Monday, June 1, 2020

Summer 2020 Issue 64

The Chinese Reassessment of Interdependence

Julian Gewirtz

Monday, June 1, 2020

This essay analyzes trends in Chinese views of U.S.-China interdependence from Xi Jinping’s rise to the COVID-19 pandemic. It shows how Xi Jinping put forward an expansive vision of national security that highlights the risks of interdependence, while also expanding China’s use of its leverage in interdependent relationships to coerce others. These efforts have intensified significantly due to the Trump administration’s coercive actions on trade and technology. Xi’s and Trump’s shifts also accelerated a reassessment of the risks and benefits of interdependence among a broader set of Chinese elites. Most significantly, many former officials and prominent thinkers appear to be newly convinced that longstanding forms of interdependence with the United States pose intolerable risks to China. This essay concludes by assessing the evolution of elite Chinese views of U.S.-China interdependence in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which many see as a potential opportunity for China to reset its interdependence with other countries on more favorable terms for China.

China’s Public Health Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak

Yanzhong Huang

Monday, June 1, 2020

This essay focuses on the pattern of China’s public health response to the COVID-19 outbreak. While the government response suggests that important progress has been made in strengthening disease surveillance and response capacities in the post-SARS era, it also reveals a pattern of cover-up and inaction similar to what occurred during the SARS outbreak. This time, however, local government leaders and health authorities appear to have played a more prominent role in the making of the crisis. Once central leaders recognized the severity of the crisis, they—like their counterparts during the SARS crisis—did not hesitate to turn to draconian measures to contain the outbreak.  However, compared to the reverse course during the SARS crisis, the COVID-19 containment measures were carried out more aggressively and extensively, aided by high-tech means. The speed and scale of the containment efforts and the government’s ability to rein in the spread of the virus show the presence of a highly resilient and powerful state. Still, the tremendous social-economic costs incurred by strict disease control measures and the inability to completely break the transmission chain highlight the limits of the state reach.  The essay concludes with a discussion on the replicability of the Chinese approach.

  How Has the Coronavirus Crisis Affected Xi’s Power: A Preliminary Assessment

Minxin Pei

Monday, June 1, 2020

The December 2019 coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and the subsequent spread of the pandemic throughout the country and the world is the worst political crisis Chinese leader Xi Jinping has faced in his seven years in power.  The party-state’s poor initial response, whether due to the cover-up by local officials or Xi’s own inadequate attention or poor judgment, not only reveals some of the well-known systemic flaws in the Chinese state but also exposes Xi to criticisms of questionable leadership.  Yet, despite its initial missteps, the party-state managed to contain the viral outbreak quickly, largely due to its formidable capacity to mobilize the resources at its disposal.  While sustaining real, albeit limited, damage to his authority for now, Xi is likely to experience greater difficulties in confronting the medium-to-long–term economic and geopolitical consequences of the pandemic.

Chinese Crisis Decision Making -- Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic

Part One: The Domestic Component

Michael D. Swaine

Monday, June 1,  2020

Available open sources indicate that in their domestic handling of the COVID-19 virus, the central Chinese authorities generally followed, ultimately to good effect, established crisis management processes and procedures as well as post-SARS regulations for dealing with a health emergency.  A major exception to this record occurred with regard to the initial reporting on the virus by both local and central authorities, where the pre-existing network reporting system was not utilized early enough and both local and initial central expert teams sent to Wuhan failed to detect the seriousness of the outbreak.  Once the top leadership clearly recognized the gravity of the situation, it moved with at times ruthless efficiency to combat the virus.  Although Xi Jinping and other senior officials subsequently acknowledged that mistakes were made, the center only punished local officials, in an apparent attempt to deflect blame from the top, as was also the case during the SARS epidemic.  Available open sources provide no clear proof that the more extreme charge of a deliberate cover-up of a known deadly and highly contagious outbreak is accurate.  However, they do indicate that the Chinese system remains excessively bureaucratic and consensus-driven, often prizing political criteria over expert-based information and reflexively suppressing unauthorized communications. 

CLM Insights Interview with Xueguang Zhou on his recent book: 

The Institutional Logic of Governance in China: An Organizational Approach

Introducing CLM Quick Take

Hong Kong's National Security Law: An Assessment 

 

Donald Clarke

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (the “NSL” or the “Law”) was passed by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on June 30, 2020, promulgated on the same day, and made effective immediately upon being made public. Although mainland Chinese law is not generally part of Hong Kong’s domestic law, it can become so if made part of Annex III to the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and this was done with the NSL. This essay will highlight its main points and discuss controversial areas.