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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Winter 2022 Issue 74


Xi’s New Central Military Commission: A War Council for Taiwan?

Joel Wuthnow
Thursday, December 1, 2022

A key result of the 20th Party Congress was the reappointment of Xi Jinping as chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the selection of new CMC members. Some have argued that the new military brass indicates a greater inclination by Xi to use force against Taiwan, but the evidence does not support this view. The new CMC is consistent with the recent past in terms of its internal structure; few of the new members whom Xi has chosen have deep operational expertise on Taiwan, and his new CMC is even less “joint” than the last one in terms of service representation and joint command skills. Rather than designed to lead a war, the new CMC will be charged with pursuing the PLA’s overall modernization, which includes becoming better prepared for future contingencies. The group of CMC  advisors could also play a key role in deterring Xi from any temptation to use force if they can speak truth to power.

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New Faces of Leaders, New Factional Dynamics: CCP Leadership Politics Following the 20th Party Congress

Guoguang Wu
Thursday, December 1, 2022

The 20th National Congress, which met in October 2022, reorganized the central leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, with party chief Xi Jinping beginning his third term and overwhelmingly dominating the Politburo and its Standing Committee. As non-Xi factions have virtually disappeared from the top leadership, is CCP factional politics now over? Will CCP elites become “united as a piece of hard steel" with Xi in command? How will the dynamics of leadership politics in the years to follow likely unfold? This essay is an attempt to answer these questions by analyzing the career paths of the new members of the leadership and outlining the emerging landscape of new factions in the party. It argues that, in the years to come, factional competition will be inevitable due to significant political, administrative, and institutional factors within the dictatorial regime. Generational change, in terms of internal elite circulation and power succession, will also fuel power struggles among those sub-Xi factions that are now taking shape.


Policy Continuity with Rhetorical Escalation: Parsing Xi Jinping’s Political Report to the 20th Party Congress

Minxin Pei
Thursday, September 1, 2022

The political report Chinese leader Xi Jinping delivered to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China represents a notable departure from his report to the 2017 19th Party Congress in its tone and depiction of China’s external environment.  But in terms of policy, his report presents a policy agenda that summarizes existing policy.  The focus on national security in the report largely formalizes recent policy initiatives rather than signaling a radical shift.  When we compare the last three political reports, Hu Jintao’s report to the 18th Congress and Xi’s reports to the 19th and 20th congresses, Xi’s report to the 19th Congress was a radical departure from Hu’s report to the 18th Congress in both tone and substance, whereas his report to the 20th Congress took on a more combative tone than his report to the 19th Congress but it contained a similar policy agenda.  This can be seen in the sections on national defense and Taiwan in the two reports. Taken together, Xi’s report to the 20th Party Congress signals a continuation of Xi’s current policy agenda in his third term.


The Covid–19 Pandemic and China’s Economic Slowdown

Alicia Garcia Herrero
Thursday, September 1, 2022

The Chinese economy has been undergoing a structural slowdown during the past decade, due to aging, decelerating productivity, and lower returns on assets. The Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with China’s dynamic Zero-Covid policies, have worsened that trend, together with two other important factors, namely the demise of China’s real estate sector as well as the much more difficult external environment stemming from growing U.S.-China strategic rivalry and the war in Ukraine. China’s Covid experience started well but it is ending poorly. With much better economic performance in 2020 compared to the rest of the world, China managed to attract large amounts of capital while keeping its borders closed. However, doubling down on the Zero-Covid strategy with a much more contagious virus, while the rest of the world was opening, changed China’s fortunes for the worse. In fact, China is bound to grow barely half of what the government promised for 2022 (5.5 percent). Moving forward, as the Chinese government starts to show some signs of opening-up, the question remains whether a strong recovery should be expected.  The answer is “no.” The factors behind China’s structural deceleration are still intact. In addition, Covid-related scarring effects are bound to hurt the Chinese economy in terms of human capital and innovation. Finally, the 20th Party Congress has made it crystal clear that the role of the state – and the party –  in the economy is bound to increase. All in all, even if the Covid restrictions are lifted, China might see a temporary recovery but the structural deceleration will still lead to growth at around 2 percent by 2030. This implies that any convergence with the U.S. economy will not continue for long.

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CLM Insights Interview with Victor C. Shih on his recent book:

Coalitions of the Weak: Elite Politics in China from Mao's Stratagem to the Rise of Xi

(Cambridge University Press, 2022)

CLM Insights Interview with Josh Chin and Liza Lin on their recent book:

Surveillance State: China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control

(St. Martin's Press, 2022)

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Thursday, September 1, 2022

Fall 2022 Issue 73


Xi Jinping’s Political Agenda and Leadership: What do we know from his decade in power

Minxin Pei
Thursday, September 1, 2022

The political agenda of Chinese President Xi Jinping during his first decade in power consisted of three core components: establishing personal political dominance, revitalizing the Leninist party-state, and expanding Chinese power and influence globally. As he completes his first two terms and seeks a third term, he has made uneven progress in accomplishing his agenda. Due to his political skills and control of the regime’s instruments of coercion, Xi has firmly established his political authority and dominance. The revitalization of the Leninist party-state has been most successful in reinstituting tight social control. The reintroduction of ideological indoctrination and organizational discipline into the party may have produced a revival of political ritualism but questionable genuine ideological commitment and political loyalty. The reassertion of state control over the economy has just begun, and it is likely to entail immense costs. The assertive foreign policy has yielded mostly counterproductive outcomes as attempts to take advantage of the shift in the global balance of power has provoked a vigorous pushback by the U.S. and its allies.


