The ChinaFile Conversation is a regular discussion of China news, from a group of the world’s leading China experts.

Conversation

02.16.24

It’s Grim out There: China’s Economy in the Year of the Dragon

Anne Stevenson-Yang, Zongyuan Zoe Liu & more
Some observers have been predicting an economic collapse in China for decades. Others have long predicted that China would be stuck in a middle-income trap or some other type of economic stagnation. Might some of these predictions come true this...

Conversation

02.05.24

What Will Newly Increased Party Control Mean for China’s Universities?

Sun Peidong, Daniel A. Bell & more
In January, Radio Free Asia reported that the Chinese Communist Party is “taking a direct role in the running of universities across the country” by merging the presidents’ offices with their Party committees. Ideological controls on universities...

Conversation

01.20.24

Managing the Taiwan Election Aftermath

Ryan Hass, Yu-Jie Chen & more
Lai Ching-te is now president-elect of Taiwan, after a hard-fought race in which Beijing made its preference for his opponents clear. Lai is an outspoken advocate for Taiwan’s sovereignty, though he has said he wants to keep the status quo with...

Conversation

12.21.23

What Does It Really Mean for Europe to ‘De-Risk’ Its Relationship with China?

Thomas König, Una Aleksandra Bērziņa-Čerenkova & more from Mercator Institute for China Studies
At the core of many EU Commission and member states’ recent discussions of China is the concept of “de-risking.” Distinct from “decoupling,” the concept focuses on mitigating risks and limiting strategic dependencies in Europe’s relationship with...

Conversation

10.24.23

Are Staying in the U.S. or Returning to China Mutually Exclusive?

Wendy Zhou, Zizhu Zhang & more
The past several years have seen declines in both the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. and U.S. students studying China. We asked Chinese students studying, or who have recently completed their studies, in the U.S. why they chose to...

Conversation

10.24.23

What Is the Future for International Students in China?

Jack Allen, Matthew Barocas & more
In the last several years, an under-appreciated element of China’s retreat from the global stage has been diminished educational exchange, and particularly that exchange’s impact on students. During the height of the pandemic, tens of thousands of...

Conversation

06.16.23

The Stakes of Antony Blinken’s Visit to Beijing

Evan Medeiros, Sheena Greitens & more
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China on June 18, after repeated delays of high-level meetings and amid ongoing tensions between the two countries. In November, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping...

Conversation

04.05.23

As Macron Arrives in Beijing, What’s Next for Europe and China?

Una Aleksandra Bērziņa-Čerenkova, Frans-Paul van der Putten & more
One year after the EU-China Summit of April 2022—famously described as a “dialogue of the deaf” by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell—relations between Europe and China remain tense and further complicated by China’s ongoing stance towards Russia...

Conversation

03.22.23

Xi Jinping Goes to Moscow

Ryan Hass & Philipp Ivanov
On Wednesday, Xi Jinping returned to Beijing from Moscow following a three-day state visit at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. While the pair have met dozens of times in the past decade, this week’s talks have drawn unprecedented...

Conversation

03.03.23

Xi Jinping Says He Wants to Spread China’s Wealth More Equitably. How Likely Is That to Actually Happen?

David Bulman, Wei Cui & more
On the eve of the “Two Sessions,” Xi Jinping’s leadership position is now secure as he embarks on a third term. But China faces severe headwinds in reviving the economy, boosting employment, and managing local government debt. In past crises, China’...

Conversation

03.03.23

As China’s Leaders Gather in Beijing, Here’s What to Watch

Qiheng Chen, Michelle Mengsu Chang & more
As delegates gather in Beijing for the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the annual meetings known as the “Two Sessions” that set the tone and direction of China’s governance and policy, we asked...

Conversation

02.28.23

U.S.-China Trade Stayed Robust in 2022. Will That Last?

Wendy Cutler, Gerard DiPippo & more
Trade figures for 2022 released earlier this month show U.S.-China goods trade hit a record high of $690.6 billion, despite ongoing tensions. How should we interpret these latest figures? Do these numbers obscure medium and long term trends? Or will...

Conversation

12.16.22

How Well Is China Advancing Its Interests in Southeast Asia?

Gregory B. Poling, Sharon Seah & more
Xi Jinping traveled to Southeast Asia last month to attend the G20 summit in Bali before moving on to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ meeting in Bangkok. The meetings came on the heels of Premier Li Keqiang’s...

Conversation

12.02.22

Jiang Zemin, 1926-2022

Julia Lovell, Ian Johnson & more
Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin died on Wednesday at the age of 96, shortly after anger about the zero-COVID policy had boiled over into a wave of protest last weekend. Jiang took the country through the boom years of the 1990s, a time now...

