This Week

May 4-10

PRC Domestic  Fine article by David Zweig, tracing the abortive and brief history of the massive 2013 reform plans announced as Xi Jinping took office and the triumph instead of the infamous “Made in China 2025” program based on massively different assumptions.  This is a must-read.  Another must-read, for those willing to get into modern Chinese history studies.  On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of China’s “May Fourth Movement,” this fine essay explicates the term, the events, the contemporary significance, and the place of May 4 in PRC politics and rhetoric.  A vast essay occasioned by the 100th anniversary of the May Fourth movement, and consisting essentially of a history of protest in the People’s Republic of China and the authorities’ responses to such protests, especially in recent years.  A further article on the intellectual roots, content, and legacies of the May Fourth Movement, by a Chinese scholar, published on a lively web site located inside the PRC.

PRC Global  The dynamic writer Nicholas Frisch on China’s digital technology explosion and its implications for individual privacy and individual rights both in China and in the United States.  Good graphics accompany good prose.  Seismic shifts in supply-chain architecture beginning to appear, as US-China trade conflict and other recent developments begin to throw long shadows over China’s place in many technology production systems.  A long, wide-ranging and discursive article on China’s expanding environmental clean-up activities and their global environmental and economic impacts.

US-PRC  FBI Director Wray on his perception of the threat from China in US academia.  The degeneration of the economic (trade, investment, and human) ties that have bound the US and China together. Important reflections from WSJ’s Grep Ip.  PRC citizen reactions to the heightened tariff negotiation conflict, against the background of earlier crisis moments like the 1999 US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.  Conjuring China as a contagious disease is itself an American disease.  Case in point.  Subway cars.  Frustration and concern among US companies as moment for increase in US tariffs comes very near.  Trump, tariffs, Midwest US farmers, and presidential politics.  The China opportunity for the big and expanding community of “national security” and “intelligence community” communicators in online media.  This article argues for a blunt US ban on Chinese companies of any kind in the building of America’s 5G networks.  The metaphor of China as contagious disease.  Oracle guts its China R&D operation. Caixin reports.  No mention of trade frictions with US, just a matter of reorienting corporate direction toward cloud computing competitiveness.

April 9 – May 3 (Delays occasioned by Editor’s travels)

PRC Domestic  The Communist Youth League announces plans to send youth from urban areas to rural and disadvantaged areas to assist in rural development.  Reminiscent, for some, of the Mao-era practice, especially during Cultural Revolution.  A very interesting background article on Uighur militance in Xinjiang.  The author argues that the camp system installed by the PRCG since 2014 has been largely successful, in that terrorist incidents in Xinjiang have declined drastically and the Turkistan Islamic Party has been reduced to apparent insignificance.  A very serious matter coming to a head in Hong Kong.  Human Rights Watch Asia has long conducted and published condemnatory research on human rights situations in China.  This massive report on the system of algorithm-defined surveillance of Chinese citizens, and in particular the residents of Xinjiang, is graphically compelling; among other things, it presents a detailed description of the mobile phone app used by authorities in Xinjiang to identify, define, and deal with individual inhabitants.  Too detailed to describe in this brief note, but breathtaking to read.

PRC Global  Very thoughtful piece on the essential nature of the Belt and Road Initiative, as an extension beyond China’s borders of basic features of the PRC’s own governance structures.  As the author puts it, “The Belt and Road is really the expansion of a specific part of China’s domestic political economy to the rest of the world. That is the nexus between state-owned contractors and state-owned banks, which formed in the domestic infrastructure building spree construction that began after the 2008 global financial crisis (and has not yet ended).”  With other recent essays, another nail in the coffin of the “debt trap” interpretation of the BRI, which holds that the BRI is the fiendish way for China’s rulers to enmesh other countries in towering debts that ultimately cause them to sacrifice their sovereignty to Chinese power.  One of several new pieces indicating that the US image of “debt-trap diplomacy” as the definer of China’s Belt and Road Initiative is inaccurate.  This Rhodium Group study finds numerous cases of re-negotiation of original loan terms, in favor of the borrower nation.

An example of significant supply-chain shifts as U.S.-China tech frictions deepen:  CA-based Super Micro shifts motherboard production from China to Taiwan and elsewhere after being accused by Bloomberg report last spring of producing motherboards with hidden Chinese “backdoor” devices aimed at penetration of data at major companies like Amazon and Apple.  The allegations were never borne out, but Super Micro customers have been spooked.  Result:  significant tech move out of China and supply chain modifications. Harvard’s Joseph Nye, so universally known in China for his coining of the term “soft power,” with a short essay that re-formulates now-familiar observations about China in slightly new ways, emphasizing the weaknesses of China’s current political and economic programs under Xi Jinping and urging that the US not “exaggerate” either the PRC’s putative strengths or its lurking weaknesses.  A “backgrounder” on the Belt and Road Initiative, from the National Bureau of Asian Research.  From the “Belt and Road Forum” in Beijing, Xi Jinping embraces a set of structural reforms similar to those demanded by US negotiators in the ongoing US-China trade talks.  The omnipresent verb, however, is “will.”  Another take on the Belt and Road Initiative, this one by the perceptive and diligent Gerry Shih, now of the Washington Post.  Shih details the ways in which the rhetoric, and some of the substance, of the BRI, has become less exuberant over the past year, as BRI has faced widespread foreign uneasiness or outright criticism and some blunt domestic criticism as well.  Zheng Bijian, credited with inventing the term “Peaceful Rise” back in the day, when he was a leader of the Central Party School, lays out a globally positive interpretation of the current Belt and Road project.  From January, renowned IR scholar Yan Xuetong on the coming “Age of Uneasy Peace.”


(Note: readings on the ongoing US-China trade negotiations not included, since, in the absence of definitive news, the voluminous reporting amounts to little more than place-holding.) A paper by the U.S. Defense Innovation Board, an advisory body to the U.S. Defense Department, on 5G telecommunications development, and where the U.S. and China stand in it.  Core point:  US pursuing 5G in a way that no one else is, while China is pursuing it in a way that will have global implications. Dense, economically technical, but lucid and important reading.  A look in depth at US-China trade conflicts over a forty-year period since Normalization.  The Asia Society Policy Institute’s new paper on how the US should deal with Chinese challenges in the trade arena.   A writer affiliated with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) comments on implications of the Boeing 737 Max airliner crisis for both the United States and China, ending with a call for cooperation but not before some glancing remarks about higher Chinese quality control standards than those of the US.  China mania reaches the conservative fringe in Washington, amid genuine D.C.-professional fanfare.  New York’s Fifth Avenue loses its magic appeal for today’s Chinese visitors. “Tiffany’s is so frumpy,” etc. etc. USTR in its annual name-and-shame exercise adds to Alibaba’s Taobao site in the “Notorious Markets” list, claiming that both giant online retailers are selling high levels of counterfeit goods. Very fine informative work, with good graphs, on the U.S. and Chinese tariffs applied in 2018 as the “trade war” blossomed, and what the future holds.  The US agency tasked with review of incoming PRC investments spreads expands its scope, as part of the growing official USG assessment that China is a hostile and dangerous adversary of the U.S.  Example.

April 2-8

China Domestic  A profile in courage.  Open letter signed by Tsinghua University alumni and other major university-affiliated individuals denouncing the silencing and crushing of Tsinghua Law School professor Xu Zhangrun for his politically radioactive writings.  A figure at the Central Party School opines on Tsinghua University’s treatment of Xu Zhangrun (preceding item).  Ford struggles with steep sales decline amid market uncertainties, plans blitz of new models in response.  A vivid and heartbreaking story by a U.S.-based writer of Chinese extraction.  A more-than-routine analysis of China’s domestic political and social condition, from a writer long associated with the U.S. human rights community.  Lou Jiwei, former Finance Minister and latterly head of China’s social security fund, bluntly criticized Made in China 2025 as a waste of taxpayer money.  Soon, PRESTO! No more head of social security fund.  Why? Not explicit but the inference presents itself.  University of Washington Anthropologist Darren Byler’s long and powerful essay on the PRC’s current application of technology to the task of controlling the Uighur population of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region.  Reminiscent of some of the darker writings about the USSR in the late Thirties. Except that Artificial Intelligence was not around then.

https//  A thoughtful essay on the structural reasons for the recurrent pattern of reform initiatives followed by retreats from reform. As they say in the subtitle, “China’s ‘seesaw economy’ is the result of an unempowered market that plays second fiddle to political objectives.” But read on.

China Global  A useful analysis of China’s newly-passed Foreign Investment Law begins on Page 9 of this issue of China Brief from The Jamestown Foundation.  Chinese readers’ exposure to foreign media.  An interesting and important topic.  Signs that foreign companies that have been exporting from production facilities in China are moving production out of the PRC, whether to LDC low-wage countries or to the US and other higher-end production sites.  Analysis of the new Foreign Investment Law approved at the recent National People’s Congress.  An interview with Shan Weijian, one of the greatest products of the first years of Reform and Opening, whose book – mentioned in the interview – is a Must Read and available in e-book form.

U.S.-PRC  The Center for American Progress, a “left of center” policy shop in D.C. whose origins date from the Clinton era, has issued a long Report on the future of American relations with China.  Along with the following item, this is among several longer analyses and prescriptions emerging from such organizations in the U.S. in recent weeks.  Here, from February, is “Course Correction:  Toward an Effective and Sustainable China Policy,” a long analysis-prescription paper prepared by a self-designated “Task Force on U.S.-China Policy” under Asia Society auspices.  Because the “Task Force” consists of people of strong reputation and widespread recognition in China circles, the paper bears close reading.  In the current political environment, it goes without saying, there is absolutely no guarantee that anything this paper or any other paper recommends will wind up being adopted in U.S. official policy.  But these papers are important nonetheless, as they offer clear insights into the thinking – often, the changed thinking – of American China specialists who, over time, have wielded intellectual and/or political influence. A gimlet-eyed American voices skepticism as the tide of “China Will Conquer The World” washes over Washington.  The US slices into visas for Chinese grad students in STEM/advanced tech fields.  Pros and cons in this nuanced article.  The comprehensive animosity behind these visa policy moves, however, may lead to self-destructive acts.  To the same issue.  Vivid evidence of changes in US visa treatment of Chinese students, including those seeking to return to US after winter vacations at home.  Brookings’s David Dollar, usually finance-focused given his extensive background, ventures usefully into a broader scorecard of eight major U.S. diplomatic efforts with China over a period of decades, and finds more positive outcomes than the current windstorm of negativity would lead one to expect.   To quote the author, “The successes all shared the characteristic that China came to see the global public good in question as clearly in its own interest. Also, intensive U.S. bilateral diplomacy was complemented by multilateral institutions. The United States cannot have much hope of changing Chinese behavior if the ask in question cannot be nested in a multilateral agreement.” With its mandate massively expanded recently by Congress, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) nixes a couple of concluded PRC investment deals – in fields not self-evidently national-security sensitive.  Another articulate essay by CFR’s Elizabeth Economy, essentially codifying the consensus that has now spread throughout the American centrist policy establishment with respect to China.  In that regard, we re-list an item from the preceding Suggested Readings:  MUST LISTEN to this important address by Professor Susan Shirk of UCSD, at the University of Pennsylvania.  Retrospective at 40th anniversary of Normal Diplomatic Relations, and much more.  The Q&A is equally important.  A long, complex, but ultimately very stimulating essay by US Intellectual Property specialist Mark Cohen, in the form of an interview after twenty years with “Rip Van Winkle” (Chinese readers, look that up) on all manner of issues relating to Sino-American intellectual property problems then and now.  Kevin Rudd interview on current US-China trade negotiations and, importantly, the long-term future process of endless revisiting and re-defining and re-everything once the two sides reach an “agreement.”  From “unregulated trade war,” to “regulated trade war,” he puts it.  He is right. Rudd surprisingly mild on Trump Administration behavior along the way.  A welcome respite from the tidal wave of largely contentless rapportage trying to say something readable about the negotiations over much, much too long a time.

March 26-April 1

China Domestic From last December, a comprehensive look at what to expect in the Chinese economy in 2019, by McKinsey’s Emeritus Director Gordon Orr.  Great writeup of a highly revealing online game making waves in China.  Situated in the 1937-45 War of Resistance against Japan.

China Global  If you are a “foreigner,” does Chinese language proficiency enhance your bright job prospects?  Read and find out.  An interesting paper on Chinese investment manufacturing in Ethiopia and related knowledge transfer.  An official China Daily report on a meeting of Chinese leaders with a set of distinguished global Elder Statesmen and Stateswomen, in which Xi’s comments on his hope that China and the U.S. will “walk together” are placed at the top of the article.  This comports with other similar messages in recent weeks.  The China Daily presents what might be dubbed “Xi Made Simple,” quick illustrated paraphrases of his key utterances (carefully chosen for this official publication) at the recent National People’s Congress.  It is left to the reader’s imagination as to how these homilies will be turned into tangible actions, however.

US-PRC  MUST LISTEN to this important address by Professor Susan Shirk of UCSD, at the University of Pennsylvania.  Retrospective at 40th anniversary of Normal Diplomatic Relations, and much more.  The Q&A is equally important.  A “Catch-22” dilemma at the core of current US-China trade negotiations, in the “Be Careful What You Wish For” category.  Related to the preceding item, an interesting NPR interview with USTR Robert Lighthizer regarding current US-China negotiations.  A must-read.  A balanced assessment of the present debate over China in US policy circles and its likely future.  Chinese readers especially should read this.  Familiar jousting between two very articulate world figures, one American and one Chinese, on the fringes of  the China Development Forum.  Another “economic opening charm offensive”? Or signs of real changes in policy and conduct in the concerted “messaging” effort coincident with the China Development Forum? The head of the Hudson Institute (always mentioned with the word “conservative” before it) with a brief article laying current US animosities toward China squarely at the feet of Xi Jinping but predicting that the two countries are too intertwined to be heading for a “Cold War,” whatever that overused term can be summed up as meaning.  A fine piece on the Chinese company building subway trains for American cities – from its factory in Springfield, Massachusetts – and Springfield’s response.

China Domestic  A lively and provocative review of three new books on China today, by Stephen Roach, now of Yale and formerly of Morgan Stanley Asia. Changing rhetoric amid the national campaign to pour adulation on Xi Jinping. A compact but very useful look at China’s current economic condition, the new Foreign Investment Law, and other aspects of Chinese economic affairs, by veteran economist Yukon Huang.  Nothing earth-shaking here, but a useful statement of current “accepted wisdom.”  Sixthtone continues to excel.  This is must-read material from the Chinese interior on the relocation of vast numbers of people from extra-impoverished remote villages, and what becomes of their lives.  In the aftermath of the New Zealand tragedy, this interesting article discusses Islamophobia and extremist phenomena on Chinese social media.  A surprising (to most Americans) look at how Chinese people view the various “social credit” systems sprouting into operation.  Spoiler alert – views are positive, thanks to a pervasive lack of social trust throughout Chinese society.  Is Baidu, China’s (government-approved) dominant search engine, as bad as this article claims, and is a return of some form of Google a remedy? Jessica Chen Weiss of Cornell analyzes survey data to describe the “hawkishness” of Chinese public opinion.  An important read for those making U.S. policy toward China and for American readers more generally.  Not happy news.  One official Chinese media reports on a very fatal chemical-plant explosion in Jiangsu Province.  The report at  puts the death toll at 64.

China Global Early assessment of likely reaction to the Foreign Investment Law just passed by the National People’s Congress and due to go into effect next January 1.  A remarkable review of a brand-new film by Jia Zhangke, set to open at certain US theatres this week.

U.S.-China This article may be a bit polemical, but its key arguments, showing that every Chinese citizen is required by law to cooperate with PRC government intelligence organizations, lie at the heart of one of the greatest concerns of the U.S. government and, sadly, a growing segment of the American populace. A major U.S. multi-level marketing company in trouble, as one of its sales people apparently dies from an addictive consumption to the company’s health products.  A pretty succinct expression of what is being accepted as the “new realism” in China policymaking in Washington, with regard to economic competition, especially in advanced technology, between the US and China.  Also an artifact in current partisan battles and ideological struggles in Washington; this author builds his article on a paper by Republican Senator Marco Rubio and stands with what he sees as a rising number of Republicans embracing Rubio’s ideas on enhanced government support for advanced manufacturing in the face of the threat from China.  The full Report by Rubio’s Senate Small Business Committee is at .

March 6-12

China Domestic  As National People’s Congress meets, this piece discusses the deepening ripples of economic slowing in China and the responses by the Communist Party and the Xi Jinping administration.  Remarkable story of a startup in flexible displays, with evidence along the way of the symbiosis between the U.S. and China. Deborah Lehr, who earlier in her career was one of the top US trade negotiators with China, offers this very interesting piece about the effects on the developing world of a potential division of the cyber realm into a Chinese “universe” and a U.S./”Western” digital “universe.”  Consider, e.g.: 15% of Egypt’s people have bank accounts, but mobile phone density is 110 percent. CFR’s Elizabeth Economy rehearses, as she did in her recent book, the many ways in which Xi Jinping has amassed personal power and cemented the CCP’s penetration of just about anything, but she argues that this might be “too much of a good thing,” and the negative consequences of the Xi onslaught of recent years should lead him to move in more, shall we say, “progressive” directions, in his and China’s own interest (especially with the PRC economy significantly slowing).  Neither she nor Your Editor is particularly optimistic about that, however.  Political correctness reigns in advertising, as the US company MAC Cosmetics has discovered, after a dumb error in its advertising scheme.   Xinjiang Governor says “like boarding schools.” A government “public relations site” offers this wholesome view of a “training center” in Kashgar.  Skeptical readers will view this with concern.  Taken as a whole, this article encapsulates China’s official message to a concerned world. A vivid, if poignant, look at a declining town and its moribund school, reflective of patterns of economic development and demographic change.

China Global  Analysis of PRC direct investment in the EU in 2018, far below 2017 levels. Growing obstreperousness in China’s foreign-affairs ranks, and the reasons for it. (Hint: it has to do with domestic political winds.)  A fanciful article, embodying the author’s predilections, on what might have gone through Kim Jong-un’s mind as he travelled by rail, 60 hours each way, from the Sino-Korean border to China’s border with Vietnam.  An upbeat article by a PRC think-tank writer on favorable developments at the People’s Bank of China in the direction of greater market determination of the value of the Renminbi and less PBOC intervention. The URL says it all.  Kaohsiung Mayor and likely presidential candidate opposing Tsai Ing-wen next year expresses different view on cross-Strait prospects. China grounds its Boeing 737 Max airliners after the Ethiopian Airlines disaster: interesting analysis of relations between US FAA and CAAC authorities on matters like this.

U.S.-China A quick look, from a Japanese media outlet, at what some Democratic presidential candidates in the U.S. have had to say about relations with China.  Impressionistic, with no claim to depth or comprehensiveness. An interview with the two head authors on the recent Eminent Persons group report on US-China relations, entitled “Course Correction.”  A look at the U.S. and Chinese movie industries, and their aspirations and concerns, as government-to-government relations take on more frictions and confrontations. Entertaining and informative. Former Senator Brownback, whose subsequent tenure as Governor of the state of Kansas, ended in abject failure, is now Trump’s top Religious Liberty appointee at the State Department.  His declaration that the PRC is waging a “war on faith” is worth reading, but very much in character for this religion politician, even as he points to genuine matters of concern. Annual Gallup survey shows sharp deterioration of American public attitudes toward China.

February 27 – March 5

China Domestic US-China Business Coouncil’s “take” on what to watch for at the National People’s Congress session that starts March 5.  Auto slump hits Ford in Chongqing.  Article points to Ford-specific problems. From US-China Business Council survey of member companies last November, regarding CCP Party Committees in their China companies: surprising results.  FULL MEMBER SURVEY RESULTS CLICKABLE AT  .  A stimulating article on a topic not often addressed but of particular salience as China’s economy slows:  unemployment in the PRC.  From Guizhou, a powerful story of local development, debt, and the evaporation of both funds and hopes in a very poor part of China. Elaborate and detailed analysis of development of China’s Marine Corps, the key element in any military operating involving waterborne landings.  Professor June Dreyer of the University of Miami writes a critical, comprehensive essay on the Uighur situation in Xinjiang, past, present and future.  Important reading.

China Global Another podcast, this time with the very interesting expert on film in China, Prof. Ying Zhu. Discusses the work of Director Zhang Yimou, whose fil was yanked at the very last moment from the current Berlin Film Festival.  MUST Read on forced technology transfer.  The Center for American Progress, a so-called “liberal think tank” with an extensive and sobering dissection of what it sees as Xi’s and China’s global governance intentions. An interesting report suggesting that the PLA faces far greater weaknesses than the current dominant U.S. narrative about Chinese expanding military might siuggests.

