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.

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.

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.

From “China Inc.” to “CCP Inc.”:  A New Paradigm for Chinese State Capitalism

Jude Blanchette

Tuesday, December 1,  2020

CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping has overseen a significant transformation of China’s domestic economic system, undergirded by important new reforms that have drastically expanded the reach of the Chinese state into the economy and Chinese firms.  This has included the integration of CCP organizations into public and private firms, the regulatory shift of SASAC from “managing enterprises” to “managing capital,” and the role of government guidance funds in driving industrial policy. The overall change in China’s economic and regulatory structure – and the political control wielded by the CCP – combined with the Xi era blending of the public and private, and market and planning, is of such a proportion that it marks a new paradigm in China’s development trajectory.

CLM Quick Take

China’s Fateful Inward Turn: Beijing’s New Economic Strategy as Spelled Out by the Resolution of the CCP Central Committee’s 5th Plenum

Minxin Pei

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

At the 5th plenum of the 19th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the end of October 2020, Chinese leaders unveiled a new strategy for sustaining economic development during the next fifteen years.  General Secretary Xi Jinping was deeply involved in the formulation of the framework underpinning the new strategy. Although aspirational and lacking in specifics, China’s new economic strategy makes it clear that Beijing will be shifting the focus of its economy inward and achieving scientific and technological self-sufficiency to improve its national security and sustain growth.  Chinese leaders frame the rationale for this shift in terms of a response to radical and unfavorable changes in the external environment.  They also will rely on a new “whole-of-nation” system to mobilize resources to achieve their objectives.  The immediate political objective of issuing this economic blueprint seems to reassure the Chinese nation that the CCP has a plan to sustain its strategic competition with the U.S.

CLM Insights Interview with David Shambaugh on his recent book:

Where Great Powers Meet: America and China in Southeast Asia

(Oxford University Press, 2021)

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Fall 2020 Issue 65

Investigation of a Death Long Feared: How China Decided to Impose its National Security Law in Hong Kong

Minxin Pei

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

China’s imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong has effectively ended the “one country, two systems” governance model in the former British colony.  Available evidence suggests that this was one of the options for Beijing in order to quell the unrest in the city.  Chinese leaders were reluctant to resort to this drastic measure until last year when protests against a controversial extradition law resulted in mass demonstrations and escalating violent confrontations between protesters and police. Our open-source research suggests that because the events in Hong Kong were deemed by Chinese leaders as touching the “bottom line” set by Xi Jinping in his speech commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Hong Kong’s reversion to Chinese rule on July 1, 2017, they decided to use this option. The decision to impose a national security law was likely made between late July and the end of August 2019 with little involvement of the SAR’s leadership.

The Chinese National Security State Emerges from the Shadows to Center Stage

Tai Ming Cheung

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Xi Jinping has been unremitting in his efforts to turn China into a national security state. New institutional, doctrinal, and regulatory mechanisms have been established along with a substantial beefing up of internal and external coercive capabilities. No single seminal shock triggered this security turn, but Xi regarded externally focused realpolitik perspectives, upon which the country’s national security posture have traditionally been, based as partial and too rosy. His top security concerns revolved around domestic stability and Party resilience. To build a national security state under his direct control, Xi pursued an indirect approach employing unconventional methods, such as a no-holds-barred discipline-enforcement campaign, consisting of a sweeping anti-corruption crackdown and a political discipline crusade. Running parallel was a far-reaching reform of the civilian national security and military apparatuses. Chinese authorities argue that this building of a national security fortress is prescient in the face of the acute challenges presented by COVID-19, unrest in Hong Kong, and deteriorating U.S.-China relations.