Conversation

11.29.22

China in Protest

Guobin Yang, Taisu Zhang & more
Over the weekend, large demonstrations broke out in cities across China. The protests followed news, spread rapidly across Chinese and international social media, that a fire in an apartment building in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumchi on Friday had...

Conversation

11.11.22

The Beginning of the End for Zero-COVID?

Taylor Loeb, Johanna M. Costigan & more
At the end of October, videos began circulating on social media of workers at an iPhone plant in the city of Zhengzhou fleeing factory grounds to escape a quarantine lockdown of some 200,000 employees. Whether the workers wanted to escape the...

Conversation

10.11.22

On the Eve of the Party Congress, What’s Ahead for China’s Economy?

Guonan Ma, Ryan Hass & more
Three years of zero-COVID and a lingering property crisis have taken a toll on China’s economy. What are the prospects for an economic turnaround in the coming months? And if it doesn’t come to pass, what will a slowing economy spell for the Party’s...

Conversation

09.09.22

Could China’s Very Hot Summer Revive Action on Climate Change?

Ilaria Mazzocco, Lauri Myllyvirta & more
For more than two months, China—along with the rest of the globe—has been struggling with extreme heat and severe droughts. Hundreds of cities are facing temperatures in the 90s and higher, and Beijing last month issued its first nationwide drought...

Conversation

08.02.22

Pelosi in Taiwan

Brian Hioe, Lev Nachman & more
On the evening of August 2, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, landed in Taipei to begin an official visit. The trip, the first by a U.S. official of comparable rank in 25 years, came amid debate about how Beijing would...

Conversation

07.26.22

Can a New U.S. Law Prevent Uyghur Forced Labor?

John Foote, Darren Byler & more
Last month, the U.S. began enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Signed into law late last year, the UFLPA bans imports of goods made in Xinjiang unless the importer can offer “clear and convincing evidence” that no forced labor was...

Conversation

06.16.22

China’s Record Urban Youth Unemployment

Qin Chen, Alison Sile Chen & more
China has recorded its highest level of unemployment among urban youth since the country began tracking it in 2018. In March, 16 percent of Chinese city-dwellers aged 16 to 24 were unemployed, compared to 13.6 percent a year earlier. In May, that...

Conversation

05.19.22

Is Beijing Changing Tack on Big Tech?

Rui Ma, Ruihan Huang & more
In recent weeks, news has emerged that China may be slowing its Big Tech regulations. On Tuesday, the CPPCC held a special meeting on the digital economy, with Vice Premier Liu He highlighting the need “to support the platform economy.” This...

Conversation

04.29.22

Shanghai’s Lockdown

Kenton Thibaut, Guobin Yang & more
In late March, China started its largest lockdown in more than two years, with most of Shanghai’s 26 million residents confined to their homes in an effort to battle the rapid spread of Omicron. As of mid-April, 45 cities across the country were...

Conversation

04.14.22

Europe’s China Policy Has Taken a Sharp Turn. Where Will It Go Next?

Rogier Creemers, Una Aleksandra Bērziņa-Čerenkova & more
In their first such meeting in nearly two years, representatives of the European Union and Chinese government met on April 1 for a virtual summit. The conversations took place against the backdrop of not only unprecedented unity among the members of...

Conversation

04.07.22

What Does Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine Mean for China-Russia Relations?

Yun Sun, Philipp Ivanov & more
As Russia piles up casualties in Ukraine while its economy collapses at home, the democratic world appears—at least for now—more united than ever. Russian firms are scrambling to adjust to the country’s status as an international pariah, while big...

Conversation

03.22.22

Will China Set Global Tech Standards?

Graham Webster, Helen Toner & more
In early February, the European Commission issued a sweeping strategy for setting global technology standards. Coming on the heels of Beijing’s latest standards strategy, released in October, it reflects Europe’s efforts to push back against China’s...

Conversation

03.02.22

Remembering Jonathan Spence

Pamela Kyle Crossley, Sherman Cochran & more
A few weeks after Jonathan Spence, the celebrated historian of China, died at Christmas, ChinaFile began collecting reminiscences from his classmates, doctoral students, and colleagues spanning the five decades of his extraordinary career as a...

Conversation

03.02.22

China’s Calculus on the Invasion of Ukraine

Paul Haenle, Bonnie S. Glaser & more
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the response from much of the international community has been swift and coordinated, with sanctions, shipments of armaments, and loud condemnation. China, however, has stayed markedly apart. What does...

Conversation

01.28.22

The Olympics Return to Beijing

Sam Crane, Maya Wang & more
In February Beijing will host the Olympic Games again, this time amid a surging pandemic, a new wave of lockdowns, at least 10 diplomatic boycotts, and international alarm at the disappearance of one of the country’s top athletes. “Together for a...

