Unholy union between business and politics

I have a piece in the SCMP today with Deng Yuwen, on what the Liu Han case says about doing business in China. We argue that while there are good reasons for entrepreneurs to team up with political patrons, with big potential payoffs, such alliances come with no guarantees and when the political winds change, business-people tend to take the fall.

…enjoying political patronage does not mean entrepreneurs can rest on their laurels. Officials can easily employ the machinery of the state to force commercial partners to toe the line, or break the law. And when, for whatever reason, the relationship sours, it is inevitably the entrepreneur who is sacrificed. Bo’s crime crackdown was the perfect example of officials turning on their former corporate allies due to a change in the political wind.

Many entrepreneurs seek out political patrons because, in the process of accumulating a fortune, most of them also accumulate some dirt. But as Liu Han’s case demonstrates, the politics-business alliance is unreliable. Ultimately, it is unreliable because it is dishonest and illegal.

In order to provide security for entrepreneurs, China must quickly complete the transition from a chaotic market economy to one that is bounded by the rule of law, where fair and open competition replaces the opaque contortions that still prevail at the moment. Read more..

The sustainability of Taiwanese autonomy

I had an op-ed in the New York Times this week in which I argued that the prospects for Taiwan’s continued autonomy in the mid-long term are not good. I had in mind the squeeze that China is putting on across the board, the KMT’s manoeuvring to prosper from a hypothetical change in Taiwan’s status (as it did prior to democratization), and the DPP’s inability to provide a coherent alternative vision (I accept that the party is in a very difficult position, but it doesn’t help itself). The only effective deterrent to stealthy absorption, inexorable annexation, or however you want to frame it, is popular opinion, which is unequivocal in its opposition to unification. Against a determined, implacable and increasingly powerful China, with the spectre of the dominant political player in Taiwan (KMT) colluding to ensure it retains whatever power Beijing will permit, and an impotent and conflicted DPP, multiplied by economic and military trends, can popular opinion alone resist all of these pressures in the mid to long term? And despite the assurances that any changes of a political nature must be put to the vote, I am pessimistic about the long term influence of Chinese money and KMT machinations and machinery on the integrity of Taiwan’s political process. I’ll be very happy to be proven wrong.

I notice today that John Mearsheimer delivered a talk/paper at a conference in December in Taipei entitled “Taiwan in the Shadow of a Rising China”. He argues that Taiwan’s autonomy will not continue beyond a certain point where the military balance is such that it is unfeasible that the US would come to Taiwan’s aid (“Taiwan is not Japan or even South Korea”-ouch) because to do so would require use of non-conventional (nuclear) force. Currently, argues Mearsheimer, the US’ military primacy constrains Beijing’s actions, and underpins Taiwan’s resolve to hold out. But iff China’s economy continues to grow and the PLA continues to modernize and enhance its capacities, it will be less constrained. At that point Taiwan should strive for as much autonomy as possible within the parameters of the political solution Beijing is offering. The conundrum is that the more powerful China becomes, the less room for manoeuvre Taiwan will have and the less incentive Beijing will have to make concessions. Taipei should, following Mearsheimer’s logic, begin negotiations sooner rather than later, on the basis that it can secure a better deal and extract more concessions while Beijing is relatively weak and constrained. But of course there is no public support, or mainstream political will, to do so. (Ben Goren has written a reply to Mearsheimer, subtitled “Fatalism, Appeasement, & Capitulation”)

Talking with the deputy director of the TAO in 2012, he dismissed the point I raised about ‘one country two systems’ being unsellable to the Taiwanese electorate, saying that a demonstration of “sincerity” (code for Taiwan accepting Chinese sovereignty) would open the door to numerous different solutions. He went on to pledge that in terms of its functional autonomy, Beijing would seek a solution that would “hardly make a difference” to everyday life in Taiwan, including maintenance of  the democratic system. One can debate the sincerity or otherwise of such statements, but the point is that the attitude of Beijing in 2012 will, if current trends continue, appear conciliatory next to the Beijing of 2022. Of course there is no guarantee that a hypothetical solution agreed at a time of relative weakness would not be reneged on at a later time of relative strength (ask Hong Kongers about that). And there is no guarantee that Chinese revisionism would stop at gaining Taiwan. In short there are good reasons for Taiwan to hold out as long as possible. But Taiwan’s autonomy is precarious, and for those who would preserve it, it doesn’t do any good to pretend otherwise.

