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}

Sinica Podcast

07.09.18

Kurt Campbell on U.S.-China Diplomacy

Kaiser Kuo from Sinica Podcast
Kaiser talks to former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell about his career, his critique of engagement, and the fascinating events that happened on his watch—including the extrication of blind activist...

A U.S. View on China’s So-Called ‘Debtbook Diplomacy’ Agenda

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
For the past year or so, senior U.S. government officials have been accusing China of engaging in so-called “debtbook diplomacy,” a tactic that Washington contends intentionally burdens developing countries with billions of dollars of loans. When...

Made in China 2025

Paul Haenle & Paul Triolo from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
China’s “Made in China 2025” policy to upgrade its industry plays a central role in the ongoing U.S.-China trade tensions. Paul Haenle sat down with Paul Triolo, practice head of Geo-technology at the Eurasia Group, to discuss how the Chinese...

One Decent Man

Geremie R. Barmé from New York Review of Books
The thought of hearing back from Simon Leys filled me with dread. It was late 1976 and I was an exchange student at a university in Shenyang, in northeast China. I’d only recently learned that Pierre Ryckmans, the man who had taught me Chinese, was...

Books

06.20.18

The Third Revolution

Elizabeth C. Economy
Oxford University Press: In The Third Revolution, eminent China scholar Elizabeth C. Economy provides an incisive look at the transformative changes underway in China today. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has unleashed a powerful set of political and economic reforms: the centralization of power under Xi, himself; the expansion of the Communist Party’s role in Chinese political, social, and economic life; and the construction of a virtual wall of regulations to control more closely the exchange of ideas and capital between China and the outside world. Beyond its borders, Beijing has recast itself as a great power, seeking to reclaim its past glory and to create a system of international norms that better serves its more ambitious geostrategic objectives. In so doing, the Chinese leadership is reversing the trends toward greater political and economic opening, as well as the low-profile foreign policy, that had been put in motion by Deng Xiaoping’s “Second Revolution” 30 years earlier.Through a wide-ranging exploration of Xi Jinping’s top political, economic, and foreign policy priorities—fighting corruption, managing the Internet, reforming the state-owned enterprise sector, improving the country’s innovation capacity, enhancing air quality, and elevating China’s presence on the global stage—Economy identifies the tensions, shortcomings, and successes of Xi’s reform efforts over the course of his first five years in office. She also assesses their implications for the rest of the world, and provides recommendations for how the United States and others should navigate their relationship with this vast nation in the coming years.{chop}

‘Ruling Through Ritual’: An Interview with Guo Yuhua

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Guo Yuhua is one of China’s best-known sociologists and most incisive government critics. A professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, she has devoted her career to researching human suffering in Chinese society, especially that of peasants, the...

Books

06.13.18

Censored

Margaret E. Roberts
Princeton University Press: As authoritarian governments around the world develop sophisticated technologies for controlling information, many observers have predicted that these controls would be ineffective because they are easily thwarted and evaded by savvy Internet users. In Censored, Margaret Roberts demonstrates that even censorship that is easy to circumvent can still be enormously effective. Taking advantage of digital data harvested from the Chinese Internet and leaks from China’s Propaganda Department, this book sheds light on how and when censorship influences the Chinese public.Roberts finds that much of censorship in China works not by making information impossible to access but by requiring those seeking information to spend extra time and money for access. By inconveniencing users, censorship diverts the attention of citizens and powerfully shapes the spread of information. When Internet users notice blatant censorship, they are willing to compensate for better access. But subtler censorship, such as burying search results or introducing distracting information on the web, is more effective because users are less aware of it. Roberts challenges the conventional wisdom that online censorship is undermined when it is incomplete and shows instead how censorship’s porous nature is used strategically to divide the public.Drawing parallels between censorship in China and the way information is manipulated in the United States and other democracies, Roberts reveals how Internet users are susceptible to control even in the most open societies. Demonstrating how censorship travels across countries and technologies, Censored gives an unprecedented view of how governments encroach on the media consumption of citizens.{chop}

A World in Transition

Paul Haenle & William J. Burns from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
As the world is in the midst of considerable uncertainty and transition, Ambassador William J. Burns points to the emergence of rising powers like China and India, challenges to regional order in the Middle East, and revolutions in new technologies...