Conversation

12.28.21

Three Questions for China’s Neighbors

Richard J. Heydarian, Nirupama Rao & more
“China was, is, and will always be a good neighbor,” China’s leader Xi Jinping told ASEAN representatives in a November 2021 virtual meeting, after a series of conflicts over Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea had raised tensions...

Conversation

11.24.21

What Future for International NGOs in China?

Katherine Wilhelm, Shawn Shieh & more
Nearly five years have passed since China implemented its Foreign NGO Law, imposing a host of new restrictions on the activities of international non-profit groups. What kind of responsibility do non-government organizations bear for sustaining...

Conversation

11.08.21

When Will China Get off Coal?

Lauri Myllyvirta, Alex Wang & more
As China looks to meet its energy demands, there has been a rush for coal, with prices hitting record highs in October. Despite pledges by Beijing to pull back from fossil fuels, the power crisis has exposed shortfalls in the country’s ability to...

Conversation

10.20.21

Tightening Up

Xibai Xu, Jude Blanchette & more
In what many observers have termed a “regulatory crackdown,” a wave of new legal restrictions and bans on business, technology, and entertainment has broken across China over the past several months, with what appears to be escalating velocity and...

Conversation

09.28.21

How Could the U.S. Deter Military Conflict in the Taiwan Strait?

Daniel R. Russel, Shelley Rigger & more
Last week, China flew 24 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. One of the largest incursions in recent years, the People’s Liberation Army flyover came a day after Taipei applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement...

Conversation

08.26.21

What Does the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan Mean for China?

Laurel Miller, Amanda Hsiao & more
As China seeks to balance security concerns and financial considerations, a nation that has long espoused the principle of noninterference may find its foreign policy tested in coming months. What will be the challenges and opportunities for China...

Conversation

07.30.21

Will Beijing Invade Taiwan?

Susan Thornton, Scott Swift & more
What, precisely, are Beijing’s plans for Taiwan? In recent years, there has been no small amount of saber rattling, with aggressive naval drills, aerial incursions, and warnings that force would be used for reunification if necessary. But given the...

Conversation

07.12.21

How Should the U.S. Approach Climate Diplomacy with China?

Isabel Hilton, Scott Moore & more
As China continues to emerge as a superpower and move forward with its colossal Belt and Road Initiative amid the climate crisis, American climate engagement with China is more critical than ever. What would an effective climate diplomacy for the U...

Conversation

06.21.21

Will I Return to China?

Scott Kennedy, Tracy Wen Liu & more
ChinaFile sent a short questionnaire to several hundred ChinaFile contributors to get a sense of their feelings about traveling to China once COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease. Media reports at the time had suggested, anecdotally, that foreigners...

Conversation

05.22.21

How Should the U.S. Respond to China’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy?

Elsa Kania, Tai Ming Cheung & more
During Donald Trump’s presidency, the term “military-civil fusion” (MCF) came to feature prominently in U.S. officials’ characterizations of their concerns about China. While efforts to integrate China’s civilian and defense economies have been a...

Conversation

05.06.21

What Should China Do about Its Aging Population?

Wang Feng, Karen Thornber & more
Though it has yet to be released, China’s latest ten-year census is certain to confirm what demographers have warned of for years: A labor crisis looms as the fertility rate remains low and the country ages at a dangerous speed. Five years after the...

Conversation

03.11.21

Hong Kong’s Economic Future

Ho-fung Hung, Flora Huang & more
If conventional wisdom held that China would never risk Hong Kong’s market, that was predicated on a specter of a foreign financial exodus. When the national security law was promulgated, experts warned of an international withdrawal and an end to...

Conversation

02.12.21

Will China Be a Global Vaccine Leader?

Deborah Seligsohn, Jenny Lei Ravelo & more
Beijing stands to reap major rewards by becoming the supplier of choice—or necessity—throughout low- and middle-income countries. China has expanded its international aid efforts in recent years and stressed its commitment to “south-south”...

Conversation

11.18.20

How Can the U.S. Maintain Global Leadership in Science and Technology?

Susan Shirk, Helen Toner & more
Among the central issues the incoming U.S. presidential administration will face as it formulates policy toward China is the interconnectedness between the two countries in the spheres of science and technology. U.S. concerns over national security...

Conversation

10.16.20

A New Normal for U.S. China Policy?

Teng Biao, Isabel Hilton & more
After four years of Trump’s trade wars, withdrawal from international bodies, and xenophobic immigration policies, the United States has hit an apex of isolationism. Even if a new government steps in, however, it’s not altogether clear the U.S...

Conversation

09.25.20

Technical Difficulties

Samantha Hoffman, Fergus Ryan & more
Citing national security concerns, the Trump administration announced September 18 that it was banning both TikTok and WeChat from mobile app stores starting Sunday, with further usage bans to come. While that date came and went without any impact...