The Saohei Campaign, Protection Umbrellas, and China’s Changing Political-Legal Apparatus

Sheena Chestnut Greitens

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

In January 2018 China began a three-year campaign, known as the saohei campaign, to crack down on “underworld forces.” A key emphasis of the campaign was its targeting of “protection umbrellas,” an effort to break the links between criminal organizations and their government and party protectors at the local levels. In the rhetoric of the campaign, “black and evil” underworld forces not only threatened the safety and finances of ordinary citizens but also infiltrated and weakened political authority, thereby damaging both social stability and the party’s ruling foundation. Saohei, therefore, is not only a cleansing of corruption at the grassroots levels but also a purification and re-strengthening of governance under party supervision. The campaign has resulted in the removal of a large number of personnel throughout the political-legal system, moving from initial removal of key leaders to lower levels of the system as the campaign has continued to unfold. It has also allowed local authorities to use the idea of “black and evil” to target specific local groups, from housing-demolition protestors to alleged “underworld forces linked to the Dalai Lama clique.” The saohei campaign will end early next year, but many of its key themes and foci will continue in the 2021 “education and rectification campaign” announced by Chen Yixin for the entire political-legal apparatus, suggesting that the party leadership perceives unfinished work within the political-legal apparatus.  Xi Jinping, having already successfully replaced most of the leadership in the political-legal apparatus, now appears to be using saohei and its successor rectification campaign to push his authority down to lower levels of the political-legal system.

China’s Economy Bounces Back, But to Which Growth Path?

David Dollar

Tuesday, September 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 Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, on their recent book:

Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War

Chinese Crisis Decision Making: Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic

Part Two: The International Dimension

Michael D. Swaine

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The international aspects of the Chinese leadership’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic cover a broad spectrum of activities, both positive and negative.  On the positive side, Beijing has provided valuable assistance to nations and international organizations struggling with the virus and engaged in an intensive diplomatic effort to present itself as a strong supporter of the global response.  On the negative side, the Chinese leadership has resorted to ham-handed efforts to compel other countries to praise China’s role and at times acted irresponsibly in responding to foreign criticism of its own behavior.  In the process, it has argued that its system of rule is extremely adept at handling major crises and by implication superior to the American system.  The Chinese leadership has also engaged with Washington in a petty “blame game” over the pandemic that has damaged the reputation of both nations.  Beijing’s mixed record suggests that it must do more to show that it is genuinely committed to overcoming the pandemic through greater transparency, cooperation, and consultation.

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

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Spring 2020 Issue 63

Sino-Russian Consolidation at a Time of Geopolitical Rivalry

Elizabeth Wishnick

Sunday, March 1, 2020

There has a been a notable consolidation of the Sino-Russian partnership during the past two years.  Although this has coincided with the U.S.-China trade war and a period of increased tensions between the United States and Russia, the Sino-Russian partnership began deepening well before the changes in U.S. policy toward each country, as a discussion of Sino-Russian cooperation in agriculture, technology, military affairs, and the Arctic attests.  Nonetheless, there are limits to cooperation in all of these areas and Chinese analysts are now debating the desirability and feasibility of such a partnership.  Strong personal ties between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin enable them to steward the relationship, which is further strengthened by their parallel approaches to authoritarian governance.  However, potential shifts in U.S. policy and especially developments in Central Asia and the Arctic may challenge the Sino-Russian partnership in the future.

Taiwan’s 2020 Election Analysis

Shelley Rigger

Sunday, March 1, 2020

On January 11, 2020 Taiwan’s voters went to the polls for presidential and legislative elections. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) retained both the presidency and a legislative majority of 61 out  of 113 seats. The magnitude of the DPP’s victory was surprising; barely a year earlier it was drubbed in local elections. Between November 2018 and January 2020, domestic and external factors became far more favorable to the DPP and the incumbent president, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). Tsai and her party changed policy and personnel, whereas the KMT standard-bearer, Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), failed to live up to expectations. Tsai’s robust defense against PRC pressure was an important factor, as it came at a time when Taiwanese voters’ perceptions of the PRC were being shaped by the upheaval in Hong Kong.