Somalia Aims to Be Heard at Upcoming China-Africa Mega Summit

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Around 50 African leaders are expected to be in Beijing in September for the upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit. While Africa’s largest and most strategically important countries will likely do very well, receiving huge...

The Fantastic Truth About China

Alec Ash from New York Review of Books
In 1902, Liang Qichao, a reformist intellectual of the late Qing dynasty, wrote a futuristic story called “A Chronicle of the Future of New China.” In the unfinished manuscript, he depicts Shanghai hosting the World Fair in 1962 (“Confucius year...

Resetting China-India Relations

Paul Haenle & C. Raja Mohan from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Following a year marked by mounting tensions between China and India, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met in Wuhan for an informal summit in April to reset the relationship. Major points of tension dominating China-India...

China: Back to the Future

Andrew J. Nathan from New York Review of Books
In 2023, Xi Jinping will conclude his second term as China’s president. Ever since Deng Xiaoping revised the country’s constitution more than 35 years ago, two consecutive terms have been the most that a president can legally serve. But it has...

What Comes Next after the Panmunjom Summit?

Paul Haenle & Zhao Tong from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Kim Jong-un became the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea at the Panmunjom Summit in April 2018, setting the stage for President Trump’s meeting with Kim in June. Just days after the summit, Paul Haenle spoke with Tong Zhao, a...

For Better or Worse, Africa’s Digital Future is Tied to China

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Chinese tech companies are now the most important players in Africa’s rapid emergence as one of the world’s fastest growing digital markets. People’s Republic of China companies, private and state-owned, are working with local telecom operators...

After-Shocks of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
The province of Sichuan is a microcosm of China. Its east is flat, prosperous, and densely settled by ethnic Chinese. Its mountainous west is populated by poorer minorities, but possesses resources that help make the east rich.In Sichuan, the...

Books

05.03.18

High-Speed Empire

Will Doig
Columbia Global Reports: The story of the world’s most audacious infrastructure project.Less than a decade ago, China did not have a single high-speed train in service. Today, it owns a network of 14,000 miles of high-speed rail, far more than the rest of the world combined. Now, China is pushing its tracks into Southeast Asia, reviving a century-old colonial fantasy of an imperial railroad stretching to Singapore, and kicking off a key piece of the One Belt One Road initiative, which has a price tag of U.S.$1 trillion and reaches inside the borders of more than 60 countries.The Pan-Asia Railway portion of One Belt One Road could transform Southeast Asia, bringing shiny Chinese cities, entire economies, and waves of migrants where none existed before. But if it doesn’t succeed, that would be a cautionary tale about whether a new superpower, with levels of global authority unimaginable just a decade ago, can pull entire regions into its orbit simply with tracks, sweat, and lots of money. Journalist Will Doig traveled to Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore to chronicle the dramatic transformations taking place—and to find out whether ordinary people have a voice in this moment of economic, political, and cultural collision.{chop}

Reports

05.03.18

Policy Analysis on China’s Civil Society Organizations First Quarter of 2018

China Europe Association for Civil Rights
Civil society organizations in China faced increasingly grim circumstances in the first quarter of 2018. Whether looking at the direct impact of the Law on the Management of Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations’ Activities or the Charity Law,...

The Rise of Populism and Implications for China

Paul Haenle & Thomas Carothers from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
The rise of populism in Europe and the United States has had a pronounced impact on domestic politics and foreign policy, as seen in Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. In China, leaders are unsettled by the nationalist and anti-globalization...

