and may even see more clearly that its actions only serve to increase allied unity, stimulate Japanese militarism and accelerate missile defense. For all these reasons the U.S. should lean on Beijing...

Conversation

02.08.13

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 plans to reduce the polarization of incomes.  Does this mean Xi is...

Conversation

02.06.13

Airpocalypse Now: China’s Tipping Point?

Alex Wang, Orville Schell, Elizabeth Economy, Michael Zhao, James Fallows, Dorinda Elliott
The recent run of air pollution in China, we now know, has been worse than the air quality in airport smoking lounges. At its worst, Beijing air quality has approached levels only seen in the United States during wildfires.All of the comparisons to...

Conversation

02.01.13

China’s Cyberattacks — At What Cost?

James Fallows, Donald Clarke, Orville Schell, Elizabeth Economy, Dorinda Elliott, Xiao Qiang, Bill Bishop
James Fallows: Here are some initial reactions on the latest hacking news.We call this the “latest” news because I don’t think anyone, in China or outside, is actually surprised. In my own experience in China, which is limited compared with many of...

Conversation

01.30.13

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

Orville Schell, John Delury, Susan Shirk, Damien Ma, Isabel Hilton
How did the Diaoyu, Spratly, and Paracel islands come to replace Taiwan as the main source of tension for maritime Asia? And how are we to explain the fact that China’s foreign policy toward its Asian neighbors has now morphed from such slogans as...