China – Taiwan meeting

I have a piece in the Wall Street Journal today on the China-Taiwan meeting:

This Tuesday, government representatives from the Republic of China, otherwise known as Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China will meet in an official capacity for the first time. The historic meeting comes after several years of warming relations generated by the rapprochement policies of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou. While ground-breaking agreements are unlikely, there is reason to hope significant progress will be made in laying the foundations for a peaceful, more sustainable relationship.

In Mr. Ma’s first term beginning in 2008, the two sides established direct transport links, stopped competing for diplomatic allies and signed a limited free trade agreement. Beijing relaxed its opposition to Taiwan’s participation in some international organizations, and the movement of people in both directions across the Strait increased dramatically.

But then momentum slowed. Implementation of the FTA was problematic, and ratification of a follow-on agreement stalled in Taiwan’s legislature. The promised economic benefits for ordinary Taiwanese didn’t materialize. Mr. Ma lost the public backing that saw him comfortably re-elected to a second and final term in 2012, and his relationship with his own Kuomintang Party (KMT) collapsed.

Mr. Ma’s travails have helped revive the prospects of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in national elections early in 2016. The DPP’s more hardline approach to Taiwanese autonomy holds much less promise for Beijing. So while Beijing is confident that the trends favor integration, uncertainty over the policies of future administrations in Taiwan makes institutionalizing ties during Mr. Ma’s remaining time in power more urgent…Continue reading

Year of the Lame Horse

I have a piece at The National Interest today with @michalthim, looking at Ma Ying-jeou’s travails, cross-Strait legacy and upcoming elections:

The year of the horse began last week, but for Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou (whose surname means horse) the signs are inauspicious. With two years remaining in his second and final term, and with important midterm elections scheduled for the end of the year, Ma has alienated large sections of society and his own party, the Kuomintang (KMT). Even the historic first visit to the mainland later this month by the head of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the ministry-level agency that deals with cross-Strait relations on the Taiwan side, lacks the feel of the culmination of a successful six-year rapprochement and engagement strategy. Indeed, the KMT-controlled legislature, prompted by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), felt compelled to impose restrictions on the scale of the MAC mission. The opposition raised concerns that a desperate pro-China president, one who sees himself as a ‘history man’, might seek to do something intemperate and irreversible to rescue his crumbling legacy. Ma’s failed purge of the KMT Speaker of the Legislature late last year no doubt had a bearing on proceedings…

To read the entire thing, press this button

Culture, creativity and soft power in China

As Michael Keane puts it in his comprehensive survey of the “creative industries”, the idea that creativity is essential for China’s continuing development is uncontroversial in Chinese intellectual and political discourses. But, although indigenous design and innovation is acknowledged as a source of added value and “the key to breaking out of the low cost production trap” (p. 150), creativity invokes political suspicion and is narrowly bounded. Politicized intellectual debates about liberalism, individualism and China’s development under the stewardship of the Party are manifest in tensions between cultural security, tradition and protectionism (both economic and in terms of Deng Xiaoping’s warning and 1983 campaign against “spiritual pollution” (jingshen wuran)) on one hand, and creative freedoms, expressions of popular culture and novelty on the other. Traditional thinking suggests that  “creativity generates ‘good’ and ‘beautiful’ outcomes: it harmonizes” (p. 52), but, as many creative individuals in China can attest, where creativity produces outcomes that are judged by the state to be lacking in these qualities, they are themselves ‘harmonized’ (beihexie), a common euphemism for censorship, control and repression. The party justifies such constraining interventions by invoking its role as (self-proclaimed) protector of (self-defined) standards of public morality, tastes and spiritual health.

Circumspect and uncertain about how to deal with ‘creativity’, the state has acted with greater resolution in its focus on culture. Culture is conceived as a public resource and something from which party and nation can derive strength from. The term ‘soft power’ entered the official Chinese lexicon in 2006 when President Hu Jintao, in his address to the 17th Party Congress, called for the need to “bring about a new upsurge in socialist cultural development, stimulate the cultural creativity of the whole nation and enhance culture as part of the soft power of country”. Distinct from the protectionist impulse signified by the debate over ‘national cultural security’ prior to entry into the WTO in 2001, soft power was consistent with the ‘going out strategy’ that Chinese businesses had been encouraged to embark on since the 1990s.