Books

04.27.18

The China Mission

Daniel Kurtz-Phelan
W. W. Norton & Company: As World War II came to an end, General George Marshall was renowned as the architect of Allied victory. Set to retire, he instead accepted what he thought was a final mission―this time not to win a war, but to stop one. Across the Pacific, conflict between Chinese Nationalists and Communists threatened to suck in the United States and escalate into revolution. His assignment was to broker a peace, build a Chinese democracy, and prevent a Communist takeover, all while staving off World War III.In his 13 months in China, Marshall journeyed across battle-scarred landscapes, grappled with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and plotted and argued with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his brilliant wife, often over card games or cocktails. The results at first seemed miraculous. But as they started to come apart, Marshall was faced with a wrenching choice. Its consequences would define the rest of his career, as the secretary of state who launched the Marshall Plan and set the standard for American leadership, and the shape of the Cold War and the U.S.-China relationship for decades to come. It would also help spark one of the darkest turns in American civic life, as Marshall and the mission became a first prominent target of McCarthyism, and the question of “who lost China” roiled American politics.The China Mission traces this neglected turning point and forgotten interlude in a heroic career―a story of not just diplomatic wrangling and guerrilla warfare, but also intricate spycraft and charismatic personalities. Drawing on eyewitness accounts both personal and official, it offers a richly detailed, gripping, close-up, and often surprising view of the central figures of the time―from Marshall, Mao, and Chiang to Eisenhower, Truman, and MacArthur―as they stood face-to-face and struggled to make history, with consequences and lessons that echo today.{chop}

How Africa Benefits from China’s Rapidly Aging Population

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
China’s rapidly aging population presents a huge challenge for the country as it needs to find new ways to pay for rising healthcare and social welfare benefits. And that’s where Africa may be able to help. Home to one of the youngest populations on...

Books

04.24.18

Sold People

Johanna S. Ransmeier
Harvard University Press: A robust trade in human lives thrived throughout North China during the late Qing and Republican periods. Whether to acquire servants, slaves, concubines, or children―or dispose of unwanted household members―families at all levels of society addressed various domestic needs by participating in this market. Sold People brings into focus the complicit dynamic of human trafficking, including the social and legal networks that sustained it. Johanna Ransmeier reveals the extent to which the structure of the Chinese family not only influenced but encouraged the buying and selling of men, women, and children.For centuries, human trafficking had an ambiguous status in Chinese society. Prohibited in principle during the Qing period, it was nevertheless widely accepted as part of family life, despite the frequent involvement of criminals. In 1910, Qing reformers, hoping to usher China into the community of modern nations, officially abolished the trade. But police and other judicial officials found the new law extremely difficult to enforce. Industrialization, urbanization, and the development of modern transportation systems created a breeding ground for continued commerce in people. The Republican government that came to power after the 1911 revolution similarly struggled to root out the entrenched practice.Ransmeier draws from untapped archival sources to recreate the lived experience of human trafficking in turn-of-the-century North China. Not always a measure of last resort reserved for times of extreme hardship, the sale of people was a commonplace transaction that built and restructured families as often as it broke them apart.{chop}

The Corrections Needed in the U.S.-China Relationship

Paul Haenle & Stephen Hadley from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Stephen Hadley, former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, argues that the United States took false comfort in China’s hide-and-bide strategy and failed to recognize that China would increasingly assert itself as it became more...

Angola: China’s Risky Gamble in Africa

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
China has loaned Angola an estimated U.S.$60 billion dollars since the two countries established diplomatic relations back in 1983, making it one of the top destinations for Chinese financing in Africa. Angola is especially attractive for the...

Putin’s Fourth Term

Paul Haenle & Alexander Gabuev from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Vladimir Putin was elected to his fourth term as president of Russia on March 18, 2018. His continued leadership has important implications for the international community, including China.

Books

04.12.18

China’s Great Wall of Debt

Dinny McMahon
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Over the course of a decade spent reporting on the ground in China as a financial journalist, Dinny McMahon gradually came to the conclusion that the widely held belief in China’s inevitable economic ascent is dangerously wrong.In this unprecedented deep dive, McMahon shows how, lurking behind the illusion of prosperity, China’s economic growth has been built on a staggering mountain of debt. While stories of newly built but empty cities, white elephant state projects, and a byzantine shadow banking system have all become a regular fixture in the press in recent years, McMahon goes beyond the headlines to explain how such waste has been allowed to flourish, and why one of the most powerful governments in the world has been at a loss to stop it.Through the stories of ordinary Chinese citizens, McMahon tries to make sense of the unique—and often bizarre—mechanics of the Chinese economy, whether it be the state’s addiction to appropriating land from poor farmers, why a Chinese entrepreneur decided it was cheaper to move his yarn factory to South Carolina, why ambitious Chinese mayors build ghost cities, or why the Chinese bureaucracy was able to stare down Beijing’s attempts to break up the state’s pointless monopoly over the distribution of table salt.Debt, entrenched vested interests, a frenzy of speculation, and an aging population are all pushing China toward an economic reckoning. China’s Great Wall of Debt unravels an incredibly complex and opaque economy, one whose fortunes—for better or worse—will shape the globe like never before.{chop}

China-Africa Relations in the Xi Jinping Era

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
For much of the past 20 years, China’s strategy in Africa could be summarized in two words: invest and extract. Today, that is no longer the case. China’s agenda in Africa, and throughout much of the global south, has broadened significantly in...