U.S. – China  Michael Swaine of Carnegie continues to distinguish himself, albeit in a lonelier fashion these days, with his balanced assessments of the US-China situation.  On  the other hand, from last July, this bitter and accusatory article, shrewdly titled “Who Lost China?”, is a quintessential write-up of the PRC’s economic sins and, in the author’s views, the failure of “pretty much everyone” since the time of Richard Nixon to stymie China’s ambitions and misbehaviors that now, cumulatively, pose such a threat to the U.S.  By the head of an information technology trade association in Washington.  WSJ writeup of a glum AmCham China annual member survey looking ahead to 2019.  Plenty of caution and considerable curtailment of ambitions. CFR’s Elizabeth Economy covers a vast amount of territory in this longish piece on the “reset” that has swept through American policy circles with respect to China.  Not a bad one-stop tour of much of the current landscape.  Plenty of responsibility to go ‘round, but in keeping with her recent book, Economy places primary emphasis on the changes in China’s trajectory brought about by Xi Jinping.  Good video with David Dollar, Scott Kennedy, and Amb. Jorge Guajardo (former Mexican ambassador to China).  Guajardo’s insights are sharp.  This really is a fine discussion  U.S. Senate “Homeland Security Committee” report lashes PRC’s Confucius Institutes, argues they should not exist on US campuses absent complete transparency and 100% reciprocal welcome in China.  See also , a major U.S. Government Accountability Office study of Confucius Institutes. Issued February 2019, of somewhat different analysis and findings.  Good analysis of what COULD come out of the prolonged US-PRC economic and trade negotiations, by three well-credentialed former USG officials. A blunt American criticism of what this author dubs a “phony” trade war between the US (more specifically, the President) and China.  There is more to this situation than this author recognizes, but his pushback is a refreshing deviation from current trends nevertheless.  On the enforcement problem in US-China trade.  Current arrangements leave US dissatisfied, but author’s recommendations run contrary to current US approaches.  Secretary of State Pompeo pledges US military response if anyone attacks Philippine ships or planes in SCS.  Given Duterte’s very public flirtation with Beijing, could it be that he is playing the US and China off against each other???  Useful podcast on new US victory in WTO case against China over subsidies to farm crops. Jitters that Trump, needing China more than China needs the US as their negotiations enter the final stage, will give away the store to XJP.  All just wheel-spinning for now.

February 18-26

China Domestic  Rougher weather for the Belt and Road Initiative.  Malaysia cancels rail project because of cost.  China agrees to negotiate price reduction.  PLA Gen. Fang Fenghui, formerly head of the General Staff Dept., sentenced to life In prison for corruption.  For all the “assertiveness” that the world has noticed in China’s presentation to itself and others and recent years, the PRC at times is remarkably blunt in publicly acknowledging darker concerns.  A recent XJP speech to a hastily-convened conference of regional and local leaders focused on “risks” facing the country, and the New York Times’s Chris Buckley has used that hook to point to a whole set of sensitive points coming up in calendar 2019.  Italian journalist, writer, and longtime China resident Francesco Sisci with a review of the coup-pocked history of CCP rule since 1949, with thoughts on the likelihood, or lack of likelihood, of something similar happening during the reign of Xi Jinping.  This article is more serious than might be imagined from its focus on “coups.”  A podcast with Elizabeth Economy, of the Council on Foreign Relations, around her new book on the Xi Jinping era.  A glimpse of what Chinese movie audiences are gobbling up in the immediate post-New Year period.

China Global  Wonderful blog site “Over the Circle:  Arctic Politics and Foreign Policy”.  Much to read and learn. A very serious matter indeed that exploded at McMaster University in Canada recently, involving Chinese students disrupting an on-campus speech by a Uyghur speaker while someone quietly filmed the entire situation, perhaps in order to share identifies with PRC embassy authorities.  An important read, in part because it asks whether such situations in other countries (including China) and other times would be tolerated.

U.S.-China Signs of genuine movement in the US-China trade negotiations long underway?  But: suggests maybe not.  Mastercard’s move into China at last?  Great work on Boeing and China over the past five decades.

February 9-17

China Domestic  In honor of Rod Macfarquhar, the Harvard China scholar who passed away this week, the premier journal that he helped to found, The China Quarterly, has made a collection of his articles available with no paywall.  These articles will repay the time it takes to find and read them.  Didi Kirsten Tatlow, a uniquely three-dimensional journalist and writer, with a report on the struggle to bring greater creativity (in support of the Holy Grail of Innovation) into Chinese schools without sacrificing disciplined community cohesion.  An uphill climb.  A remarkable, long Financial Times report on Marxist student activists in Chinese universities, who identify with the plight of exploited workers and call for adherence to Mao/Marx/Lenin fundamentals, and are now seen by the authorities as dangerous.  Concerns about possibilities of “color revolution”-style events in China in a politically sensitive 2019.  A very tough , erudite review of the box office smash hit Wolf Warrior 2.  China’s first blockbuster science fiction movie, “The Wandering Earth,” opens.  An interesting take on the film – and what makes “Chinese sci-fi” Chinese — is at

And MORE on “The Wandering Earth”:

China Global’s-third-revolution-and-future-us-china-relations Podcast with Council on Foreign Relations China specialist Elizabeth Economy, author of a much-heralded new book on the PRC.  On the hit film Wolf Warrior 2, an action-packed thriller with overt and more shaded messages about China’s emergence, about Africa, about the American adversary, etc. etc.  Great article.  A breathtaking scandal in Sweden.  Ambassador removed, among other things.  A disturbing report on Chinese student responses to an on-campus event presenting a Uighur critic of the Chinese treatment of Uighurs.  Intimidation?  PRC Consular manipulation?  Freedom of speech on campuses?

U.S.-China  The Must Read of the week.  A group of prestigious US China specialists (albeit self-selected) with a complex paper dealing with needed “course corrections” in US policy toward, and treatment of, China, occasioned by China’s own turns in darker directions. A devastating indictment of U.S. policy toward China by the always eloquent Chas Freeman, a respected veteran U.S. diplomat with decades of service on China affairs.  An extremely articulate, informative podcast with Gavekal’s Dan Wang, on the Huawei questions but more broadly on US policy options and measures aimed at confronting Chinese challenges in the advanced technology sector.  Only eleven minutes.  UNCTAD “Key Statistics and Trends in Trade Policy 2018.”  Useful analysis of effects of tariffs recently imposed (esp. US and PRC) on all economies.

February 1-8

China Domestic  A new journal web site worth visiting.  Lots of interesting content.  A little story about three boys and a girl who grow up in the same humble compound, and what happens to them as they and China change.  On the dwelling places created for the relocation and resettlement of millions of impoverished agricultural residents. An MIT Technology review feature on Professor Pan Jianwei, who is a key leader in the rapid advance of quantum technology in China.  A brief but interesting article on the rise of significant philanthropic giving among China’s wealthy, and what it signifies about social change in the PRC.

China Global  The beginnings of a useful ongoing discussion about Huawei in the context of global 5G development and the growing U.S.-China strategic “competition.”  A massive but well organized report on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector in China, covering just about everything.  A blunt-spoken essayist views with alarm the possibility of Japanese participation in the “five eyes” intelligence-sharing program that currently involves, as the author gently phrases it, “a group of English-speaking countries with white people forming a majority of the population” (the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).

U.S.-China   MUST READ.  Prof. Jerome Cohen’s reflections on the 40th anniversary of normalization of U.S.-China diplomatic relations.  Pitch perfect.  See also John Pomfret’s take at the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.comd/opinions/2019/02/04/deeper-tech-concern-is-core-us-huawei-spat/?utm_term=.cdd073e07e4d  .  The annual Report by the United States Trade Representative to the Congress on China’s compliance with the requirements of its WTO membership.  This report, annual since 2002, is worth examining, in part because it follows extensive written testimony from interesting parties in the US private sector. As crunch time comes on Sino-American negotiations over the terms of the two countries’ trade and economic relations, with an early March deadline before Trump hikes tariffs on Chinese imports, Obama Administration top trade negotiator Michael Froman urges the current team to draw on the many structural changes China had agreed to in its Bilateral Investment Treaty negotiations with the U.S., before Trump took over. Transcript of a podcast from Oct. 30, 2018 with two former National Security Advisors, Susan Rice (Obama Adm.) and Stephen Hadley (G. W. Bush Adm.) on how to think about and manage relations with China.  U.S. Naval War College professor Andrew Erickson with a clear call for a U.S.-defined approach to relations with China.  He calls it “Competitive Coexistence,” and affirms that he has used the term in his writings for a decade.  Readers will differ as to the specifics of his recommendations, but at least he is trying to promote internally consistent, coherent US policy, even as he acknowledges the necessity – in fact, the desirability – of accepting higher levels of risk as the US faces China.  By the way, many of Erickson’s points, and even his key formulation “Competitive Coexistence,” show up in the dialogue between former National Security Advisors Hadley and Rice in the preceding entry here. China’s U.S. entity of China Global Television News, the official central government TV news service, registers in the US under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, under pressure from the Trump Administration.  This piece details differences in the treatment and status of Chinese journalists in the US and US journalists in China.

Taiwan Issues   Adult supervision from Brookings’s Richard Bush, formerly head of AIT Taipei, as a set of U.S. Senators and Members of Congress push for an invitation from Speaker Pelosi to Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress (in the manner, once upon a time, of Mme. Chiang Kai-shek, 1943).

January 25-31

China Domestic  MUST READ .  A long, beautifully illustrated exploration of “urban art,” combining, as the author says, “Confucius and Mao.”  The attempt to control and channel the study of Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) History to ensure that a dominant historical interpretation coincides with the interests and needs of the current leadership.  A blunt, very critical review by a leading Western historian of the Qing, who has herself been subjected to dense criticism in China.  Persistent sluggishness in the industrial sector as China tries to thread the needle between economic slowdown and the perils of excessive credit availability. A remarkably frank assessment of the implications of China’s enormous High Speed Rail (HSR) network on the overall economy: enormous debt loads, loss-making routes on all but the most densely-traveled ones; starving of the non-HSR rail system.  An eye-opener.  From Jan. 19, overall look at the weak economic numbers from China in 2018Q4.  From Jan. 16, delayed by Your Editor’s preoccupation with The Carter Center’s recent Symposium on the 40th anniversary of US-China Normalization of relations.  Noah Smith, the author here, is usually worth a read.  Here he analyzes the Chinese economic slowdown in interesting ways.  From Jan. 21.  A four-day high-level conference on the “risks” China now faces, addressed by Xi Jinping. A very, very big corruption catch: former Party chief of Shaanxi Province.  Ripples may extend widely.  From Jan. 16.

China Global A long and searing analysis of China’s massive global efforts on the borderlines of journalism and propaganda. “As the west’s media giants flounder, China’s own media imperialism is on the rise, and the ultimate battle may not be for the means of news production, but for journalism itself.”  A remarkable site, full of promise, from Brookings.  Introduces the work of nine younger-generation China specialists dealing with   topics in Chinese politics, especially foreign policy.  This is a chance for readers to start becoming familiar with a whole phalanx of “China specialists” now moving into positions of intellectual and public policy relevance as the “Generation of Giants” in the China field begins to leave the front lines of analysis and publication.  Informative essay on the implications of “5G” telecommunications, Sino-American competition in that sphere as a major factor in global competition.  See also  for Huawei’s announcement of intent to develop smart phones no longer dependent on U.S. technology.

U.S-China  In the vast outpouring of punditry and journalism surrounding the U.S.-China trade and economic negotiations currently underway, this article by Rhodium Group’s Dan Rosen and CSIS’s Scott Kennedy stands out, both for substance and style.  Essentially, it lays out a menu of reforms which, the authors argue, would be good for China, but which are also going to be necessary if China is to avoid a much deeper and darker conflict with Trump’s United States.  NYT on Huawei-United States conflict as of Jan. 29.  The endless run-up to the crucial trade dispute talks just about to begin in Washington, against the background of the far-reaching indictment of telecoms giant Huawei on Jan.  A particularly strong, detached article on the Huawei situation in the U.S.  An alarming report on China’s growing military prowess from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.  Made many waves when it appeared a couple of weeks ago, but the furor has since died down.  The star Brookings China team blasts the Trump Administration for chaotic handling of China relations and a complete lack of coherent strategy.  An important review of four recent books by Kishore Mahbubani.  Not likely to make American China hawks happy.  Confucius Institutes closing at some US universities, amid withering attacks over alleged Chinese government and Party “Influence operations” in the US.  Some real ugliness here, both in Congress and in some academic or so-called academic communities.  But some genuine concerns:  cf., e.g., the University of Michigan case.  More than you ever wanted to know (if you value your sleep) about cyber interference with supply chains.  Sort of a “survey of the literature” going back a decade or more, with references to documents released by Edward Snowden, Defense Department and other security-community papers, etc.  Not all about China, but China figures prominently.  The full U.S. government indictment of Huawei in the case of the purloined T-Mobile technology.  Reads like a thriller.

January 15-25

We pause this week to call readers’ attention to a single site containing a number of papers on US-China relations at the 40th anniversary of Normalization of Diplomatic Relations in 1979.  The papers were presented at a Carter Center Symposium in Atlanta January 18, 2019.  Each of these papers is strongly recommended.

January 7 – 14, 2019

China Domestic This article by an Indian strategic policy figure predicts that 2019 will be a year of growing troubles for China and its leadership – which is not surprising.  What makes the article useful is its bringing together in one place so many of the fragmentary reports of political and economic uneasiness below the surface in today’s PRC.  Regrettably, no hyperlinks.  Great look at CTrip, China’s biggest online travel agency – its achievements and its challenges.,-but-how-are-they-funded?&utm_medium=email From AmCham China, a fine interview piece on the world of Chinese startups.  Great read, and very informative.  To boost slowing economy, PRC plans more infrastructure investment.  This site questions the wisdom of that, noting that infrastructure investment is already low-productivity in China. HK prepares to mandate PRC national anthem in international schools in HK.  A broader discussion ensues in this article.  A powerful and devastating report on the situation in Xinjiang.

China Global  One analyst’s take on rising awareness and concern in Europe over China’s growing economic and military reach. Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow lays out a very serious and comprehensive critique of trends in today’s China and the ripple effects they have on China’s global relationships. Title is “President Xi Jinping is Sacrificing What Made China Great.”  Published in China-US Focus, which is sometimes accused of subtly influencing foreign opinion in pro-China directions.  Not this time.   China’s exports, and auto sales, fall significantly.  Chilling effect on other markets. Inbound FDI now tepid as well.

U.S.-China MUST READ.  Prof. Jerome Cohen, whose revered work on China spans more than a half-century, beautifully expresses the defense of Normalization of diplomatic relations in 1979, in today’s climate of recrimination and retrospective blame-gaming.  Paul Heer, long a CIA China specialist, argues that US pursuit of continuing “primacy” in the Asia-Pacific region is now outdated and futile:              “If U.S. primacy in the region is not materially sustainable, it becomes untenable to define it as a vital interest that must be upheld.” Argues for re-definition of China’s intentions and adjustment of US plans and expectations.  A second contrarian entry, this one an intellectually stimulating podcast with Prof. Lyle Goldstein of the U.S. Naval War College.  The host/questioner, Prof. (and former Congressman) Brad Carson of the University of Virginia, does a great job.  Goldstein offers a blunt counter-view to the prevailing perception of China as an aggressive and existential threat to the U.S.  Take the 45 minutes and listen in a quiet space. Goldstein is courageous, in the current climate, e.g. at 36:00.  Senior American China specialist David Shambaugh looks back over forty years since establishment of US-PRC diplomatic relations, recognizes the “thick” bonds that now link the two countries, and cautions about the future challenge of managing wide-ranging “competition.”  Another temporizing article, noting the conclusion of mid-level US-China trade talks in Beijing with nothing firm to report on ultimate outcomes.

Taiwan Issues  The “nationalistic” Global Times English edition offers comments by three academics on the Taiwan “unification” situation, following Xi Jinping’s big speech on the subject.

December 29, 2018 – January 6, 2019  As China matters become the material for generalist opinion-writers and “pundits,” once in a while the inevitable simplification helps to illuminate basic truths.  Here is an example, under the heading “Be careful what you wish for” as regards economic difficulties in China.  Midway through the “90 Days” that Trump gave China to negotiate something acceptable, the press twiddles its thumbs daily.  As thumb-twiddling articles go, though, this one is quite informative, and it brings with it an interesting 5-minute video interview with Charlene Barshefsky, the US Trade Representative under President Clinton who negotiate the key terms of China’s accession to the WTO in 1999. Veteran observer Claude Barfield of the American Enterprise Institute on the insufficiency of recent Trump Administration indictments of certain Chinese officials for involvement in vast hacking operations by Ministry of State Security in the US.  See also the following, on which Barfield drew extensively:   .

China Domestic

Editor’s Recommendation:  We take the unusual liberty of recommending to readers a fascinating book, by two scholars in the state of Georgia, one of whom was Your Editor’s Ph.D. student long, long ago:

China In Family Photographs:  A People’s History of Revolution and Everyday Life.  The authors write, “This book is a collection of translations from Old Photos, a Chinese bimonthly publication launched in 1996 that presents photographs and narratives from ordinary readers and professional historians in a manner that proclaims: this is our history, not the history those above would have us believe. The magazine was concerned with the everyday lives of ordinary people while also covering the momentous, often traumatic, political life of the People’s Republic. “

*****************************************************************  As China’s economy slows, credit loosing gathers steam.  “Deleveraging” focus, given China’s immense load of debt, will be difficult to cast aside, but immediate problems, especially for small businesses, are dictating loosening. Challenge is to expand “good” loans while avoiding adding to the pile of “bad” loans outstanding.   Falling birth rates cause ripples throughout the economy and concerns for the future.  What translation entails when it is really good.  This is a long read, and the up-front comments are central to its meaning.   “Frosty Boy.” A photo goes viral, and triggers public debate about national priorities.

China Global  China Daily’s compendium of 2018 top stories (multiple pages).  Worthy of review.  Wang Chi, an American who has played a distinctive role in the building of ties between his native China and his home country, the US, with an important observation about China’s current minimization (to the point of nullity) of the role of the US in the post-1978 building of China’s robust modern economy. An impressive success:  China lands a vehicle on the dark side of the moon.  Further coverage, with photos, at  .

US-China–and-prevent-a-modern-cold-war/2018/12/31/cc1d6b94-0927-11e9-85b6-41c0fe0c5b8f_story.html?utm_term=.46b66358375b  President Jimmy Carter talks sense on US-China relations and responsibilities at this very difficult moment. Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin on the critical necessity of U.S.-China cooperation on global issues.  Chinese Ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai, in USA Today, with his broad (and generally familiar) arguments in favor of stable Sino-American relations and mature management of issues in dispute.  An official Taiwan site reports US-Taiwan relations best in forty years, following Trump signature on new bills boosting US ties with the island.  The discouraging story of US government-funded US university-organized “American culture centers” on campuses in China and the PRC’s robustly unwelcoming response.  Before the US brouhaha over on-campus “Confucius Institutes” in the US. A blunt illustration of U.S.-China economic “interdependence,” centering on signs that Apple’s flattening sales growth in China, which has affected U.S. markets more broadly, could and should have been foreseen over the past several years.  State Department travel advisory to Americans and dual citizens, focusing on PRC “exit bans” potentially able to prevent departures from China.  Level 2 – “Exercise Increased Caution.”  Good podcast with CSIS’s Scott Kennedy on US-China trade and economic issues and prospects 2019. Kennedy is a good, crisp, interviewee, and his crispness reveals his ability to summarize quickly a variety of points that have been made elsewhere as well.

PRC Domestic

Taiwan Topics  A legal look at the so-called “1992 Consensus” by Prof. Jerome Cohen and legal scholar Yu-jie Chen.  Any vestigial notions that authorities on the mainland and on Taiwan share a common view of the existence and the content of the “1992 Consensus” seem to be withering now.

PRC Global



November 24 – Dec. 1

PRC Domestic  Beijing moves to set up “social credit” system to grade 22 million inhabitants and guide their social behavior.  Middle class Americans will be repelled, but questions of the relationship of the state to the behavior of the citizens are not confined to China.  More on the Fujian environmental mishap.  Reminds us: no word of the tanker carrying petroleum distillate that went down in the East China sea months ago.  An incredible account of a sandstorm “swallowing” a city in Gansu.  Illustrations are breathtaking.  This is a powerfully moving article, with multiple ambiguous overtones indicative of the complexity of Sino-American relations today.  Your editor believes that it can be read “straight,” for its content and the light it sheds on the reality of social tragedy and redemption in a China that many Westerners seldom see.

This article makes no bones about portraying a single Chinese company, Alibaba, in a positive light for its efforts at social betterment.  Is this free “advertising” for Ali?  We recommend just taking the article at face value.

Then there’s the questions of whether Americans cling to the vision of China as a charity case, and “love China” because they can sympathize with China’s misfortunes or try to “help” the needy Chinese.  Most of that historic baggage has been lost with China’s rise.  Again, we feel that the article should be taken “straight,” and that it’s o.k. to feel sympathy, and empathy, with the people it describes, even if the prevailing American discourse these days is one of fear and even repulsion.  Another reminder that there are those in China who are producing, in English for foreign readers, very well done and often powerful stories about life in China and the complexities and hardships that many people face there.  As the headline stories deteriorate in both countries, Your Editor hopes that readers will continue to search, and read, more widely about contemporary China.