The desire to enhance Chinese soft power has been heavily influenced by the success of China’s East Asian neighbours, particularly Japan, Korea and Taiwan, whose movies, music and other products have been enthusiastically adopted by Chinese citizens. It is no secret that China has under-performed in this ‘soft power competition’. Attempts to portray China’s ‘great civilization’ have generally fallen flat, even with audiences in China. Traditional cultural products, which fit party sanctioned great civilization narratives, have been revived in commercial forms, but spectacular motion pictures portraying Confucius, classic literary works and ‘Red Classics’ have failed to resonate with Chinese audiences enthralled by Korean pop, Taiwanese dramas and the like. By contrast, artists, filmmakers and other creative individuals like Jia Zhangke and Ai Weiwei have received critical acclaim outside of China, where there is generally a premium on work that challenges the status quo, but they have failed to reach audiences in China due to ‘harmonization’. As early as 2005 there was an acknowledgement, by way of an editorial in the official People’s Daily, of a ‘cultural trade deficit crisis’. In 2011, Keane reports, 38% of China’s cultural industries’ exports were the result of outsourced contracts where the creative element was supplied from outside while the production happened in China (p. 82).

Culture has been conceived as playing a crucial role at “the high altar of soft power” (p. 2) and because of that the state has implemented various strategies to fast-track progress. In some areas, laudable efforts have been made to ‘invigorate forms that are deemed essential cultural treasures but have been unable to sustain themselves in the age of globalization’ (p. 138). One of the best examples is the renaissance of kunqu (崑曲) theatre. Other examples include the Disneyfication of the Shaolin temple resort in Dongfeng. But the lesson that soft power cannot be engineered in top-down fashion has not been learned. As Keane puts it, “East Asian pop culture is dynamic, youthful and devoid of overt political posturing: This is not the soft power formula that currently pertains in mainland China” (p. 193).

In his work on the competition for soft power in East Asia, Chua Beng Huat argues that China is losing because of a lack of imagination, know-how and political freedom. Indeed, Keane’s work here and previously, shows that many policies and practices are stuck in the first stages of the cultural innovation timeline, namely standardized production and imitation, with their bottom line mentalities. Given China’s “structured uncertainty” (p.184) imitation represents a safe choice reducing risk both economically and politically.

But Chinese are not just blind imitators. Consider for instance Renren, Weibo, QQ, Alibaba & Taobao, Youku & Tudou. These platforms are all illustrative of Chinese expertise in imitation and adaptation. Yes, these services began as clones of existing (western) services, but in each case they have modified and created new features to account for conditions in China, improving the original, certainly from the Chinese user’s perspective. Keane calls this ‘second generation innovation’ (p. 117), and is very sanguine about the potential for grassroots innovation or shanzhai plus.

The culture of shanzhai (山寨) was born in Guangdong where a lot of manufacturing capacity was located in the early reform period. Shanzhai started as cheap knock-offs and clones (kelong) of various products, the most successful of which was the mobile phone. As technology has become cheaper and more accessible shanzhai phones added more and more features tailored to the Chinese market. Shanzhai mobile phones are one reason for the astonishing growth of both mobile phone ownership and the mobile internet in China (around one third of the internet population gets online exclusively via internet enabled phones). Estimates from 2008 suggest that upwards of 20% of the entire phone market was shanzhai.

The question of interest is whether shanzhai manufacturers will forever be limited, for example by the economic incentive structure, to making knock offs, or whether it represents a potential evolutionary path for indigenous innovation. Keane is optimistic, suggesting that “many shanzhai companies go from the informal to the formal with more investment in R&D and brand building once they have gained scale” (p. 122). He concludes that the shanzhai model holds potential “to integrate made in china and created in china” (p. 124), and cites the experience of Dafen, a very special village situated in the booming city of Shenzhen. Dafen is the art copy capital of the world (copies of great masters can be ordered online and painted to order). Dafen employs an industrial model where copyists, usually migrants from the countryside, specialize in the individual components of a painting, e.g. skies, houses or people. Every year there is a copying competition in which the winners are rewarded with an official hukou, allowing them to live legally in the city and register for welfare, education etc. Now, Dafen is producing original art.

