What It Takes to Be a Good China-Watcher

A Sinica Podcast

China-watching isn’t what it used to be. Not too long ago, the field of international China studies was dominated by a few male Westerners with an encyclopedic knowledge of China, but with surprisingly little experience living in the country or speaking Chinese. Today, China-watching is different: The old “China hands” are still around and remain authoritative, but an increased number of younger travelers in a much more open China, people with specialized academic backgrounds and advanced language skills, and women—see last week’s Sinica Podcast on female China expertise—are changing the face of this field.

Bill Bishop is among the most recognizable China-watchers in the business. His long-running Sinocism newsletter is an essential resource for serious followers of China policy, and he is regularly quoted in a variety of major news outlets reporting on China.

Kaiser and Bill sat down at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., on April 6 to record this podcast and discuss how China-watching has changed over the years. And in a reflection of Bill’s point that the media’s conventional wisdom on China is usually wrong, the summit between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago (occurring during the recording of this podcast) was exactly as Bill predicted: “Bland.”