SPECIAL THIS WEEK  Journalist and author Richard McGregor on the recent Taiwan local elections, in which the DPP did miserably and the KMT rose from the dead. Analyses Beijing’s grass-roots “influence operations” on Taiwan.

US-PRC  In the day-to-day, breathless and largely engineered media feast leading to the Trump-Xi Episode in Buenos Aires, today’s report, from the very reputable WSJ team, hints at the possibility of a “deal” involving postponement of more US tariffs in return for talks on modifications of the “architecture” of US-China economic relations.  The heavy breathing of the past ten days (every think tank, every major media outlet with a new analysis) mirrors the run-up to, for example, the Trump-Kim Jung Un meeting in Singapore earlier in the year.  This story is, in fact, a miserable indictment of the process of American policy making on China.  No two ways about it. A massive new report on PRC “influence operations” in the United States, just released by the Hoover Institution and the Asia Society’s China Center, with a long list of distinguished “Working Group” members (only one of whom is of Chinese extraction) from the academic and policy communities.  Will cause many ripples, especially when taken with arguments like Ely Ratners (below) that dealing with China threat now represents a good way of achieving bipartisan cooperation in US domestic politics.  (This comment is NOT about the content of the new report itself.) A restrained and relatively well-balanced news item regarding the Report discussed in the preceding item.  A long and continuing dialogue between Ely Ratner of the U.S. and Hugh White of Australia about the growing US-China strategic confrontation in the Pacific region.  This site shows all segments to date, so one might start with the most recent, Hugh White’s piece on what the US would have to do to “deter” China from its present course in the Pacific. Sober and blunt analysis of the emerging decline of U.S. naval dominance in the Pacific, by a respected U.S. scholar of Sino-American strategic relations, Robert Ross.  Ely Ratner, formerly Biden’s top foreign policy advisor, concluded in a memorable Foreign Affairs article a year or so ago (with Kurt Campbell) that the American “China establishment” had fundamentally mis-read China from the 1970s on, and accepted his own culpability for that mistake.  Now in this new Foreign Affairs piece he argues bluntly that the US and China have such different aims in Asia that no Trump-Xi “deal” or other “meet halfway” alternatives are feasible, and certainly not in Buenos Aires this week.  MUST READ.  A genuine, unscripted phone call between Trump and WSJ’s Bob Davis, one of the best US journalists on China and US-China relations.  Most of the transcript focused on China, but read the whole thing; the ending is delightful. Ambassador Cui Tiankai’s blunt-spoken interview with WSJ on the eve of the Xi-Trump meeting in Buenos Aires.  GM in China. Brookings’s Ryan Hass on the larger problems in the relationship, trade deal or no.  Down and down.  Prominent PRC econ. advisor predicts long grinding geo-economic conflict with US, regardless of Trump-Xi meeting, argues China will ultimately triumph.   As US-China troubles filter out into the general, non-specialist journalism sector, this piece by a WaPo columnist who writes on a lot of things is, actually, quite good.  PRC floundering around, trying to figure out how to connect with right-wing US think tanks now that the political atmosphere and the list of “influential” thinkers is in flux in Washington.

November 15 – 23

PRC Domestic  Another sweeping crackdown on social media.  Great essay by Ian Johnson on Islam’s place in China, past and present.  Winds up discussing the “education camps” in Xinjiang to which, according to reliable reports, more than a million Xinjiang Uighurs have been sent to wean them from “terrorist” inclinations.  Chongqing and Chengdu growing well, but barriers inhibit more rapid investment by foreign firms.  Good piece on two terrific cities.  Interesting and informative Sinica podcast with Lucy Hornby, the clear-eyed veteran journalist now with the Financial Times in Beijing, mainly on “shadow banking” and the whole phenomenon of alternative financing in China’s economy – and in the economy of some of China’s neighbors. Signs of cooling of hyperactive energy in China’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) world. (Paywall) At a Caixin conference, 88 year-old economist and architect of “Reform and Opening” Wu Jinglian calls for vigorous implementation of economic “reform,” against a background of slower reform, reassertion of state power in the economy, and endless resistance by “vested interests,” the same anti-reform crowd that led to Xi Jinping’s reformist accession in 2012. A sensible commentary arguing that the kind of massive government protections and subsidies exemplified by the now-infamous “Made in China 2025” program may ultimately do China more harm than good, and that China would be better off making some modifications of its statist-market economic framework now than later.  Ian Johnson’s useful essay on the long historical interplay, usually unpleasant, between China and Islam.

PRC Global Spread of the swine fever epidemic in China.  See also for deeper detail and analysis of potential global impacts.  Daniel Blumenthal, no friend of the PRC, writing for the American Enterprise Institute, also no friend of the PRC but a good friend of Israel, expresses dismay at Israel’s increasingly close relationship with China, and warns Israel to mend its ways (and align with the Trump Administration on China) while there is still time.  Washington Post’s Josh Rogin, whose gloomy, sometimes fiery, appraisals of the PRC and its leadership have accompanied his rise to prominence in the Washington commentariat, scorches the PRC in this report from the scene at the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea.  Hard to tell where the line lies between news rapportage and opinion writing.  A critique of Chinese regulatory treatment of genomic data, i.e., as a national property, to be segregated from the global sharing processes going on elsewhere. An Opinion article.

US-PRC Beginning of serious haggling or just more media fizz before expected Trump-Xi meeting at G-20? Pre-Summit fizz?  Lighthizer claims PRC has not done what it must do on US objections itemized in last spring’s Section 301 report.  When you think about it, ten days before an increasingly “buzzed” meeting between Xi and Trump, one could hardly expect any US figure to claim that the PRC was doing a great job.  The 53-page USTR “Update” of the 301 Report is at  . US-China ugliness at APEC in Papua New Guinea.  Pence as US Designated Hitter in intensifying war of words with China. At an unlikely outlet (The National Interest), the first of two articles arguing that, as the US under Trump walks away from the stable international systems whose creation it had fostered, those who are perceiving the PRC waltzing into the resulting vacuum are mistaken. The United States Department of Commerce announces a thirty-day period for receiving public comments as it prepares to write new export control regulations covering “certain emerging technologies” deemed relevant to U.S. national security.  While China is not mentioned in this announcement, concern over defense- and security-related transfers and exports of U.S. technology to the PRC is unquestionably the major driver of this move to write new export control rules.  South China Morning Post take, and further commentary, on the impending issuance of new US export control regs, covering transfers of knowledge and technology in areas deemed to be national security-sensitive.  A useful work-through. Related (unfortunately, paywalled) story:  PRC manufacturers of ultra-sophisticated facial recognition equipment used in pervasive government surveillance (e.g. against Uighurs in Xinjiang) heavily reliant on U.S.-made microchips.  U.S. may take measures against their export. Important, and portentous.  Chinese more optimistic than Americans about bettering their station in the future, thanks to decades of rapid growth in PRC.  Good graphics. Almost unheard of.  The courageous Long Yongtu, chief Chinese negotiator of China’s WTO accession, allows himself to be publicly quoted criticizing PRC moves against agricultural imports from the U.S.  Relevant to the preceding item; another veteran Chinese Commerce Ministry official with U.S. relations pedigree comments unexpectedly on the current trade imbroglio.  AEI’s Claude Barfield sums up the enhanced – and sure to be further enhanced – US effort to combat PRC theft of high-end intellectual property, through a concerted Justice Department China Initiative.  The Initiative, announced November 1, may be read at . Early signs of cancellation of extant 10-yr. US visas for certain Chinese travelers (e.g., research scholars in Sino-American relations), on top of tougher visa treatment for Chinese in advanced technology sectors.

October 27 – November 8

PRC Domestic  Very useful direct translation of report on Politburo session dealing with Artificial Intelligence.  Fascinating podcast on civil society developments in the aftermath of the catastrophic 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan.  Another important podcast from CSIS:  “Self-censorship Among China Hands:  Myth and Reality.” A matter of extreme sensitivity now, amid allegations that American “China experts” are guilty of self-censorship, or craven submissiveness to PRC political pressures, or worse.  New report from Rhodium Group on Governance in China’s state sector.   Wrinkles emerge in Foxconn’s $10b investment project in the state of Wisconsin, part of Trump Administration effort to bring IT jobs back to the US (from China).  New Wis. Governor critical of predecessor’s deal; shortage of U.S. trained personnel.

PRC Global  One cool-eyed report (from a Japanese media source) on the big Import Expo in Shanghai, which opened with an address by President Xi Jinping.  European Chamber of Commerce Shanghai review of Xi Jinping’s address at opening of Import Expo.  German industry uneasy about over-dependence on China.  Vietnam the big winner from US-China trade conflict. Growing frigidity of US-China trade relations impels China toward rapid development of advanced microchip design and manufacture, to replace US imports. A skeptical view of the PRC-led effort to build a rail link from China to Europe, emphasizing the unchanging economic benefits of maritime transportation.  Nice little 3.5-minute video by WSJ’s James Areddy on interpreting PRC’s trade intentions, on the occasion of the opening of the big Shanghai Import Expo.  A useful review of PRC policy and law regarding outward direct investment, with both an historical and a present-day analysis.  Includes discussion of downsides experienced in past and current regulatory efforts to mitigate negative side effects of outbound investment.

US-PRC  MUST READ.  Henry Paulson’s dramatic speech on US-China relations, in Singapore.  Chinese translation available at    For those with the time, this would be a worthwhile viewing.  A session with the author of a new book claiming that China’s entry into the WTO was a disaster for the US and that the US should “decouple” economically from China.  Discussant comments are a mirror of the entire US policy debate these days on what to do, economically, with or about China.  Another debate among “pro” and “con” debaters on the question of whether US and China interests are “fundamentally incompatible.”  David M.  Lampton, Evan Medeiros, Susan Thornton, and Brookings’s Tom Wright.  Moderated by Evan Osnos.  Mid-term elections likely to have little effect on Trump China trade positions.  Detailed analysis.  The “trade war” comes home to roost in Moses Lake, Washington.  Quite a story.  Financial Times Guru Martin Wolf on the need to avoid a US-China “Cold War.”  Perhaps China’s most articulate deliverer of Chinese government messages to Anglophone audiences, former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Mme. Fu Ying, on US-China interdependence and the necessity of avoiding “decoupling.” Trump musings worry Chinese “birth tourism” industry.  AEI veteran trade specialist Claude Barfield analyzes recent Trump Administration moves to prosecute alleged PRC intellectual property thefts, and proposes follow-on actions by the Administration.  Rising US-China security competition leads to complex issues in the field of Artificial Intelligence, as China pushes the “fusion” of military and civilian industrial sectors and US ponders tighter controls on access to US technology.

October 18-26

PRC Domestic China issues first public acknowledgment and description of “anti-terrorist education” facilities in Xinjiang, where some reports indicate that as many as a million young men, primarily Uighur Muslims, are held in the name of “stabilization” of Xinjiang. An elaborate, technically sophisticated BBC report on the situation in Xinjiang. A bit breathless, but the central subject – the development of a vast system of internment camps – is dramatically described. Chill winds in China’s private sector, and signs of growing pessimism over economic prospects, particularly as US tariffs bite harder. A collection of papers by reputable specialists, in an annual “Party Watch” report.  The papers deal with many of the major elements of Chinese Communist Party operation.  See especially the Shambaugh paper: The Party bears down on “patriotism” and love of the Party. The authors see dangers of reversion to ancient and once-discarded extremes. Ideological intimidation and repression in classrooms.  Journalists’ challenges in attempting to report from Xinjiang as news of mass Uighur incarcerations and hyperactive surveillance technology seep out.  A CGTN (China Global Television Network) feature program on the “Vocational skills educational training centers” established in Xinjiang to rid susceptible terrorism candidates of the poisons of religious extremism.  With useful paraphrase and commentary from this valuable web site, .

PRC Global  In the phase of Trump’s chaos, China and Japan move toward more stable and improved relations, with the current visit by Prime Minister Abe to China. “Porcelain-bumping.” Recent histrionic events in Europe point to an intentional strategy for confronting criticism by deflecting attention to manufactured insults. A lengthy study of Chinese influence, economic and political, in four EU countries, with observations on how to cope with the increased direction of Chinese resources into such efforts in Europe.  “What we found in Portugal, Greece, the Czech Republic, and Serbia is shifting perceptions, usually in China’s favor. “  China and Japan open the spigots on joint financing of development projects in third countries and joint listings on Chinese and Japanese exchanges.  Moreover, Nomura is setting up a fund with China Investment Corp.   Side effects of US-China economic decoupling.  Face-in-your-face.  If this author is right, i.e., that wealth and strength have utterly eliminated the concept of shame, China and the world are both in trouble.  The critique, however, may have applications elsewhere in addition to China.  An important “Book Launch” meeting with Stewart Patterson, author of “China, Trade and Power.”  Speech begins after preliminaries at 20:10.

US-PRC  This is an extremely important article that should be required reading in both the United States and China.  Following the full-on denunciation of China’s many sins by US Vice President Pence, here is a useful interview with Yan Xuetong, one of China’s best-known specialists on Sino-American relations. A wide ranging, largely orthodox essay by a Chinese policy scholar on what China and the US must do to prevent further degradation of relations.  USN sends two warships up the Taiwan Strait to show the flag, Trump pulls US out of 144 year-old International Postal Union, as a slap against Chinese export of small packages to the US at low international postage rates.  A wrenching message from Wang Chi, a US citizen for seven decades and a former senior figure in the Library of Congress Orientalia Division, on the increasingly chilling American reception for anyone of Chinese extraction.  Deeply disturbing.  A long, discursive interview with Wang Jisi, the “dean” of China’s “America specialists” and a senior figure in PRC foreign policy circles, on trends in the world in general and the China-America relationship more particularly.  Read from end to end. Political Scientists David Zweig, Hong Kong-based throughout his distinguished career, suggests that China’s veer toward brusque assertiveness has revealed an ill-founded over-confidence that is now bringing upon itself not only American “pushback” but “rollback,” aimed perhaps at the Chinese Communist Party itself.  Anatomy of a collapse.  China unable to figure out whom to talk to in the American administration.  Blow by blow.

October 9-17

PRC Domestic  MUST READ.  A unique essay by the talented New Yorker writer Jiayang Fan, as she accompanies and interviews writer Yan Lianke in his home town of Luoyang, Henan Province.   A short piece built around a recent S&P Global report (click on the hyperlink in this item) declaring that enormous Local Government Financing Vehicle debt looms over the Chinese economy, to its peril.  This article indicates that very serious debates over economic policy, particularly over the apparent Xi Jinping preference for further strengthening of giant state-owned enterprises and for diminished policy support for the private sector economy, are underway.  A useful reminder that linear projections of Chinese domestic policies are likely to be in error.  A vigorous and significant article from Caixin, a publication that dependably supports the health of the private sector economy in China, regarding persistent private sector anxieties and what should be done to alleviate them. With some spectacular disappearances, or apologetic reappearances, in recent headlines, here is a video with a description of the expanded police powers embodied in the new National Supervisory Commission. 3-minute watching with concise voice-over by WSJ’s Josh China.  Dismal news about the life sentences of leading Uighur education figures in Xinjiang.

PRC Global Common sense from former USTR Robert Zoellick to the China Development Forum in Beijing last spring: gently offered advice to China.  Few signs that those in command are listening, even if others, quietly in the ranks, very likely do.  How dealing with today’s China can cause serious divergences of opinion and political animosity within a single nation and among nations that share other far-reaching commitments.  This is about the current Italian government’s embrace of maximum cooperation with China on all fronts, and fears that a unified EU policy on China is drifting out of reach.

US-PRC  Where we are.  A portrait of a US Administration prepped for an all-fronts confrontation with China.  Like many such articles, this one is largely a catalogue of items already reported, massaged into a single piece. But for that reason it is a useful summation of where the US administration is going on China.  Are Americans over- or under-reacting to reports of Chinese “influence operations” in the U.S.  A Chinafile “conversation,” involving brief analysis comments by invited Chinafile writers.  Something to ponder.  Generational change and the loss of institutional memory in the ranks of those assuming responsibility for US government China policies today.  Veteran analyst Kerry Brown is onto something with this opinion piece about what he (and Your Editor) both see as a particular Chinese popular ambivalence about the United States (read the piece to see what that means) and the role of the confrontational Trump in scratching that chronic itch.  Good technical analysis of the issues raised in two Bloomberg reports last week, indicating that Chinese entities had managed to corrupt hardware (servers) made by contract plants for a US company by installing a “back door” tiny chip on the motherboards of those servers.  Technical article but readily readable by non-technical readers. China’s Ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai goes on Fox TV. Main message: on trade issues, no one knows whom to talk to in the White House.  Others have said the same. Perception of a threat from China finally brings Trump and Congressional ultra-conservatives to an understanding of the importance of U.S. development finance assistance, after two years of trying to kill it.

October 1-8

PRC Domestic Delightful granular vignettes from the gigantic movement of people during “Golden Week” following China’s October 1 National Day holiday.  Marvelous long FT article on Shakespeare in today’s China.  A fine read, especially for weary American news junkies.  China’s utterly famous, fantastically rich film and TV star Fan Bingbing emerges from “Residential Surveillance at an Undisclosed Place,” wherein the tax authorities had held her, blubs a patriotic mea culpa/affirmation of loyalty, and faces fines and taxes equivalent to US$ 129 million, but no jail time if she pays up on time.  In spite of the lurid subject matter, this is a very informative article.  A major downward development in HK: Financial Times senior journalist denied visa by Hong Kong authorities after chairing an open Foreign Correspondents Club forum with a HK political figure anathemized by Beijing.  Further signs of the fraying of “One Country Two Systems.”  Deeply entrenched traditions at stake: trying to regulate “bride prices” in rural China at a time when males significantly outnumber females.

PRC Global A Western journalist formally employed at Global Times offer this gimlet-eyed view of the world of CGTN, China Global Television Network, one of whose reporters became the center of an ugly (and now international) incident in Birmingham, England a few days ago.  The incident is briefly described in this piece.  Needless to say, PRC perceptions of all this differ from the author’s. Blunt talk on why China’s lifting of equity restrictions on foreign investments in PRC financial institutions has been met with such a tepid response.  Complex security relations among the PRC, Russia, and the United States.  Short and lucid.  Meng Hongwei, the head of the global crime-hunter organization Interpol and Vice Minister of Public Security in China, lands in Beijing, disappears, and sends his wife an ominous chat message with the image of a dagger.  Then the PRC authorities announce that he is in custody for bribery.

U.S.-PRC Vice President Pence’s much-ballyooed China speech to the Administration’s favorite think tank on China, reciting every recent charge and revelation of Chinese malign behavior, but at a level of generality that precluded any identification of sources.  Widely viewed in the US as announcing a fundamental turn to a more comprehensive adversarial approach to China.  Background to Pence’s full-spectrum denunciation of the PRC.  Public snarling between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US SecState Mike Pompeo, after a week of rising animosities. A valiant attempt at calling for the ending of the tit-for-tat tariff war now raging between China and the U.S., on grounds of national interest for both sides. An astounding report on a debate at the apex of American political power as to whether to ban ALL PRC students from studying in the U.S.  One well-placed American’s account of ominously shabby treatment at a conference to which he was invited as a respected guest speaker.  The cascade of ill will appears to be strengthening, though perhaps it is partly a matter of more frequent reporting of incidents like this.  One of many reports on an extremely close encounter between Chinese and American warships in the South China Sea, with a photo showing how close the two vessels had come.  Another dimension of the rapidly spreading US alarm over China: Trump’s China attack dog Peter Navarrao points to U.S. military supply chain vulnerabilities.  An article with something of a mixed message, on the continuation of profitable business engagement with China at the sub-national (i.e., state and local) level.  With a new US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement in hand, this report suggests that the Trump administration will turn its attention to a fundamental assault on China, with the aim of ending the international “supply chain” system in which the PRC for the past three decades has played a crucial part.  A giant Bloomberg report on an alleged super-high-tech Chinese assault on the integrity of servers used by all manner of US customers, including such corporate giants as Apple and Amazon.  Great techno-narrative, no identification of sources.  NOTE: BE SURE TO READ FOLLOW-UP REPORT AT A comprehensible technical analysis of the Bloomberg bombshell, with alarming conclusions, is at  .  From Brookings, an article on whether, and how, the PRC attempts to influence U.S. politics.  Again from Brookings, a soberly-crafted piece on Chinese “influence operations” in the U.S., which are now at the center of a raging firestorm.  Acknowledges and identifies some of the ways in which the PRC attempts to affect American opinion about China and China-related issues.  Notes recent Congressional measures to combat those attempts.  Cautions against going to excess.  Extraordinary, almost unbelievable.  The Chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors advises US businesses to “stay away from China.”  A lonely American voice, publishing in a British newspaper, calls for America not to lose its head over China.

