Books

10.08.19

The Shanghai Free Taxi

Frank Langfitt
Public Affairs: China—America’s most important competitor—is at a turning point. With economic growth slowing, Chinese people face inequality and uncertainty as their leaders tighten control at home and project power abroad.NPR correspondent Frank Langfitt describes how he created a free taxi service—offering rides in exchange for illuminating conversation—to go beyond the headlines and get to know a wide range of colorful, compelling characters representative of the new China. They include folks like “Beer,” a slippery salesman who tries to sell Langfitt a used car; Rocky, a farm boy turned Shanghai lawyer; and Chen, who runs an underground Christian church and moves his family to America in search of a better, freer life.

Books

10.04.19

The New Art of War

William J. Holstein
Brick Tower Press: The challenge is this: How can America’s fractured democracy and diverse society respond to a centrally orchestrated strategy from China that ultimately may challenge its interests and values?Some Chinese-Americans and Chinese residents—perhaps only a relative handful—have cooperated in obtaining technology for China. And many Chinese nationals who obtained years of experience working at American companies have returned to China to help competitors there.{chop}

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}

Books

08.01.19

Active Defense

M. Taylor Fravel
Princeton University Press: Since the 1949 Communist Revolution, China has devised nine different military strategies, which the People’s Liberation Army (P.L.A.) calls “strategic guidelines.” What accounts for these numerous changes? Active Defense offers the first systematic look at China’s military strategy from the mid-20th century to today. Exploring the range and intensity of threats that China has faced, M. Taylor Fravel illuminates the nation’s past and present military goals and how China sought to achieve them, and offers a rich set of cases for deepening the study of change in military organizations.Drawing from diverse Chinese-language sources, including memoirs of leading generals, military histories, and document collections that have become available only in the last two decades, Fravel shows why transformations in military strategy were pursued at certain times and not others. He focuses on the military strategies adopted in 1956, 1980, and 1993—when the P.L.A. was attempting to wage war in a new kind of way—to show that China has pursued major change in its strategic guidelines when there has been a significant shift in the conduct of warfare in the international system and when the Chinese Communist Party has been united.Delving into the security threats China has faced over the last seven decades, Active Defense offers a detailed investigation into how and why states alter their defense policies.{chop}

Is South America China’s ‘New Africa’?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
At first glance, China’s engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) looks a lot like what it’s doing in Africa. Just as China surpassed Europe as Africa’s largest trading partner, China has become the top trading partner of several LAC...

Excerpts

07.31.19

What Role Will Intellectuals Play in China’s Future?

Sebastian Veg
As we commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of China’s 1989 democracy movement, it is hard to imagine students and intellectuals playing a similar role today. In China’s highly marketized and politically controlled society, the space for...

China-India Relations One Year After the Wuhan Summit

Paul Haenle, Rudra Chaudhuri & more from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
In May 2018, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met in Wuhan for an informal summit that many say helped reset the relationship following the Doklam crisis. In this podcast, Paul Haenle spoke with Rudra Chaudhuri, Director of...

Where is the Evidence of Debt Traps in Africa?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
To discuss accusations that China engages in so-called “debt trap diplomacy,” Eric and Cobus spoke with Deborah Brautigam, a Johns Hopkins University Professor and Director of the China-Africa Research Initiative in Washington, D.C. The “debt trap”...

Books

07.09.19

Kissinger on Kissinger

Winston Lord
St. Martin’s Press: As National Security Advisor to Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger transformed America’s approach to diplomacy with China, the USSR, Vietnam, and the Middle East, laying the foundations for geopolitics as we know them today.Nearly 50 years later, escalating tensions between the U.S., China, and Russia are threatening a swift return to the same diplomatic game of tug-of-war that Kissinger played so masterfully. Kissinger on Kissinger is a series of faithfully transcribed interviews conducted by the elder statesman’s longtime associate, Winston Lord, which captures Kissinger’s thoughts on the specific challenges that he faced during his tenure as the National Security Agency, his general advice on leadership and international relations, and stunning portraits of the larger-than-life world leaders of the era. The result is a frank and well-informed overview of U.S. foreign policy in the first half of the 1970s.{chop}

China’s ‘Black Week-end’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
When Chinese law professor Xu Zhangrun began publishing articles last year criticizing the government’s turn toward a harsher variety of authoritarianism, it seemed inevitable that he would be swiftly silenced. But then, remarkably, dozens of...