Reports

04.01.18

China Philanthropy Law Report

The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
China’s legal framework is constraining for civil society in general and philanthropic giving in particular. During the current administration of President Xi Jinping, Chinese civil society has come under a great deal of pressure. In terms of both...

Excerpts

03.31.18

The U.S.-Made Chinese Future That Wasn’t

Daniel Kurtz-Phelan
Soon, such a scene would become unthinkable. It was a cold morning in early March 1946, a rocky airstrip laid along a broad, barren valley in China’s northwest, lined by mountains of tawny dust blown from the Gobi Desert. Six months earlier, one war...

Books

03.29.18

Patriot Number One

Lauren Hilgers
Crown Publishing Group: In 2014, in a snow-covered house in Flushing, Queens, a village revolutionary from Southern China considered his options. Zhuang Liehong was the son of a fisherman, the former owner of a small tea shop, and the spark that had sent his village into an uproar—pitting residents against a corrupt local government. Under the alias Patriot Number One, he had stoked a series of pro-democracy protests, hoping to change his home for the better. Instead, sensing an impending crackdown, Zhuang and his wife, Little Yan, left their infant son with relatives and traveled to America. With few contacts and only a shaky grasp of English, they had to start from scratch.In Patriot Number One, Hilgers follows this dauntless family through a world hidden in plain sight: a byzantine network of employment agencies and language schools, of underground asylum brokers and illegal dormitories that Flushing’s Chinese community relies on for survival. As the irrepressibly opinionated Zhuang and the more pragmatic Little Yan pursue legal status and struggle to reunite with their son, we also meet others piecing together a new life in Flushing. Tang, a democracy activist who was caught up in the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, is still dedicated to his cause after more than a decade in exile. Karen, a college graduate whose mother imagined a bold American life for her, works part-time in a nail salon as she attends vocational school and refuses to look backward.With a novelist’s eye for character and detail, Hilgers captures the joys and indignities of building a life in a new country—and the stubborn allure of the American dream.{chop}

‘Black Panther’ Sparks Debate over Anti-Black Racism in China

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
The seemingly sharp fall in attendance prompted Western media outlets to write a series of articles that suggested Chinese moviegoers objected to Black Panther because of its all-black leading cast. “A torture for the eyes: Chinese moviegoers think...

Books

03.23.18

Curating Revolution

Denise Y. Ho
Cambridge University Press: How did China’s Communist revolution transform the nation’s political culture? In this rich and vivid history of the Mao period (1949-1976), Denise Y. Ho examines the relationship between its exhibitions and its political movements. Case studies from Shanghai show how revolution was curated: museum workers collected cultural and revolutionary relics; neighborhoods, schools, and work units mounted and narrated local displays; and exhibits provided ritual space for ideological lessons and political campaigns. Using archival sources, ephemera, interviews, and other materials, Ho traces the process by which exhibitions were developed, presented, and received. Examples under analysis range from the First Party Congress Site and the Shanghai Museum to the “class education” and Red Guard exhibits that accompanied the Socialist Education Movement and the Cultural Revolution. Operating in two modes—that of a state in power and that of a state in revolution—Mao era exhibitionary culture remains part of China’s revolutionary legacy.{chop}Related Reading:“The Double Helix of Chinese History and Its Powerful Leader,” Denise Y. Ho, The Japan Times, March 20, 2018“Fifty Years Later, How Is the Cultural Revolution Still Present in Life in China?,” ChinaFile Conversation, ChinaFile, April 19, 2016“The Cultural Revolution at 50 — A Q&A with Four Specialists (Part Two),” Alexander C. Cook, Los Angeles Review of Books, March 2, 2016“The Cultural Revolution at 50: A Q&A with Four Specialists (Part One),” Alexander C. Cook, Los Angeles Review of Books, February 24, 2016“Chairman Mao’s Everyman Makeover,” Denise Y. Ho and Christopher Young, The Atlantic, December 19, 2013Author’s Recommendations:The Gender of Memory, Gail Hershatter (University of California, 2014)Anyuan: Mining China’s Revolutionary Tradition, Elizabeth Perry (University of California, 2012)The Temple of Memories, Jun Jing (Cambridge University, 1996)