China’s Social Credit System: Genesis, Framework, and Key Provisions

Minxin Pei

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Chinese government launched an ambitious program to build a social credit system in 2014.  During the last six years, the State Council issued several key documents that seek to define the objectives and key parameters of such a system.  Based on these documents and reports on the progress of the system in the media, it is evident that the Chinese government has made significant progress in conceptualizing and specifying the functionalities of its social credit system.  At the moment, Beijing’s current approach remains experimental, seeking to gradually improve the design and capabilities of the system through trial-and-error at the local levels.  Judging by the ambitious goals set forth in the State Council’s outline document issued in 2014, actual progress in building the system may be limited due to the immense technological and administrative challenges. 

From the CCP Dilemma to the Xi Jinping Dilemma: The Chinese Regime’s Capacity for Governance

Guoguang Wu

Sunday, March 1, 2020

This essay analyzes how the Fourth Plenary Session of the Nineteenth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), held in October 2019, furthered the concentration of power in the hands of party chief Xi Jinping, a concentration of power epitomized by the personification of party leadership over the party-state system. This took place against the background of a strengthening of the regime’s capacity for governance, but the consequence has been an upgrading of the CCP’s governance dilemma, which features unbalanced strength to promote economic growth and political stability on the one hand and to deal with the social, environmental, and public costs of development on the other hand, and Xi Jinping’s governance dilemma, which involves overall control by the supreme leader as a result of the impotence of the regime and accordingly the institutional decay in present-day China. The COVID-19 crisis is the latest example of the overlapping of these two dilemmas.     

Financial Liberalization in China: The Contradiction Between Opening and Guaranteed Outcomes

Victor Shih

Sunday, March 1, 2020

In recent months, the Chinese leadership has trumpeted the opening of its financial sectors, including President Xi Jinping’s expansive promise at the 2018 Bo’ao Forum.  However, because the government continues to place a heavy priority on financial stability and the funding of key government objectives, developing liquid and transparent markets have taken a back seat.  In fact, across the credit market, the bond market, and the stock market, financing debt roll-over in an orderly manner and minimizing volatility have led to an increasing degree of state intervention in these markets, rendering them increasingly illiquid and non-transparent.  For investors interested either in attractive pricing or greater transparency, the Chinese financial market continues to hold less profitable potentials than other emerging market economies.  Even with granting foreign institutions more licenses to operate in China, foreign participation in China’s financial market will continue to stagnate.      

CLM Insights Interview with Richard McGregor on his recent paper: 

Xi Jinping: The Backlash 

(Lowy Institute, 2020)

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Winter 2019 Issue 62

The Relocation of Supply Chains from China and the Impact on the Chinese Economy

Shaomin Li

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The U.S.-China trade war has had a huge impact on the supply chains in China, accelerating their relocation that had already begun due to rising taxes, costs of labor, and other input factors. The exodus reported in the past year is only the tip of the iceberg, as more serious effects will not become apparent immediately. A major effect of the relocation on China is job losses, which may reach as many as 5 million in the coming years. Given the unlikeliness of a quick end to the trade war and the reluctance of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to make structural changes, the long-term prospects for supply chains in China are not promising because not only will existing firms gradually reduce their exposure to political and economic uncertainties, but also potential newcomers are likely to avoid China. Although the CCP rolled out some policies that may help alleviate the shock, it has yet to come up with specific policies to effectively address the problem.

Beijing’s All-Out Crackdown on the Anti-Extradition Protests in Hong Kong

Victoria Hui

Sunday, December 1, 2019

A standard view of Hong Kong’s months-long anti-extradition protests is that Beijing has not resorted to a crackdown in a manner similar to that which occurred in 1989. I argue that Chinese leaders have long sought to exert comprehensive control over Hong Kong and have exploited the crisis to accelerate the erosion of “one country, two systems.” Beijing has deployed the Hong Kong police and local thugs not just to break up protests, but also to foment chaos and violence. It is also purging the civil service and the broader society. To forestall another mass movement in the future, Beijing will further attempt to create amnesia among the rebellious youth. In essence, Beijing is applying the standard tools of “stability maintenance” to Hong Kong. However, Beijing will not be able to establish iron rule over Hong Kong without destroying the territory.