From Strategic Reassurance to Running Over Roadblocks: A Review of Xi Jinping’s Foreign Policy Record

Ryan Hass 
Thursday, September1, 2022

The conduct of China’s foreign policy over the past decade has grown more nakedly ambitious and tolerant of friction in pursuit of national objectives. China’s leaders seem to have concluded that the country has grown too strong to feign modesty of ambition. Rather than seek to placate external anxieties about China’s rise, they seem to have decided it is better to amass strength and compel others to accept China’s ambitions and conduct. During the past decade, China’s economy has grown and become more integrated within East Asia. The People’s Liberation Army has gained strength. China also has exercised greater leadership on issues of global governance and built a growing number of international partnerships. These and other developments have imbued China’s leaders with confidence that historic trends are in their favor. At the same time, Beijing’s growing assertiveness has activated pushback from the United States and its partners. China’s relations with virtually the entire developed world have grown strained and its image in these countries has plummeted. Even so, China’s leaders seem to want to put the world on notice that they are prepared to confront any country that dares stand in their path of “national rejuvenation.” 


Enabling “Patriots” to Be Masters of the Island: Evolution of Xi’s Policy on Taiwan Since 2013

Bonny Lin
Thursday, September 1, 2022

This article examines the evolution of China’s Taiwan policy under Xi Jinping. It argues that there have been four key shifts since 2013. First, China expanded the definition of Taiwan independence and defined what Beijing viewed as the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. This provided the basis for Beijing to respond to more perceived Taiwan and U.S. “transgressions” and China views both Taipei and Washington as “revisionist” and changing the status quo. Second, Xi established a bidirectional linkage between national rejuvenation and unification with Taiwan and Beijing aims to achieve both goals simultaneously. This means that China will seek progress on unification and has established a soft benchmark to accomplish it by 2049. Third, Xi has pushed to develop a more specific “two systems” solution for Taiwan that will allow Beijing to impose its control over the island and ensure that unification with Taiwan avoids the pains Beijing experienced in Hong Kong. It is unlikely that Taiwan can maintain its democracy post-unification and Beijing will ensure that Chinese “patriots” rule the island. Finally, China has escalated and increased coercion across-the-board against Taiwan, leveraging its growing political, economic, and military power to attempt to shape cross-Strait dynamics in its favor. These changes in PRC policy have not produced the desired results and Taipei has push backed against Chinese activities and rejected China’s ‘solutions’ for Taiwan.  Although Beijing has not given up hopes of peaceful unification and would prefer to never have to invade the island, Beijing is likely to continue its bolder, less flexible, more unilateral, and more coercive approach towards Taiwan. Moving forward, the risk of tensions and instabilities in the Taiwan Strait will likely increase.

Killing the Different Dreams, Keeping the Same Regime: Xi Jinping’s Ten-Year Struggle to Remake CCP Elite Politics 

Guoguang Wu 
Thursday, September 1, 2022

This essay presents a retrospective examination of China’s elite politics during Xi Jinping’s ten years in power. It focuses on the following questions: Why does Xi Jinping prefer to confront, rather than accommodate, the cadres in his own regime? How has he been able to achieve his goals of leadership reorganization and cultivation of new elites? How has China’s elite politics been remade along with Xi’s concentration of power? And, to touch on the latest developments in elite politics ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), why does the belated emergence of elite resistance to Xi’s plan of taking on a third term have little chance of success or change the dynamics of China’s elite politics going forward? The essay positions CCP elite politics in an institutional context that is defined and framed by China’s political regime, and it argues that the nature of the regime requires Xi to confront his cadres to achieve his goals.  At the same time, the same regime poses huge dilemmas to both Xi and his rivals.


Xi Jinping’s Mixed Economic Record

David Dollar
Thursday, September 1, 2022

The economic scorecard for Xi Jinping’s ten years in office is mixed. He opened the economy further to foreign trade and investment. He set a target date for China’s carbon emissions to peak and another date to reach net-zero. While GDP growth slowed down by more than four percentage points under Xi, it still averaged over 6%. On the negative side, the target to reach net-zero is not ambitious enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Also, Xi has doubled down on industrial policy, increasing subsidies to try to achieve technological dominance in key areas. This is a risky gambit that no doubt will have some successes, but at the cost of wasting a lot of resources. Looking ahead to the future, this state interference in the economy, combined with negative blowback from its trading partners and from China’s own entrepreneurs, is likely to result in China performing below potential.