Books

06.24.19

China, Trade and Power

Stewart Paterson
London Publishing Partnership: Few people could tell you what happened on December 11, 2001, yet China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will define the geopolitics of the 21st century. What were Western leaders thinking at the time?This book tells the story of the most successful trading nation of the early 21st century. It looks at how the Chinese Communist Party has retained and cemented its monopoly of political power, producing unimagined riches for the political elite. It is the most extraordinary economic success story of our time, and it has reshaped the geopolitics not just of Asia but of the world. As China has come to dominate global manufacturing, its power and influence has grown. This economic power is being translated into political power, and the West now has a global rival that is politically antithetical to liberal values.Meanwhile, economic liberalism has lost its moral foundation, in part because economic outcomes are not perceived to be the result of fair competition. The weaknesses of the West’s democratic model are being laid bare as a lack of wage growth coupled with a policy of inflation targeting by Western central banks has led to falling real incomes for the many, and rising asset prices that have benefited the few.In order to have a fighting chance of protecting the freedoms of liberal democracies, it is of the utmost importance that we understand how the policy of indulgent engagement with China has affected Western society in recent years. Only then will the West be able to change direction for the better, and row back from the harmful consequences of China’s accession to the WTO.{chop}

Books

05.29.19

Shrines to Living Men in the Ming Political Cosmos

Sarah Schneewind
Harvard University Press: Shrines to Living Men in the Ming Political Cosmos places the institution of pre-mortem shrines at the intersection of politics and religion. When a local official left his post, grateful subjects housed an image of him in a temple, requiting his grace: that was the ideal model. By Ming times, the “living shrine” was legal, old, and justified by readings of the classics.Sarah Schneewind argues that the institution could invite and pressure officials to serve local interests; the policies that had earned a man commemoration were carved into stone beside the shrine. Since everyone recognized that elite men might honor living officials just to further their own careers, pre-mortem shrine rhetoric stressed the role of commoners, who embraced the opportunity by initiating many living shrines. This legitimate, institutionalized political voice for commoners expands a scholarly understanding of “public opinion” in late imperial China, aligning it with the efficacy of deities to create a nascent political conception Schneewind calls the “minor Mandate of Heaven.” Her exploration of pre-mortem shrine theory and practice illuminates Ming thought and politics, including the Donglin Party’s battle with eunuch dictator Wei Zhongxian and Gu Yanwu’s theories.{chop}

How Chinese Traders Both Help and Hurt Local Merchants in Ghana

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
It is well documented that a lot of people in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa resent the growing Chinese migrant presence, in terms of both the people who come into their countries and the Chinese way of doing business that is often culturally out of...

Books

05.22.19

China’s New Red Guards

Jude Blanchette
Oxford University Press: Ever since Deng Xiaoping effectively de-radicalized China in the 1980s, there have been many debates about which path China would follow. Would it democratize? Would it embrace capitalism? Would the Communist Party’s rule be able to withstand the adoption and spread of the Internet? One debate that did not occur in any serious way, however, was whether Mao Zedong would make a political comeback.As Jude Blanchette details in China’s New Red Guards, contemporary China is undergoing a revival of an unapologetic embrace of extreme authoritarianism that draws direct inspiration from the Mao era. Under current Chinese leader Xi Jinping, state control over the economy is increasing, civil society is under sustained attack, and the Chinese Communist Party is expanding its reach in unprecedented new ways. As Xi declared in late 2017, “Government, military, society, and schools, north, south, east and west—the Party is the leader of all.”But this trend is reinforced by a bottom-up revolt against Western ideas of modernity, including political pluralism, the rule of law, and the free market economy. Centered around a cast of nationalist intellectuals and activists who have helped unleash a wave of populist enthusiasm for the Great Helmsman’s policies, China’s New Red Guards not only will reshape our understanding of the political forces driving contemporary China, it will also demonstrate how ideologies can survive and prosper despite pervasive rumors of their demise.{chop}