How China’s Defense Establishment Views China’s Security Environment:
A Comparison between the 2019 PRC Defense White Paper and Earlier Defense White Papers

Michael Swaine

Sunday, December 1, 2019

While reaffirming China’s longstanding “peace and development” line and offering a more positive take on many developments in Asia, the 2019 Defense White Paper highlights many negative features of the global security environment. This suggests an unresolved internal contradiction in China’s security views and policies. Such an apparent contradiction is perhaps resolved by the Defense White Paper’s description of strategic competition as driven largely by the U.S., not by China, and out of step with deeper global trends. Indeed, the PLA under Xi Jinping is depicted as working with other countries to realize Xi’s “shared community for mankind” as it strengthens its deterrence capabilities. Yet this propaganda-laden take reinforces the suspicions of many regarding China’s “real” goals. Beijing must inject a much more pragmatic, hard-power perspective into its public security stance and engage Washington on that basis in order to realize a meaningful level of stability based on mutual accommodation.

Ideological Indoctrination Under Xi Jinping

Minxin Pei

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The CCP under Xi Jinping’s leadership has launched the most sustained and comprehensive program of ideological indoctrination in the post-Mao era. By issuing new rules and revising old ones on ideological education in the party, propaganda work, education, and patriotic education, the party apparently seeks to use ideological indoctrination to strengthen Xi’s personal authority, demand strict political loyalty from its officials and members, tighten control in the mass media and on college campuses, and mobilize nationalistic support from the public. Although the program is being implemented through administrative measures, its reliance on coercion and material incentives belie the challenge facing the party to carry out ideological indoctrination in a highly materialistic society. This program reflects the regime’s insecurity about the erosion of its members’ ideological commitment and political loyalty. The backward- looking nature of the party’s program of ideological indoctrination is symptomatic of its poverty of ideas, even as the party struggles to project a forward-looking vision. The outcome of this program is likely to be political ritualization and feigned loyalty that are more common in a regime in decay than in a regime undergoing reinvigoration.

Intelligentsia in the Crosshairs: Xi Jinping's Ideological Rectification of Higher Education in China

Carl Minzner

Sunday, December 1, 2019

China is in the midst of an ambitious rectification campaign. Since 2014, Xi Jinping has launched an aggressive effort to reassert party ideological controls over art, culture, and higher education that had partially slipped during the more relaxed atmosphere of China’s post-1978 reform era. Within Chinese universities, intellectuals are facing intensified pressures for political conformity —through political education, funding pressures, and direct repression. Such efforts resemble the early stages of the campaign to re-establish party dominance over the bar and legal profession in the early 2000s. These pressures are likely to steadily worsen in the near future, with significant negative implications for intellectual life in China.

Jude Book Cover.jpg

CLM Insights Interview with Jude Blanchette on his latest book: 

China's New Red Guards: The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong 

(Oxford University Press, 2019)

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Fall 2019 Issue 61

Bureaucratic strategies of coping with strongman rule: How local officials survive in President Xi Jinping’s new order

Minxin Pei

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been attempting to transform the Chinese Communist Party into an ideologically committed, organizationally disciplined, and politically loyal regime.  His efforts include enforcing strict discipline and curtailing the perks of officials.  This attempt appears to be unpopular among the party’s rank and file and has encountered various forms of resistance.  Resourceful local officials have attempted to protect their interests and resist the leadership’s efforts to strip them of the perks and benefits that until now they have taken for granted.  Their passive resistance appears to be a serious obstacle to the realization of Xi’s ambitious vision.  Ironically, many of Xi’s own policies, such as emphasizing ideological indoctrination and suppressing civil society, have made it more difficult to combat the subterfuge by local officials.  The party’s top-down approach is unlikely to succeed in converting ideologically cynical CCP officials into true believers, while local officials have no feasible means of forcing the top leadership to change course.  This political stalemate is likely to continue.