Mobile phones, migrants and becoming modern

Cara Wallis’ ethnographic study of young migrant women working in Beijing’s restaurants, beauty parlours and markets is an exploration of the cultural, social, aesthetic and economic dimensions of mobile phone use. This gripping study demonstrates how mobile phones have become a key component in the constitution of selfhood, friendship and group solidarity, to the point that they represent “an anchoring and inclusion in networks of sociality and modes of self-transformation that are crucial to their well being in the city” (p. 184). The book speaks to the broader processes of globalization, migration, marketization and informatization that have been key components of the reform era, and illuminate the role of technology in China’s neoliberal project where individual merit, material wealth and consumption have become hallmarks of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’.

The ‘quality’ (suzhi) and ‘civilization’ (wenming) of the Chinese people has been seen as central to development since the beginning of China’s encounter with western modernity. The main target is the lagging countryside from where the dagongmei of Wallis’ study hail. The term dagongmei invokes rural, low class, callow and temporary, a classification that concretizes their liminality in the city. In the civilizing narrative (in which Wallis rightly identifies a form of neoliberal governmentality), low paid employment in the city is framed as an opportunity for migrants to receive a social education, become more cultured, and learn the desired ways of urban modernity. Learning to use technology is closely implicated in the accompanying discourse about self-improvement through the acquisition of technological, linguistic and ‘civilizing’ skills. Wallis shows how migrant women internalize, enact and reproduce this duty via the mobile phone (p. 12), in accordance with the idea of self-improvement as a patriotic act and the “stringent regulatory practices” that prevail on their appearance, gestures and speech (cf Sandra Bartky’s ‘disciplinary practices of femininity’). For these migrant women a mobile phone is an important symbol of the urban modernity they desire and are expected to strive for.

Rural-to-urban migrants tend to work long hours, have limited time off and usually lead highly circumscribed social lives. Removed from a familiar social world many face alienation in the city. Mobile phones help overcome this dislocation by allowing migrants to establish and navigate social networks, engage in forms of entertainment and participate in consumer culture. A cell phone represents agency to control personal resources and enhance feelings of self-worth amid what is for many a humdrum existence punctuated by discrimination and loneliness. The phone is a lifeline to loved ones ‘left behind’ in the countryside and Wallis finds that many women developed and maintained friendships entirely through their mobile phones via cheap text messaging, QQ instant messaging and digital gift giving. Camera phones are a “tool of empowerment and form of hope because they allow migrant women in some manner to rework the constraints of their lives” (p. 142). But it is not all rosy. Social networking replicates class and cultural conditions and having a mobile phone does not confer social mobility. Although there is the potential for resistance on an individual (e.g. defying bosses’ bans on bringing a phone to work) and collective basis (e.g. the organization of factory based protests), mobiles can also be used by bosses as a tool for surveillance, control and discipline. The visceral recollections of migrants who’s prized possession has been impounded testify to the psychological importance (and thus vulnerability) of ownership.

Given the psychological and practical importance of a mobile phone, it is not surprising that migrant workers dedicate a substantial proportion of their financial resources to buying one. For migrants, buying a mobile phone is nothing to do with fashion or mindless materialism. In Wallis’ study, every interviewee described the mobile phone as “the first big urban purchase” (p. 73) entailing serious decision-making and sacrifices, to the extent that every informant could recall the exact date, time and place of the purchase, how long it took to save up the money and even who accompanied them to buy it. As Jack Qiu has described in his ground-breaking work on the “working class network society”, the motivations and behaviours of this sector attest to the importance to technology, contrary to the dominant association of technology with young, well-off urban consumers. Migrants attach “deep emotions and longings for modernity” (p. 78) to the mobile phone, in a discursive context in which modernity, technology and consumerism are determinants of ‘quality’. The quest for ‘quality’ is an individual duty for the good of the entire nation and, for migrants, a mobile phone is a manifestation of their ‘quality’ produced by economic capital from labour. Ulitmately, Wallis concludes that “the ways that the mobile phone is articulated to young migrant women’s desire for self-development and self-improvement reveal how the party state’s modernization goals have become deeply internalized in the mind and bodies of China’s citizens” (p. 180).

Cara Wallis, Technomobility in China: Young Migrant Women and Mobile Phones, New York: New York University Press, 2013. 264 pp. ISBN: 9780814795262

This post first appeared on the EU-funded academic website Chinet.cz, where I am Editor of the Contemporary China section.

When will Xi land a tiger?