Why China’s ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’ Critics Are Wrong

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
China’s critics, led largely by the United States, are determined to warn developing countries about the risks of borrowing too much money from Beijing. They contend China will use these loans to financially entrap economically vulnerable countries...

Confused About China’s Belt and Road Agenda? You’re Not Alone.

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Thirty-seven foreign heads of state came to Beijing this week to take part in the second Belt and Road summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Some leaders, like Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, came with expectations to sign huge...

Chinese and Africans are Having Totally Different Conversations About Their Relationship

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Chinese news coverage and African and international reports are often starkly different from one another, even when discussing the same issues. With Chinese and African news consumers reading vastly different perspectives, what can be done to narrow...

‘One Seed Can Make an Impact’: An Interview with Chen Hongguo

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Chen Hongguo might be China’s most famous ex-professor. Five years ago, he quit his job at the Northwest University of Politics and Law in Xi’an, publishing his resignation letter online after administrators prohibited him from inviting free-...

Books

05.10.19

The Costs of Conversation

Oriana Skylar Mastro
Cornell University Press: After a war breaks out, what factors influence the warring parties’ decisions about whether to talk to their enemy, and when may their position on wartime diplomacy change? How do we get from only fighting to also talking?In The Costs of Conversation, Oriana Skylar Mastro argues that states are primarily concerned with the strategic costs of conversation, and these costs need to be low before combatants are willing to engage in direct talks with their enemy. Specifically, Mastro writes, leaders look to two factors when determining the probable strategic costs of demonstrating a willingness to talk: the likelihood the enemy will interpret openness to diplomacy as a sign of weakness, and how the enemy may change its strategy in response to such an interpretation. Only if a state thinks it has demonstrated adequate strength and resiliency to avoid the inference of weakness, and believes that its enemy has limited capacity to escalate or intensify the war, will it be open to talking with the enemy.Through four primary case studies—North Vietnamese diplomatic decisions during the Vietnam War, those of China in the Korean War and Sino-Indian War, and Indian diplomatic decision making in the latter conflict—The Costs of Conversation demonstrates that the costly conversations thesis best explains the timing and nature of countries’ approach to wartime talks, and therefore when peace talks begin. As a result, Mastro’s findings have significant theoretical and practical implications for war duration and termination, as well as for military strategy, diplomacy, and mediation.{chop}

Is the Belt and Road Initiative a Bold Economic Agenda or a Political Ploy?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
In an ongoing series that explores different interpretations of what exactly is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Eric and Cobus are joined by Zhu Zheng, an international affairs columnist for Caixin and a research fellow at the China-Eastern...

China: A Small Bit of Shelter

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
At night, a spotlight illuminates four huge characters on the front of the Great Temple of Promoting Goodness in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province in northwestern China: mi zang zong feng, “The Esoteric Repository of the Faith’s Traditions.”...

A Specter Is Haunting Xi’s China: ‘Mr. Democracy’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Something strange is happening in Xi Jinping’s China. This is supposed to be the perfect dictatorship, the most sustained period of authoritarianism since the Cultural Revolution ended more than 40 years ago, a period of such damning disappointment...

In Reassessing China, Europe Sharpens Its Approach

Paul Haenle, Tomáš Valášek & more from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
In recent weeks, Beijing has both won victories and suffered defeats during important summits and dialogues with France and Italy, as well as the European Union. French President Emmanuel Macron invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European...