Sept. 21-30

PRC Domestic  Stories of life in a county-town  in Sichuan.  Nicely translated and worth the time.   On China’s National Day (October 1), Kaiser Kuo’s Kuora presentation looks at Deng Xiaoping’s historical role, and how Deng is viewed now.c Another big corruption takedown.  Unlike numerous foreign media reports, this report in the relatively free-wheeling magazine Caixin makes no mention of the alleged perp’s Uighur ethnic identity.  After the “provisional agreement” with The Vatican, journalist and writer Ian Johnson describes the broader environment for Christianity in China now. One commentator’s thought-provoking commentary regarding the dangers of political leadership isolated from external realities.  Minxin Pei is highly articulate, very well informed, and dependably critical of anything in the PRC that he chooses to write about, but the first two qualities sometimes outweigh the implicit bias of the last one.  This is a case in point, in which he points to ominous hints that the PRC regime is going to move farther in the direction of a state-dominated economy, at the expense of the private sector which nowadays generates the bulk of the jobs and the bulk of the economic vitality of the country, in contrast to the remaining giant state-run enterprises that, in his opinion, the Xi Jinping operation seems to like more and more.

PRC Global  The NYT’s indomitable Jane Perlez on Chinese reactions to the precipitous deterioration of Sino-American relations. The kind of development that gives credence to allegations of PRC “influence operations” in other countries. This one the burglary of the home of a noted New Zealand academic who has published studies of such “influence operations.”  The Vatican-Beijing breakthrough agreement, as announced by a Vatican site.  Not the end of controversy, but viewed by many as a hopeful step forward. China’s continuing expansion of medium-high-tech exports (capital goods like machinery, etc.). Actually, a very informative look at the transformation of China’s industrial economy and the PRC’s growing export capacity in industrial products. As The dimensions of the metastasizing trade conflict between Washington and Beijing grow, third countries – in this case, Australia – worry about how to save the global trade regime and how to deal with China’s increasingly bumpy arrival.

U.S.-PRC  Must Read. China policymaking veteran Jeffrey Bader finally offers a concise argument against the “disengagement” trend now gathering force in the United States.  ON THE OTHER HAND, longtime China journalist John Pomfret argues that, as US-China relations implode, China has only itself to blame, and things could have turned out otherwise. Good piece on the ins and outs of PRC acquisition of technology – willingly or otherwise – from US firms.  The Congressional Research Service’s latest update of its two-page “Focus” summary on US-China relations, for the busy Member of Congress who only has a minute and a half to think about that. State Council Information Office White Paper on growing trade conflict with the United States.  A significant statement of PRC positions in this conflict.   MUST READ.  Robert Zoellick interview with Caixin.  Edward Truman, a very experienced US international finance official, with an important message about the perils facing the International Monetary Fund, the potential problems arising from sovereign debt incurred by countries taking Chinese BRI loans, and the necessity of changes in U.S. policy to deal with these potential crises.  He is not optimistic. The tariff war comes to the Port of Baltimore.  Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute of International Economics offers this solid and graphically useful backgrounder on Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports.  Another very gloomy prognosis on the future between America and China, from Andrew Browne, a thoughtful journalist who until recently was head of the Wall Street Journal Bureau in Shanghai.

Sept. 11 – 20

PRC Domestic  A vast, but highly readable “tour d’horizon” of the Chinese propaganda system – recent institutional changes, personnel changes, programs and products.  For those with the time, much to work through and learn here. Another report on regime action to curb religious activity, in this case online.  Unofficial translation of the new regulations at   .  A Chinese official from the State Council Information Office responds to international criticism of Chinese detention camps for Muslims in Xinjiang. Nice reflective article about Jack Ma, who will step down as Executive Chairman of Alibaba.  Updated and complex listing of “State Council Institutional Reforms,” i.e., reorganization of government administrative structures.  Name changes, amalgamations and mergers, eliminations, etc. For the closely engaged.  Great article on succession challenges in Chinese firms, with a focus on two titans, Jack Ma and Richard Liu of Alibaba and JD.Com respectively.  Never forget China’s “market liberals,” even when the news suggests relentless reversion to Leninist economic practices.  Uighurs from neighboring countries, e.g. Kazakhstan, disappearing into the Xinjiang black hole.

PRC Global  China’s push for higher-value-added products accelerates under U.S. tariff pressure.  Not the intent of the tariffs.  Focus on export powerhouse Guangdong Province.  From a U.S. Christian organization long focused on Christianity in China, this site offers several pieces on the Chinese Bible, 29 years in preparation.  Whether one supports foreign proselytization in China or not, the immensity of the task of translating the Bible into Chinese, from whatever original language, is worthy of study and reflection.  A research paper assessing the social effects of PRC development projects across a wide range of countries. Growing move globally, esp. Europe, to scrutinize PRC merger and acquisition cases, following US lead in expanding CFIUS scope and powers.  PRC investment in US tanks in 2018.  As news of an apparent agreement between Beijing and the Vatican emerges, this podcast with Ian Johnson is à propos and informative.  Part 1 of a four-part podcast series on the Belt and Road Initiative.  An interesting review of the Belt and Road Initiative, stressing unanswered questions, the limits of definition, the ambiguities of central-local roles and PRC-recipient country roles, etc.  Nothing definitive, but a useful look at a sometimes confusing but endlessly discussed global program.  Download the new European Chamber of Commerce in China Position Paper from this press-release web page.

U.S.-PRC  Global Times, known for its bluntness, even its inflammatory word choices, with a serious editorial about the meaning for China of the onrushing tariff conflict.  Must Read.  Indications of growing coordination between US and its major trading partners to resolve their trade issues and then form united front to confront PRC global and domestic economic practices.  Very well constructive, inclusive article.  CSIS’s Scott Kennedy gets his critical hands around the cascading down-swoon in US-China relations after the latest round of Trump tariffs and Chinese responses.  As of Sept. 19.  Kennedy is right in his blunt assessments.  Big change of US policy:  Justice Department will now require key PRC media organizations in the US to register as alien agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.  Will China retaliate with similar requirements on, e.g., VOA?  Mnuchin invites China to new talks.  Edward Alden thinks something big and time-consuming may be beginning.  Trump’s new $200b-in-imports’ worth of tariffs a day or two later (and immediate Chinese tariff response) may have killed this baby in the cradle.  US companies in China hurting as tariff war deepens.  See  .  Yet more on Trump and more on tariffs, as of Sept. 14.  Despite some familiar content, this is a useful short-term piece.  An article on the ways in which the interests and practices of Chinese online companies do, and more importantly don’t, always line up with government goals and requirements.  Can Trump take the US out of WTO?  PIIE economists discuss, with legal analysts. The swamp deepens.  PRC “1000 Talents” program recruiting talented Chinese trained in the US and elsewhere to return to China and serve PRC development goals leads to growing suspicion in US and elsewhere over technology thefts and security dangers.

Sept. 1-10

PRC Domestic Unforeseen side effects of China’s ban on importation of waste products: shortage of raw materials results.  Arrest and immediate return to China of Richard Liu, founder of e-commerce behemoth, galvanizes online attention in PRC. A nicely translated, half-funny/half-serious, reflection on life in China then and now by famed author Yu Hua. Melding the civilian and the military economies in Mianyang, Sichuan, a hugely military town.  Producer Price Index up 4.1% year on year in August. Thickening government pressure on religion and places of worship. At this web site, one can download a paper that lies near the core of the current heated discussion of alleged PRCG practices aimed at Uyghurs in Xinjiang.  The subject, under urgent discussion among academics and think tankers in the West for many months, has become front-page news in recent days, as at  Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma to step back.  Succession plans at the online giant.  This site offers lots of interesting, related hyperlinks.  Must Read.  Where agriculture reform began – the story of one village and one man.  Online trials of IP cases at this Internet Court.  Derided by one American long suspicious of PRC motives, at  .

PRC Global A valuable academic paper on the frequency with which international social science researchers have encountered various forms of interference, intimidation, or prohibitions as they have attempted to conduct research in China. This subject is very “current,” as it relates to the raging conflict over “self censorship” alleged to be widespread among academics fearful of damage to their careers and personal lives if they offend Chinese authorities.  A critical analysis of the Belt and Road Initiative so far.  Malaysia under Mahathir cancels major infrastructure projects financed by China, out of concern over potential for Chinese “neocolonial” influence.

PRC-U.S.  Trump dumps APEC meeting, at which there had been some speculation of a Trump-Xi meeting to break the US-China stalemate. An experienced lawyer writes on whether to move production out of China in the face of the growing trade conflict between the US and China.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  THIS ITEM SHOULD BE CONSIDERED PROMOTIONAL LITERATURE.  Two survey reports by the Purdue University Center for Religion and Society, on Chinese students and scholars in the U.S. Professor Aaron Friedberg of Princeton, who has long argue that China represents a massive geo-strategic challenge to the United States, here expresses that view in detail and lays out recommendations for how the U.S. should meet the Chinese challenge. Emphasis on the political and ideological essence of the Chinese threat.  The U.S. corporate groan at likely effects of Trump’s vast tariff increases.  Supply chain demolition, competitiveness damage, consumer burdens, etc.  The frantic search for “exemption.”

August 24-31

PRC Domestic A heart-stopping, eloquent essay by a young Chinese writer living in the U.S., occasioned by her mother’s medical crisis in their hometown of Shanghai.  Raging battle between two boffo TV drama series, both set in the court of Qing Dynasty’s Qianlong Emperor.  Literally billions of viewers.  “Tales of the Yanxi Palace” seems to be on top. (For US readers:  The Qianlong Reign, (1735-1796) represented the apogee of power and prosperity of China’s final imperial dynasty, just before the decay and repeated catastrophes of the 19th century). Why do so many Chinese students seek to study abroad, especially in the U.S., when Chinese universities now are so highly developed?  Unending uncertainty about Chinese economic statistics.  An illuminating article.  A brief, comprehensible account of the “Catch-22” dilemma facing PRC leadership as the economy slows and US trade war rises: continue to “de-leverage” in order to reduce the spectre of bad debt throughout the economy, or reopen the infrastructure spigot to keep the economy humming, at the risk of reversing the “deleveraging” trend and sinking the country in vast amounts of new bad debt.  Crisis hits online ride-hailing giant Didi after a second murder of a passenger by a driver.  Implications broader, though, as social downsides of booming online businesses gain greater recognition.

PRC Global  PRC proceeds with promised market-opening moves in the banking sector even as US-PRC tariff volleys worsen. This article discusses PRC energy projects along the Belt and Road, many of them for coal powered generating plants, but it argues that it is China’s massive effort at power transmission infrastructure development that will ultimately make possible the development of renewable power along the BRI routes, while establishing China as the core of a vast multi-regional power grid.  Washington Post editorial reveals a lot about where the US and China are heading.  Here the WaPo focuses on perceived international “pushback” against Xi Jinping’s globally ambitious policies and China’s conduct toward BRI partners and others.  NYT on Chinese massively increased seapower in the East and South China Seas, where the US Navy has cruised confidently since World War II.

U.S.-PRC  Robert Sutter, one of the longest-serving China specialists in the Washington, D.C. academic/think tank/government circuit, on the alignment of the current U.S. Congress with Trump in strong positions of distrust or hostility toward the PRC.  An important read for those not concerned daily with these matters. A modest, constructive, but somewhat wistful article offering suggestions on how the US and China might begin to “manage” their currently degraded relations.  More tariff tit-for-tat.  A very interesting interview with Finance Minister Liu Kun. UCSD Economist Barry Naughton on Chinese economic policy responses to the Trump assault, starting with the observation that “tit for tat” policy has been a failure already.  A Chinese website offers examples of U.S. small business testimony opposing pending US “Section 301” tariffs.  Full coverage of the massive USTR hearings, involving more than 350 testimony submissions, still has not been made available by USTR: cameras were barred and recording devices were prohibited. Congressional Research Service backgrounder for Members of Congress on major US trade disputes since Smoot-Hawley (1930).  Very handy guide. A handy introduction, produced for Members of Congress not well in formed on the subject, to newly-enacted changes affecting the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the agency that reviews – and can block – proposed foreign acquisitions of U.S. properties or firms.  Much of the Congressional excitement has focused on PRC mergers and acquisitions. A colorful portrait of Trump’s top China whisperer, Peter Navarro, in Time Magazine.  A long and highly informative, critical interview with Amb. Chas Freeman, whose ability to express himself, without notes, on complex historical and current China policy issues is unique and valuable.  Do not listen while driving; listen in the quiet of a late evening. A detailed argument that, by misreading Chinese economic condition (assuming weakness), Washington’s prosecution of a tariff war will fail.  Interesting analysis with useful hyperlinks. Chinese experts’ views that the US-China conflict has become more than economic and is now geostrategic.  This is, in your editor’s view, a huge tragedy for which responsibility resides in both nations.  Autos.  Trump tariffs lead Ford to cancel plans to import a vehicle from China. This coverage, from the Detroit News, is useful for its informed discussion of issues facing Ford and the U.S. auto sector.  Baying hounds.  A longtime, formerly fringe but lately less so, crusading “journalist” alleges a vast CCP plot to influence major U.S. think tanks, colleges and universities, etc.

August 14 – 23

PRC Domestic  Interesting tea-leaf readings following the annual secretive leadership retreat to the beach at Beidaihe.  From Nikkei, whose reporting on China tends toward negative or insinuating hinting.  This piece is relatively free of that, however. A NYT article suggesting that Chinese leadership may have misjudged prospects for trade conflict with the US and now confront serious policy dilemmas.  Xi Jinping issues a new anti-corruption/anti-laxity warning and mandate to the military. A rising young American China specialist writes on the profound challenges to the Chinese political system arising from the very characteristics of that system today, i.e., the intellectual and political supremacy of a single Leader. The Economist often uses better-than-average writing style to express commonplace ideas, but this essay, on the swirl of rumors accompanying this year’s leadership retreat at Beidaihe, is worth the reader’s time.  Bottom line: don’t get too worked up about rumors of intense leadership conflict and rising antagonism toward Xi Jinping. Marvelous piece on the finances of China’s gigantic High Speed Rail system: built on debt, still run on loans.  What lies ahead?  A debt crisis or, over the longer term, a system that pays off its debts and justifies the regime’s enormous bet?  Michael Pettis on the ways in which a “trade war” could create more favorable conditions for deep-reaching and needed structural reforms in the Chinese economy.  China’s new Ministry of Emergency Management and overhaul of the entire disaster-management system. A granary fire, and another discussion of declining self-sufficiency in food grains.  Wall Street Journal on internment “re-education” camps in Xinjiang.  A vast report on what is apparently happening in Xinjiang.  Brings together in one place much of the recent widespread reporting on “Re-education” camps incarcerating hundreds of thousands, if not a million, Uyghur residents of Xinjiang in the ostensible interests of anti-terrorism and “stability maintenance.”  The boom in online P2P (peer-to-peer) lending hits the wall. In their struggle to gain “World Class” designation, Chinese universities aim to “internationalize,” but face very serious unintended consequences.  An important glimpse into a broader and deeper phenomenon at work in modern China.

PRC Global  A fascinating Caixin interview with Prime Minister Mahatir of Malaysia, as he proceeds to postpone or cancel very large PRC-invested development projects because of the huge debts his nation incurred in signing on to those deals.  A long, thoughtful, and ultimately pessimistic article by Adam Segal, the Council on Foreign Relations cyber expert, on what China’s vision and program for management of cyberspace portends. Tsinghua University computer allegedly connected to hacking of Daimler, Tibetans in India, etc.   More worries about US cutting its funding for diplomacy and overseas development aid while China ramps up big-time. Focus on Africa and Latin America.  Valedictory observations by a young Chinese person who worked for seven years as an employee of foreign news organizations in China and is now leaving journalism for study abroad.

PRC-U.S.  First US-PRC meetings in months, on trade/tariff disputes, open at relatively low levels (Under Secretary of Treasury/Vice Minister of Commerce) in D.C.  Good background/context article. For trade addicts.  The official USTR announcement of hearings to be held Aug. 20-27 on proposed new US tariffs on Chinese products, including the gigantic, complete list of the proposed targets.  More than 350 companies requested opportunities to testify.  SR will post additional links as useful material becomes available. In the absence of meaningful American coverage of these extremely important USTR hearings on pending tariff increases, China Global Television Network posts this piece on witnesses’ testimonies as to the damage such tariff’s cause to complex supply chains serving American companies. Timothy Stratford, now heading a major US law firm’s China operations but formerly top USTR China official, with an oracular, relatively gloomy, but thought-provoking interview on why the US and China are likely to be locked into the current trade conflict for a long time.  A detailed and highly critical commentary from a CCP organ, of the just-passed US Defense Authorization Act, which contains significant China-focused content. Peterson Institute of International Economics analysis of China’s announced tariffs on imports from the US, in response to US imposition of tariffs on Chinese imports.  As of August 15.  Useful, simple graphs also.  The vaccine scandal grows.  A very useful podcast on economic issues, with an extended discussion of major China matters starting at 7 minutes 20 seconds.   The guest is Jason Furman, one of the principal architects of economic policy in the Obama Administration.  USTR Lighthizer testimony at Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on USTR, July 26.  From the horse’s mouth, much of it on China. Internal unrest at Google as company explores possibility of a China search engine adherent to PRC cyber controls. A sobering report about the evolution of the unconstrained U.S. presidency, less and less affected by Congressional power or by the judgments of the expertise in the federal bureaucracy.  Asks the question, in conclusion, whether the “rising threat that China poses to U.S. interests” might shake the Congress and the bureaucracy out of their torpor.  A popular online publication, and an author who writes regularly on China, produce another in the unending array of moral challenges to normal Sino-American relations these days:  why is the National Basketball Association running a  youth training camp in Xinjiang, where up to a million local residents – Uighurs, of Islamic faith – are currently held in re-education camps?

August 4-10

PRC Domestic  An extremely helpful survey of the new legal and regulatory environment for NGOs in China, and a balanced assessment of the improvements and deteriorations in their operating environment.  RELATED, and of equal interest, this piece on overseas NGOs operating in the “new environment.”  and this look at why small domestic start-up NGOs struggle to thrive:  David Kelly’s excellent “Seven Chinas” report, proposing seven interrelated identities that define contemporary China and its current narrative.  A subtle discussion of the dividing line separating “fact” from “myth.” From February.  Download the report from this site. “Patriotism education” for “intellectuals.” A grim account by a Der Spiegel reporter on an extended trip through Xinjiang.  A report testifying to the apparent effectiveness of China’s attempt to insulate (isolate?) its population from online tools deemed off limits by the authorities.  Sobering in its implications, though one might find similar conclusions, in reverse, in the U.S. or Western Europe. A small note on a big topic: what happens when the anti-corruption enforcers act illegally?  A problem in every country, but potentially a significant one in China, where the Party state pursues a huge anti-corruption campaign and an ideology campaign as well.  The national “deleveraging campaign,” Xi’s response to huge debt loads throughout society, causes liquidity problems, especially for smaller companies.  This article discusses an attempt to lighten those problems in order to save smaller firms, but cautions against using it simply to keep “zombie companies” going forever.  A short essay on the current professed project to bring expand 24-hour/360-degree video surveillance to all of China (pilot projects target all streets and roads, not interior of dwellings), by 2020.  In the name of social stability, crime prevention, etc.  Kerry Brown’s ruminations on the recent powerful essay by Xu Zhangrun of Tsinghua University Law School, in which the author listed a long series of social and intellectual and political ailments in contemporary China.  That essay, mentioned in last week’s Suggested Readings, may be read in a quickly-done but subtle translation, at   . Growing concerns over the apparent situation in Xinjiang now completely in the public eye, with this report on a finding of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  China claims policies aim to deter religious extremism.  U.S. joins the chorus of criticism.  A brisk official rejoinder, with a powerful message of hostility to influences from “the west,” may be seen at  .

PRC Global  A significant article.  A Taiwan manufacturing mogul (“world’s biggest IT manufacturing company”) sees the end of the era of production in PRC for US market, and the beginning of a new era of production inside the U.S. (May be paywalled.) A useful summary of the content of the “Made in China 2025” program, the US and other international concerns over the program (especially re national security), and responses to it in the US and elsewhere.  A very informative interview on the current vaccine scandal and its ramifications in China.

U.S.-PRC  An “America Expert” tries to make sense of American strategic policy under Trump and comes up short.  Some attempt at analysis of domestic US drivers of American foreign policy, especially vis à vis Asia.  Distinguished Beijing University Scholar Wang Yong, who has studied US-China economic relations for decades, writes a message for American readers on Chinese views of the current US-PRC tangle.   Economics Dean at Fudan argues that China is many years behind US in the high-tech innovation space.  A very useful article by Adam Segal, recognized expert on China cyber issues, on the whole panoply of issues surrounding the “Made in China 2025” program. (May require free sign-up).  On the likelihood that Google will be able to operate a search engine again – even a censored one – in China; this analyst is dubious.  Coincidentally, a New York Times story tends to corroborate the author’s point.  Using content analysis of press releases from U.S. Members of Congress in districts heavily affected by the “China Shock” of the 2000s, the authors seek to explain why Republicans, long the champions of unrestricted trade, have turned so bitterly hostile toward China (and don’t protest against Trump’s China tariffs), while still speaking a broader pro-trade language. English-language People’s Daily hints that Apple may be in for some difficult times if US-China trade conflict continues and worsens.  A PRC investment in solar farms in the US fails for lack of CFIUS action.  Tensions over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea make major-media headlines in the US.