Conversation

09.17.20

Europe and China’s ‘Virtual Summit’

Noah Barkin, Dan Baer & more
Meeting via video conference on Monday, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, held a summit with European Council President Charles Michel, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Slimmed down in format thanks to the...

Conversation

08.27.20

The Future of China Studies in the U.S.

Sheena Greitens, Rebecca E. Karl & more
As an extraordinarily fraught school year begins, the study of China on U.S. campuses (or their new virtual equivalents), as well as China’s role in university life more broadly, has recently become a subject of scrutiny and debate. What is the...

Conversation

08.05.20

What Now?

Jerome A. Cohen, Scott Kennedy & more
The past several months have been a particularly volatile period in U.S.-China relations. After last month’s closures of the Chinese consulate in Houston and the American consulate in Chengdu, we asked contributions to give us their assessments of...

Conversation

07.21.20

Is There a Future for Values-Based Engagement with China?

Neysun A. Mahboubi, Mary Gallagher & more
A key feature of current debates over U.S.-China relations is the proposition that “engagement failed,” in light of the Chinese government’s increasingly aggressive posture towards liberal values at home and on the world stage. Already on the...

Conversation

06.30.20

How Should Democracies Respond to China’s New National Security Law for Hong Kong?

Bernhard Bartsch, Yu-Jie Chen & more
July 1 will mark 23 years since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty. Each of those years—and many that preceded them—has seen its share of disquiet over the future of the territory’s way of life and about the resilience of “one country, two...

Conversation

06.16.20

China’s Zoom Bomb

Wang Dan, Donald Clarke & more
In the lead-up to the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations this spring, Zoom, the U.S.-based company whose online meeting platform has rocketed to global prominence amid the COVID-19 pandemic, received requests from China’s...

Conversation

06.03.20

Has COVID-19 Changed How China’s Leaders Approach National Security?

Rorry Daniels, M. Taylor Fravel & more
While the world is reeling from the cascading shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has continued a comparatively aggressive course in its foreign policy and security posture. Not only has it continued military and paramilitary activities in the...

Conversation

05.19.20

What Are the Right and the Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support Taiwan?

Daniel R. Russel, Yu-Jie Chen & more
What are the right and wrong ways for the U.S. to support Taiwan? Traditionally, America’s goals have been to deter the mainland from aggression and coercion, support Taiwan’s democratic system, strengthen economic ties, and help it maintain...

Conversation

05.09.20

How Will China Shape Global Governance?

Jeremy Youde, Melanie Hart & more
How is the Trump administration’s contempt for, and retreat from, multilateral bodies affecting China’s position and weight within them—or indeed its overall strategy for relations with these organizations? Do China’s leaders aspire to supplant the...

Conversation

04.26.20

How Is the Coronavirus Outbreak Affecting China’s Relations with Its Asian Neighbors?

Tanvi Madan, Daniel S. Markey & more
How has China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic—inside and outside of China—affected perceptions of China among countries in Asia? And how might this shape future policy toward China, or the regional policy landscape more broadly?

Conversation

04.06.20

What Does the Coronavirus Mean for EU-China Relations?

Plamen Tonchev, Theresa Fallon & more
2020 promised to be an especially consequential year for the EU-China relationship, but three highly anticipated summits have been thrown into uncertainty, and diplomacy between Europe and China is now completely consumed by the coronavirus crisis.

Conversation

03.28.20

Is U.S.-China Cooperation on COVID-19 Still Possible?

Julian B. Gewirtz, Deborah Seligsohn & more
Over the past two weeks, as the outbreak of the virus known has COVID-19 has accelerated its deadly spread around the world, an already collapsing U.S.-China relationship appears to be entering a period of free fall. This is happening at a moment...

Conversation

03.19.20

As Its Coronavirus Outbreak Abates, China Is Trying out a New Look. Is It Working?

Daniel R. Russel, Pamela Kyle Crossley & more
As the coronavirus spreads globally, China’s government is working aggressively to change its international image. In the span of just a few weeks, China has gone from the embattled epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic to presenting the country as...

Conversation

03.09.20

‘Our Daily Media Consumption Is Completely Different’

Muyi Xiao, Yan Cong & more
In the 18 years I lived at home, we never had a single conversation about current affairs or politics. I had a very minimal understanding of my country and was in no place to initiate discussion, and my parents were never enthusiastic enough to...

Conversation

02.26.20

How Will Coronavirus Impact China in the Long Term?

Arthur R. Kroeber, Lindsey Ford & more
As numbers of new infections begin to diminish, the People’s Republic of China is beginning to claim victory in its battle with the coronavirus. But with over 700 million people—10 percent of the world’s population—now living under lockdown, the...