A Conservative American View on U.S.-China-Africa Relations

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Colonel Chris Wyatt, Director of African Studies at the U.S. Army War College, joins Eric and Cobus to discuss a conservative U.S. foreign policy outlook regarding Africa and his views on Chinese engagement on the continent.

Susan Thornton on a Crisis in U.S.-China Relations

Paul Haenle & Susan Thornton from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Over three years into Trump’s presidency, U.S.-China trade and economic issues remain unresolved while security concerns are creeping into the bilateral agenda. Thornton contends that Washington and Beijing should quickly agree on an initial trade...

Books

04.11.19

Making China Modern

Klaus Mühlhahn
Harvard University Press: It is tempting to attribute China’s recent ascendance to changes in political leadership and economic policy. Making China Modern teaches otherwise. Moving beyond the standard framework of Cold War competition and national resurgence, Klaus Mühlhahn situates 21st-century China in the nation’s long history of creative adaptation.In the mid-18th century, when the Qing Empire reached the height of its power, China dominated a third of the world’s population and managed its largest economy. But as the Opium Wars threatened the nation’s sovereignty from without and the Taiping Rebellion ripped apart its social fabric from within, China found itself verging on free fall. A network of family relations, economic interdependence, institutional innovation, and structures of governance allowed citizens to regain their footing in a convulsing world. In China’s drive to reclaim regional centrality, its leaders looked outward as well as inward, at industrial developments and international markets offering new ways to thrive.{chop}Excerpts:“Reform and Opening: China’s Turning Point,” Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel, February 7, 2019“Can Environmental Activism Succeed in China?,” Literary Hub, January 28, 2019

Xi’s Visit to ‘Rival’ Europe

Paul Haenle & Philippe Le Corre from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
President Xi Jinping travels to Italy and France this month for his first overseas trip of 2019. His visit comes soon after the European Commission labeled China a “systemic rival” and “economic competitor.” Xi’s objective for both trips is to shore...

‘It’s Hopeless But You Persist’: An Interview with Jiang Xue

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
The forty-five-year-old investigative journalist Jiang Xue is one of the most influential members of a group of journalists who came of age in the early 2000s, taking advantage of new—if temporary—freedoms created by the Internet to investigate...

Why China Doesn’t Need to Worry about Washington’s New Africa Policy

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
When U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced Washington’s new strategy for Africa last December, he mentioned China 14 times in his speech. So often, in fact, that a lot of observers commented that the new policy seemed to be more...

‘Reeducating’ Xinjiang’s Muslims

James A. Millward from New York Review of Books
In a courtroom in Zharkent, Kazakhstan, in July 2018, a former kindergarten principal named Sayragul Sauytbay calmly described what Chinese officials continue to deny: a vast new gulag of “de-extremification training centers” has been created for...

‘My Responsibility to History’: An Interview with Zhang Shihe

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
“Tiger Temple” (Laohu Miao) is the nom de guerre of Zhang Shihe, one of China’s best-known citizen journalists and makers of short video documentaries, many of them profiling ordinary people he met during extraordinarily long bike rides through...

African Governments Need to Negotiate Better Deals With China. Here's How They Can Do It.

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
The problem with the “debt trap” theory is that it too often strips Africans of their agency in the negotiating process. That either they don’t know what they are doing or they’re simply negotiating bad deals. While both of those may be true, in...

Graham Allison on Avoiding the Thucydides Trap

Paul Haenle & Graham Allison from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Allison says the Thucydides Trap is the best framework to understand why there is potential for conflict between the United States and China. As China grew stronger, the U.S. failed to recognize Beijing would increasingly assert its own vision for...

China’s Shift to a More Assertive Foreign Policy

Paul Haenle & Shi Yinhong from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Shi points to two important turning points in China’s shift to a more assertive foreign policy: the 2008 global financial crisis, which made it clear that China’s economic development was an important engine for global growth; and Xi Jinping’s rise...