Tillerson’s Last Act: ‘Do as I Say, Not as I Do’ Advice for Africa

Eric Olander & Brooks Spector
There is a certain irony when a U.S. envoy travels to Africa to warn his hosts about the dangers of borrowing money from China. The United States, after all, is the world’s most indebted country and borrows more from China than any other nation in...

Books

03.16.18

Young China

Zak Dychtwald
St. Martin’s Press: The author of Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World, who is in his twenties and fluent in Chinese, examines the future of China through the lens of the jiu ling hou, the generation born after 1990.{node, 45751}A close-up look at the Chinese generation born after 1990 exploring through personal encounters how young Chinese feel about everything from money and sex to their government, the West, and China’s shifting role in the world―not to mention their love affair with food, karaoke, and travel. Set primarily in the eastern second-tier city of Suzhou and the budding western metropolis of Chengdu, the book charts the touchstone issues this young generation faces. From single-child pressure to test-taking madness and the frenzy to buy an apartment as a prerequisite to marriage, from one-night-stands to an evolving understanding of family, Young China offers a fascinating portrait of the generation who will define what it means to be Chinese in the modern era.{chop}

Chairman Xi, Chinese Idol

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
For nearly sixty years since it opened in 1959, the Great Hall of the People has been the public focus of Chinese politics, a monumental granite block that extends 1,200 feet along the west side of Tiananmen Square. It is where the country’s leaders...

Sinica Podcast

03.14.18

When American Pilots Fell out of the Chinese Sky

Kaiser Kuo, David Moser & more from Sinica Podcast
The distinctive shark-toothed fighter planes of the Flying Tigers streaked across the skies of China from 1941 to 1942, as American airmen racked up an impressive string of successes in defending China from Japanese forces. They are so recognizable...

Reports

03.13.18

Forbidden Feeds: Government Controls on Social Media in China

PEN America
PEN International
Based on extensive interviews with writers, poets, artists, activists, and others personally affected by the government’s grip on online expression, as well as interviews with anonymous employees at Chinese social media companies, this report lays...

Excerpts

03.12.18

A Chinese Mayor-to-Be Tells His Story

Zak Dychtwald
When I lived with Tom in the city of Chengdu in 2015 and into 2016, he was a 23-year-old probationary member of the Chinese Communist Party, on his way to joining the organization’s nearly 90 million full members. He wanted to embark on a career in...

Books

03.09.18

End of an Era

Carl Minzner
Oxford University Press: Since the 1990s, Beijing’s leaders have firmly rejected any fundamental reform of their authoritarian one-party political system, even as a decades-long boom has reshaped China’s economy and society. On the surface, their efforts have been a success. Political turmoil has toppled former communist Eastern Bloc regimes, internal unrest overtaken Middle East nations, and populist movements risen to challenge established Western democracies. China, in contrast, has appeared a relative haven of stability and growth.But as Carl Minzner shows, a closer look at China’s reform era reveals a different truth. Over the past three decades, a frozen political system has fueled both the rise of entrenched interests within the Communist Party itself and the systematic underdevelopment of institutions of governance among state and society at large. Economic cleavages have widened. Social unrest has worsened. Ideological polarization has deepened.{node, 45901}Now, to address these looming problems, China’s leaders are progressively cannibalizing institutional norms and practices that have formed the bedrock of the regime’s stability in the reform era. Technocratic rule is giving way to black-box purges; collective governance sliding back towards single-man rule. The post-1978 era of “reform and opening up” is ending. China is closing down. Uncertainty hangs in the air as a new future slouches towards Beijing to be born. End of an Era explains how China arrived at this dangerous turning point, and outlines the potential outcomes that could result. {chop}

Excerpts

03.08.18

Reversing Reform

Carl Minzner
Political stability, ideological openness, and rapid economic growth were the hallmarks of China’s post-1978 reform era. But they are ending. China is entering a new era—the counter-reform era.