The Edge of an Abyss: Xi Jinping’s Overall National Security Outlook

Jude Blanchette 
Thursday, September 1, 2022

Regime security has been a central concern of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dating back to the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and an acute sense of internal and external threat has been a central component of the CCP’s DNA since its inception in 1921.  No single other goal has occupied as much time, as many resources, and the amount of attention as has the struggle to ensure that the party remains the unrivaled and unthreatened permanent single ruling authority of China. Efforts to promote and consolidate “national security” prior to the elevation of Xi Jinping in late 2012 were perceived by many Chinese policymakers and security officials as inconsistent, uncoordinated, and insufficiently institutionalized. At the same time, domestic and external events emerged after the turn of the millennium which reinforced to many the inadequacies in existing national security policymaking as well as the gaps in how Beijing conceptualized the very nature of national security and national security risks. Xi Jinping has changed all of this, having overseen a profound expansion of the scope, scale, and capabilities of China’s national security apparatus. A key driver of these changes is the Overall National Security Outlook (总体国家安全观), which Xi first announced in 2014. This essay examines the origins and growth of the Overall National Security Outlook and offers an assessment of how the growing prioritization of national security will impact China’s future development and external behavior. 

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CLM Insights Interview with Kevin Rudd on his recent book:

The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic War between the US and Xi Jinping's China

(Public Affairs, 2022)

Summary of a Joint CLM and Freeman Chair of CSIS Conference on Xi Jinping’s Decade in Power

On September 8, 2022 China Leadership Monitor and the Freeman Chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies held a joint briefing on the record of Xi Jinping since he became the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in November 2012.  We provide a brief summary of the main points of the discussion.


Since coming to power ten years ago, Xi Jinping has proven to be a master of authoritarian politics. He has successfully consolidated his personal authority and embarked on a campaign to reinvigorate party ideology and presence in Chinese society. Xi has formulated a maximalist view of national security that centers on regime and party security, and he has tied unification with Taiwan to China’s path toward national rejuvenation. His leadership of the economy and foreign policy agenda have produced mixed results, as he attempts to shift away from the United States and bolster Beijing’s influence in the developing world.


Many of the challenges Xi faces now will follow him into his likely third term as General Secretary. Analysis of his performance over the past decade offers insight into his weaknesses, his strengths, and possible obstacles and opportunities he may face in the coming years.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Summer 2022 Issue 72


China’s Strategic Straddle: Analyzing Beijing’s Diplomatic Response to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Evan S. Medeiros
Wednesday, June 1, 2022

This article examines China’s diplomatic responses to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It argues that the war created an immediate diplomatic “trilemma” for China as it sought to balance three competing interests: alignment with Russia, adherence to core principles of Chinese foreign policy and need for stability with the United States and Europe.  To manage this trilemma, China adopted a policy that I term a “strategic straddle” in which China tries to balance these competing interests at the same time. In practice, this straddle has manifested in strong rhetorical, informational and diplomatic support for Russia while, at the same time, Beijing has been very careful, to date, to avoid providing substantial material support to Russia. Maintaining this balancing act will be difficult as Russian needs grow. In relations with the United States and Europe, China has sought to put a floor under worsening relations but has had limited success doing so. The one area where China has sought strategic advantage is in its ties with the Global South, which is suffering from economic dislocations associated with the war. China has sought to use these deprivations to generate greater solidarity in resisting U.S.-led rules, norms and institutions. China’s ability to maintain this straddle will be challenged the complexities of managing competing ties with these different countries, regions and institutions.


Strategic Partner or Strategic Player? Russian Asia Experts Assess China’s Ukraine Policy

Elizabeth Wishnick
Wednesday, June 1, 2022

In the U.S. and Europe, China is seen as Russia’s tacit supporter, but what do Russian experts think? This article examines recent writings and interviews with leading Russian China-watchers. My research finds that they see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as setting limits to Sino-Russian relations, despite recent declarations by Beijing and Moscow stating otherwise. They conclude that China is likely to prioritize its own interests rather than to support Russia overtly. While some Russian observers emphasize the economic and political difficulties China faces, others point to its potential economic gains. Some Russian Asia experts remain confident that Russia will succeed in avoiding over-dependence on Chinese investment, whereas others see China being in a better position to obtain long-sought economic opportunities in Russia.


The Ukrainian Challenge to China’s Leadership Politics: An Emerging Divergence in Foreign Policy and Its Impact on the 20th Party Congress

Guoguang Wu
Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Despite China’s pro-Russia stance with respect to the invasion of Ukraine, divergent perspectives exist among Chinese policy elites toward the Ukraine war and China’s relations with Putin’s Russia. Such policy divergences have occurred mainly between China strongman Xi Jinping and some foreign-policy ruling elites who are politically connected with the top leaders who ruled China prior to Xi’s rise. As Xi steadily supports Putin with a strong commitment to the informal alliance between China and Russia, the dissenting voices among the policy elites have advocated distancing China from Russia’s military venture in Ukraine. Meanwhile, criticisms of Xi’s stance on the Ukraine war have also appeared in social media. Such criticisms highlight China’s national interest, which is inherently more skeptical of Russia, rather than endorse a close partnership. This essay analyzes Xi’s personal and political interests in maintaining a pro-Putin policy, the potential connection between  the observed policy divergences and the elite power struggle ahead of China’s 20th Party Congress, and Xi’s attempts to turn his policy liability into an asset and thus gain leverage in the forthcoming CCP leadership reorganization.