July 28 – August 3

PRC Domestic MUST READ, in a quiet room with ample time.  A well known Tsinghua University law professor writes a complex essay, in the manner of a Remonstrance to the Emperor, about errors in China’s current direction, and calls for specific policy changes including re-evaluation of the official judgment on the June 4, 1989 tragedy and reversal of the recently-approved elimination of term limits on the presidency and premiership.  Although Western critics of China may become over-excited by this, the document itself, and the commentary and translation shown here, are elegant and significant. An interesting blog post from Williams College China guru Sam Crane, about the “feel” of Beijing this summer as he makes his annual visit.  Quite sensitive, in both senses of the term. What makes this Caixin editorial about the challenges facing China’s economy and the measures needed to meet those challenges is the frankness with which it acknowledges that most of the points it makes have been made for years, without definite resolution.  Still stuck on many of the perennial issues, as “Reform” stumbles.  More signs of economic slowing.  Manufacturing PMI down, though still above the dividing line between expansion and contraction.  Controversy arises over allegedly over-confident assessments, by one of the PRC’s most renowned economists and “public intellectuals,” of China’s overall national strength as compared to that of the US.   Xi orders the military to clean up its act and get out of profit-making schemes and activities.  This is not a new theme, to put it mildly.

PRC Global  Editor Nathan Gardels’s thoughtful intro to a series of hyperlinked essays in this week’s Worldpost, all dealing with the new global order that may emerge under China’s influence.  Click on the links.  Economist Jeffrey Sachs has long been famous, though not always right: his advocacy of “big bang” reform of the former Soviet Union and the color-revolution countries has by now been largely dismissed.  But his essay here on the future of global innovation and the folly of U.S. attempts to smother Chinese innovation in the cradle may have greater credibility.  The Western media obsession with the BRI continues, as slavishly responsive to PRC PR as the American media is to the White House’s every emission.  Here the Guardian on “What is the Belt and Road Initiative?”  Further on recent defective medicine scares.

U.S.-China Analysis of the “Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act,” incorporated in the National Defense Authorization Act August 1.  The FIRRMA expands the scope of foreign investment review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), and is unquestionably focused on concerns over Chinese investments in the US, especially in areas of sensitive technology or military security.  The full text of the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, which contains the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act discussed in the preceding item.  Go to Title XVII for the provisions relating to CFIUS.  US Commerce Department Bureau of Industry and Security names 44 additional Chinese entities as security threats to the US, imposes new export restrictions. This article may be overcome by events by the time of posting:  US contemplating 25% tariffs on $200b of Chinese imports instead of 10%, Trump reported angry, hyper-hardliners in White House calling the shots.  US dips its toes ($113m) into development assistance in the “Indo-Pacific,” with inflated rhetoric.  This, after walking out on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and shredding US reputation in the region.  Amid the rising tide of concern over PRC cyber-espionage, a useful refinement of what is under discussion. A comprehensive and highly critical analysis of the ill effects for the United States arising from Trump Administration tariff moves against China over the past year.  Covers many elements and for that reason merits a MUST READ.

July 23 – 27

PRC Domestic  Sixthtone’s report on the vaccine scandal.  The kind of situation that no head of state and head of government, and especially no father-figure, wants to get into:  Xi blasts evildoers in the vaccine scandal. “..resolutely improve the supervision of vaccines…” South China Morning Post story about the miraculous career recoveries of officials connected to earlier public safety crises (tainted foods and medicines, e.g.). State Drug Administration official goes on Central Television, but does not fare well.  Thanks to for the tip. Major shifts underway in China’s vast – and over-expanded – solar panel industry, after US throws tariffs on PRC panel imports. Thirteen year sentence for democracy champion Qin Yongmin, 64, who has already spent 22 years of his life in prison for similar activities.  The charge?  “Subversion of state power.” He had published a book on “China’s Peaceful Transition” in Hong Kong five years ago. Remarkable official statistics in the rise of arrests and criminal convictions in Xinjiang in 2017 over 2016, both I absolute terms and in terms of percentage of all-PRC national totals.

PRC Global  Full text of Xi Jinping’s speech in South Africa. 26 July, In early response following US-EU trade détente, Commerce Ministry spokesperson indicates without going into detail that PRC is favorably inclined toward WTO “reform.”  Practical implications unclear.  Official Xinhua report.  China Eastern – JAL alliance suggests that Sino-Japanese relations may be evening out after years of bitter tension over Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.  Result of larger regional shifts and shifting relations with the US? Document submitted to WTO by US delegation, detailing US view of Chinese economic policy vis a vis WTO principles and requirements. Interesting opinion article arguing that, with trade conflict with US rising and economy slowing, China will abandon “de-leveraging” and start increasing credit availability domestically, while agreeing to less demanding terms in order to keep its lending programs to “Belt and Road” countries robust.  Denouement of the nasty argument over what name the world’s airlines apply to Taiwan (Beijing insisting Taiwan not be listed as a “country.” Airlines act to honor PRC insistences.  China’s growing presence in global clean energy markets, both as producer of energy-generating equipment (e.g. solar panels) and as investor in energy companies in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere.  Implications. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has worked on China for a long time, offers a sobering exegesis of Xi Jinping’s recent address to PRC foreign policy elite regarding world conditions and China’s current and future approach to global structure and governance.  As Rudd puts it, the West had better “buckle up.”  Short but important.  China stops buying the world’s plastic trash.  Vast problems worldwide. GREAT feature article on a line of entrepreneurship – unmanned food-item shelves in offices – that fizzled, and why.

PRC-US  The evaporation of the school of American “moderate” China specialists from the policy-making arena.  Part I of II.  Part II (see above).  Very fine reporting on the constraints blinkering the thought processes of Chinese responsible for understanding American government behavior.  A flagship deal falls through.  Qualcomm cancels plan to acquire Dutch chip maker as no response from Chinese antimonopoly authorities ever appears.  China says “nothing to do with current trade frictions.” Further fallout from the collapse of Qualcomm’s attempt to acquire NXP because of non-response from Chinese regulators.  Other pending deals at risk?  A veteran Chinese America-watcher with an interesting, multi-layered analysis of American perceptions of China and the future of Sino-American relations.  A somewhat anodyne ending, however.  PRC becomes net seller of US real estate for first time since 2008.  Giant US toy maker Hasbro announces plan to move all production out of China, to avoid tariff consequences of ongoing US-China “trade war.”  Artificial Intelligence.  Western professor at Tsinghua points to PRC strengths in competition with US for dominance in the sector. (May be paywalled.)  The head of the European Council on Foreign Relations summarizes his recent China interviews with respect to how China perceives Trump.  New Trump – EU trade détente: implications for US-China trade conflict?  Different interpretations. What we are descending to.  This young “journalist” is not doing herself any professional favors with pieces like this, but she will find a ready audience in “heat the boiling oil” circles.  Orthodoxy shift.  WSJ’s distinguished Bob Davis reviews the decision to grant China “Permanent MFN” status as it entered the WTO in 2000, and comes down largely on the side of the current massed legions who claim it was a mistake.

July 14-22

PRC Global  MUST READ.  An important reflection on traditional Chinese concepts of cosmology and governance and their application, under  Xi’s CCP, to the world as a whole.  PRC and Europe moving ahead on big deals while US digs its hole deeper.  (Note:  this Newsletter is wholly sponsored by one firm.)  Frictions between Siberians and both Moscow and Beijing as Chinese businesses clear-cut their way into Siberia.  THIS REPORT BEARS FURTHER VERIFICATION.  Global Times commentator (posted on PLA Daily web site) discusses current Xi Jinping Africa visit.  Worth a careful read.  One person’s blunt assessment that scholarly engagement with China is primordially a moral challenge, in which fear of visa denial too often results in willful self-censorship and willful disregard of appalling human rights violations. This item is included because it represents a stream of thinking that is shared by a rising number of foreign observers, particularly academics.  The author concludes, “Yet most importantly, simply by talking about these matters openly, and attempting to give a voice to those who are unable to speak, the suffocating cycle of silence, to which far too many of us have been accomplices at the nexus of censorship and self-censorship, will ever so slowly be broken.”

PRC-U.S. The eternal quest to figure out Trump’s America and Trump’s likely policies toward China.  Apple moves encrypted Big Data data to China Telecom servers inside China.  But the encryption keys are also inside China.  The terms of debate in the China field these days: does researching on China pose intrinsic questions of personal moral culpability and complicity?  Economist Yu Yongding with a forceful article on China’s adherence to WTO requirements and US offenses against them.  China’s monetary policy alternatives against the background of economic slowing and rising US-China “trade war” behavior.  Slow but valuable read. Official New China News Agency report on US states’ continuing hopes for closer economic ties with China, as expressed at a National Governors’ Association meeting in Santa Fe.

PRC Domestic  In the beginning:  the Communique of the Third Plenum of the Eleventh CCP Central Committee, December, 1978.  The start of “Reform and Opening.”  E-commerce and the transformation of rural China.  Great New Yorker reporting.  Some of the best Western analysts discuss developments in the Chinese cybersecurity realm over the past year, following passage of the Cybersecurity Law.  Economist Fred Hu argues that the U.S. obsession with China’s “Made in China 2025” high-tech development blueprint is misplaced, because state-designed development plans have proven to be costly and inefficient failures time after time. He leaves out a couple of key features of the state’s approach to developing key sectors, however. On political rumors in China, past and present.  The making, unmaking, remaking, etc. of a would-be blockbuster film.  Not for the faint-hearted.  From a commercially-sponsored online Newsletter.  Graphics showing projection of percentage of Chinese population over 60, compared with several other major countries, through 2050.  Major social and economic implications.  A sort of “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” article assessing current economic policy challenges in China on multiple fronts. The arrival of “social e-commerce.”  An interesting podcast with Prof. Ling Zhang,an “environmental historian,” author of the recent book, The River, The Plain and the State, about an environmental crisis in Song China (in the 12th century).  Another very serious faulty-medicine problem involving vaccines for infants.  Hot on the heels of a rabies vaccine scandal.  Corrosive effects on public trust.

July 6 – 13

PRC Domestic A dark look at the downward trend in China’s equities markets and in the value of the RMB, suggesting longer-term and deeper problems.  Unirule, a “liberal” think tank founded and led by economist Mao Yushi, evicted from its rented space, the door welded shut, the organization left homeless.  Remote Guizhou Province’s “big bet” on Big Data as the key to its economic future.  Great reporting.  But Guizhou not alone:  see the same author’s report on a small town in Ningxia, in the arid Northwest, with similar dreams: .  The flood season in Sichuan.  Must be seen every July to be believed.

PRC Global Interesting piece on Sino-foreign higher education programs, including those that have been cancelled by China.  MUST READ IF YOU HAVE THE TIME.  Economist David Autor takes on the economic effects of China’s arrival in the global economy upon other nations and their citizens.  A well laid-out economics article aimed at a general audience.

PRC-U.S.     USTR’s announcement of intent to impose tariffs on $200b more Chinese imports to the US.  Brookings’s David Dollar explicates the current “trade war” between the PRC and the US.  Read the bullet points, but watch the video.  Excellent reporting by WSJ’s Lingling Wei on Chinese dilemmas and responses to the new threat of higher US tariffs on $200 of PRC goods entering the US.  USTR’s formal announcement of commencement of procedures leading to imposition of tariffs on PRC imports valued at $200m.  Contains complete list of targeted imports.  Effects of tariffs so far on the U.S.  economy, by sector, with useful graphics.  Very good piece by AEI trade guru Claude Barfield with specific recommendations on how the U.S.  should define and advance its insistences on elimination of PRC trade and investment malpractices.  A short and intriguing note by a U.S. history professor just home from a year of teaching in China about Chinese students’ views of the U.S. (positive), contrasted with the gloomy perspectives of American students thinking about their own country.  ZTE saved?  US Commerce Department permits ZTE to purchase from US suppliers again.  A Missouri town feels the benefits of US aluminum tariffs and the threat of heavy damage from PRC retaliation against its farm products.  Great local reporting.  Thanks to CSIS Trade Vistas for reference.

June 25 – July 5

PRC Global  The PRC’s new “negative list” – replacing the old “Catalogue” of forbidden, tolerated, or encouraged sectors for foreign investment – shows some signs of further opening.  See also (Paywall) and .  Asia policy veteran Bob Manning, currently with The Atlantic Council,  presents “The China Challenge to an Inclusive Asia-Pacific Trade Architecture.” Approx. 20 pages. One of the most experienced American lawyers in Beijing with a thoughtful commentary on the implicit contradiction between the Xi regime’s policies on data management (including new “Measures on Scientific Data Management” and the inherent dynamics of scientific innovation.  The vision of China as global plague grows stronger: a report on the transformation of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, as the “Belt and Road Initiative” takes over.  Unregulated gambling, prostitution, unaffordable housing, etc.  Concerns about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s environmental record as enters its third year.  The Chinese Navy develops its base at Djibouti, reflecting the PRC’s large and growing Africa interests but also portending establishment of PLAN bases elsewhere around the world. Australia about to enact new laws to combat foreign interference in domestic politics.  China is the proximate cause and target.  Similar concerns about :influence operations”on front burner in U.S. and other countries.  China angry at Oz.  A fascinating “deep dive” into an unexplored topic: the possibility of a “rebalance” that would reverse the trend that has seen relocation of energy intensive production (steel, cement, glass, etc.) from developed countries into the PRC (resulting in overproduction, environmental catastrophe, and trade conflicts) and see the return of such energy-intensive activity to the US, where energy is cheaper and such activities are less polluting.  Could just be PR, but Alibaba’s moves to assemble global top minds to ponder questions of technology and society could prove very significant.  An ominous portent: CCP intervention cans an administrator at a Sino_British “Joint Venture” university in Ningbo after he wrote critically of the 19th Party Congress.

PRC Domestic  Kevin Rudd analyzes the recent, and significant Central Work Conference on Foreign Affairs.  A valuable analysis.  Peking University’s Zha Daojiong is always worth reading.  This new piece asks the question,”Where is China’s Governance Going?”.  GREAT new site for current Chinese writers and essays.  Wishful thinking? A report on bubbling concerns within the PRC, in the face of massive trade conflict with the US, that Chinese policymakers, starting at the top, have been over-cocky and have over-reached.  From May, Barry Naughton’s highly informative look at the new roster of key players in PRC economics following the latest National People’s Congress.  The Council on Foreign Relations’s Elizabeth Economy writes on China’s Internet.  Not a happy read, but a useful introduction.

PRC-U.S.  One of a zillion articles written within hours of the expected outbreak of tit-for-tat increases in US and Chinese tariffs on each other’s imported goods. The U.S.-China contest for cutting-edge technological dominance, and its growing effects on hallowed U.S. concepts of openness to foreign investment.  (May be paywalled),  6/26. SecDef Mattis arrives Beijing for “conversation.” No sabre-rattling in lead-up. Ref. preceding item.  An early wire service Report on the Mattis visit, including Mattis-Xi meeting. This site introduces a new Atlantic Council study on global, including Chinese, challenges to US technological dominance.  There is a hyperlink to the full paper, “The Global Innovation Sweepstakes.” A refreshingly robust assault on the arguments of the currently ascendant Trump trade and China guru Peter Navarro and a new 35-page Navarro paper that seems to be defining White House policy on high-tech issues with China.  Little of this kind of pushback evident in the US policy sector, however.  Global Times urges calm after one Sci-Tech leader warns  against misguided cockiness in China’s self-assessment of its technology strengths vis a vis the “West.”  Media orders from the propaganda authorities as the US-China economic battle unfolds: important to understand.

June 15-24

PRC – U.S. Critical analysis of pending U.S. legislation to expand the writ of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., in the face of surging concerns over PRC licit and illicit acquisitions of US advanced technology.

Bob Davis of WSJ on imminent US moves to interdict PRC-origin investment in US advanced technology sectors.  An interview with the ever-lucid Arthur Kroeber of Gavekal covers much of the current landscape, both on China’s domestic economic situation and on the deepening and vexing problems now pervading US-China relations.  PRC investment in US down 90% (!) year-on-year in first half 2018.  Rhodium Group crunches the numbers and analyzes.  The Navarro White House’s latest slasher paper on China.  Open this for American intellectual property guru Mark Cohen’s introductory note to his and others’ recent testimonies (links for both) regarding Chinese IP practices. Encompassing much more than the above, this D.C. hearing offers some very thoughtful testimonies on PRC intellectual property situations, and on present and future US policy options.  In addition to Cohen (above), see Webster.  Google invests $550 million in Jingdong (, 2nd largest e-commerce company in China.  The China-as-contagious-virus trope gains strength again in Washington, this time in the form of Senators’ statement of concern over Chinese “influence operations.”  Video.  Goldman’s Lloyd Blankfein on China.  Businessy, and clear.  An unusual sight these days: U.S. Senate majority party pushback against White House tariff actions. From June 20, a brief report on the possibility that Trump will impose prohibitions on PRC investment in a lost of around 1,000 U.S companies, on national security grounds.  Fine Laura Tyson piece on the challenges of Sino-American competition in the very advanced technology sectors singled out by “Made in China 2025´for Chinese dominance.  A grim tale of apparent semiconductor technology theft, with Micro the victim.  Capitol Hill furor over alleged PRC cyber-theft of national security-related data.  As US-China stage darkens and US prepares to close down on visas for PRC sci-tech students and researchers, a veteran defender of stable bilateral relations issues his warning.  He will likely be dismissed by the usual faces, but his points are worth pondering.  Amid widespread discussion of PRC powers of retaliation on trade, this piece points out the harm that most of China’s alternatives would inflict on China itself.

PRC Global  From March, an impressive World Resources Institute paper on PRC progress toward its climate goals.  Meanwhile the U.S. charges backward.  China and the future of the World Trade Organization in the era of Trumpian deconstruction of longstanding institutional frameworks. China appears only occasionally in this important article about the power of quantum computing and the challenges it poses for major actors, including not only China and the U.S. but the EU, Canada, etc.  An absorbing look at China’s upcoming attempt to launch a probe on the “dark side” of the moon and communicate its data with a new satellite. The EU Chamber of Commerce in China weighs in on PRC mistreatment of foreign investors, in a manner similar to US complaints.  Signs of potential PRC mentor role for DPRK economic development.  Great press roundup with links.

PRC Domestic

Trump tariff threat on $200b in Chinese exports to the US drive Shanghai stock exchange down hard.  From June 19.  One of America’s top experts on PRC government and administrative behavior analyzes the country’s new Supervision Commission and its task of monitoring the behavior of all civil servants.  The Commission ultimately is only answerable to the Party.  A yawn?   A masterful article. As China’s economy slows amid Xi Jinping’s efforts to bring wild lending under control, prospects for a deepening tariff battle with the U.S. present unappetizing choices to Beijing.  China’s tough quest for domestic production of sophisticated semiconductors, as the ZTE crisis reveals PRC dependence on US chips. Ian Johnson’s interview with a renowned Peking University sociologist shows that critical thinking is alive.  MUST READ THIS AS WELL: great commentary on the same scholar, by the uniquely valuable Stephen Jones: .  72 square feet of house for $385,000.

June 7-15

PRC Global  A robust British argument as to what is at stake in “Freedom of Navigation” naval operations in the South China Sea. Turmoil in the global solar power market as China cuts subsidies for solar power development inside the PRC.  Between that and current environmental policy retreats in the US, bad news on the climate change front.  Restrictions eased on movement of funds out of China by Qualified Foreign Investors.  A step in the direction of a more open capital market. (Paywall?)  An intriguing and technologically enjoyable “debate” over the question if whether the “West” should “worry about the threat to liberal values posed by China’s rise.  True debate format:  opening statements, closing statements, reader votes, etc.

PRC – U.S.  The US and China lurch into tit-for-tat tariff conflict.  US companies caught in the middle as tariff battle opens.  Important article, but the Comments from readers can be blood-curdling. Official USTR statement on imposition of tariffs.  Further USTR comment on the list of products to be hit with higher tariffs at  Official Commerce Ministry statement on tariff tit-for-tat.  One day before, SecState Pompeo meets Politburo member (and former ambassador to Washington) Yang Jiechi.  An anodyne official report, emphasizing the positive.  MUST READ, even if it means signing up,  Several serious analysts respond to the Campbell-Ratner article in the previous Foreign Affairs on why and how “Washington” “got China wrong.” US ready to reduce visa access for Chinese students/scholars in STEM fields deemed “sensitive.”  The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations conducts this important Forum on “The Future of “Constructive Engagement.”  Read the Orlins transcript, listen to the other presentations. A Washington hearing featuring remarks by a set of well informed witnesses, on the theme of PRC “state capitalism,” its market-distorting effects, and avenues of potential US response.   Claremont McKenna’s Pei Minxin on the demise of US-China “engagement” and what comes next.  Not pretty. China Labor Watch on alleged labor abuses at a Foxconn factory in Hengyang that produces marquee products (e.g., Kindle readers) for Amazon.

PRC Domestic  A new collection of essays on NGOs in China, currently downloadable at no charge.  Corporate gold in the gigantic surveillance program (facial recognition, artificial intel) erected in Xinjiang, where ethno-political tensions with the Uighur native population are intense.  A massive business-government experiment in “stability maintenance.” Foreign investment funds flock.  WARNING: the author is not aware of the family-name-first word order in Chinese names. Often a sign of an amateur beyond his depth.  China’s economic numbers slowing down amid a clampdown on excessive lending.  The situation in Tianjin described here, with broader implications.  Sixth Tone scores again, with this feature story on a training school for detectors of counterfeit luxury fogoods.