Whispers surrounding President Xi Jinping’s ‘tiger hunt’ (a metaphor for going after high level corrupt officials) have been circulating ever since he assumed the top positions in party and state in 2012. In recent days many Chinese language media outlets outside of China have reported that Xi’s tiger hunt is about to pay dividends, with the ‘capture’ of former security tsar Zhou Yongkang.

Until 2012 Zhou was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, with oversight for the police, courts and intelligence service. Although Zhou was renowned for corruption and abuse of power, no current or retired member of the Politburo Standing Committee has ever been prosecuted. This would be a groundbreaking case.

Whether Xi is motivated to establish his own authority or the health of the communist party system, he must make good on the promise he made last year to take down both flies (corrupt low level officials) and tigers. Otherwise he will fall into the same trap as previous leaders’ in their half-hearted anti-corruption efforts.

Chinese people looked forward to Xi’s tiger hunt with ghoulish anticipation, speculating who would be the first to fall. The view among many ordinary Chinese was that the reviled Zhou, who oversaw a decade long retreat from the rule of law, would be a good candidate, although speculation about the extent of Zhou’s crimes has become progressively fantastical.

Reports suggesting he was in cahoots with former rising political star Bo Xilai who was jailed last year, to plot a coup or assassination are simply not credible. The reality is that no single political actor in China has the capacity, or opportunity, to pull off a coup or to place a protégé in power.

Since launching the current anti-corruption drive, Xi has clearly marked out Zhou, and his cronies in the powerful oil industry, as the main target. Given the scale of Zhou’s operations this will take time, although the anti-corruption campaign has already reached his former domain, the Department of Public Security. The recent fall of Zhou’s close associate, the former Vice Minister of Public Security Li Dongsheng, suggests that the hunt is closing in.

Is there still a chance that Zhou might get away? One thing in Zhou’s favour is that he was, after all, in charge of the state security apparatus for many years, during which time he must have collected a huge amount of dirt on other officials with which to bargain for his own survival.

This is a test of Xi’s dexterity as a leader and these strategic considerations probably explain delays in resolving the case.

However, if Xi were to let Zhou off, for instance because of the opposition from retired party leaders (setting a precedent of non-immunity for former officials makes a lot of former officials nervous), his authority would be severely compromised. In effect it would announce to the world that his anti-corruption campaign had already failed.

On the other hand, if he takes Zhou down, especially if it is to the chagrin of some retired Party elders, Xi will enjoy popular support and send a strong message to party cadres, increasing his capacity to be a really effective Party Secretary.

In this instance, Xi would rather offend Party elders than the public, but in order to reduce the intensity of opposition, the case against Zhou has to be cast iron. If it can be proven that Zhou is even half as spectacularly malfeasant as has been reported, allegedly amassing an ill-gotten fortune of, even for China, extraordinary proportions, who will dare speak up for him?

The resolution to this case will likely come prior to the regular scheduled legislative meetings in March. If Xi can achieve this breakthrough before these meetings, he will further concretize his authority and will be well placed to push forward the broad reforms that he advocates.

The Party recently issued an anti-corruption 5 year plan which stated that regardless of how high up their position, any corrupt official could be investigated. If Xi keeps up the pressure on corruption, and some genuinely big tigers are brought down, party cadres at all levels will become less egregious in their transgressions.

But at some point the root causes and systemic issues that have allowed corruption to become endemic throughout the political and economic systems must be addressed. Only then, when the campaign moves from the authority of individual leaders to the rule of law, will the basis for China’s anti-corruption reform become normalized and more transparent.

A substantially modified version of this piece with Deng Yuwen appeared in the SCMP.

A new online platform for Contemporary China Studies

From January I will be joining a team of academics behind Chinet.cz, an organization that aims to connect Europe-based China scholars, in addition to providing a service for and engagement with broader audiences outside of Europe and outside of the academy. It is in terms of the latter that I will aim to make a contribution, in the guise of editor of the Contemporary China section of an online forum that will launch in January. I will be joining scholars in the fields of Chinese art, literature, history, linguistics, archaeology, religion and philosophy who will be responsible for online offerings in these areas. The online platform is conceived as a repository for specially commissioned reviews of academic books across these diverse fields and, as such, authoritative reviews written by academic specialists will feature prominently.

