Books

03.24.20

Vernacular Industrialism in China

Eugenia Lean
Columbia University Press: In early 20th-century China, Chen Diexian (1879-1940) was a maverick entrepreneur—at once a prolific man of letters, captain of industry, magazine editor, and cosmetics magnate. He tinkered with chemistry in his private studio, used local cuttlefish to source magnesium carbonate, and published manufacturing tips in how-to columns. In a rapidly changing society, Chen copied foreign technologies and translated manufacturing processes from abroad to produce adaptations of global commodities that bested foreign brands. Engaging in the worlds of journalism, industry, and commerce, he drew on literati practices associated with late-imperial elites but deployed them in novel ways within a culture of educated tinkering that generated industrial innovation.Through the lens of Chen’s career, Eugenia Lean explores how unlikely individuals devised unconventional, homegrown approaches to industry and science in early 20th-century China. She contends that Chen’s activities exemplify “vernacular industrialism,” the pursuit of industry and science outside of conventional venues, often involving ad hoc forms of knowledge and material work. Lean shows how vernacular industrialists accessed worldwide circuits of law and science and experimented with local and global processes of manufacturing to navigate, innovate, and compete in global capitalism. In doing so, they presaged the approach that has helped fuel China’s economic ascent in the 21st century. Rather than conventional narratives that depict China as belatedly borrowing from Western technology, Vernacular Industrialism in China offers a new understanding of industrialization, going beyond material factors to show the central role of culture and knowledge production in technological and industrial change.{chop}

Books

03.12.20

China and Intervention at the UN Security Council

Courtney J. Fung
Oxford University Press: What explains China’s response to intervention at the UN Security Council? China and Intervention at the UN Security Council argues that status is an overlooked determinant in understanding its decisions, even in the apex cases that are shadowed by a public discourse calling for foreign-imposed regime change in Sudan, Libya, and Syria. It posits that China reconciles its status dilemma as it weighs decisions to intervene, seeking recognition from both its intervention peer groups of great powers and developing states. Understanding the impact and scope of conditions of status answers why China has taken certain positions regarding intervention and how these positions were justified. Foreign policy behavior that complies with status, and related social factors like self-image and identity, means that China can select policy options bearing material costs. China and Intervention at the UN Security Council draws on an extensive collection of data, including over two hundred interviews with UN officials and Chinese foreign policy elites, participant observation at UN Headquarters, and a dataset of Chinese-language analysis regarding foreign-imposed regime change and intervention. The book concludes with new perspectives on the malleability of China’s core interests, insights about the application of status for cooperation, and the implications of the status dilemma for rising powers.{chop}

Books

03.05.20

Playing by the Informal Rules

Yao Li
Cambridge University Press: Growing protests in non-democratic countries are often seen as signals of regime decline. China, however, has remained stable amid surging protests. Playing by the Informal Rules highlights the importance of informal norms in structuring state-protester interactions, mitigating conflict, and explaining regime resilience. Drawing on a nationwide dataset of protest and multi-sited ethnographic research, this book presents a bird’s-eye view of Chinese contentious politics and illustrates the uneven application of informal norms across regions, social groups, and time. Through examinations of protests and their distinct implications for regime stability, Li offers a novel theoretical framework suitable for monitoring the trajectory of political contention in China and beyond. Overall, this study sheds new light on political mobilization and authoritarian resilience and provides fresh perspectives on power, rules, legitimacy, and resistance in modern societies.{chop}