China’s Propaganda on the War in Ukraine

Maria Repnikova
Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Although China’s official position on the war has been that of neutrality—not aligning with the West against Russia and not directly supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine—its communications about the war, in particular its propaganda via state media and Foreign Ministry spokespeople have carried a more pro-Russia stance. During the past two months of the Russia-Ukraine war, Chinese official messaging has echoed and reinforced Russia’s position: 1.) by promoting shared narratives about the origins and culprits of the war, namely blaming NATO and the United States; 2.) by drawing disproportionally on Russian sources and footage of the war; and 3.) by under-reporting on Ukraine’s perspectives. This pro-Russia leaning during the Ukraine crisis can be understood as part of a larger propaganda trajectory vis-à-vis Russia and the United States. Domestically, China’s propaganda messaging in large part appears to resonate with public opinion. Internationally, however, Chinese propaganda about the war, especially communications by Foreign Ministry spokespeople, delude China’s neutrality position and antagonize the West, while more integrating China into the Global South.

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Controlling China’s Digital Ecosystem: Observations on Chinese Social Media

Jennifer Pan 
Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Nowhere is the effort to control the flow of digital information more extensive and sustained than it is in China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses a wide range of tools and strategies to achieve two related, but distinct, goals of digital information control: to shape public knowledge and to “guide” the public in the aftermath of sudden, unexpected events. Controlling social media is especially relevant to the second goal, and the CCP uses strategies of content removal (censorship) and content generation (propaganda) to pursue this aim. Recent studies of the Chinese internet and social media show that the CCP has adapted quickly to new digital communication technologies, though it is in sometimes unexpected ways, and CCP control of Chinese social media is integral to its efforts to shape public beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors.

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CLM Insights Interview with Kenneth W. Allen and Cristina L. Garafola on their recent book:

70 Years of the PLA Air Force

(The China Aerospace Studies Institute, 2021)

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Spring 2022 Issue 71

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Politics and Norms in Leadership Reorganization toward the 20th Party Congress:
Preliminary Observations

Guoguang Wu
Tuesday, March 1, 2022

This essay investigates CCP dynamics with respect to the leadership reorganization at the forthcoming 20th Party Congress by exploring the following puzzle: Why was there no elite attempt to oppose Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment for removing term limits for the PRC President in 2018, but recently Xi’s actualization of a third term seems to be meeting powerful resistance from those same elites? In emphasizing the interactions between party norms and elite politics, we highlight the norms revealed in the recent reorganization of provincial leaderships that took place in the winter 2021, and we argue that these norms have intensified the institutional dilemmas created by Xi’s 2018 constitutional amendment, and, accordingly, they have fueled intra-elite power struggles. Such struggles will become decisive during the summer of 2022, and Xi’s crackdown on elite resistance will, at that time, enter a higher stage.  

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Beijing’s Response to the Biden Administration’s China Policy

Ryan Hass 
Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Developments in the U.S.-China relationship over the past year suggest that both sides acknowledge there are not any simple fixes for neutralizing the other as its most formidable rival and competitor. Instead, both countries appear to be settling in for long-term competition. Going forward, Beijing likely will play to its strengths as it seeks to gain an edge over Washington and others. Beijing identifies its advantages as its growing economic gravity, its strengthening relationship with Russia, its expanding influence in much of the developing world, and its ability to offer solutions to other leaders who feel threatened by social instability. With the National Party Congress looming in Fall 2022, Beijing likely will focus in the coming year on addressing compounding challenges at home and geopolitical headwinds abroad. Recognizing the threats that Washington and other developed countries remain capable of posing to China’s continued rise, Beijing also will look for ways to minimize any damage in its relations as it works to maximize gains in overall influence in the rest of the world. How well China does in navigating this thicket of challenges will inform its ability to achieve its ambitions.   

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Four Questions Regarding the Chinese Economy

David Dollar 
Tuesday, March 1, 2022

China’s economy decelerated sharply toward the end of 2021 and at the start of the new year it was growing at about 4 percent.  But some easing of monetary policy and real estate regulations could move it closer to 5 percent.  With the all-important Party Congress scheduled for the end of the year, the leaders want steady growth but also stability.  The main headwinds are in COVID, real estate, policies toward the private sector, and trade.  The situation with the pandemic could become better (mRNAs boosters for the Chinese population) or worse (new variants resistant to Chinese vaccines).  On the one hand, in real estate, too much tightening could lead to a collapse in prices that results in panic selling and weakened household wealth and confidence.  On the other hand, Too much easing could reignite the bubble and lay a foundation for a larger financial crisis.  The regulatory crackdown could reach new sectors or leave most of the private economy untouched. In trade, the risk is a re-acceleration of the U.S. trade war, and too weak of a global economy to make up for the re-acceleration by trade with other partners.  All in all, it makes for a year of dangerous growth.  