The Sinicization of Chinese Religions under Xi Jinping

Richard Madsen

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The recent resurgence of many forms of religious belief and practice in China has been met by new forms of repression and control. Basic party and state policy were established in a pair of documents promulgated in the early 1980s.  The ideological foundation for the policies was Marxist secularization theory, in which religion will inevitably disappear, but its demise will take a long time and, in the meanwhile, heavy-handed attempts at repression may be counterproductive. The policies include government supervision and management of religious practices through state institutions controlled by the United Front Work Department. New regulations promulgated in 2018 maintain most of the policy instruments of the 1980s, but they have been streamlined to achieve greater efficiency and more effective supervision.  The ideological framework is now mainly based on “Sinicization” rather than Marxism.  Since Sinicization generally requires adaptation to an idealized version of Han Chinese culture, outsiders to this culture, such as Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Muslims, especially Uighurs, are subject to even harsher repression than they were under the former Marxist ideology. Han Chinese Daoism and Mahayana Buddhism are faring somewhat better, although they too are still subject to restrictions by a watchful state.

Recalibration and Adaptation: China’s Relations with her Key Neighbors during the Trump Era

Yun Sun

Sunday, September 1, 2019

After becoming the leader of China in late 2012 Xi Jinping rapidly launched his signature foreign-policy campaign—the Belt and Road Initiative—to project China’s economic and geopolitical influence. Whether the BRI has improved China’s external environment, especially in its immediate periphery, will be subject to debate for years to come. However, the U.S. threat perception of China as a result of the BRI has unequivocally heightened, leading to the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy since 2017. In an era defined by U.S.-China great power strategic competition, a central theme of Xi’s foreign policy has been a recalibration and realignment of relations with Asian countries in order to effectively counter the U.S. role in Asia. As a result, China has adapted its policy to pursue a closer alignment with a like-minded Russia, to improve relations with India to prevent a potential U.S.-India alliance in Asia, to steer the souring relations with Japan toward cooperation, and to consolidate Southeast Asia as part of China’s sphere of influence.  

Twists in the Belt and Road

Ryan Manuel

Sunday, September 1,  2019

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) remains a topic of great interest. But there is little knowledge about China’s internal voices. Dissent remains rare, yet there has been considerable pushback on BRI policy and decision making. This is because there is an array of structural problems with the BRI’s design. BRI is entirely an economic program, run by various parts of the economic bureaucracy. But it does not give bureaucrats sufficient mandate to pursue their interests within China’s internal politics. So the BRI is attractive for central SOEs and dealmakers but unattractive to local leaders who are held accountable for whatever goes wrong in their respective areas. Although overt criticism is rare, failure to carry out orders is common. China’s leaders have responded to critiques of the BRI, radically changing its official focus and policy. It has moved from a geoeconomic export policy to part of China’s toolkit in the current US trade war. But there is no indication that the structural problems will be addressed, thus limiting the BRI’s ability to achieve its goals, and as such, pushback will continue.

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CLM Insights Interview with M. Taylor Fravel on his latest book:

 

Active Defense: China's Military Strategy since 1949

(Princeton University Press, 2019)

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Summer 2019 Issue 60

Xi Jinping’s Taiwan Policy and Its Impact on Cross-Strait Relations

Syaru Shirley Lin

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Since 2012, Xi Jinping has crafted a Taiwan policy that features two somewhat contradictory elements. On the one hand, it contains stronger measures aimed at deterring any steps toward independence, including a reduction of Taiwan’s international space, a continued military build-up, and frequent demonstrations of military force and economic coercion.  On the other hand, Xi has also employed positive economic incentives, aimed largely at young people and the working class in Taiwan, to secure their support for eventual political unification with China. After the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) returned to power in 2016, Beijing doubled down on this policy that proponents believe has been validated by the results of the 2018 mid-term mayoral elections.

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Seizing Core Technologies: China Responds to U.S. Technology Competition

Adam Segal

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Chinese analysts and policy makers have interpreted U.S. efforts to prevent the flow critical technologies through limits on investment, blocks on the operations of Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies in the U.S. and other markets, and new export control laws, as part of a strategy of containment designed to slow China’s rise as a science and technology power. In response, a newly emerging strategy consists of: a doubling down on indigenous innovation and developing “core technologies”; protection of supply chains; diversification of access to foreign technology; diplomatic efforts that stress the shared benefits of Chinese technology development; and continued cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property. Even though both sides are likely to lose the efficiencies that came from the globalization of innovation, such a strategy may also energize American and Chinese policy makers to mobilize even greater resources for scientific competition.