In addition to reviews of single academic books (written in English and Chinese), the Contemporary China section will have a number of features that I hope will provide value added for my China Studies colleagues, media professionals and readers with a general interest in China. For instance, I will publish a weekly annotated digest of significant journal articles, highlighting theoretical advances, new empirical findings and relevance to substantive developments. Particularly significant journal publications will be subject to longer treatments identifying how they contribute to existing knowledge and further our understanding of events in contemporary China. I will also be publishing regular notes on the field of China Studies, relating to the major aspects of the profession, namely research, teaching and outreach. As with the CPI blog, I aim to feature contributions from renowned China scholars from around the world, and to strongly encourage more junior colleagues to share their insights.

Academic colleagues and other China professionals reading this are encouraged to contact me with ideas for potential contributions, in the form of single or multi-book reviews, journal article reviews, state of the field pieces, thoughts on teaching or outreach in the field, methods and data, or other related issues. I very much look forward to working with colleagues on this venture and am sure that it will provide additional value to the excellent resources already out there. Happy Holidays!

20 academic resources on the Uyghur issue

Chinese state media is now reporting that police are looking for two suspects from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in connection with the “terrorism related incident” in Tiananmen Square on Monday. Given what little is known about the incident as yet, I don’t want to add to speculation about this specific incident. But, as western media outlets have done a good job of highlighting, tensions between the Uyghur, Han and the Chinese state are long-term and the result of a multitude of different reasons-religious, ethnic, economic, social and political. Xinjiang is, as James Palmer (@BeijingPalmer) vividly demonstrates in this ChinaFile piece, the embodiment of a disharmonious society and I imagine recent events likely mean tighter conditions for the Uyghur in the near term. I don’t research the Uyghur issue per se, but the following are 20 relevant academic resources that I encountered while researching a paper on China’s relations with Central Asia (in which the situation in Xinjiang obviously plays a role).

The Uyghurs: Strangers in Their Own Land. Gardner Bovingdon, Columbia University Press, 2010.

The Xinjiang conflict : Uyghur identity, language policy, and political discourse. Arienne Dwyer, East West Center, 2005.

Oasis Identities: Uyghur Nationalism Along China’s Silk Road. Justin Rudelson, Columbia University Press, 1998.

From the Margins to the Centre: The Uyghur Challenge in Beijing. Nimrod Baranovitch, China Quarterly, 2003.

Dislocating China: Muslims, Minorities and Other Sub-altern Subjects. Dru Gladney, Chicago University Press, 2004.

Autonomy in Xinjiang : Han nationalist imperatives and Uyghur discontent. Gardner Bovingdon, East West Center, 2004.

Conceptualising Uyghur separatism in Chinese nationalism. Abanti Bhattacharya, Strategic Analysis, 2003.

China, Xinjiang and Central Asia: History, Transition and Crossborder Interaction into the 21st Century. Colin Mackerras, Routledge, 2009.

Migration and Inequality in Xinjiang: A Survey of Han and Uyghur Migrants in Urumqi. Howell & Fan, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 2011.

China’s “War on Terror”: September 11 and Uighur Separatism. Chien-peng Chung, Foreign Affairs, 2002.

China, Xinjiang and the internationalisation of the Uyghur issue. Michael Clarke, Global Change, Peace & Security, 2010.

Violent separatism in Xinjiang : a critical assessment. James Milward, East West Center 2004.

China’s security interests in Central Asia. Russell Ong, Central Asian Survey, 2005.

China, Xinjiang and the transnational security of Central Asia. Kerr & Swinton, Critical Asian Studies, 2008.

Xinjiang: China’s Future West Bank? Dru Gladney, Current History, 2002.

Under the Heel of the Dragon: Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China. Blaine Kaltman, Ohio University Press, 2007.

Situating the Uyghurs Between China and Central Asia . Han et al, Ashgate, 2007.

Islam in China: Accommodation or Separatism? Dru Gladney, China Quarterly, 2003.

Charting the Course of Uyghur Unrest. Justin Hastings, China Quarterly, 2011.

China Turns West: Beijing’s Contemporary Strategy Towards Central Asia. Kevin Sheives, Pacific Affairs, 2006.

Not being an expert on this issue I obviously don’t claim this to be a definitive list of academic sources, so if there is seminal work not present here let me know on Twitter @jonlsullivan or mail.