May 28 – June 7

PRC-U.S.  Moving toward definitional moments in the American drama. Further to the preceding. Official PRC government web site presents a column by a U.S. figure on the growing disintegration of the United States.  Final line: “ I sadly feel that today he would have to say that, unless current trends change, the sun rapidly rising in the East is fast setting in the West.”  US clamps down on visa terms for certain Chinese student applicants in sensitive high-tech fields. An important interview on related topics should be paired with the above report:  see  .  An eloquent statement by a Chinese post-doc researcher at Cornell, arguing that closing the door to foreign talents, including Chinese talents, is exactly the wrong way for the U.S. to advance its global interests.  Mysterious symptoms affect US ConGen staffers and families in Guangzhou.  ZTE will survive, according to Commerce Secretary Ross’s description of a deal just worked out. Staggering USG intrusion into the management and operations of a foreign country.  A precedent for other cases worldwide?  What will be follow-on effects in PRC corporate governance?  One small example of how Chinese and Americans work together, illustrative of how much is at stake if the two countries unravel bilateral relations at the highest levels.

PRC Domestic  Academic and technical, but a very interesting study of the effectiveness of social media in enabling authorities to anticipate social protests and to disseminate propaganda. Gloom on the 29th anniversary. A poor peasant near Xi’an and his collection of others’ discards – artifacts from China’s ancient and more recent past.  Courage, 29 years on.  On the Alibaba – Tencent mega-competition in the digital space.   Why was the Mao-adoring “leftist” web site known as “Utopia” shut down this week.  David Bandurski analyses.  Francesco Sisci’s fascinating short piece on Christians and almost-Christians in China. The endless quest by authorities high and low to instill “civilized” behavioral norms in China’s citizens.  Chiang Kai-shek tried to do this with the “New Life Movement” starting in 1934, and the quest has gone on, in many forms, since.  Here, an obscure small city tries its best. Related to the preceding:  “grid management” aims at detecting undesirables in urban environments.  Chinafile breaks the alleged indifference and careful silence with regard to the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, in this series of postings by concerned Western scholars and observers.  Not an “on the one hand/on the other hand” body of comments.  Sift for nuggets in this elliptical report of General Secretary Xi’s address on the extending of “reform” at both the central and local levels.

PRC Global  China’s rise in scientific achievement and international attractive power parallels U.S. implosion.  Great piece on China’s growing global reach in power generation and transmission.  A troubling article about the tidal quality of Chinese arrival on the world scene and the potential problems that can result: this is about housing markets, in Canada and New Zealand, flooded with PRC buyers.

May 21-27

PRC-U.S.  Where to begin, this week?  Here. Must read.  Trump administration announces imposition of tariffs on $50b in Chinese imports, plus restrictions on Chinese investments in sensitive sectors and new export controls.     Official White House announcement at  Look for all three articles – by Wendy Cutler, Zheng Yongnian, and Nathan Gardels, around the theme of technological competition between China and the U.S.  All three pieces are important.  Must view.  “The Future of U.S.-China Engagement.”  From the National Committee on US-China Relations.  Four senior figures in the US policy community discuss this serious point. The China Threat theme fully expressed: a detailed investigation of PRC acquisitions of sensitive US technology firms, and the inadequacy of current US means of examining and interfering with such deals on national security grounds.  A breath of fresh air – or sip of water, in this case – in a time of seemingly unending bilateral disenchantments: a major Center for American Progress effort to advance US-PRC collaborative efforts at building a “Blue Future” in the world’s oceans.   After several previous participations, China “disinvited” from participation in this year’s US-organized RIMPAC naval exercise in Hawaii.  Militarization of South China Sea islets cited as main cause.  A significant symbolic step backward, but so was the landing of heavy bombers on China’s airfield on Woody Island.  The “latest” on the ZTE saga.  Also this: .  And THIS: One of myriad indicators of American frenzy over purported China danger.  The very last line is the most revelatory.

PRC Domestic  Official (and therefore somewhat stilted) but nevertheless interesting account of Xi Jinping address to Chinese Academy of Science and Chinese Academy of Engineering, on the future aspirations of PRC science and technology.  An amazing cornucopia of explorable images and commentaries – on everything “artistic and cultural,” but in this case on China in myriad ways.  Good advice on the perils of foreigners working illegally in China, and of not making sure that a foreigner’s would-be employer is acting legally in hiring the foreigner.  Teaching English the most common case in point.  The very talented Alec Ash with a review essay on science fiction in the China of today, and in the China of yore. The Xiongan New Area mega-city project near Beijing: monument to Xi Jinping’s vision of state-driven, advanced technology-enabled, urban development.  This writer has his doubts.  A contemplative reflection on old photos. The unending struggle against pyramid schemes, this one revolving around cryptocurrencies.  PRC tech grandees’ comments at annual Big Data Expo.  Official China Global Television News writeup.

PRC Global Thoughtful essay on current and future Sino-Indian relations in a shifting global context. From February, a study by veteran analyst David Kelly, entitled “Seven Chinas.”  What foreign startups and small business are up against: the “free look” method of gaining foreign companies’ lifeblood IP without ever investing a cent. An experiment in Soft Power along the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative:  a stage play designed to provide basic financial education for workers along the BRI, in order to prevent financial fraud.  The swamp of foreign embassy attempts to communicate with large numbers of people via Chinese social media,

May 14-20

PRC Domestic  A moving profile of Professor He Weifang, a distinguished advocate for reform based in the rule of law, now heavily censored and restricted.  Strongly recommended as follow-up:  .  The fall of the House of Anbang, or at least the Head of Household.  Great piece on the vibrant start-up scene in China. An examination of evidence of the existence and scale of political re-education, or “de-extremification”, programs aimed at Uighurs in Xinjiang.  A very well informed British analyst writes on China’s water problems and what must be done to cope with them.  Download from this site.  Another serious examination of the Chinese water situation with a very different conclusion: no imminent water crisis.

PRC-U.S.  NYT’s Keith Bradsher does not mince wiords in assessing the visit of top Chinese economic negotiators to D.C. As Vice Premier Liu He descended on D.C. to try to find common ground with the U.S. on a host of huge trade and economic issues, U.S. ambassador to China Terry Branstad explained how far apart the two nations remain.  Vice Premier Liu He and his top economic team leave D.C. after several days of negotiations with Administration officials: here is one of many reports on what emerged.  Readers will be forgiven if the have trouble determining whether anything meaningful actually resulted, but perhaps time will tell.   South China Morning Post on the ambiguities trailing after the Liu He team visit to D.C.  Useful update on brewing Congressional action to expand scrutiny of incoming investments (main concern: China) and not, as of this report, to institute USG scrutiny of OUTBOUND US corporate investments for the first time.  The swirling goulash of Administration verbiage and actions on China trade sanctions. A by now well established American journalist, in the “Opinion” zone, blasts Trump for reversing course on ZTE, and goes on to portray a gigantic US-Chinese struggle in which one concession to a Chinese demand portends much larger U.S. strategic losses.  No mention of the list of demands the Administration laid on the table as they left Beijing a week or so earlier. US Congress prepares to expand US government authority to scrutinize and cancel incoming foreign investment deals, with Chinese M&A deals the main target.

PRC Global  A major study by RAND on “China and the International Order”.  Financial Times sage Martin Wolf with a follow-up assessment of what he heard at  a very high-end seminar for “thought leaders” of his stature in Beijing two weeks ago.  Sober but important views for those in the “West.”  PRC successes in building strong ties with Southeast Asia. A new wrinkle on “Made In China 2025.”

May 7-13

PRC Domestic  A massive essay by a respected Peking University scholar, with an invaluable introduction by the translators, on the philosophical and ideological synthesis embodied in “Xi Jinping Thought,” in the context of all of China’s history and China’s struggles over the past two centuries.  Worth the slog, for those with time and a quiet place to read. FT’s veteran China reporter Lucy Hornby on the reinvigoration of Marxism and the expansion of the Party’s role in the Chinese economy.  A relatively rare mainstream media hint at the granular complexity of social and religious life today.  The central subject here is one independent church leader’s arrest as he prepared to lead commemoration ceremonies in the community at the center of the catastrophic Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province exactly ten years ago. A generally upbeat story about the enhanced rol,e of NGOs in promoting disaster-preparedness in areas of Sichuan hit by the 2008 Wenchuan quake.  Only the lightest mention, however, of the political sensitivities arising from the quake, especially the government’s move to “coordinate” NGO work, and the suppressed furor over shoddy construction of school buildings in which hundreds of Chinese kids died in the 2008 disaster.  Still, an informative piece.  Related to the preceding.  A moving and powerful account of “second families” in the remote and impoverished mountain regions of Sichuan where, in 2008, a great many children – the only offspring of their parents under the “One Child Policy” – were killed in the great earthquake, and where husbands and wives created new babies to start new families.  A very unusual piece, by the former Editor of the South China Morning Post, excoriating ZTE leadership for its shady business practices and urging all Chinese enterprises to clean up their acts.

PRC-USA  Brain-spinning news on the U.S. ruinous sanctions against big Chinese mobile phone maker ZTE.  Trump orders Commerce Dept. to make sure ZTE stays in business, since too many Chinese jobs are at risk.  Analysis and background. This article is like a peek under the rug; it reveals a vast, roiling set of technological and government policy challenges, in both the U.S. and China.   FT sage Martin Wolf flays (correctly) the “terms” that the US demanded of China in the recent Mnuchin-Navarro talks in Beijing.  Unbelievable and blithe demands which, as Wolf says, no self-respecting nation could accept.  A trump-style “deal” opening move?  Waking from that dream will not be pleasant.  Amazing.  US ban on American companies supplying anything to ZTE (incl. chips on which ZTE is utterly dependent) may be putting ZTE completely out of business.  Details.

BUT: Days later, Trump says he and Xi are working to help ZTE stay alive, and to save Chinese jobs…  Signs of further talks just ahead.  Maybe.  US political world joins the “PRC Influence Operations” wave.  A disturbing story.  Throwing the WTO under the bus? US soybean sales to China tank.  Seasonal or political? 3-day USTR hearing on proposed retaliatory tariffs on Chinese imports for alleged IP violations will air this week.  US companies will testify, orally or in writing,  This article surveys the business sector’s uneasinesses.  Trump may see the whole thing as a haggle; Lighthizer (USTR) maybe more driven to dismantle PRC core economic practices.  Iowa farm groups express trade-war fears to Trump Admininstration.

PRC Global  A site to watch if you want to stay current in what me might call the “sociology of China reporting,” especially among younger Western journalists. Fascinating report by Willy Lam, suggesting (with cited sources but no definitive proof) that as the economic confrontation with the US builds, some voices are suggesting that China’s recent and vigorous assertiveness may havegone too far.  Great article by UK China veteran Charles Parton, about how words really matter and how we must avoid falling into easy phrases that either don’t mean what they seem to mean or don’t really mean much of anything. Tectonic shifts underway in East Asia?  Leaders of Japan, PRC and South Korea meet and pledge.  Vietnam asks PRC to remove missiles from its manmade islands in the South China Sea. Critical commentary and sensible, if improbable, advice to China on how to re-craft it’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) to ensure successful cooperation with the countries in which it proposes to invest. First aircraft carrier entirely built in the PRC begins sea trials.

April 29 – May 6

PRC Domestic An eye-opening opinion piece by the former editor of the South China Morning Post, in which he sees signs of PRC overreaching braggadocio in the high-tech space, and warns that over-the-top hype about China’s tech advances risks doing more harm than good.  Way down in China’s southwest, cursed by broken terrain with few natural transportation routes, in imperial times the exile destination for those in trouble with the Emperor, impoverished Guizhou Province comes into its own as – the next Chinese high tech focal point.  A fascinating lesson in long-term economic development.  It’s all about Big Data and AI.  The ups and downs of “Shangri-la,” in remote Yunnan, boosted from a remote scenic area into a huge (and typically crass) tourist bonanza, and then demoted to dog again by XJP’s menacing restrictions of official luxury and extravagance.  A moderating voice in the current brouhaha over “brain scanning.”  Related:  a very informative (for the lay person, anyway) Congressional Research Service paper on Artificial Intelligence:  .  This article suggests how hard it will be for Xi Jinping and his administration to make the kinds of decisive moves the US team now visiting China will likely demand: a) because Xi himself is a believer in the statist economy he is proclaiming and supporting; and b) because “vested interests” (again!  This has gone on for years!) will not comply with orders to undertake fundamental structural reforms at the grass-roots level.  An old theme, but important to revisit now.

China – Global  A blog on intellectual property legal issues in China.  Contents constantly changing, so scroll through for items of interest.  Definitely legal in nature, but of interest to companies with IP as well as to legal professionals.  Peter Mattis writes a sober and lucid analysis of PRC “influence operations” in other countries.  Serious and important reading. A useful look at the usually overlooked (and opaque) world of global technical standards, and at China’s growing efforts to define them,

PRC – U.S.  Ambassador Chas Freeman with a hard-hitting address on the current wave of hostility toward China in the U.S. and its ugly implications.  The much-discussed visit of Trump’s top trade team to Beijing just ended, here is an early an not-definitive report on what happened and what the US demanded of the Chinese.  What the US demanded China do, during the Mnuchin-Navarro visit (which has been deemed a failure, by most US media anyway).  China pulls the plug on US soybean purchases.  Wonder why….. (One expert notes privately that at this time of year China routinely ends soybean purchases in US and turns to Brazil anyway.)  As the Administration’s top team heads for China amidst vast publicity, allegedly to conduct “deal or die” talks with Beijing on Trump’s demands, the usually pro-free-trade Claude Barfield of AEI  stands with the hardest of the hard-nosed Americans, and lays down a menu of Chinese offenses – covering all the main points – that, in his view, the US must demand be remedied or eliminated.  He then lays out a menu of U.S. steps to be taken if China does not relent.  It’s pretty much all here, but he says nothing about ongoing tits and tats.  More positioning (Ross:  China’s “evil practices,” e.g.) before the US team heads for China.  Yet more positioning from the same D.C. event.  Strangely blithe failure to see the similarity between Paulson/Clinton’s “Strategic Economic Dialogue” (later “Strategic AND Economic Dialogue” and what USTR Lighthizer seems to envision.  Posturing or the real thing?  Is push coming to shove in the trade sector?  Mnuchin, Kudlow, Lighthizer (and “Death by China” Navarro?) head to China for talks on tariff threats, demands for PRC behavioral changes, etc.  A great summing up of many issues, bilateral and PRC-domestic.  The dreaded “China Tide Syndrome” advances.  USG considering blocking Chinese citizens from participating in “sensitive”research at US universities and labs.  A cornucopia of opportunities for paranoid, ill-informed, or literal-minded security bureaucrats.  For the trade-savvy.  A respected international trade analyst blasts the Trump tariff threat, delineates what is and isn’t legal under international trade law, and suggests ways that the US Administration could act against offensive (but not illegal) PRC investment policies.  A slow but valuable read.  A lighter read than the preceding item: bated breath everywhere over what the US Administration’s actions on trade (including steel and aluminum tariffs on imports from EU and other “friendly” countries – ostensibly occasioned by PRC overproduction – will ultimately amount to.  And, what will China do, having stated categorically that it is not going to be kicked around by the US?  Florida Senator Marco Rubio has found a political niche – China – and is maximizing his presence in it in the Era of Trump.  He here discusses the spectacular Bill he is about to introduce in the Senate.  Future unclear, but content unmistakable.  George Koo, an outspoken American businessman of Chinese descent, takes on the China Threat wave.

April 23-28

U.S.-PRC  TOP MUST READ OF THE WEEK.  EVAN FEIGENBAUM RANGES WIDELY ON WHAT CHINA IS AND IS BECOMING AND WHAT THE US HAS DONE, HASN’T DONE, AND MUST DO TO DEAL WITH IRREVERSABLE CHANGES IN REALITY.  Must Read.  No need for additional comment here.  MUST READ (May be paywalled).  This is the best thing we have seen so far on the roiling American debate over whether the U.S. erred in agreeing, after extensive and difficult negotiations with Beijing, to China’s entry into the WTO.  As the U.S. trade team – Mnuchin, Kudlow, Lighthizer, “Death by China” Navarro, (no Wilbur Ross, apparently) head for China, and Trump talks about chances for a good “deal,” China’s feisty Global Times conveys the official welcome, but warns that unless Trump “shows sincerity” China will respond to U.S. measures with tough measures of its own.  No surprises here.  Senate Finance Committee hearing on trade with China.  Useful testimony from competent U.S. witnesses.  Yale’s Stephen Roach (ex-Morgan Stanley Asia) takes a sharp whack at the USTR’s huge “Section 301 Report” on Chinese abuses of U.S. intellectual property.  Sure to be controversial, but welcome as a dissenting voice at a time of near-tsunami momentum to blast China and curtail US market openness accordingly.   Senior economist Jeffrey Frankel, now with Harvard’s Kennedy School, on why the U.S. will not “win” a trade war with China.  Obvious truths that the U.S. Administration seems unable or unwilling to grasp. Chinese economist Yu Yongding with a well organized and cogent discussion of the lurch toward “trade war,” including a number of rebuttals of recently-issued U.S. positions on China’s alleged economic sins. Some graphs and a regrettably brief bit of prose to push back, at least a little, against the tidal wave of concern over Chinese alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property.  Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute of International Economics points to the heavy increases in PRC payments for the legitimate acquisition of IP from other countries, via licensing fees in particular.  Financial Times’s Jamil Anderlini speaks bluntly about China and “rules.” A lengthy Bloomberg editorial on how the U.S. should deal with the challenge of competition with China in the advanced-technology sector.  Brings together a compendium of more moderate proposals, likely to be more effective than the tariff-brandishing in which the U.S. administration is now engaged.  But it sounds vaguely pious, and some with darker visions will call it naïve.–davidson—oshaughnessy  U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Confirmation Hearing.  Listen to the section focused on the newly-named Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), Adm. Philip S. Davidson.  Much about China, with emphasis (because of the nature of the Committee and the hearing) on PRC military threats and US current and future measures to meet those threats.  “Stealable slides” from the American Chamber of Commerce in China, on the Chinese economy and US-China trade and economic information.  Usable by anyone in making Power Point presentations.  Compliments of AmCham.   A Chinese manufacturer bets big on an investment in the state of Georgia, in order to go from an anonymous supplier of finished products for others’ brands to establishing its own global brand.  A case study, 76 pp. once the full PDF is downloaded from this site.

PRC Domestic  China’s wide-ranging “social credit” system at work in a single locality:  points for “good” things, loss of points for bad ones.  Algorithmic heaven. Official media report on Xi Jinping’s call for greater Chinese strength in cyberspace.  A brand-new “private” university in Hangzhou to be at Cal Tech’s level in fifteen years.  Exciting, but devil is in the details.  Chinese advances in the field of fusion energy. Andy Rothman emphasizes the positive – not blindly, but persistently. With virtually everyone else emphasizing the negative, Andy’s piece here is a small but useful bit of pushback.  This one is on “the world’s best consumer story.”  And other current economic topics.  An Opinion piece on the forced decline of investigative journalism in China and the ominous implications that has for broader social dynamics.

PRC Global  An impressionistic but very thought-provoking essay by Italian writer and longtime China resident Francesco Sisci, about what went wrong between China and the US, and indeed between China and the world, over the past four decades. Rhodium Group/Mercator Institute paper on the quest for greater reciprocity in investment relations between China and the EU. Like the US, the EU has become much more concerned with the lack of such reciprocity.  This is now a key global economic issue, at least between the PRC and the developed economies. A very good, short, Aljazeera report from the Beijing Auto Show.  As Ford announces discontinuation of production of sedans and compacts in order to concentrate on higher-profit gas hogs, and the U.S. administration walks away from measure after measure designed to reduce hydrocarbon consumption and work against climate change, China sets out to build a dominant global position in electric vehicles.  Germany’s Mercator Institute on China’s lifting of foreign ownership caps in the auto sector as promised by Xi.  But some relaxations not until 2022, and auto-sector reactions have been muted, given the extensive and complex arrangements now in place under current JV requirements.  A variety of brief notes on other topics appear at this site as well. Related to the previous item, China announces plans to moderate current investment restrictions in the auto sector (e.g. joint-venture requirements, lower tariffs on imported autos).  Devil in the details, as always, and ultimate impact uncertain, given the extent of current foreign auto firms’ jv and other operations in the country. (paywall) indicates tepid response from foreign carmakers.   Official media report on Xi Jinping’s recent speech to a major national cybersecurity and informatization conference.  Worth a careful look.  Alibaba’s chief Jack Ma, whose public persona aligns ever more closely with official orthodoxy, makes the case for China and other nations to develop their own semiconductor technologies to escape from dependency on US chips.  This after the US Administration ordered US companies not to sell anything to Chinese mobile phone giant ZTE, whose products currently rely heavily on US semiconductor components.  The storm over alleged Chinese “influence” rages in Australia, and raises implications for other countries.  This piece focuses on alleged academic “self-censorship” by scholars and researchers fearful of personal or professional trouble if they pursue topics and lines of inquiry deemed political unacceptable by Chinese authorities.  Related to preceding item, the wide-ranging American China scholar Jeffery Wasserstrom offered this nuanced and self-analytical piece in 2015 on his own wrestling with questions of self-censorship in his professional work on China.