Books

02.24.20

Fateful Triangle

Tanvi Madan
Brookings Institution Press: In this Asian century, scholars, officials, and journalists are increasingly focused on the fate of the rivalry between China and India. They see the U.S.’s relationships with the two Asian giants as now intertwined, after having followed separate paths during the Cold War.In Fateful Triangle, Tanvi Madan argues that China’s influence on the U.S.-India relationship is neither a recent nor a momentary phenomenon. Drawing on documents from India and the United States, she shows that American and Indian perceptions of and policy toward China significantly shaped U.S.-India relations in three crucial decades, from 1949 to 1979. Fateful Triangle updates our understanding of the diplomatic history of U.S.-India relations, highlighting China’s central role in it; reassesses the origins and practice of Indian foreign policy and nonalignment; and provides historical context for the interactions between the three countries.Madan’s assessment of this formative period in the triangular relationship is of more than historic interest. A key question today is whether the United States and India can, or should, develop ever-closer ties as a way of countering China’s desire to be the dominant power in the broader Asian region. Fateful Triangle argues that history shows such a partnership is neither inevitable nor impossible. A desire to offset China brought the two countries closer together in the past, and could do so again. A look to history, however, also shows that shared perceptions of an external threat from China are necessary, but insufficient, to bring India and the United States into a close and sustained alignment. That requires agreement on the nature and urgency of the threat, as well as how to approach the threat strategically, economically, and ideologically.With its long view, Fateful Triangle offers insights for both present and future policymakers as they tackle a fateful, and evolving, triangle that has regional and global implications.{chop}

Books

02.18.20

Vigil

Jeffrey Wasserstrom
Columbia Global Reports: The rise of Hong Kong is the story of a miraculous post-war boom, when Chinese refugees flocked to a small British colony, and, in less than 50 years, transformed it into one of the great financial centers of the world. The unraveling of Hong Kong, on the other hand, shatters the grand illusion of China ever having the intention of allowing democratic norms to take root inside its borders. Hong Kong’s people were subjects of the British Empire for more than a hundred years, and now seem destined to remain the subordinates of today’s greatest rising power.But although we are witnessing the death of Hong Kong as we know it, this is also the story of the biggest challenge to China’s authoritarianism in 30 years. Activists who are passionately committed to defending the special qualities of a home they love are fighting against Beijing’s crafty efforts to bring the city into its fold—of making it a centerpiece of its “Greater Bay Area” megalopolis.Jeffrey Wasserstrom draws on his many visits to the city, and knowledge of the history of repression and resistance, to help us understand the deep roots and the broad significance of the events we see unfolding day by day in Hong Kong. The result is a riveting tale of tragedy but also heroism—one of the great David-versus-Goliath battles of our time, pitting determined street protesters against the intransigence of Xi Jinping, the most ambitious leader of China since the days of Mao.{chop}

Books

02.05.20

The Scientist and the Spy

Mara Hvistendahl
Penguin Random House: A riveting true story of industrial espionage in which a Chinese-born scientist is pursued by the U.S. government for trying to steal trade secrets, by a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction.In September 2011, sheriff’s deputies in Iowa encountered three ethnic Chinese men near a field where a farmer was growing corn seed under contract with Monsanto. What began as a simple trespassing inquiry mushroomed into a two-year FBI operation in which investigators bugged the men’s rental cars, used a warrant intended for foreign terrorists and spies, and flew surveillance planes over corn country—all in the name of protecting trade secrets of corporate giants Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer. Hvistendahl gives a gripping account of this unusually far-reaching investigation, which pitted a veteran FBI special agent against Florida resident Robert Mo, who after his academic career foundered took a questionable job with the Chinese agricultural company DBN and became a pawn in a global rivalry.Industrial espionage by Chinese companies lies beneath the United States’ recent trade war with China, and it is one of the top counterintelligence targets of the FBI. But a decade of efforts to stem the problem have been largely ineffective. Through previously unreleased FBI files and her reporting from across the United States and China, Hvistendahl describes a long history of shoddy counterintelligence on China, much of it tinged with racism, and questions the role that corporate influence plays in trade secrets theft cases brought by the U.S. government.{chop}

Stuck in Central China on Coronavirus Lockdown

Lavender Au from New York Review of Books
Before Shiyan, a city in Hubei province, went into quarantine, the sum of 30 yuan (about $4) could buy two cabbages, enough spring onions for two soups, a large white radish, two lettuces, a potato, and 10 eggs. Not any more. Wanting to record the...