Sinica Podcast

03.06.18

Courts & Torts: Driving the Chinese Legal System

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
“Having read hundreds and hundreds of these cases, I have decided that I’m never going to drive in China.” That is what Benjamin Liebman, the director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies at Columbia University, concluded after his extensive...

The Brands That Kowtow to China

Richard Bernstein from New York Review of Books
There’s been no joking as the apologies to China have come thick and fast in recent weeks, issued not by teenage singers but by some of the largest and richest multinational corporations in the world—the German luxury car manufacturer Daimler, the...

Sinica Podcast

03.01.18

Can Chinese Journalists Criticize the Party-State?

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Outside observers typically view China’s media as utterly shackled by the bonds of censorship, unable to critique the government or speak truth to power in any meaningful sense. In part, this is true. Censorship and other pressures do create “no-go...

Books

02.23.18

The Laws and Economics of Confucianism

Taisu Zhang
Cambridge University Press: Tying together cultural history, legal history, and institutional economics, The Laws and Economics of Confucianism: Kinship and Property in Pre-Industrial China and England offers a novel argument as to why Chinese and English pre-industrial economic development went down different paths. The dominance of Neo-Confucian social hierarchies in Late Imperial and Republican China, under which advanced age and generational seniority were the primary determinants of sociopolitical status, allowed many poor but senior individuals to possess status and political authority highly disproportionate to their wealth. In comparison, landed wealth was a fairly strict prerequisite for high status and authority in the far more “individualist” society of early modern England, essentially excluding low-income individuals from secular positions of prestige and leadership. Zhang argues that this social difference had major consequences for property institutions and agricultural production.{chop}Related Reading:“Confucian Economics: The World at Work,” Kazimierz Z. Poznanski, World Review of Political Economy, Summer 2015“What was the Great Divergence?,” C.W., The Economist, September 2, 2013The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy, Kenneth Pomeranz, Princeton, 2001Civil Law in Qing and Republican China (Law, Society, and Culture in China), Kathryn Bernhardt and Philip Huang, Stanford, 1994Order without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes, Robert Ellickson, Harvard, 1991

Hong Kong Millionaire’s Arrest Exposes Chinese Corruption in Africa

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Former Hong Kong Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping pleaded not guilty last month to corruption charges brought by a U.S. federal court in New York after he was accused of offering bribes worth a total of U.S.$2.9 million to prominent...

Sinica Podcast

02.14.18

China’s Rise and America’s Myopia

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
China, as we say at the beginning of each Sinica Podcast episode, is a nation that is reshaping the world. But what does that reshaping really look like, and how does—and should—the world react to China’s role in globalization?

Where China’s Leaders Go in Africa May Surprise You

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Over the past 10 years Chinese leaders have made 79 official visits to 43 different African countries, according to new data from the Beijing-based consultancy Development Reimagined. Where the senior leadership goes offers some fascinating insights...

Books

02.07.18

Leftover in China

Roseann Lake
Editor’s note: After we originally posted this video interview about Leftover in China, questions were brought to our attention about the book. We took the video down while we reviewed these concerns, and we determined that the interview is suitable to run on our book video platform.W. W. Norton & Company: Factory Girls meets The Vagina Monologues in this fascinating narrative on China’s single women—and why they could be the source of its economic future.Forty years ago, China enacted the one-child policy, only recently relaxed. Among many other unintended consequences, it resulted in both an enormous gender imbalance—with predictions of over 20 million more men than women of marriage age by 2020—and China’s first generations of only-daughters. Given the resources normally reserved for boys, these girls were pushed to study, excel in college, and succeed in careers, as if they were sons.Now living in an economic powerhouse, enough of these women have decided to postpone marriage, or not marry at all, spawning a label: “leftovers.” Unprecedentedly well-educated and goal-oriented, they struggle to find partners in a society where gender roles have not evolved as vigorously as society itself, and where new professional opportunities have made women less willing to compromise their careers or concede to marriage for the sake of being wed. Further complicating their search for a mate, the vast majority of China’s single men reside in and are tied to the rural areas where they were raised. This makes them geographically, economically, and educationally incompatible with city-dwelling “leftovers,” who also face difficulty in partnering with urban men, given urban men’s general preference for more dutiful, domesticated wives.Part critique of China’s paternalistic ideals, part playful portrait of the romantic travails of China’s trailblazing women and their well-meaning parents who are anxious to see their daughters snuggled into traditional wedlock, Leftover in China focuses on the lives of four individual women against a backdrop of colorful anecdotes, hundreds of interviews, and rigorous historical and demographic research to show how these “leftovers” are the linchpin to China’s future.{chop}