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Rewriting the Rules of the Chinese Party-State: Xi’s Progress in Reinvigorating the CCP

Minxin Pei

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Since assuming power in late 2012 and especially since the conclusion of the Nineteenth Party Congress in October 2017, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made significant progress in implementing a systematic program to rewrite the rules of the Chinese Communist Party.  These changes are designed to augment Xi’s personal authority, centralize decision-making power, tighten the party’s organizational discipline and procedures, extend CCP control over state and society, and intensify ideological indoctrination.  Even though Xi has achieved indisputable success in revising and promulgating nearly all important CCP rules, it remains unclear whether such changes in the rules have been fully accepted as legitimate and binding by the CCP’s rank-and-file.  Nor should we take at face value as a settled reality the assertion of Xi’s supremacy in practically every revised or newly issued CCP rule book.  

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The King’s Men and Others: Emerging Political Elites under Xi Jinping

Guoguang Wu

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Large-scale elite upward mobility has been taking place in Xi Jinping’s China. Who has attained critical positions under Xi’s leadership? How did they achieve such career advancements? Focusing on those elites who have emerged in recent years at or above the deputy provincial and vice-ministerial levels in the power hierarchy of the narrowly defined CCP and state administrative apparatuses, this article outlines seven groups that established close connections with Xi Jinping during the various stages of his life before rising to national power; it then analyzes how sub-mainstream and non-mainstream paths of elite advancements have also worked in a marginal sense due to the so-called “cascade impact” and the “bandwagon effect.”

China Down Under: Beijng’s Gains and Setback in Australia and New Zealand

Richard McGregor

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Australia and New Zealand have emerged in recent years as frontlines in clashes between the West and China. In some respects, the two countries make for unlikely combatants. Both economies are heavily trade-dependent, have long looked to Asia to do business, and have enjoyed a boom in commercial ties with China over the past two decades. But both countries, to differing degrees, along with other robust democratic cultures willing to criticize undemocratic practices, have a deep ambivalence about Beijing’s growing political and security role in the region. The true test of their resolve will come when there will be a substantial economic price for challenging China. For Beijing, the two countries are valuable economic partners but, particularly in the case of Australia, troublesome politically.

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CLM Insights Interview with Nicholas Lardy on his latest book:

 

The State Strikes Back: The End of Economic Reform in China?

(Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2019)

Friday, March 1, 2019

Spring 2019 Issue 59

Domestic Security in China Under Xi Jinping

Sheena Chesnut Greitens

Friday, March 1, 2019

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, there have been major structural, legal, personnel, and policy changes to the CCP’s approach to domestic security. Xi has created new institutions, such as the Central National Security Commission and the National Supervision Commission, to improve coordination among the various agencies of the coercive apparatus and to tighten discipline and anti-corruption efforts within the party-state. The People’s Armed Police has also been restructured. Significant turnover of personnel has occurred within the domestic security agencies (including the leadership of both the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of State Security), partly due to efforts to remove officials associated with Zhou Yongkang, former head of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission.  Meanwhile, a number of new laws on domestic security and the expansion of tech-based approaches to social control, such as grid management, represent attempts to strengthen the CCP’s ability to police contention within Chinese society. Finally, there has been a major shift in the CCP’s security strategy in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, resulting in heightened international scrutiny and attention.  This article reviews these developments and their cumulative effect on domestic security in China under Xi Jinping. 