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A Tale of Three Resolutions: A Close Reading of Xi Jinping’s Version of CCP History

Minxin Pei
Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The 6th plenum of the CCP Central Committee in November 2021 passed a landmark resolution on the party’s one hundred years of history. While the document briefly reviews the party’s 91 years of existence before the rise of Xi Jinping, it devotes more than half of its space to an affirmation of Xi’s policies during the last nine years.  The timing of the resolution, its effusive praise of Xi’s record, and its elevation of Xi’s stature are intended to strengthen his case for extending his term in office.  The resolution is thus more a work of political advocacy than of historical revisionism.  The language of the resolution also provides important clues about Xi’s ideological beliefs and conception of his stature in the party.  The sections in the resolution on foreign policy vigorously endorse Xi’s approach, and their defiant tone suggests a continuation of Xi’s current policy.  However, the same evidence of Xi’s political dominance can also be interpreted as reflective of concerns within the party about the direction of the party under his leadership.


CLM Insights Interview with Peter Martin on his recent book:

China’s Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy

(Oxford University Press, 2021)

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Winter 2021 Issue 70


Recent Chinese Views on the Taiwan Issue

Michael D. Swaine
Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Public Chinese sources affirm that the foundational elements of China’s Taiwan policy have not changed fundamentally under Xi Jinping.  However, many Chinese officials and elites regard the current situation as increasingly dangerous and precarious, requiring ever more energetic Chinese deterrence actions against both Taipei and Washington.  And an increasing number of non-authoritative Chinese sources believe that eventual peaceful unification will most likely only occur under some form of non-violent PRC coercion of Taiwan, along with the acquisition of unassailable military deterrence capabilities directed at the United States.  At the same time, public sources do not confirm the notion that Beijing is preparing to attack Taiwan by any specific date, and some Chinese sources continue to insist that time remains on China’s side, given Beijing’s growing power and influence.  Nonetheless, since Washington seems to hold a similar deterrence-centered viewpoint toward the Taiwan issue, it is fair to say that the ingredients of a Sino-U.S. confrontation over Taiwan are in place, unless the two nations can agree upon verifiable quid pro quos designed to build trust and reduce open-ended military signaling. 


China’s Move to Greater Self Reliance

Adam Segal 
Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Reshaping the Chinese economy around the principle of self-reliance will be an extremely complex, highly uncertain, and multi-year process. The barriers to self-reliance, especially in the semi-conductor sector, are high. Still, the conflict with the United States is starting China off on a longer-term restructuring of the economy and innovation system. Success will not be measured by complete self-reliance, which is not a realistic goal. Rather, the goal will be one of degree— to restructure China’s domestic economic and technological systems and supply chains on Beijing’s own terms.  


China's 2021 Data Security Law: Grand Data Strategy with Looming Implementation Challenges

Aynne Kokas
Wednesday, December 1, 2021

China’s 2021 Data Security Law (DSL) presents a transformative vision of the country’s data management practices to intensify domestic oversight and expand international influence. However, the law’s limitations with respect to implementation present a challenge for both domestic regulators and multinational corporations. The law’s requirement that individual regions and industrial sectors determine their own data security enforcement measures sets up the potential for competition among agencies. At the same time, its international scope raises questions for domestically focused agencies charged with enforcement and multinational firms seeking to comply with the law. This article argues that understanding the law’s broader implications will require tracing the implementation practices of regions and industrial sectors based on a case study of the automotive sector.


The Origins and Implications of Xi Jinping’s “Common Prosperity” Agenda

Minxin Pei
Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) formally unveiled a “common prosperity” agenda in August of this year. The concept is not new.  Investigation into the origin of this idea shows that Xi Jinping has been consistently, albeit with irregular frequency, talking about “common prosperity” since assuming office in late 2012.  He personally elevated this concept to place it on the party’s agenda at the fifth plenum of the Central Committee at the end of October 2020.  Zhejiang, where he served as party chief from late 2002 to 2006, was selected by the Chinese government as a “demonstration zone” in May 2021.  The official propaganda machine launched a campaign to promote “common prosperity” in mid-August 2021 after publication of the press release of the 10th meeting of the Central Finance Commission. An analysis of Xi’s speeches and official documents on “common prosperity” shows that while Xi may be the driving force behind this agenda, the CCP has yet to formulate specific and practical policies to fulfill it.  The most challenging issues will likely be those related to the fiscal reforms needed to fund a significant expansion of social services and protection for underprivileged groups.


The Not-so Model Minority: Xi Jinping’s Mongolian Crackdown

James Leibold
Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Xi Jinping and the party Center in Beijing are in the midst of a far-reaching rectification campaign in Inner Mongolia. The introduction of new textbooks and putonghua-medium education in Mongolian schools led to widespread civil disobedience in September 2020. Order was quickly restored, and international media attention turned elsewhere. But what followed was a systematic campaign to strengthen central party controls and Han-defined cultural and ideological norms. In this article, I unpack Beijing’s toolkits of control and transformation in Inner Mongolia, and foreground both the regional variation yet also the steady path toward Xi Jinping’s dream of a new Han colonial empire.