Books

01.27.20

The Art of Political Control in China

Daniel C. Mattingly
Cambridge University Press: When and why do people obey political authority when it runs against their own interests to do so? This book is about the channels beyond direct repression through which China’s authoritarian state controls protest and implements ambitious policies from sweeping urbanization schemes that have displaced millions to family planning initiatives like the one-child policy. Daniel C. Mattingly argues that China’s remarkable state capacity is not simply a product of coercive institutions such as the secret police or the military. Instead, the state uses local civil society groups as hidden but effective tools of informal control to suppress dissent and implement far-reaching policies.Drawing on evidence from qualitative case studies, experiments, and national surveys, the book challenges the conventional wisdom that a robust civil society strengthens political responsiveness. Surprisingly, it is communities that lack strong civil society groups that find it easiest to act collectively and spontaneously resist the state.{chop}

Books

01.07.20

China’s Urban Champions

Kyle A. Jaros
Princeton University Press: The rise of major metropolises across China since the 1990s has been a double-edged sword: Although big cities function as economic powerhouses, concentrated urban growth can worsen regional inequalities, governance challenges, and social tensions. Wary of these dangers, China’s national leaders have tried to forestall top-heavy urbanization. However, urban and regional development policies at the sub-national level have not always followed suit. China’s Urban Champions explores the development paths of different provinces and asks why policymakers in many cases favor big cities in a way that reinforces spatial inequalities rather than reducing them.Kyle Jaros combines in-depth case studies of Hunan, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, and Jiangsu provinces with quantitative analysis to shed light on the political drivers of uneven development. Drawing on numerous Chinese-language written sources, including government documents and media reports, as well as a wealth of field interviews with officials, policy experts, urban planners, academics, and businesspeople, Jaros shows how provincial development strategies are shaped by both the horizontal relations of competition among different provinces and the vertical relations among different tiers of government. Metropolitan-oriented development strategies advance when lagging economic performance leads provincial leaders to fixate on boosting regional competitiveness, and when provincial governments have the political strength to impose their policy priorities over the objections of other actors.Rethinking the politics of spatial policy in an era of booming growth, China’s Urban Champions highlights the key role of provincial units in determining the nation’s metropolitan and regional development trajectory.{chop}

Books

12.18.19

Tech Titans of China

Rebecca A. Fannin
Nicholas Brealey Publishing: The rise of China’s tech companies and intense competition from the sector is just beginning. This will present an ongoing management and strategy challenge for companies for many years to come. Tech Titans of China is the go-to guide for companies (and those interested in competition from China) seeking to understand China’s grand tech ambitions, who the players are, and what their strategy is.Featuring detailed profiles of the Chinese tech companies making waves, the tech sectors that matter most in China’s grab for super power status, and predictions for China’s tech dominance in just 10 years.{chop} Related Reading:“The Inside Story of China’s Stunning Rise from Tech Imitator to Innovator,” Marcus Baram, Fast Company, September 5, 2019

Books

12.16.19

Becoming Taiwanese

Evan Dawley
Havard University Press: What does it mean to be Taiwanese? This question sits at the heart of Taiwan’s modern history and its place in the world. In contrast to the prevailing scholarly focus on Taiwan after 1987, Becoming Taiwanese examines the important first era in the history of Taiwanese identity construction during the early 20th century, in the place that served as the crucible for the formation of new identities: the northern port city of Jilong (Keelung).Part colonial urban social history, part exploration of the relationship between modern ethnicity and nationalism, Becoming Taiwanese offers new insights into ethnic identity formation. Evan Dawley examines how people from China’s southeastern coast became rooted in Taiwan; how the transfer to Japanese colonial rule established new contexts and relationships that promoted the formation of distinct urban, ethnic, and national identities; and how the so-called retrocession to China replicated earlier patterns and reinforced those same identities. Becoming Taiwanese is based on original research in Taiwan and Japan, and focuses on the settings and practices of social organizations, religion, and social welfare, as well as the local elites who served as community gatekeepers.{chop}

Books

12.12.19

Betraying Big Brother

Leta Hong Fincher
Verso: On the eve of International Women’s Day in 2015, the Chinese government arrested five feminist activists and jailed them for 37 days. The Feminist Five became a global cause célèbre, with Hillary Clinton speaking out on their behalf and activists inundating social media with #FreetheFive messages. But the Five are only symbols of a much larger feminist movement of civil rights lawyers, labor activists, performance artists, and online warriors prompting an unprecedented awakening among China’s educated, urban women. In Betraying Big Brother, journalist and scholar Leta Hong Fincher argues that the popular, broad-based movement poses the greatest challenge to China’s authoritarian regime today.Through interviews with the Feminist Five and other leading Chinese activists, Hong Fincher illuminates both the difficulties they face and their “joy of betraying Big Brother,” as one of the Feminist Five wrote of the defiance she felt during her detention. Tracing the rise of a new feminist consciousness now finding expression through the #MeToo movement, and describing how the Communist regime has suppressed the history of its own feminist struggles, Betraying Big Brother is a story of how the movement against patriarchy could reconfigure China and the world.{chop}

Are China and Russia Getting Too Close for Comfort?