China’s Economy is Slowing and That’s Really Bad News for Africa

Eric Olander & Jeremy Stevens
Pretty much every major economic indicator suggests that the Chinese economy will continue its downward momentum in 2019. Industrial production, retail sales, and even the once red-hot property market are all showing real signs of weakness. Some...

Devising a New Formula for Global Leadership

Paul Haenle & Yan Xuetong from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Yan asserts the U.S.-China relationship is experiencing structural disruptions, the resolution of which will have a lasting impact on the two countries. He says the tensions in the U.S.-China relationship are primarily due to the narrowing gap...

Managing a Fragile Transition in U.S.-China Relations

Paul Haenle & Cui Liru from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Haenle and Cui discuss lessons from the past 40 years of the bilateral relationship, central areas of cooperation and competition, and a future framework that will allow China and the U.S. to avoid conflict. Cui asserts that U.S. and Chinese...

China Is Rising Faster

Paul Haenle & Wang Jisi from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Wang says that it has been primarily China’s development that has driven changes in the U.S.-China relationship going back to the Qing Dynasty. However, the U.S. still has significant influence and can play an important role in guiding China’s...

The Uighurs and China’s Long History of Trouble with Islam

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Last month, I spent several days at the Forbidden City, the gargantuan palace in the middle of Beijing where China’s emperors ruled the land for nearly five hundred years. I was there to attend a conference on religion and power in imperial China,...

The Promise and Peril of Chinese Tech Investment in Africa

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
In this week's show, we bring you two perspectives on the promise and peril of increased Chinese technology investment in Africa.Harriet Kariuki is an emerging markets analyst in Kenya where she surveys the digital landscape and local start-up...

In Search of the True Dao

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Last year I got a call from Abbess Yin, an old friend who runs a Daoist nunnery near Nanjing. I’ve always known her as supernaturally placid and oblique, but this time she was nervous and direct: a group of Germans were coming to spend a week...

Is the U.S. Driving China and Russia Together?

Paul Haenle, Dmitri Trenin & more from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
As U.S. relations with China and Russia deteriorate under the Trump administration, bilateral relations between Moscow and Beijing grow stronger. A “Cold War” between the U.S. and China has not yet begun, Trenin and Gabuev agree, but the two sides...

The End of China’s Non-Intervention Policy in Africa

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Obert Hodzi discusses his new book, “The End of China’s Non-Intervention Policy in Africa,” and why he thinks this major Chinese policy shift is happening in Africa faster than in other parts of the world.{chop}

How Will China Respond to Global Concerns about its Trade and Economic Policies?

Paul Haenle & Da Wei from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Official Chinese narratives about the U.S.-China trade war have not included Chinese reflection or discussion of what role China’s own policies have played in creating trade tensions. Many of the concerns on structural issues, such as market access...

The U.S. and China as Peer Competitors in the Indo-Pacific

Paul Haenle & Abigail Grace from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
The Trump administration has taken a more confrontational approach to bilateral relations with China, implementing tariffs on nearly half of all Chinese exports to the U.S. and treating Beijing as a strategic competitor across many aspects of the...

Excerpts

09.30.18

For Generations of P.R.C. Leaders, a World ‘Alive with Danger’

Sulmaan Khan
There can be few jobs more difficult than that of paramount leader of China: the surrounding world invariably alive with danger, the extent of the state, its integrity and stability forever uncertain. For an outsider, it is easy to observe that the...