CLM Insights Interview with Joseph Fewsmith on his recent book:

Rethinking Chinese Politics 

(Cambridge University Press, 2021)

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Fall 2021 Issue 69

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What is Behind China’s Dual Circulation Strategy

Alicia García Herrero
Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Dual circulation may sound like a buzzword without much relevance, but it is not. It actually enshrines China’s long-standing ambition to become self-sufficient. Such an ambition was made known to the world in 2015 after the launch of China’s industrial policy masterplan, Made in China 2025, even though the world at the time was still in full engagement with China. Since Trump’s push for a trade and technology war against China, the Chinese leadership has been relying on a dual circulation strategy to support China’s growth. This basically means insulating the domestic market from the rest of the world by eliminating any bottlenecks, whether in terms of natural resources or technology, so as to vertically integrate its production and achieve self-reliance served by China’s huge domestic market. A relevant consequence for the world, though, is that China will no longer need to import high-end inputs, with obvious negative consequences for major exporters of technology, such as Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. As if this were not enough, the second aspect of dual circulation, boosting external demand, in a context of Western containment, will increase the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to ensure open markets in the emerging world. In essence, dual circulation is part of China’s masterplan to become self-reliant in terms of resources and technology but also in terms of demand through its huge market as well as through third markets available through the BRI.

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Chinese Views of U.S. Decline

Michael D. Swaine 
Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The idea of an America in decline has become a major subject of

discussion among many PRC observers.  A seeming preponderance

of Chinese authoritative, semi-authoritative, and non-authoritative

Chinese elites believe that the distribution of global power is shifting

in a direction that favors China over the West/the United States. However, what is less clear is how those many Chinese who see the U.S. as being in decline view the specific origins, nature, and extent of that decline and its implications for China. Chinese public statements on the decline offer no conclusive evidence supporting the claim that Beijing is basing its policies on the sure conviction that the U.S. is in an irreversible, structural decline benefiting China and that Beijing is therefore committed to a policy of taking advantage of this decline. A more nuanced understanding of Chinese discourse on U.S. decline and its implications for the United States is in order.  

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The Emergence of the Central Office of Foreign Affairs: From Leadership Politics to “Greater Diplomacy”

Guoguang Wu 
Wednesday, September 1, 2021

This essay examines how the Central Office of Foreign Affairs (COFA) has risen within the Chinese party-state system to become an institutional lynchpin overseeing all Chinese foreign conduct, and it takes this institution as a window to peer into Chinese leadership politics involving the party chief’s control of foreign affairs and the recent proposed program of “greater diplomacy.” It argues that both leadership politics and the program of “greater diplomacy” have driven the concentration of foreign-affairs power from the PRC state system to the Communist Party (i.e., the party chief) and, accordingly, to the COFA on behalf of the CCP to coordinate a transfinite diplomatic strategy that goes beyond Western-centric international norms to manage foreign relations.

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The CCP’s Domestic Security Taskmaster: The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission

Minxin Pei
Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party oversees the vast coercive apparatus of the party-state.  Its main responsibilities include providing policy proposals on domestic security, supervising implementation of the party’s domestic security agenda, coordinating the actions of law enforcement and the judiciary, and ensuring the political loyalty of officials in law enforcement agencies. In the 1980s, the most open period in post-Mao China, the role and power of the commission were limited.  But as the CCP leadership became more conservative in the post-Tiananmen period, the commission was granted more power to strengthen domestic security.  It is now the CCP’s principal enforcer to maintain the supremacy of the party over the state’s coercive apparatus and an essential institution in organizing surveillance, supervising campaigns of repression, and providing for public safety.

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Xi Jinping–Style Control and Civil Society Responses

Diana Fu and Emile Dirks 
Wednesday, September 1, 2021

On the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, grassroots civil society is in trouble.   Democracy advocates in Hong Kong are being handcuffed while rights activists in the Mainland are pre-emptively smothered.  Xi Jinping-style control over civil society entails a three-pronged strategy to transform civil society into a more palatable sector.  The first prong of this strategy is tightening regulation of both domestic and international civil society. The second is to crack down on grassroots organizations.  The third is to deepen party control over all of civil society. As a result, while some rights advocacy organizations have disappeared altogether under this rule, others have learned to adapt.   A new strategy for engaging civil society actors in both mainland China and Hong Kong is needed.  In pivoting from Trump’s isolationism to Biden’s multilateralism, it will also be important for the U.S. to work with its allies to help build the infrastructure for people-to-people exchanges with China.  