Paul Haenle, Dmitri Trenin & more from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Discussion of U.S.-China-Russia relations often focuses on how American policy is driving Moscow and Beijing closer together. This analysis, however, ignores important factors limiting cooperation between China and Russia and preventing the two...

How China’s Rise Has Forced Hong Kong’s Decline

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
For nearly six months, people around the world have watched the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong with one question in the back of their minds: When will Beijing lose patience and the repression begin? Journalists expecting to cover Tiananmen II...

Reports

11.01.19

Scanning the Horizon

Bertram Lang
Bertram Lang
International Civil Society Centre
China’s growing influence in the world has been identified as one of the top global trends influencing the trajectory and development of other major trends relating to sustainable development. China’s relevance for civil society organisations (CSOs...

Books

10.31.19

Sovereignty in China

Maria Adele Carrai
Cambridge University Press: This book provides a comprehensive history of the emergence and formation of the concept of sovereignty in China from 1840 to the present. It contributes to broadening the history of modern China by looking at the way the notion of sovereignty was gradually articulated by key Chinese intellectuals, diplomats, and political figures in the unfolding of the history of international law in China, rehabilitates Chinese agency, and shows how China challenged Western Eurocentric assumptions about the progress of international law. It puts the history of international law in a global perspective, interrogating the widely-held belief of international law as universal order, and exploring the ways in which its history is closely anchored to a European experience that fails to take into account how the encounter with other non-European realities has influenced its formation.{chop}

Books

10.24.19

Rebranding China

Xiaoyu Pu
Stanford University Press: China is intensely conscious of its status, both at home and abroad. This concern is often interpreted as an undivided desire for higher standing as a global leader. Yet, Chinese political elites heatedly debate the nation’s role as it becomes an increasingly important player in international affairs. At times, China positions itself not as a nascent global power but as a fragile developing country. Contradictory posturing makes decoding China’s foreign policy a challenge, generating anxiety and uncertainty in many parts of the world. Using the metaphor of “rebranding” to understand China’s varying displays of status, Xiaoyu Pu analyzes a rising China’s challenges and dilemmas on the global stage.As competing pressures mount across domestic, regional, and international audiences, China must pivot between different representational tactics. Rebranding China demystifies how the state represents its global position by analyzing recent military transformations, regional diplomacy, and international financial negotiations. Drawing on a sweeping body of research, including original Chinese sources and interdisciplinary ideas from sociology, psychology, and international relations, this book puts forward a framework for interpreting China’s foreign policy.{chop}

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}

What Holds China Together?

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
It’s easy to put oneself in the minds of government propagandists and feel that things are going quite well in China. Yes, faraway Hong Kong is in crisis, with huge anti-government protests going on since March. But it was always going to be tough...

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}

Is the U.S.-China Relationship in Free Fall?: Part II

Paul Haenle & Da Wei from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Da Wei argues that shifting domestic politics in China and the United States are negatively impacting bilateral ties. In Washington, there is no longer widespread support for engagement with China. In Beijing, debates over the role of the state in...

Is the U.S.-China Relationship in Free Fall?: Part I

Paul Haenle & Da Wei from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
The Trump administration has focused China’s attention on the need to address underlying issues in the bilateral relationship, but it has overstepped. Trump’s use of tariffs has hardened Chinese views and limited Beijing’s ability to make...

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}

Reports

07.08.19

U.S.-China Diplomacy After Tiananmen: Documents from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library

George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
These are the main documents in the George H.W. Bush presidential archives from the six months after June 4, 1989 that most pertain to how the Bush administration assessed the situation and decided to proceed following the Tiananmen Square crackdown...

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,...