Books

09.17.19

Railroads and the Transformation of China

Elisabeth Köll
Harvard University Press: As a vehicle to convey both the history of modern China and the complex forces still driving the nation’s economic success, rail has no equal. Railroads and the Transformation of China is the first comprehensive history, in any language, of railroad operation from the last decades of the Qing Empire to the present.China’s first fractured lines were built under semicolonial conditions by competing foreign investors. The national system that began taking shape in the 1910s suffered all the ills of the country at large: warlordism and Japanese invasion, Chinese partisan sabotage, the Great Leap Forward when lines suffered in the “battle for steel,” and the Cultural Revolution, during which Red Guards were granted free passage to “make revolution” across the country, nearly collapsing the system. Elisabeth Köll’s expansive study shows how railroads survived the rupture of the 1949 Communist revolution and became an enduring model of Chinese infrastructure expansion.The railroads persisted because they were exemplary bureaucratic institutions. Through detailed archival research and interviews, Köll builds case studies illuminating the strength of rail administration. Pragmatic management, combining central authority and local autonomy, sustained rail organizations amid shifting political and economic priorities. As Köll shows, rail provided a blueprint for the past 40 years of ambitious, semipublic business development and remains an essential component of the People’s Republic of China’s politically charged, technocratic economic model for China’s future.{chop}

China Unveils Overhaul of Government Bureaucracy

Chun Han Wong
Wall Street Journal
Plan follows constitutional amendments that boost President Xi Jinping’s power.

Viewpoint

07.31.17

Ping Pong Fury

Ma Tianjie from Chublic Opinion
The match was scheduled for 7:40 p.m. on June 23. Thousands of viewers were eagerly anticipating Chinese Ping Pong superstar Ma Long to face off against his Japanese challenger Yuya Oshima at the China Open, held in the southwestern city of Chengdu...

China’s Un-separation of Powers

Christopher K. Johnson and Scott Kennedy
Foreign Affairs
U.S. industry has figured out how to pull the levers of power in China but also points to a substantial change in how China is governed. In the past, there was at least some separation between party and government roles, but it seems that the line...

China’s Growing Middle Class Chafes Against Red Tape

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New York Times
As China’s middle class—wired, ambitious and worldly—grows, its members increasingly are intolerant.

Media

10.29.14

Foot Spas, Steamed Buns, and Midday Drinking

It may not be Monty Python’s famous “Ministry of Silly Walks,” but it’s close.The Office of Forbidding Midday Alcohol Consumption, a local government initiative in China’s southern Henan province which seeks to reduce alcohol consumption at...

The Search for Sustainable Legitimacy: Environmental Law and Bureaucracy

Alex Wang
Social Science Research Network
This article seeks to offer insight into a number of broader ongoing debates — about environmental regulation in developing countries, accountability and regime survival in authoritarian states, and legal development in China.