The Spectre of Insecurity: The CCP’s Mass Internment Strategy in Xinjiang

James Leibold

Friday, March 1, 2019

How do we explain the radical shift in the Chinese Communist Party’s policies in the frontier region of Xinjiang, where more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are now interned in prison-like re-education camps? Based on a close reading of official sources, this article explores the evolution of China’s mass internment strategy and the key policy-drivers, institutions, and actors in Xinjiang policy over the last decade. It argues irrational fears of instability and dismemberment are driving the party’s unprecedented securitization and transformation strategy, with top party leaders convinced of the failure of ethnic accommodation and of the urgent need for increased inter-ethnic “blending” and “fusion.” Under Xi Jinping, Xinjiang has emerged as the party’s incubator for a more assertive and coercive form of nation-building and cultural re-engineering. The result is a surface level calm that hides deep social and psychological anxieties while at the same undermining cultural diversity and social trust.

A Tale of Three Speeches: How Xi’s Speech Marking the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Differs from those of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao

Minxin Pei

Friday, March 1, 2019

Xi Jinping’s speech marking the 40th anniversary of reform and opening on December 18, 2018 recapitulates the substantial ideological and policy changes he has initiated since coming to power in late 2012.  A comparison of this speech with speeches by Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao on the 20th and 30th anniversary of reform and opening respectively reveals significant differences in terms of ideological rhetoric and substantive policy issues.  Whereas the speeches by Jiang and Hu adhere to the basic ideological and policy guidelines established by Deng Xiaoping, Xi Jinping’s speech underscores his personal authority and political vision.  Most significantly, Xi’s speech emphasizes the supremacy of Communist Party centralized and unified strongman rule and China’s bold and expansive role in international affairs.  The uncompromising tone of his speech suggests that it is unlikely that Xi will make substantial changes to his domestic and foreign policies despite the strong headwinds both domestically and internationally.

 The Private Sector: Challenges and Opportunities During Xi’s Second Term

Yue Hou

Friday, March 1, 2019

The ongoing trade feud with the United States, combined with an internal economic slowdown and the party’s tightening grip on the economy, presented China’s private sector with unprecedented challenges as President Xi began his second term in 2018. Beijing has responded to the frustrated private sector with promises of substantial tax cuts and an expansion of credit, together with a pledge to further deepen structural reforms and to double down on spurring indigenous innovation. What will Xi’s second term mean for the private sector? Some worry that he will further roll back the market-oriented reforms; a more hopeful scenario is that the hostile international environment and the mounting domestic pressures will counteract any anti-market trends and provide the party’s reform-leaning politicians with a rare opportunity to push forward market reforms and to create a true level playing field for the private sector.

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CLM Insights Interview with George Magnus on his latest book:

 

Red Flags: Why Xi’s China is in Jeopardy

 

(Yale University Press, 2018)

China Reacts: Assessing Beijing's Response to Trump's New China Strategy

Evan S. Medeiros

Friday, March 1, 2019

Beginning in late 2017, Xi Jinping found himself facing a new and daunting foreign policy challenge: The Trump Administration had adopted an openly confrontational policy towards China. This unfolded with a barrage of U.S. actions, such as naming China “a strategic competitor” and adopting successive rounds of tariffs, among other actions. This article analyzes China’s diplomatic response to the shift in U.S. policy, as reflected in China’s approach to the United States as well as to other countries. It argues that China did not adopt a confrontational strategy of its own. Rather, Beijing’s response focused on avoiding confrontation and preventing escalation with the United States, including by deferring major internal debates about the need for a new diplomatic strategy. Towards the rest of the world, Beijing took steps to stabilize its immediate Asian periphery and ties with Europe to limit its exposure to confrontation with Washington; it looked for opportunities to expand its presence and influence (especially in places where the United States had stepped back); and it invested further in ties with countries, notably Russia, that share China’s desire to constrain U.S. power.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Winter 2018 Issue 58

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A Setback or Boost for Xi Jinping’s Concentration of Power? Domination versus Resistance within the CCP Elite