Sinica Podcast

02.06.18

China’s Uighur Muslims, Under Pressure at Home and Abroad

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
By traveling not just to China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where 10 to 15 million Uighurs live, but also to Syria, where some have fled and taken up arms with militant groups, Associated Press reporter Gerry Shih sought to answer the most...

Who Killed More: Hitler, Stalin, or Mao?

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In these pages nearly seven years ago, Timothy Snyder asked the provocative question: Who killed more, Hitler or Stalin? As useful as that exercise in moral rigor was, some think the question itself might have been slightly off. Instead, it should...

How Trump’s Vulgar Comments Towards Africa Play Right into China’s Hands

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Somali-British freelance journalist Ismail Einahse joins Eric and Cobus to discuss his recent opinion column, “Trump’s Insults Will Nudge African Nations Closer To China.” The article, published on NPR.org, reflects a contentious debate going on...

Books

01.26.18

A Village with My Name

Scott Tong
When journalist Scott Tong moved to Shanghai, his assignment was to start up the first full-time China bureau for Marketplace, the daily business and economics program on public radio stations across the United States. But for Tong, the move became much more—it offered the opportunity to reconnect with members of his extended family who had remained in China after his parents fled the communists six decades prior. By uncovering the stories of his family’s history, Tong discovered a new way to understand the defining moments of modern China and its long, interrupted quest to go global.A Village with My Name offers a unique perspective on the transitions in China through the eyes of regular people who have witnessed such epochal events as the toppling of the Qing monarchy, Japan’s occupation during World War II, exile of political prisoners to forced labor camps, mass death and famine during the Great Leap Forward, market reforms under Deng Xiaoping, and the dawn of the One Child Policy. Tong’s story focuses on five members of his family, who each offer a specific window on a changing country: a rare American-educated girl born in the closing days of the Qing Dynasty, a pioneer exchange student, an abandoned toddler from World War II who later rides the wave of China’s global export boom, a young professional climbing the ladder at a multinational company, and an orphan (the author’s daughter) adopted in the middle of a baby-selling scandal fueled by foreign money. Through their stories, Tong shows us China anew, visiting former prison labor camps on the Tibetan plateau and rural outposts along the Yangtze, exploring the Shanghai of the 1930s, and touring factories across the mainland.With curiosity and sensitivity, Tong explores the moments that have shaped China and its people, offering a compelling and deeply personal take on how China became what it is today. —University of Chicago Press{chop}

China’s Evolving Military Strategy in Africa

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Chris Alden, a professor of international relations and China-Africa scholar at the London School of Economics, joins Eric and Cobus to discuss his new book, China and Africa: Building Peace and Security Cooperation on the Continent.

The Red Emperor

Roderick MacFarquhar from New York Review of Books
This fall, the Nineteenth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) gave proof that during his five years as general secretary Xi Jinping has become the most powerful leader of China since Mao Zedong died in 1976. Most observers, Chinese and...

What’s Next for Commercial Diplomacy with China?

Paul Haenle & Penny Pritzker from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
As the chief commercial advocate for U.S. businesses in policymaking, the Department of Commerce plays a crucial role in the U.S.-China trade and economic relationship. In the 99th episode of the China in the World Podcast, Paul Haenle spoke with...

‘The Biggest Taboo’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
One of China’s most influential artists is forty-eight-year-old Qiu Zhijie. A native of southern China’s Fujian province, Qiu studied art in the eastern city of Hangzhou before moving to Beijing in 1994 to pursue a career as a contemporary artist...