Misc.  An interesting case of a widely-sold “medicinal wine” consisting of Traditional Chinese Medicine ingredients being accused of false medicinal claims, with implications for the broader TCM sector.  A bit more on this colorful case at .  A beautifully written and illustrated article on three “urban commune” buildings in Beijing, all constructed in the late 1950s around the ideals and expectations of Maoist communism, all subject to the vicissitudes of time and economic and political change.

April 16-22

PRC Global Video of Xi Jinping’s address to the Boao Forum April 10. English interpreter voice-over, from a prepared text. A good chance to look at the man and sense his rhetorical style. Must Read. Was it a mistake to “let China in” to the WTO? A detailed look at Belt and Road Initiative projects in numerous countries, with emphasis on the problems China has encountered. This is an Indian publication, and may be subject to close factual examination. The U.S., and the UK, bring the sledgehammer down on major PRC telecoms manufacturer ZTE on grounds of security. Important, large development. China will surely react. Rising EU uneasiness about the Belt and Road Initiative: the sense that one “system” is going head-to-ahead with another “system.” China announces plans to moderate current investment restrictions in the auto sector (e.g. joint-venture requirements, lower tariffs on imported autos). Devil in the details, as always, and ultimate impact uncertain, given the extent of current foreign auto firms’ jv and other operations in the country. But a response to loud U.S. demands for liberalization in the auto sector.

PRC Domestic Elizabeth Economy of the Council on Foreign Relations has published a significant new book, and this article (may be paywalled) arises from her larger work. “China’s New Revolution: The Reign of Xi Jinping.” Cut in reserve requirement for banks – gentle action in face of signs of economic slowing. More and more and more on national security and fighting “foreign” spies and evil-doers. Research article on the rise of the Ministry of Public Security in intelligence work in China. (Paywalled in typical academic press fashion.)

U.S.-China This one will have legs. But much of this piece is a rehash of already-known material. U.S. considering use of the International Economic Emergency Powers Act to curtail Chinese investment in U.S. advanced technology sector – big deal, if it actually happens. One of America’s most seasoned and highly respected China diplomats, Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy, warns that recent U.S. legislation portends disaster for Taiwan and for U.S.-China relations. Unintended consequences coming? US ban on ZTE brings signs of impending Chinese response. Some US companies (Qualcomm above all) caught in the crossfire. EXCELLENT BACKGROUND ELABORATION ON THIS MAJOR CASE AT . More on the ZTE ban: inevitably, the ban strengthens the push for full-fledged indigenization of the Chinese IT sector, to avoid dependence on foreign components vulnerable to supply interruptions or subversions.

Other Items of Interest Serious jitters over potential PRC military action against Taiwan, following highly conspicuous PRC military exercise. China Daily tells the world not to dismiss recent large-scale military exercises lightly. “No room for bargaining when it comes to China’s territorial integrity….it would be wrong for any dreaming of the island’s secession to consider efforts in this regard as a demonstration of weakness or indetermination. Although it remains the last resort, the PLA will act if forced to do so.” A set of brief articles on China in a recent Australian publication. Some are Australia-centered, but others (including Lampton’s opening essay) are not. Lampton wisely concludes, “As we contemplate the prospect of endless Sino–American abrasion and negotiation, remember that the three decades from the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 to 1979 saw two wars involving China and the United States and virtually no bilateral trade. Te next almost 40 years have seen no Sino–American wars and huge welfare improvements in both countries through cooperation. Let’s remember past achievements as we deal with current and future frustrations.” FASCINATING piece on China’s thousand-plus “time-honored brands,” and their challenges in today’s market. History’s secrets revealed a little more: revelation of names of those who belonged to the infamous Japanese military Unit 731 during the Sino-Japanese war.

April 7-15

U.S.-China  Testimony from the Federation of American Scientists about PRC foreign policy and strategy, challenges facing the U.S., with recommendations for Congress on key issues.  Must Read.  The best statement of basic realities on U.S.-China economic relations in recent times, and in few words, to appear amid the current excitement over “trade war.” A succinct “What you need to know” page about the U.S.-China trade mess, from PRC official medium Xinhua. Bannon is incidental here; the issues the article raises, however, and the evolution of American policy thinking on China, are extremely important.  Alibaba Founder/CEO Jack Ma with an op-ed on why a U.S. -China trade war would maim both sides to no purpose. After Xi Jinping’s Boao Forum speech, mentioning intention to lower tariffs on autos, skeptical responses from American business people close to that market. And other reactions to Xi’s overall message. Rhodium Group’s 2018 update of its close study of two-way investment flows between the U.S. and China.  Executive Summary at A long and highly informed argument – a plea, really – that the US should turn to the WTO’s institutions, rules and processes for action on American intellectual property complaints, instead of acting unilaterally (e.g., with tariffs) and disregarding the global trade system.  A long and complex process, unlikely to be viewed favorably by the dominant actors in the Administration.  But a worthy argument; American contempt for the “rules-based global trade order” embodied in the WTO will have long term and dangerous consequences.  Almost funny, but not quite.

China Global/Foreign Policy

From AP: Signs that China is really turning the economic screws on Pyongyang.  Will it continue, if the US and China fall into unrestrained trade conflict?  Plain-vanilla wire service report on Xi Jinping’s heavily advance-hyped speech to the Boao Forum April 10.  A fun video-and-commentary handling of the Xi speech is at  .  The whole speech, with simultaneous English voice-over translation, is at .  Good to see the man himself in action.  Martin Wolf exercises economic Sagehood at the Financial Times, combining commonplace observations with occasional memorable insights.  Here he waxes “macro” about the rise of the Chinese economy and what the U.S. and the “West” need to do.  Financial bumps ahead on the Belt and Road?  Coverage of a major PLA Navy display in the South China Sea just after the Boao Forum on Hainan.  President Xi boards a destroyer.  The impressive spectacle appears cognate to land-force spectaculars, e.g. on National Day in Beijing.

PRC Domestic  must see.  A gorgeous collection of recent aerial photographs.  Unforgettable. An extremely worthwhile article on China’s “social credit system” in action at one particular locality in Shandong Province.  A young artist makes a public exhibition in Wuhan (albeit briefly) of stolen personal data on more than 300,000 people.  A remarkable confession and apology from the founder of hugely popular tech-based news and information platform clearly in trouble with the political authorities.  The timing is eerily coincidental with Facebook’s current challenges and CEO Zuckerberg’s testimony before U.S. Senate committees on where and how Facebook went wrong.  Sixth Tone’s complementary (and shorter) treatment of what happened is found at  .  Hank Paulson, former Treasury Secretary, emphasizes the positive: Xi has put a top-notch, globally savvy team at the top of the economic cone, so the time is right, finally to do major reforms long overdue.  China’s wide-ranging “social credit” system at work in a single locality:  points for “good” things, loss of points for bad ones.  Algorithmic heaven. A lovely story about poverty alleviation at the most local level.

April 1-6

PRC Domestic  A very articulate pushback against the prevailing Western negative interpretations of the elimination of the two-term limit on the Chinese presidency. A major attempt at analyzing Chinese intentions and assumptions with respect to Artificial Intelligence, which it is pursuing with great energy.  A thoughtful essay on the experience of repeated relocation, as humble folk are moved to accommodate major government infrastructure project after major project.  Something rare these days:  an English-language discussion, in a reputable publication, touching on persistent resistance to further “Opening Up” of the Chinese financial sector, and emphasizing the fallacies in the resisters’ positions.  An interesting report on local-level responses to climate change, primarily in coastal China.

U.S.-China MUST READ.  Cogent analysis of the USTR’s massive report on its investigation of PRC intellectual property and related practices, under Section 301 of the US Trade Act of 1974.  Big US penalty actions impending.  The latest update in the Congressional Research Service’s ongoing series, “U.S.-China Trade Issues.”  Always judicious and worth a read.  China’s response to Trump threat of tariff hikes on an additional $100b of Chinese imports. Another blunt editorial from an official medium, China Daily.  The list of U.S. exports to China that are now subject to new tariffs, in response to the U.S. imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum.  USTR releases preliminary list of 1300 Chinese that may be hit with higher tariffs in partial response to Chinese IP misdeeds detailed in the two preceding items.  Public comment period impends before finalization of the list.  Expect vast public discussion and huge lobbying maelstrom. Gloomy speculations on the impact on the U.S. economy from the escalating exchange of threats between Washington and Beijing. Related to the preceding item, an article on “Made in China 2025,” the PRC high-tech development strategy that lies at the heart of rising US and world concerns over their economic futures.  CSIS’s James Lewis about the basic realities of PRC acquisition of U.S. intellectual property.  He has been at this for a very long time. One of the few pieces in the torrent of English-language material on the looming trade conflict between the US and China that discusses the damage that US restrictions on Chinese high-technology imports could have on China’s long-term, strategic plans for development of its cutting-edge economy.

Journalism  Foreign Policy’s Asia Editor James Palmer lays out in detail the challenges to reaching “knowledge” about just about anything in China.

Mega-Critiques  Macquarie University’s Kevin Carrico could not be more blunt in his critical assessment of where China now stands.

March 15-31

Culture   What’s scoring at the movie box office in China.  Not what you might expect in certain ways.  Hint: politics are at work.  But also hint:  a lot of Chinese people feel very good about China these days, and the film affirms that feeling.  Nearly three hundred million viewers of e-commerce giant can now hunt for real estate in the US, UK, Australia and Canada with a few mouse-clicks.  (Kudos to SupChina for the referral.)

National Essentials  Former Australian Prime Minister (and longtime student of Chinese affairs) Kevin Rudd’s address to the U.S. Military Academy on “Understanding China’s Rise Under Xi Jinping.  Receiving much serious attention.  The delicate dance around the PRC relationship with the Vatican.  Sensitivities during Easter Week. A fascinating article about one of modern China’s greatest scientists, his core ideas, and their transplantation into China’s current massive effort at “social surveillance.”  While some prominent analysts have essentially accused the long-standing “China establishment” in the US of myopia in believing that China was becoming “more like us” when in fact it was always going to go its own way (the charge is spurious but popular today), articles like this one touch on the deeper reality that “Chinese characteristics,” inherited from centuries past, make the erection of a meaningful “rule of law” today very, very difficult.  Glass half full?  Half empty?  At a time of political and ideological stringency, a pungent message from a prominent Peking University scholar and dean disappears quickly from the Web, and its author purportedly resigned from his deanship, but his article (translated here) was widely shared.

U.S.-China  A foundational document.  “Findings of the Investigation into China’s Acts, Policies and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation Under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.”  215 pages.  Trump trade actions against China are almost certain to occur in response to the findings of this Report, with unforeseeable consequences.   Here goes.  PRC responds to US steel/aluminum tariff action by imposing higher tariffs on wide range of US products.  Still ahead:  US actions on matters discussed in preceding item.  The sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation sells its stake in Blackstone, originally made in 2007.  Reasons unclear.  No one is talking.  Waters heating ominously between US and China on trade and investment.  Claire Reade, who used to run the China shop at USTR, on what lies ahead as the first exchange of tariff increases portends bigger dangers. CSIS’s Scott Kennedy with a must-read on the unfolding economic conflict between Trump’s team and the China of Xi Jinping.  A dark view, from responsible analysts, on trends in U.S.-China relations.  A China visit by a local Orange County, California orchestra arises from its home area’s large and growing Chinese diaspora population.  Interesting angle on cultural exchanges. Two veteran Inside The Beltway Asia policy types, Matthew Goodman and Ely Ratner, with thoughts on the best way to “Challenge China on Trade.” (May be paywalled).

PRC Foreign Policy  A breathtaking editorial from Global Times about Canada.  One of the better post-mortems on the Kim trip to Beijing.  Bottom line: PRC-DPRK cordiality makes Trump’s task even harder than it already was, given Trump’s gestalt and the absence of any sign of organized US planning for the Trump-Kim “summit.”  The Belt and Road Initiative involves generous Chinese lending to recipients along the routes (e.g., Djibouti).  This author wonders what will happen when the loans come due.

Investigative Journalism Another deep dive by ace Times reporters Barboza and Forsythe, this time into the people and the maneuvers behind the rise and the current hesitation of the giant conglomerate HNA.  This time, one key figure, usually invisible, comes to prominence.

March 8-14

NATIONAL ESSENTIALS  Veteran Hong Kong finance official Andrew Sheng on why there’s no such thing as a “Beijing Consensus” and why the U.S. and China grapple with the government/market dichotomy from such different starting points.  A huge matter, in the mid- to long term.  Just how DOES the Beijing regime view persons of Chinese extraction who are citizens of other countries, and what will Beijing do about it?  How will this affect the lives of people of Chinese descent who are citizens of other nations?  In an era of emerging tribalism, a tribalistic China is not to be desired.  Of related interest is this proposal from a delegate to the NPC out of the legal community: .  From the official PRC television network China Global Television News, this essay by “nationalist” scholar Zhang Weiwei, on the “genetic defects” of the Western Political Model, which, Zhang asserts, China has totally rejected in favor of something much better.

NATIONAL PEOPLE’S CONGRESS (IN PROGRESS)   Washington Post report on NPC approval of constitutional revision eliminating two-term limit on state presidency. South China Morning Post’s early review of the massive government org-chart changes emerging from the NPC.  This is a very brief and well organized analysis of the ways in which this Congress is enshrining the Party’s assumption of powers and roles hitherto held by government not Party, and what that “takeover” suggests for the future.         PRC Government’s China Global Television News offers a lucid, if “official,” explanation of an important new law about to be passed by the NPC:  the “Supervision Law,” which will meld government and party bodies into a single Commission responsible for making sure that everyone stays on the straight and narrow instead of indulging in conduct broadly referred to as “corruption.” A huge bureaucratic attempt to deal with a persistent and pervasive social problem infecting the entire political system.  Good graphics.  China Global Television News’s take, again with useful graphics, on the “Drastic” reorganization of the structure of the central government.  Government Reorganization.  Here is one analyst’s handy look at which government units are being merged into which new units, which are being preserved, and which are being eliminated.  This is an extensive reorganization plan that will require much digestion.  This site also contains very useful links to related reorganization documents.

U.S.-China  What impends as the U.S. drives toward the cliff on China. More steam building on expected U.S. economic measures against China.  Signs of a White House juggernaut on this.   More ugliness on the cultural relations front.  Humble U.S.-funded “cultural centers” in China under pressure from PRCG and staggering. A long but very informative piece on how the kinds of tariffs about to be imposed on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum products may wind up slashing at the very U.S. enterprises – small and medium-sized industrial manufacturing companies – that their architects claim to be assisting.

PRC INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS  Big expansion of the surveillance system thanks to significant organizational innovations and much new money.  An early effort to render lucid the newly announced reorganizations in the financial regulatory sector, and what the new table of organization is aimed at achieving (or preventing).  See also .  The Paulson Institute’s ingenious web site for understanding “The Cleanup,” as they put it, of the complicated but unhealthy midden that China’s financial system has become.  A great deal of useful information in this long piece, which has the virtue of discussing the structure, evolution, and fate of the Chinese financial system over time, from the late 1990s to the present and into the future.  The international writers’ organization PEN with a grim report on social media controls.  We won’t elaborate here.

PRC GLOBAL Long paper from Germany’s Mercator on PRC “influence operations” in Europe, the dangers therein, and what Europe should be doing to combat them.  An interesting argument that, if the West starts treating WTO badly or jimmying with WTO rules, China will further adopt all sorts of delaying, evading, obscuring and other tactics by way of response. The precipitator now is US and EU refusal to grant China “market economy” status in the WTO in spite, as the Chinese and many others argue, of the promise made to the PRC at the 2001 time of accession that “non-market economy status” would expire in 15 years.

Military  Detailed look at the array of radar installations China has in stalled on the Spratlys and what it suggests regarding PRC intentions in the South China Sea.

March 1-7

THE “TWO MEETINGS” – CHINESE PEOPLE’S POLITICAL CONSULTATIVE CONFERENCE AND NATIONAL PEOPLE’S CONGRESS, UNDERWAY THIS WEEK.  Xi Jinping celebrates the Chinese system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation led by the Communist Party of China (CPC) “a great contribution to political civilization of humanity.” Worth a read, for its robust statement that the Chinese system is “new” on the stage of human history.  Highlights of the Premier’s “Government Work Report,” the big document of the Congress’s opening day.  2018 targets, etc.  A reference work.  These “highlights” are extremely skeletal, however.  South China Morning Post writeup on the main economic contents of the Premier’s “Work Report” to the NPC.  See also this “Takeaways” effort to distill the vastness of this annual address into digestible main points:  A vast one-stop shop by defense analyst Andrew Erickson, starting with the announced 8.1% rise in officially budgeted military spending for the coming year.  Prof. Minxin Pei, who has never been a fan of the Beijing regime, with a tough and dark interview about the CCP, the PRC, and the misapprehensions of many Western analysts over many years.  A useful report, in the instant analysis category, on Premier Li Keqiang’s “Government Work Report” at the NPC on its first day.  This site offers as well useful links to other key NPC documents as made available at the opening of the Congress.  A short, official article on plans to improve the foreign investment climate, per Li Keqiang’s message to the NPC.  Some itemization of intended changes, but no details.

LEADERSHIP AND DOMESTIC POLITICS  Official Statement on China’s new “supervisory system” being established this week to fight corruption across the entirety of party and government.  Longtime contemporary China specialist David Shambaugh’s take on the constitution revisions set to eliminate term limits for the post of President of the PRC: de-institutionalization and reversal of the Deng Xiaoping attempts to stabilize Chinese politics by rebuilding institutional structures after Mao and the Cultural Revolution.  50-year setback. A gloomy and forbidding AP report as the National People’s Congress prepares to eliminate term limits on China’s presidency, one of Xi Jinping’s triad of top party and government posts.

U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS  MUST READ.  Michael Swaine of Carnegie with a withering criticism of the Trump Administration’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy, embodying zero-sum assumptions about Sino-American relations.  Swaine is courageous in the face of a tidal wave of calamitous visions of China and U.S.-China relations.  USTR press release accompanying issuance of the annual Trade Policy Agenda.  Link to the full document may be found at this site.  On this multi-article web site, see Michael Schuman, “Who Gains from Trump’s Tariffs? China”  FT senior commentator Martin Wolf with a lucid economics lesson covering trade deficits, tariffs, macroeconomics.  Not China-specific, but certainly China-relevant. (Paywall)  Meaningful multi-person (the list will grow) commentaries on the proposed Trump tariffs on steel and aluminum as regards China in particular, but also from a global perspective. No particular surprises in this list-with-commentary of U.S. companies (and sectors) most likely to take the hit if China retaliates against U.S. trade penalties.  WSJ early report on visit to D.C. of Liu He, expected to become Vice Premier in charge of the Economy, for meetings with top USG officials.  Just as Trump announces steel and aluminum tariff hikes.  Liu He, slated to be the top economic official in the PRC government, in D.C., tells a closed business audience he’s the man and asks the US to tell China what it really wants, economically.  In fact, through myriad channels, the US has been making it clear to China for years what is bothering it.  Now, with U.S. acting erratically or worse on trade, telling China what the U.S. demands, all over again, risks running into the familiar wall of “Look how badly YOU are behaving.” An Al Jazeera video report on Chinese firms fighting, and winning, IP cases in US courts. The Economist, with its familiar magisterial style packaging plain-vanilla content, sums up the “Collapse of Optimism” among Western, particularly U.S., views on China after three decades of, they say, mistaken judgments and expectations as to how China would evolve.  Not a bad summary of what is sweeping across the policy-making/ “thought leader”/ “China expert” ranks these days.  What happened? Plenty of explanatory elements on both sides of the Pacific.  (Paywall with profit-driven exceptions).  USTR press release accompanying issuance of the annual Trade Policy Agenda.  Link to the full document may be found at this site.  On this multi-article web site, see Michael Schuman, “Who Gains from Trump’s Tariffs? China” After CFIUS intervenes to delay the possibility that Singapore’s Broadcom might take over Qualcomm, WSJ probes the reasons for Washington’s apparent obsession with the dangers posed by Huawei.  Hint – it’s future market dominance, not stealthy “back doors” these days.


Development of aircraft carriers underway. Useful discussion of what requires what. Thoughtful analyses by knowledgeable Westerners of China’s current and future military development, following the announcement of intended 8.1% increase in military expenditures over 2017 (as the contributors note, numbers like that mean very little without further data seldom forthcoming).  This will be an expanding set of contributors, in the usual Chinafile manner.

MISC. Absolutely fantastic ethnography.  Micro-society life.  Women. Catholicism. History.  Engrossing reading. A beautiful short essay built around “old photos.”  Top grossing films last week.  The Number 1 film is worth reading about.  The toilet revolution continues.  This is, in fact, a serious matter.