Books

09.30.18

Haunted by Chaos

Sulmaan Wasif Khan
Harvard University Press: Before the Chinese Communist Party came to power, China lay broken and fragmented. Today, it is a force on the global stage, and yet its leaders have continued to be haunted by the past. Drawing on an array of sources, Sulmaan Wasif Khan chronicles the grand strategies that have sought not only to protect China from aggression but also to ensure it would never again experience the powerlessness of the late Qing and Republican eras.{node, 49171}The dramatic variations in China’s modern history have obscured the commonality of purpose that binds the country’s leaders. Analyzing the calculus behind their decision making, Khan explores how they wove diplomatic, military, and economic power together to keep a fragile country safe in a world they saw as hostile. Dangerous and shrewd, Mao Zedong made China whole and succeeded in keeping it so, while the caustic, impatient Deng Xiaoping dragged China into the modern world. Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao served as cautious custodians of the Deng legacy, but the powerful and deeply insecure Xi Jinping has shown an assertiveness that has raised both fear and hope across the globe.For all their considerable costs, China’s grand strategies have been largely successful. But the country faces great challenges today. Its population is aging, its government is undermined by corruption, its neighbors are arming out of concern over its growing power, and environmental degradation threatens catastrophe. A question Haunted by Chaos raises is whether China’s time-tested approach can respond to the looming threats of the 21st century.{chop}

Mission Impossible

Roderick MacFarquhar
The name of George C. Marshall, one of only six U.S. Generals of the Army in modern times, is indelibly linked with the Marshall Plan that was critical to the rebuilding of Western Europe after the devastation of World War II. When he spoke at...

Breaking Eggs Against a Rock

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Blood Letters is an important new biography of Lin Zhao, the journalist who was executed 50 years ago this spring for criticizing the Communist Party’s misrule in the 1950s and 1960s. After years of imprisonment, torture, and mental deterioration,...

North Korea Diplomacy and U.S.-China Relations

Paul Haenle & Kaiser Kuo from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Paul Haenle joined Kaiser Kuo to discuss next steps for DPRK diplomacy and tensions between the United States and China over trade, Taiwan, and the Belt and Road Initiative. Haenle shared his experience working as White House representative to the...

Whose Problem is Kenya’s Debt: Kenya’s or China’s?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Nairobi-based international development economist Anzetse Were suggests in a new paper that Kenya’s leaders, not China, should be the ones held accountable for borrowing too much money without a detailed, transparent plan on how to repay the loans...

China and the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review

Zhao Tong & David Santoro from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, released earlier this year, emphasized the growing threat of nuclear competition in the Asia-Pacific, specifically with reference to Russia, North Korea, and China. In this podcast, Tong Zhao, of...

Should African Governments Welcome Or Be Wary of Chinese Infrastructure Investment?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
China announced a U.S.$60 billion financing package for African states to build out new roads, airports, railways, and other needed infrastructure. While no one questions the need for infrastructure, there are legitimate concerns as to whether it...

Is This Really the Best Time for a China-Africa Summit?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Does it still make sense for China to put on big, expensive mega-summits with African leaders, like FOCAC, which will take place in Beijing in September? Facing a slowing economy and a potentially devastating trade war with the U.S., maybe China is...

Technology and Innovation in an Era of U.S.-China Strategic Competition

Paul Haenle & Elsa Kania from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
China has taken significant steps to implement national strategies and encourage investment in order to surpass the U.S. in high tech fields like artificial intelligence. In this podcast, Paul Haenle sat down with Elsa Kania, adjunct fellow at the...