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CLM Insights Interview with David Shambaugh on his recent book:

Leaders: From Mao to Now

(Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2021)

 Featured Book Excerpt: Rush Doshi's 

The Long Game: China's Grand Strategy to Displace American Order

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Summer 2021 Issue 68


China’s Climate Strategy

Elizabeth Economy

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Chinese president Xi Jinping has put forth a set of significant commitments in response to the threat of global climate change. He has called for China to achieve peak CO2 emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, to enhance the role of renewable energy in its energy mix, to increase forest cover, and to make use of market mechanisms, such as an emissions trading system, to incentivize industry to decarbonize. Several of these initiatives, however, face design and implementation weaknesses that raise questions about their efficacy. In addition, the international community and the Chinese expert and NGO communities have called on Beijing to provide a more detailed action plan with benchmarks for realizing its climate targets and to end the export of coal plants through its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. China’s climate commitments are notable, but ultimately, its efforts will be judged by the results.


It’s Not Just China: Population, Power Generation, Political Polarization, and Parochialism Are Also Long-term Threats to Taiwan’s Success and Survival

Syaru Shirley Lin

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Although it is under constant threat from Beijing, Taiwan has four major structural issues that urgently require solutions, including population decline, power generation, political polarization, and parochialism. If they are not successfully addressed, a marginalized and divided Taiwan may find itself falling deeper into China’s orbit. While remaining within America’s one-China policy, the U.S. can help by increasing exchanges of students, faculty, and professionals, reaching a bilateral trade agreement, and assisting Taiwan to restructure its current manufacturing economy by creating new greener industries and higher value-added services. It can also facilitate Taiwan’s efforts to work with like-minded partners on the global stage. More immediately, Taiwan’s early successes and more recent challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic highlight how isolated it is even when Taiwan and the world need each other. Here the U.S. can help Taiwan acquire more vaccines and then share its experiences with the rest of the world.


The Myth of Authoritarian Superiority: China’s Response to Covid-19 Revisited

Yanzhong Huang 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Is China’s authoritarian system superior to a liberal democracy in terms of crisis management? This question is addressed by looking at China’s pandemic response since December 2019. In due course, an authoritarian state can come forth ​with a robust ability to mobilize resources and bureaucratic capacity for high-priority action. However, the downside of China’s authoritarian model is equally glaring. Although the cover-up and inaction contributed to emergence of the crisis, China’s initial mishandling suggests that an authoritarian state is highly susceptible to any disruptions or shocks. To some extent, the policy blunders in late January 2020 intensified the crisis facing the Chinese leaders​hip. The zero-infections policy introduced after April 2020 encourages an at-all-costs and by-all-means approach that is ​currently experiencing diminishing returns and hindering China’s mass vaccination efforts. Overall, the analysis does not support China’s authoritarian model as a viable alternative to liberal democracy.


Threading the Needle: Balancing Security and Development in the 14th Five-Year Plan

Minxin Pei

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Due to the deterioration of China’s external environment in general, and its escalating tensions with the United States in particular, the Chinese government has readjusted its economic development strategy.  As delineated in Beijing’s 14th Five-Year Plan, which was unveiled in mid-March of this year, China will invest in efforts designed to strengthen its economic security and better protect its economy from external economic threats.  These initiatives include science and technology self-sufficiency, secure supply chains in its manufacturing economy, growth sustained by domestic demand, and food and energy security.  Although these efforts seem attractive on paper, China will likely encounter immense challenges in trying to implement its new development strategy.  Chinese leaders may have underestimated the potential costs of strengthening national security at the expense of global integration.  Beijing’s disappointing records in executing industrial policy and rebalancing its economy also raise doubts whether it will be able to meet its ambitious goals.


CLM Insights Interview with Jonathan E. Hillman on his recent book:

The Emperor’s New Road: China and the Project of the Century

(Yale University Press, 2020)

Monday, March 1, 2021

Spring 2021 Issue 67


How China is Responding to Escalating Strategic Competition with the U.S.

Ryan Hass

Monday, March 1, 2021

There seems to be a growing consensus in Beijing that U.S.-China relations will remain rocky for the foreseeable future. Even so, President Xi Jinping and others have been touting that time and momentum are on China’s side in its quest to move closer to the center of the world stage. Chinese officials recognize that they will need to overcome obstacles in their country’s pursuit of its national goals. To do so, China appears to be pursuing a three-pronged medium-term strategy: maintaining a non-hostile external environment in order to focus on domestic priorities; reducing dependence on America while increasing the rest of the world’s dependence on China; and expanding the reach of Chinese influence overseas. At the same time, China’s actions are generating significant reactions, both at home and abroad. Whether China can learn from this feedback loop to address its own vulnerabilities remains an open question, one that only China will be capable of answering.


China’s Counter-Strategy to American Export Controls in Integrated Circuits

Douglas B. Fuller

Monday, March 1, 2021

This article examines China’s efforts to counter American sanctions against Huawei that in effect try to weaponize the silicon supply chain. While China has taken tentative steps to try to decouple from the American semiconductor industry, it faces three continuing challenges.  First, the areas of technological dependence that the Huawei Entity List sanctions highlighted, fabrication capital equipment and electronic design automation (EDA) software, are areas in which China has very weak capabilities.  Second, the wider the scope of the sanctions is, the more likely local and foreign firms will be willing to cooperate with Chinese efforts to create substitutes for controlled American technologies.  But the scope of the sanctions appears to be in stasis and may even narrow during the Biden administration. Finally, the progressive expansion of China’s silicon ambitions has elicited foreign industrial policies to counter China’s own policies. This expanding market outside of China will lessen the effectiveness of Chinese policy and at the same time make a certain level of controls over IC technology palatable to American partners as Chinese customers are replaced by others.