The China Studies Twitterati 50

I have an on-going research interest in external engagement in the China Studies field. But I was prompted to compile this list by the more immediate concern of providing some information for my incoming cohort of students, whom I will encourage to start engaging with the huge number of China professionals active on the platform. Looking around on Twitter, I found some excellent lists to help find China correspondents, media and blogs etc (for instance, Josh Chin’s lists). But I couldn’t find a list of China scholars and neither could my followers direct me to one. This piqued my curiosity as to how many China scholars are actually on Twitter, and more importantly, how many are actively using it as a tool for disseminating information related to their research interests. The result is this list, a play on Foreign Policy’s annual Twitterati 100 feature.

If you are interested in reading a more detailed rationale with some background on external engagement in China Studies, I will have another post soon. If you simply want to follow the list on Twitter, it is available here. What follows is an annotated version of the list, on which people are not ranked or ordered (I’ll arrange by field or interests another time). If you’re on this list and I messed up your affiliation or bio let me know.

A very quick word on selection methods. I imposed several criteria: ‘scholars’ had to be currently employed at a University in a research and/or teaching role (this excludes recovering academics, policy analysts at think tanks, and collectives) and to have academic publications on China (and/or Taiwan). Grad students may ultimately form a separate category: here I limit myself to 6 impressive China Studies Grad Students/ABDs to look out for. Tweeting activity had to reach a certain threshold in terms of number of tweets, most recent activity, and number of following/followers. I have focused primarily on Euro/US academics or Euro/US academic institutions. With apologies, I leave a more comprehensive investigation for another day. I conducted the search manually and the list is obviously biased toward people I know. If you know of a more systematic method please tell me. Finally, following me was NOT a criterion for inclusion on this list and I do not include myself on it. Oversights, errors etc let me know @jonlsullivan

China Studies Scholar Twitterati

Jeff Wasserstrom ‏ (@jwassers) a history Professor at UC Irvine, but that doesn’t begin to cover the scope of his activities (which include editing the China section of the LA Review of Books and the flagship Journal of Asian Studies). Writes and tweets frequently on diverse issues relating to China.

Laura Luehrmann (@LauraLuehrmann) is Assistant Professor in Political Science at Wright State. Research and tweets on comparative and Chinese politics and state-society relations.

Johan Lagerkvist ‏ (@Chinaroader) is a Senior Research Fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. Has published extensively about the Chinese internet, with research interests and tweets on Chinese foreign policy and increasingly China-Africa issues.

Min Jiang ‏ (@mindyjiang) is Associate Professor of Communication at UNC-Charlotte. A former editor at CCTV, she researches and tweets on the Chinese internet and media.

Adam Cathcart ‏(@adamcathcart) is a Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Leeds. Strong research interest in North Korea and PRC-DPRK relations. Frequent tweets on the minutiae of North Korean political life. Member of the FP-100.

Sam Geall ‏ (@samgeall) is Lecturer in Human Geography at Oxford and Executive Editor at the environment-focused NGO China Dialogue. Research and tweets primarily on environmental issues in China.

Linda Yueh ‏ (Verified account @lindayueh) is amazing, no other word for it. A card carrying China scholar with affiliations to Oxford and London Business School, and simultaneously the BBC’s Chief Business Correspondent. Research and tweets on Chinese economy, business, finance.

Kerry Brown ‏ (@Bkerrychina) is a Professor and Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. Former head of the Chatham House Asia Program, he is a leading expert and frequent commentator on Chinese politics, particularly elite politics.

Victor Shih ‏ (@vshih2) is a Political Economist at Northwestern. Research and tweets on Chinese politics, the economy and finance.

Andrew Erickson ‏(@andrewserickson) is Associate Professor at the US Naval College. Research and tweets on Chinese security, with a bit of IR and defense analysis.

M. Taylor Fravel ‏ (@fravel) is Associate Professor in International relations at MIT. Research and tweets on Chinese foreign policy and security issues.

Deborah Brautigam ‏ (@D_Brautigam) is Professor at American University. Research and tweets on the engagement between China and Africa.

Michel Hockx ‏ (@mhockx) is Professor of Chinese literature at SOAS, and Director of the SOAS China Institute (Disclosure: Michel will be my boss from Jan 2014). Research and tweets on the sociology of literature, cyberliterature and censorship.

Sam Crane ‏ (@UselessTree) is Professor of Political Science at Williams College. Particular interest in the connection between Chinese politics and ancient philosophy.

Heather Inwood (@heatherinwood) Lecturer in Chinese Studies at Manchester. Teaching, research  and tweets on contemporary Chinese poetry, pop culture and digital media.