Guoguang Wu

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Xi Jinping’s concentration of power, which had already achieved remarkable success, was further endorsed and institutionalized during the October 2017 Nineteenth Party Congress and the March 2018 session of the National People’s Congress. In recent Chinese political developments, is it possible to detect elite resistance to Xi’s fast-growing power and authority? How are party-state cadres able to display such resistance? Furthermore, how does such resistance affect Xi’s power and governance? This article attempts to answer these questions by, first, looking at how Xi has promoted his concentration of power in the aftermath of the Nineteenth Party Congress; second, discussing four aspects of such elite resistance, and; third, analyzing how Xi has reacted under the new sociopolitical circumstances to elite resistance. It is argued that elite resistance does exist and recently it has been furthered by social and international factors. However, Xi has taken additional steps to strengthen his personal dictatorship over party-state elites. Such a struggle between the dictator and the bureaucrats will continue to shape the dynamics of China’s politics and policy.

Chinese Views on the State of Sino-U.S. Relations in 2018

Michael D. Swaine

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Provocative actions on both sides led to heightened tensions and a deterioration in trust between China and the United States in 2018. Chinese authoritative and non-authoritative sources have been consistent in pushing back against what is correctly viewed as a fundamental U.S. shift toward greater hostility and suspicion, although non-authoritative sources use much harsher language. At the same time, both sources call for restraint, dialogue, and cooperation in handling U.S.-China relations, and point out the apparent misalignment of the anti-China attitudes of the Trump Administration compared to the U.S. public and the rest of the world. The likely presence of moderate Chinese views toward the worsening of Sino-U.S. relations suggests the need for the Trump Administration to replace its current confrontational approach to China with a more sophisticated, balanced approach that recognizes the need for continued cooperation with Beijing.

Cracks in China’s Statist Consensus?

Victor Shih

Saturday, December 1, 2018

In recent months, scholars in China have taken advantage of the trade tensions and the fortieth anniversary of reform and opening to voice their dissatisfaction with the status quo and to advocate major economic changes. Some very established figures, either directly or indirectly, criticized China’s political system. The main participants were economists who came of age in the 1980s, who perhaps saw this as their last chance before retirement to make a major push for reform. However, the reaction has ranged from lip service to policies that introduce even more distortion to the economy. Meanwhile, it is notable that the younger generation of economists and scholars has largely stayed out of the debate, which does not bode well for internal reform pressures in the future.

Social Protest Under Hard Authoritarianism

Ya-Wen Lei

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Despite increasing political control under Xi Jinping’s leadership, collective action in China is not declining, though it is changing in various ways. Protests continue to be staged around issues related to the distribution of educational resources, housing, space, basic social protection, and the maintenance of market order. Compared with collective action under the Hu Jintao–Wen Jiabao leadership, recent collective action has a lower level of cross-sectoral support and makes fewer demands for widespread institutional reform. Other characteristics of these protests, however, are more alarming for the state, such as an increased capacity to mobilize and organize across localities and the mobilization of aggrieved groups with close ties to the regime. Although recent protests do not indicate that the regime is under threat, they do suggest some profound problems with the country’s developmental model and the need for more efficient institutional channels to allow the various social groups to negotiate their interests and address their grievances.

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CLM Insights: Interview with Elizabeth Economy,

C. V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Issues published prior to December 1, 2018 can be accessed on the website of the Hoover Institution by clicking below

Xi Jinping’s Dilemma: Back Down or Double Down?

Minxin Pei

Saturday, December 1, 2018

This year Chinese leader Xi Jinping encountered the most difficult test of his leadership since assuming office in late 2012. The U.S.-China trade war (and the escalating strategic competition between the two countries in particular) have exposed China’s structural vulnerabilities and raised questions about Xi’s responsibility for the rapid deterioration in Beijing’s ties with Washington. As economic woes mounted, elite discontent with Xi’s leadership appeared to be widespread, precipitating an effort by Xi and his loyalists during the summer to bolster his authority. But whatever incipient opposition to Xi existed, it appeared to be short-lived. Xi emerged from the critical summer retreat at Beidaihe in mid- August with no obvious diminution of his authority. Since then, he has intensified efforts to strengthen his power but there are no indications that he has made fundamental adjustments to his domestic and foreign policies.