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Xi’s Anti-Corruption Campaign: An All-Purpose Governing Tool

Christopher Carothers

Monday, March 1, 2021

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s signature anti-corruption campaign has attracted attention because of its high-profile investigations and arrests, but it has also advanced government policies in areas beyond corruption control. This article discusses the campaign’s recent developments and how the party leadership has used it as an all-purpose tool for governing during Xi’s second term. Since the 19th Party Congress in 2017, the campaign has become more institutionalized and has brought down even more high-ranking officials. At the same time, the Xi administration has used anti-corruption work to support a wide range of recent policies and directives, such as the party’s anti-poverty and anti-crime initiatives. The administration’s sweeping inspections of party and state institutions have been integral to the anti-corruption campaign, but they have also aimed to improve general policy implementation, support organizational reforms, and ensure loyalty to Xi and the Chinese Communist Party. Governing through the campaign in this way has helped advance Xi’s political vision, in which a strong and disciplined party leads the country and penetrates every area of China’s state and society.


Grid Management: China’s Latest Institutional Tool of Social Control

Minxin Pei

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Chinese government began to implement a new form of social control – grid management – about fifteen years ago.  On paper, the country has largely finished setting up more than one million grids in local communities.  Grid management, which entails dividing communities into small units (1,000 residents per unit, as in most cases) and equipping them with information and surveillance technology, appeals to the top Chinese leadership because it promises to provide the party-state a new and more capable instrument of social control and delivery of public services.  Publicly available materials suggest that most localities adapt their existing local organizations, such as neighborhood and village committees, into grids to comply with the central government’s order.  As fully effective grid management requires enormous investments in well-trained manpower and reliable technology, it will likely take years for China to build such a system.  At the moment, only wealthy cities seem to have made genuine progress in the development of grid management, while most grids are likely no more than relabeled neighborhood committees.  Like China’s social credit system, grid management is evidence, but not yet reality, of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s aspirations to construct a well-organized and technologically sophisticated surveillance state.

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CLM Insights Interview with Robert Sutter on his recent book:

Chinese Foreign Relations: Power and Policy of an Emerging Global Force


(Fifth Edition; Rowman and Littlefield, 2020)

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Winter 2020 Issue 66


The PLA's Evolving Role in China's South China Sea Strategy

Oriana Skylar Mastro

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

During the past eight months of the global COVID pandemic, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been active in promoting China’s claims in the South China Sea.  This essay evaluates PLA statements, military exercises and operations, and deployment of relevant platforms and weapons in the South China Sea during this period. I leverage Chinese-language sources in addition to my own operational knowledge from over a decade of military experience to provide greater context for these activities. I argue that the greatest change in the PLA’s role in the South China Sea has not been operational. Instead, the most interesting development has been the fact that the PLA has taken on a more significant signaling role. Specifically, the Chinese military seems to be purposefully using, and perhaps even exaggerating, its capabilities and activities to enhance deterrence against the United States. This may be seen as necessary as the US increases its own efforts to push back on China’s militarization of the South China Sea. In other words, the PLA has taken a more active role in China’s South China Sea strategy, but not necessarily a more aggressive one.


Continuous Purges: Xi’s Control of the Public Security Apparatus and the Changing Dynamics of CCP Elite Politics

Guoguang Wu

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

This essay identifies three waves of purges in the Ministry of Public Security under the Xi Jinping leadership, and then focuses on the third wave, which, corresponding to similar measures beyond the public security system, featured the cleansing of those who rose to prominence due to their support of Xi’s earlier anti-corruption campaign. Such a development whereby Xi turns his sword against his previous political allies indicates that continuous purges are becoming a new political dynamic in CCP elite politics. The essay finds that Xi’s prolonged tenure in power and the governance challenges he confronts are the two leading factors that have helped to shape China’s current proto-Maoist power struggles and elite politics. According to this line of reasoning, Xi’s ongoing efforts to control the public security apparatus indicates that CCP elite politics is becoming increasingly dominated by internal repression and coercive means.


Will China Eliminate Poverty in 2020?

Terry Sicular

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

In 2015 China announced the ambitious target of eliminating poverty by 2020. Since then China has launched an all-out, campaign-style push to meet this goal, using a “Precision Poverty Alleviation” strategy that targets individual households and monitors their progress using a nationwide poverty database. Investments of financial and human resources in this program have been considerable. Although the poverty reduction target is ambitious, it is also pragmatic. It applies only to the rural population and it is based on a low poverty line. Funding for the program, while large in absolute terms, is a small percentage of government revenue. Thus, the target is achievable. Reaching the target, however, will not mean that China has won the war on poverty. Many households will remain vulnerable to poverty, and the government’s current definition of poverty does not adequately reflect what it means to be poor in China going forward.