Books

08.08.18

Poisonous Pandas

Matthew Kohrman, Gan Quan, Liu Wennan, Robert N. Proctor
Stanford University Press: A favorite icon for cigarette manufacturers across China since the mid-20th century has been the panda, with factories from Shanghai to Sichuan using cuddly cliché to market tobacco products. The proliferation of panda-branded cigarettes coincides with profound, yet poorly appreciated, shifts in the worldwide tobacco trade. Over the last 50 years, transnational tobacco companies and their allies have fueled a tripling of the world’s annual consumption of cigarettes. At the forefront is the China National Tobacco Corporation, now producing 40 percent of cigarettes sold globally. What’s enabled the manufacturing of cigarettes in China to flourish since the time of Mao and to prosper even amidst public health condemnation of smoking?In Poisonous Pandas, an interdisciplinary group of scholars comes together to tell that story. They offer novel portraits of people within the Chinese polity―government leaders, scientists, tax officials, artists, museum curators, and soldiers―who have experimentally revamped the country’s pre-Communist cigarette supply chain and fitfully expanded its political, economic, and cultural influence. These portraits cut against the grain of what contemporary tobacco-control experts typically study, opening a vital new window on tobacco―the single largest cause of preventable death worldwide today.{chop}Related Reading:“In China, Industry Push-Back Stubs out Anti-Smoking Gains,” Christian Shepherd, Reuters, May 31, 2018“China’s Ministry in Charge of Tobacco Control Had Ties to the Tobacco Industry. Not Anymore,” Sidney Leng, South China Morning Post, March 15, 2018“The End of China’s ‘Ashtray Diplomacy’,” Heather Timmons and Quartz, The Atlantic, December 30, 2013“The Political Mapping of China’s Tobacco Industry and Anti-Smoking Campaign,” Cheng Li, Brookings, May 30, 2012Author’s Recommendations:Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Rob Nixon (Harvard University Press, 2013)Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?, Judith Butler (Verso; Reprint edition 2010)Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Giorgio Agamben, Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford University Press, 1998)

Where Does Africa Fit in Xi Jinping’s Worldview?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit will take place at a delicate time for Chinese President Xi Jinping, as he confronts enormous challenges related to the ongoing trade war with the United States and, at the same time, huge opportunities...

Books

07.26.18

Imperial Twilight

Stephen Platt
Alfred A. Knopf: As China reclaims its position as a world power, Imperial Twilight looks back to tell the story of the country’s last age of ascendance and how it came to an end in the 19th-century Opium War.When Britain launched its first war on China in 1839, pushed into hostilities by profiteering drug merchants and free-trade interests, it sealed the fate of what had long been seen as the most prosperous and powerful empire in Asia, if not the world. But internal problems of corruption, popular unrest, and dwindling finances had weakened China far more than was commonly understood, and the war would help set in motion the eventual fall of the Qing dynasty—which, in turn, would lead to the rise of nationalism and communism in the 20th century. As one of the most potent turning points in the country’s modern history, the Opium War has since come to stand for everything that today’s China seeks to put behind it.In this dramatic, epic story, award-winning historian Stephen Platt sheds new light on the early attempts by Western traders and missionaries to “open” China—traveling mostly in secret beyond Canton, the single port where they were allowed—even as China’s imperial rulers were struggling to manage their country’s decline and Confucian scholars grappled with how to use foreign trade to China’s advantage. The book paints an enduring portrait of an immensely profitable and mostly peaceful meeting of civilizations at Canton over the long term that was destined to be shattered by one of the most shockingly unjust wars in the annals of imperial history. Brimming with a fascinating cast of British, Chinese, and American individuals, this riveting narrative of relations between China and the West has important implications for today’s uncertain and ever-changing political climate.{chop}

U.S.-China Tensions over Trade and Technology

Paul Haenle & Chen Dingding from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Chen says deteriorating bilateral relations are due to both the Trump administration’s trade policies and to a growing U.S. consensus that foreign policy toward China should be reevaluated. The Chinese government’s view that industrial policy is a...

Books

07.10.18

Blood Letters

Lian Xi
Basic Books: The staggering story of the most important Chinese political dissident of the Mao era, a devout Christian who was imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the regime.Blood Letters tells the astonishing tale of Lin Zhao, a poet and journalist arrested by the authorities in 1960 and executed eight years later, at the height of the Cultural Revolution. Openly and steadfastly opposing communism under Mao, she rooted her dissent in her Christian faith—and expressed it in long, prophetic writings done in her own blood, and at times on her clothes and on cloth torn from her bedsheets.Miraculously, Lin Zhao’s prison writings survived, though they have only recently come to light. Drawing on these works and others from the years before her arrest, as well as interviews with her friends, her classmates, and other former political prisoners, Lian Xi paints an indelible portrait of courage and faith in the face of unrelenting evil.{chop}