February 22-28

CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION AND ITS IMPLICATIONS  Official Xinhua News Agency announcement of the pending amendments to the Chinese Constitution.  These have occasioned enormous, instantaneous discussion inside and outside of China.  Evan Osnos, one of America’s best China writers (The New Yorker) on implications of the week’s biggest news, the impending elimination of the two-term limit on the Chinese presidency.  Global Times (English) first editorial on pending Constitutional changes, including elimination of the two-term limit on the Presidency.  Closing line: “The constitution amendment is the punch line of legislative framework of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, and an essential constitutional insurance for China to advance.,” but read the whole thing.  The People’s Liberation Army checks the box on constitutional reforms.  Background.  Recent organizational moves affecting the armed forces imply higher degree of Xi Jinping’s personal control.  Global Times asserts that the newly-revealed amendments to the Constitution of the PRC, including elimination of the two-term limit on the country’s presidency, are in tune with the requirements of changing times, as Western democracy “ulcerates.” An intentionally contrarian view of the constitutional reform controversy, taking mighty swipes at the “commentariat” that is upset with what the end of the two-term presidency means.  Form your own judgments.  A somewhat Olympian opinion article by veteran Financial Times commentator Martin Wolf, on the challenge to the Western liberal order manifested by Xi Jinping’s assumption of one-man rule (through elimination of the constitutional term limits on the presidency.  (May be paywalled.) More in the tidal wave of commentary on the elimination of presidential term limits and its broader implications.  Chinafile features continually-expanding sets of comments on particular issues.  By the time SR readers open this address the set on the term limit elimination is likely to be even longer than it is at the time of this item’s insertion.  Jeffrey Bader, NSC Asia chief in the first Obama term, with a well thought out, essentially gloomy, analysis of the implications of ending term limits on the Chinese presidency.  Seven points in all, with good graphics and type faces for easy digestion.


SINO-AMERICAN RELATIONS  Liu He, who is about to wind up with the Western media sobriquet “China’s Economy Czar,” heads for D.C. to try to head off some of the widely-advertised Trump Administration punitive actions against China, endlessly said to be just around the corner.  More on Apple’s move of iCloud data to data center servers inside China. Including encryption keys. Angry Chinese response to Trump’s newest sanction steps against DPRK.  (Paywalled)  Another Chinese high-tech acquisition in the U.S. falls through over U.S. regulator objections.  More of this ahead, not least because of the opacity of Chinese corporate ownerships and very much because of the asymmetry between U.S. market openness and Chinese market (investment) restrictions in high-tech sectors.  The demand for “reciprocity” of treatment is rising fast in the U.S., and China’s restrictive policy choices of the past few years have alienated key elements of the U.S. business community.  Peter “Death By China” Navarro said to be rising to the surface again in the Trump trade policy cooker.  Also useful related article at


INTERNAL AFFAIRS  A foretaste of what lies immediately ahead.  A Third Plenum of the Party Central Committee,  announced and convened on extremely short notice, issues this Communiqué at its conclusion, foretelling changes to be announced at the National People’s Congress in a few days.  An important, though opaque, document. As the National People’s Congress session looms large, hints of significant structural changes in the government of the PRC, coinciding with the constitutional changes now under furious discussion. The kind of situation that must give China’s “soft power” architects palpitations.  A long and complex reflection by Paulson Institute’s Evan Feigenbaum, around the theme, What if ‘Reform’ simply doesn’t mean the same thing to the Chinese that it normally means to people outside of China?  Worth the time and effort. An earlier, angry editorial about foreign concerns over the fate of Gui Minhai, removed from a train by security personnel while he was traveling in the company of two Swedish Embassy officials (Gui holds a Swedish passport).  Much foreign discussion has ensued over the implications of the use of quotation marks around the word “foreigners” in this editorial: is anyone of Chinese extraction, no matter his/her citizenship, “Chinese” in the eyes of the PRC government, and if so, what does that mean for the lives and safety of such people?

Feb 15-22  A well known U.S. admiral/world affairs analyst comments on the U.S.-China relationship, calling for a U.S. “strategy” instead of a U.S. “policy” and explaining why.  A relatively balanced article on the current hot topic of alleged PRC government attempts to penetrate American colleges and universities for various nefarious purposes.  BE SURE TO READ TO THE VERY END if you read this at all.  Evidence of turmoil and, perhaps, of a “paradigm shift” in U.S. policy circles relating to China.  Longtime advocate of muscular U.S. responses to China, Aaron Friedberg (former Cheney Advisor), testimony before House Armed Services Committee Feb. 13.  Lists all the bad news and calls for a “New U.S. Strategy.”  The nastiness of Sino-“Western” relations increases.  This piece from incendiary English Global Times could, of course, simply be designed to sell newspapers and troll angry foreign readers. Interesting glimmers of an Australia-U.S.-Japan-India program to build infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific or “Silk Road” regions.  In response to China’s Belt and Road?  China’s closer entry into Middle East affairs.  Not a simple matter for either.  Commerce Dept. recommends Trump impose tariff and/or quota curbs on imported steel and aluminum.  China in the crosshairs. An “everything but the kitchen sink” look at all the programs and all the big actors in China’s massive effort to achieve global leadership in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). A slightly breathless, but still informative survey of the advance of Chinese science in key sectors. Robotic warships and other unmanned vessels.  China hard at work, but others also engaged.  As the National People’s Congress looms into view, and with it the formation of the new government (as opposed to party) leadership, individual personalities begin to garner heavy media attention.  This is about Liu He, widely expected to be the top government official in charge of the economy.  The fact that he went to Harvard for a while always helps.  But the survey of China’s economic issues is worth the time.  NYT’s Jane Perlez writes in a restrained manner about a CCTV New Year Gala of unimaginable offensiveness, at least to people outside of China.  Final line of the story is, “The dean of one of China’s African studies centers said that by Chinese standards the show was not racist.”  Great stats on how the Chinese people spent their Lunar New Year holiday, and what they spent on.  From a proprietary Alibaba web site (Alibaba amasses gigantic quantities of consumer data, and never met an algorithm it didn’t like), this short piece on Chinese international tourists and how they spend their tourism dollars.  The Los Angeles Review of Books continues to do breathtaking work.  Here, the reading of “Miss Sophie’s Diary,” (1928) by Ding Ling.  Regarded as the “first great work of Chinese feminism” by the curators of this site. Extra thanks to the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Oregon.  A brilliant report on what happens when a well-meaning, preservation-oriented architect comes to a dilapidated but picturesque village. A thoughtful and modest American academic tells of the closure of a book shop in Shanghai.  The future of Hong Kong.  A conversation with Hon. Anson Chan.  Video.  “Specialty health, wellness and performance retailer” GNC teams with Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Holdings, who puts up $300 million and becomes largest stockholder in the China joint venture.  Will US scream “food safety”?

Feb 8-14  An archetypal example of the widely-publicized view, these days, that the Chinese threat to U.S. national security is so dominant that all other aspects of U.S. security policy, and all other priorities, should be rearranged so that the U.S. can (and must because the national existence is at stake) mobilize its resources to defend against the Chinese threat.  Written in support of views expressed in the recent US National Defense Strategy. Contrasting with the preceding item, a vastly different analysis by Amb. Chas Freeman.  Do not read one of these without reading the other.  Yan Xuetong, the well known specialist on Sino-American relations and China’s foreign policy more generally, writes for the Washington Post on why the U.S. and China will not fall into an all-out “cold war.”  Emphasis on the foibles and weaknesses of the current U.S. administration, as well as the un-bellicose features of Xi Jinping global policy.  The Director of the FBI raises the perception of the danger that China poses to the United States to a new, and extremely serious, level – and “all-of-society” threat to the entirety of American society.  The FBI has spoken a similar language about Chinese espionage and other “influence” operations in the U.S. for decades, but the “all-of-society” terminology, in front of a Congressional hearing primed to hear and believe the worst, may have longer-term effects.  This will be paywalled, but those who can get to it will find an ultra-establishmentarian essay about how all the Americans who expected that China would evolve in ways compatible with American ideals and interests over the past forty years were wrongly optimistic, and about how what the U.S. should do is humbly admit it was wrong and build new policies that are illusion-free.  “The China Reckoning: How Beijing Defied American Expectations” is its revealing title. PIIE’s Chad Bown, increasingly the pre-eminent analyst on US-China trade and economic relations, sees China’s opening of a trade action against US sorghum imports as “Page 1” of China’s retaliation handbook, following U.S. actions against solar panels, and voices concern that unrestrained tit-for-tat retaliations may ensue, to the benefit of no one.  Reviews Bush steel tariffs and Obama tariffs on Chinese tires in search of parallels.  US-China Business Council analysis (and recommendations to Chinese authorities) on problems and issues in the cyber environment in China.  The latest “Who’s Who” analysis of upper-level CCP politics, by veteran journalist-observer Willy Lam.  Learn about the “Xi Faction.”  More dust-biting.  The former Internet security czar Lu Wei is expelled from the Party and accused of all manner of bad things including trading power for you-know-what.  Same story mentions takedown of former Shandong vice governor. Vice Premier Wang Yang:  China’s “unwavering support of the private sector….”  From official Xinhua.  A brilliant essay by The New Yorker writer Jiayang Fan about being an American journalist, born in China, in today’s China.  If you are too young to know Butterfly Wu, this is your chance; take it.  A useful update on China’s demographic trajectory – more and more very elderly people within a declining population.  115 days with no measurable precipitation in Beijing.  Longest dry spell for a parched capital city in a very long time. Xi Jinping on Lunar New Year tour in Sichuan.  Photos. Of course they’re staged, but they are still meaningful and worthy of a look.  Insidious cultural penetration:  “My Little Pony: The Movie” opens in China.  If you choked on Pony saccharine when your children were little, here is a chance to relive the agony…..

Jan. 25 – 31  Out of Davos, an official Xinhua News Agency piece laying out the Chinese mantra of a “shared future” against the Trump mantra of “America First.”  Guess which one Xinhua favors.  NYT’s always perceptive Bradsher sees China (Liu He, OBOR) “looking good” at Davos, more than U.S. (Trump, “America First”).  Doesn’t take a rocket scientist. More from Davos.  This Xinhuan piece opens an early paragraph with, “Lighting the way is Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s vision of ‘a community with a shared future,’ which, one year ago, he took to the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting at Davos, the bellwether of the global economy, and the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG), the cradle of modern multilateralism.  Fast forward one year and the idea has appeared in a number of UN resolutions and is the talk of the town in Davos.”  The ascension of Liu He to the Vice Premiership with overall charge of the economy.  Will see for sure at NPC meeting in March.  A real pro, in the eyes of most foreign observers. Following release of the National Security Strategy of the United States and the National Defense Strategy, both of which identify China as an threat, this Chinafile thread invites informed contributors to offer opinions on that very subject.   The home page of East Asia Forum Quarterly, out of Australia, with a whole host of interesting articles.  Read Lampton, but also Renato Cruz de Castro on the degeneration of the Philippine-U.S. alliance as Duterte makes his peace with Chinese power.  Something different:  writer Paul French’s evocative look at Shanghai’s Astor Hotel and some of the many interesting people who stayed there in the “old days” of Shanghai, before World War II.  Great read.  PLUS THIS MARVELOUS ESSAY BY FRENCH:  .  Spectacular photos of the new high speed rail link between Chongqing and Guizhou Province in China’s southwest.  The terrain is extremely hilly and broken-up; the magnitude of this project is astounding.  This reduces travel time from the Sichuan capital, Chengdu (northwest of Chongqing) to the Guizhou capital, Guiyang, to three and a half hours, with Chongqing-Guiyang cut from ten to two hours. From Davos, concerns that China’s big push into development assistance via its One Belt One Road initiative will toss human rights and environmental “strings,” usually attached to World Bank and other Western aid programs, in the dustbin.  Coal power plants an example. NGOs worried over implications for stunting of civil society in recipient countries.  Thoughtful analysis, including quoted comments from PRC sources.

Jan. 11-17 Amidst a rising tide of heavy breathing, Carnegie’s Michael Swain puts some sobriety into the bubbling discourse on management of security threats in the Asia-Pacific region. Andrew Browne on the increasing likelihood of a U.S.-China “trade war.” A workmanlike AP piece on the darkening skies for foreign businesses in China. Lots of examples brought together in a short and digestible article. CSIS’s Bonnie Glaser on imminent trade conflicts and their wider implications, i.e., likelihood of metastasis into far-reaching “Cold War.”–nye-2018-01 Joseph Nye, who coined the term “soft power” nearly thirty years ago, addresses the challenge posed by Chinese attempts to control or manipulate media in other countries – he calls that “sharp power” – and urges the West not to overreact in ways that would reduce the attractive Soft Power that characterizes the liberal democracies. A very compact note with graphics showing the steep rise in percentage of loans flowing to low-profit state owned enterprises. The authors see continued piling up of non-performing loans in this, and predict a “debt crisis.” Other commentators, especially PRC official ones, note that this crisis prediction has failed to materialize over many, many years. Headline writers sometimes go their own way. This headline, “China’s Fingerprints Are Everywhere,” is a sad example. David Ignatius is the Washington Post’s top foreign affairs columnist, and he repeats much of what is generally circulating now with respect to China’s extending tentacles of influence. But the headline gives credence to a “China-as-contagious-disease” formula that has a long American pedigree and is as misguided in today’s troubled and volatile atmosphere as it has always been. More on the same theme: China insidiously burrowing into Americans’ private information. This time because a Chinese entity has bought a gay dating application. Expect more of this journalism in future. Utterly fascinating. The earliest motion picture images from China, at the end of the 19th century. Aided by China’s familiar Leninist behavior and its more recent international bumptiousness, and by the convulsion underway in U.S. politics, American opinion is edging back toward the always-lurking theme of “China as Contagious Disease.” This article, from an editor at the right-wing political journal The Weekly Standard, raises dozens of warning flags about PRC infiltration of American minds via its “Confucius Institutes,” whose numbers continue to grow on U.S. campuses. Depressing news from Hong Kong. Joshua Wong sentenced to more jail time. A gripping article about the apprehension of an alleged destroyer of U.S. intelligence operations in China. Senators from both parties urge that Chinese media outlets such as CGTN, China Daily, etc., all of them under the control of the Chinese government and/or the CCP, be required to register as Foreign Agents under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act. All part of the degeneration now underway. Journalist/writer Ian Johnson, long one of the most sensitive and thoughtful observers of contemporary China, discusses his “five best books” choices on religion in China. An informative essay on the “China White Paper” issued by the U.S. Department of State in 1949, just before the PRC’s establishment, and Mao Zedong’s reactions to it that formed some of the foundations of contemporary PRC political rhetoric. With texts of Mao’s writings at the time.

Jan. 4-10 As outside observation and commentary rises on the question of the Chinese regime’s “social credit” program, this extremely useful piece separates the commercially-constructed “big data” programs like Alibaba’s “Sesame Credit” from the “social credit” system envisioned by the CCP.  We call this a must-read.  Serious expectations of impending rise in Sino-American frictions or worse.  Another must-read, unfortunately.  This U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee page relates to the Committee’s hearing Jan. 9 on the status of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).  CFIUS as the power to review and to block foreign M&A investments in the U.S.  Congress is currently considering expanding CFIUS’s scope of responsibility, largely in response to a wave of PRC investments in American technology assets.  Testimony by each witness may be opened by clicking on the witness’s name. Spiffy new graphics-full site for information on PRC investments in the U.S. state-by-state, including employment created.  From Macropolo at Paulson Institute.  Edward Wong, top NY Times correspondent in Beijing for a decade, paints a stark picture of where China seems to be going.  A granular look at how a policy decision aimed at reducing North China’s overwhelming winter smog ran into big trouble over implementation: why lots of people in North China found themselves without heating in the bitter cold of winter.  What a nasty legal case looks like close-up.  What happens when court judgments are ignored? An inconclusive piece on an important question: how does WeChat protect or violate the privacy of its hundreds of millions of users?  Xi Jinping dons camo and tells masses of carefully-arrayed Chinese soldiers to – fight to win, not fear death, etc.  What is the purpose of this succession of high-theatrics military expos? Related:  General Secretary and Central Military Commission Chairman Xi Jinping’s address to the Chinese military on the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army.  From last August.  The Pakistan dilemma: Trump blasts Islamabad, China smiles benignly and Pakistan looks East.  Stirrings, however improbable, of concern over privacy in the Internet/social media sector in China.  Work underway on a third, wholly-indigenous, aircraft carrier.  A short and readable piece on Poverty Alleviation in remote areas of Southwest China.  A key goal of the PRCG and CCP over the next five years.  The author, a respected American China scholar and personal friend of Your Editor, recounts the shattering of his China Dream, in Kunming.  The Hudson Institute is home to a number of 30,000-foot thinkers about China (mostly stratego-gloomy).  Walter Russell Mead, affiliated there, sums up a reality: in U.S. politics, just about everyone, at each point on the political spectrum, is viewing China darkly and thinking about how to deal with the perceived threat from the PRC.

Dec. 29, 2017 – Jan. 3, 2018 Must-read review of the trajectory of US-China relations as we enter the new year. Evan Osnos, with his usual acuity, examines the global rise of China as Trump’s America seems to be heading for the exits. Self-proclaimed “Confucianists” (Confucius, the rejection of whose ideas was a core element in the 20th century Chinese political revolution) aim to squelch Chinese observance or celebration of “Western” (for which the 19th century term “ocean” is applied, in reference to the aggressive “ocean barbarians” who barged in to China starting with the Opium Wars) holidays. Such as Christmas, an all-out consumer bash in today’s People’s Republic. Caixin publisher Hu Shuli on the need for further reform of the Chinese economy, following the recent Economic Work Conference. There is a certain tired, or at least restrained, quality to her prose here, a certain “déjà vu all over again” quality. About as good a roundup as any, regarding this year’s “Central Economic Work Conference.” See also preceding Josh Chin’s remarkable account of his sojourn in Xinjiang, the presumed prototype for all-encompassing surveillance nationwide. This is the Contents page for a series of relevant articles, most narrowly including those by Susan Shirk of UC San Diego and Wu Xinbo of Fudan University, on Trump and China. (May require login. No fee.) Mealnie Hart on Trump, China and climate change: common interests ditched. (May require login. No fee.) Signs that Afghanistan will be included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor now under construction. (While the U.S. ups the military ante in Afganistan.) See also Reuters report at  . China’s year-end report on China-led accomplishments in building Asia-Pacific cooperation and development. Sino-American relations in microcosm: interdependence, competition and cooperation in Artificial Intelligence (AI), one of the fast-emerging foci of specialist and generalist attention. The author is exemplary of very young, very bright, early-career talent now coming online in China analysis in the US. A sober look at the long-haul process of effecting the carbon market announced with great fanfare two weeks ago.  A year-end review of U.S.-China military relations, by an author affiliated with the PLA. A leading British China specialist worries about what 2018 will bring in U.S.-China relations. One of umpteen recent reports on the extent of physical and technical security measures in place in Xinjiang. A highly critical assessment of China’s declaration of global presence in the fall of 2017. The author’s views will not be universally shared, but his critique is blunt. Anyone with half an ounce of historical awareness will be struck by the superficial parallelism between the current US opiate epidemic situation and the catastrophe that led to the first Opium War in China in 1839. The academic paper at the epicenter of the controversy over PRC influence-building efforts in Australia and, as the focus of this paper, New Zealand. An important introduction for the uninitiated. From last fall, former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs He Yafei announces the arrival of the ‘Post-American Era.” As clear and unabashed a statement of Chinese global expectations as any in recent months – and this before the 19th Party Congress. A story about the U.S., not China, illustrates the magnitude of the social, economic and political implications of big data and Artificial Intelligence, a field in which China is determined to establish primacy and in which China is already establishing wide-ranging social control applications, but a field in which China’s technological quest is not unique.. See, e.g.   ,

and  . Prospects for real SOE reforms looking forward. Dimmer than usual, thanks to the post-19th PC obsession with implanting and sustaining Party dominance in everything, including the big SOEs, even if that means that the political outweighs the economic and commercial. Not a recipe for needed SOE reforms, according to the author. Jeffrey Bader, longtime U.S. government China policy figure (Obama’s first-term NSC China chief) and Ryan Hass (both are associated with Brookings) weigh in on the brewing “Who Lost China? Redux” tide rising in D.C., the crux of which is that, now that China is big and strong and declares its explicit rejection of “Western” models, and thus is not becoming “more like us,” the architects of American policy toward China over the past four decades must somehow have misread China and misled the American people. Bader’s views are important; it’s a shame it has fallen to him to make the case he makes. The controversy arises also, of course, from Trump claims that his predecessors’ teams culpably led the U.S. into harm’s way with China. Does Xi Jinping have a plan to take Taiwan by force in the very near future? This writer thinks so. An enthralling BBC video on the Chinese struggle to end extreme poverty in the next few years. CFIUS puts the kibosh on Ant Financial’s (Jack Ma and Alibaba colleagues) proposed acquisition of Moneygram, and the deal collapses. Good analysis and summary of related issues by Reuters. A sober look at the long-haul process of effecting the carbon market announced with great fanfare two weeks ago.