November 20 – December 20

(Thanks for readers’ patience during Your Editor’s Travel in China, November 25 – December 17.  This SR is in the way of catching-up; some items are weeks old, others are current.  Additional catching-up material will be included in the next SR.  Season’s Greetings to all interested readers.  RAK)  Early comment on Chinese response to Trump’s “National Security Strategy” remarks on China. A very useful “quick take” on the China comments in Trump’s National Security Strategy, providing both the NSS texts regarding China and insightful brief comments by presenter Graham Webster.  Highly recommended.  A mind-clearing short essay about “rule by law,” “rule by virtue,” and the current Chinese form of governance.  Strongly recommended. Solid and informative review of Kerry Brown’s new book, China’s World:  What Does China Want?.  Paulson Institute’s Evan Feigenbaum on the “big bet” at the heart of the political/ideological formula announced at the recent 19th Party Congress.  A nice antidote to the deluge of arid coverage of the Congress. European Council on Foreign Relations’s take on China under Xi Jinping post-19th Congress. This URL offers summary bullet points, and a link to a full report, of a conference of Brookings China specialists focused on US-China relations.  From November 28:  A very senior Chinese military officer reported to have committed suicide.  Caixin commentary. fileadmin/user_upload/ downloads/China-Monitor/ 171212_China_Monitor_44_ Programming_China_EN.pdf  Why Orwell is on many people’s minds these days.  China acts, while the U.S. slumbers, on climate change.  Announcement of a carbon-emissions market covering the state-controlled energy sector.  More clarity from Keith Bradsher of the NYT.  The nail in the coffin of the “They’ll become more like us” view of China’s integration into world systems (e.g. WTO).  Lots of “Told you so!” crowing going on, post-19th Party Congress, as China announces its own global trajectory, apparently quite different than what many had expected and hoped for since the beginning of “Reform and Opening.” This article emphasizes China’s unseemly, if not dangerous, efforts to persuade or compel political opinion in other countries, most notably Australia.  Important article on Chinese Big Tech companies massively investing in Data Centers elsewhere in Asia. Battle of the titans in e-commerce in China.  Tencent and join to invest in #3 online retailer, so as to up competition with dominant Alibaba.  Fascinating read.

October 29 – November 3 Niall Ferguson is usually a little to august for this Editor’s taste, but in this case his cautionary words about getting overly awed by post-Congress Xi Jinping are on the mark.  Steve Tsang ruminates on the meaning of Xi Jinping’s apotheosis at the recent Party Congress.  The New Era begins. Speaking of “New Eras,” this is a lively and cogent piece about the transition from cashless consumer payment systems to forward leaps in Artificial Intelligence in China.  The link – the vast mass of Big Data acquired by the online payment companies.  A Must Read. Optimistic words from official PRC news source re the likelihood of further SOE “reform.”  Opinion outside of China all over the map on this, but mostly tending pessimistic after the apparent doctrinal emphasis on state role in the economy at the recent Congress.  No one has proved more eloquent at advancing an optimistic, accepting embrace of Beijing’s portrait of China’s future than Eric Li, a venture capitalist with time in the U.S. but now based in Shanghai.  Here he argues forcefully that Western skeptics, proven wrong time and again, will be proven wrong again this time, as China embarks on the “New Era.”  What he never mentions, because it doesn’t trouble him, is what troubles many others: intellectual repression, sometimes ruthless authoritarianism, profound weakness of the “rule of law,” etc.  In other words, his upbeat vision simply excludes consideration of many of the things that make others less upbeat. Hong Kong China scholar David Zweig’s thoughts on what the “New Era” plastered all over the rhetoric of the recent Party Congress might hold for the wider world.  Some of the early post-Party Congress “expert” analysis is markedly more substantive than most of the deluge of can’t-not-write pieces beforehand.  Here CSIS’s Bonnie Glaser observes gloomily that PRC foreign policy in Xi’s second term is likely to posit an alternative Chinese international order to the hitherto dominant “liberal rules-based order” that the U.S. has largely formed and led since World War II.  A gimlet-eyed look at BRI – the Belt and Road Initiative championed by, and identified with, Xi Jinping.  This essay will not be popular in China.  Minxin Pei, like most highly informed analysts in the week following the Party Congress, spends most of this article laying out the core elements of what emerged from the Congress, but his comments at the very end of the article make the whole thing worth reading, whether he turns out to be right or wrong in coming years.  Profiles of the seven men in the Politburo Standing Committee. Cautions against over-optimism with regard to North Korea outcomes of Trump upcoming visit to China.  Written by a competent all-purpose current affairs writer, not an Asia/China/Korea specialist. As Trump lifts off for Asia breaths are being held in US government and policy circles.  Council on Foreign Relations Asia guru Elizabeth Economy articulates a set of (low) expectations, punctuated by very acute observations about the man and the trip – and about post-19th Congress China. With no successor to Xi Jinping explicitly identified at the recent Party Congress, this author looks below the Standing Committee to the full Politburo of 25 figures, and finds three who might qualify as Xi’s successor, if he were to adhere to recent precedent and leave his Party post after his second five-year term.  More steam, especially on Capitol Hill, as to whether the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, (CFIUS), as currently defined, is adequate to protect U.S. national interests in the face of rising and diversifying forms of PRC investment in the U.S., or whether CFIUS needs to be redefine and its mandate enlarged.  One Western academic’s thoughts on the disappearance of his research paper from the website of a prestigious publisher, Springer Nature, in the wake of revelations that that publisher had removed hundreds of scholarly research articles from its website in China at the demand of Chinese political censors.  Following on the Cambridge University Press admission two weeks ago that they, too, had pulled scholarly content from their website because of Chinese censors’ objections, this represents a growing problem that is not going to disappear, since it is linked to post-Party Congress PRC triumphalism about the superiority of just about anything – including intellectual/academic controls – that bears the title of “with Chinese characteristics.” An extremely important article.  The WTO is the institutional embodiment of the “rules-based international system” that attempts to substitute global agreements for an uncivilized “state of nature” in international trade.  China’s arrival as a vast economic power, particularly since its accession to the WTO at the end of 2001, by definition has reconfigured much of the global economy, including the trade sector.  The future of the WTO is in play, as this author makes clear.  The cavalier behavior of the current U.S. Administration, with respect to global and multilateral trade agreements, only makes that future even more cloudy. A faint odor of “Opium War In Reverse” lingers over the present U.S. opioid epidemic, though the historical parallels are limited. Great piece, by an undergraduate writer, on the persistence of the counterfeit-goods problem in e-commerce, and how Alibaba, one of the two Chinese titans of e-commerce, goes about trying to reduce it.