Ralph Litzinger (@BeijingNomad) is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Women’s Studies at Duke with interests in environmental issues, urbanization and Tibet.

Gary King (@kinggary) is a world renowned social scientist and Director of IQSS at Harvard. Not a China scholar per se, but has recently published some incredible work on censorship and the Chinese internet. It’s a shame his China grad student co-authors (@mollyeroberts and @jenjpan) don’t tweet much, but I imagine Gary keeps them busy.

Clayton Dube 杜克雷 ‏ (@claydube) is Director of the USC-China Institute and manager of C-Pol (a closed list for China professionals). Research on US-China perceptions and econ/political change.

Dali L. Yang ‏ (@Dali_Yang) is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. Research and tweets on politics and the Chinese economy

Guobin Yang ‏ (@Yangguobin) is Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication at UPenn. Research and tweets on the Chinese internet.

Kate Merkel-Hess (@kmerkelhess) is Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies Penn State. Research interests in modern Chinese history.

Charles Laughlin (@charleslaughlin) is Professor of Modern Chinese Literature at the University of Virginia. Tweets on politics, society and pop culture.

Jeremy Wallace (@jerometenk)  is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Ohio State. Research and tweets on Chinese and authoritarian politics more broadly.

Alex Wang (@greenlawchina) teaches at UCLA School of Law. Research and tweets on China’s environment and energy issues.

Lynette H Ong (@onglynette) is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Research and tweets on China’s political economy.

Donald Clarke ‏ (@donaldcclarke) is Professor at George Washington University Law School. Research and tweets on modern Chinese law.

Gregory Lee 利大英 (@GBLee) is Professor of Chinese and Transcultural Studies at the University of Lyon. Interests in Chinese diaspora and migration.

Jessica Chen Weiss (@jessicacweiss) is Assistant Professor of international relations and Chinese politics at Yale. Research and tweets on Chinese foreign relations, with particular focus on Sino-Japan relations.

Craig Clunas (@CraigClunas) is Professor of the History of Art at Oxford. Research and tweets on Chinese art.

Kerim Friedman (@kerim) is Associate Professor in the Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures at National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan. Research and tweets related to anthropology and film with a focus on Taiwan.

Susan Fernsebner (@sfern) is Associate Professor of Chinese History at the University of Mary Washington. Research and tweets on China’s expos, childhood, and the digital humanities.

John Delury (@JohnDelury) is Assistant Professor of Chinese Studies at Yonsei. Research and tweets on modern Chinese history, plus South and North Korea.

Steven W. Lewis 刘琼毅 (@LiuQiongyi) is a China Fellow at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice. Research and tweets on central/local relations, energy policy and pol comm.

Florian Schneider (@schneiderfa77)  is Lecturer in Chinese Politics at Leiden. Interests in Chinese politics, media, and digital.

Jonathan Mair (@urtnas) is a Lecturer in Religions and Theology at Manchester University. Research interests in social anthropology and, particularly, Buddhism.

Stephen R. Platt (@stephenrplatt) is a professor of modern Chinese history at UMass-Amherst.

Cobus van Staden (@stadenesque) is a post-doc in Political Science and the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch. Research and tweets on East Asian soft power expansion in Africa.

iginio gagliardone (@iginioe) is a Research Fellow in International Communication at Oxford. Research and tweets on the media, African politics and China-Africa relations.

Nick Admussen (@nadmussen)  is Assistant Professor in Asian Studies at Cornell. Research and tweets on contemporary Chinese literature, poetry and Chinese-English translation.

Ketty W. Chen (@HelloKetty1998) is a Visiting Scholar at National Taiwan University. Research and tweets on Taiwanese social movements.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen (@julieyuwenchen) is Lecturer in Government at University College Cork. Research and tweets on cross-Strait issues, Uighur issues, ethnicity and identity.

Timothy S. Rich 芮宗泰 (@timothysrich) Assistant Prof in Political Science at Western Kentucky. Research and tweets on East Asian politics and elections, with special interest in Taiwan.

ann lee ‏ @AnnLeesays is currently Adjunct Professor of Economics and Finance at NYU. Focus on the Chinese economy, business and finance.

James Wicks (@jawicks75) is Associate Professor of Literature and Film Studies at Point Loma Nazarene University in California. Research and tweets on transnational film and pop culture in Chinese, Taiwanese and comparative contexts.

*Please note that James Wicks was on the original Twitter list, but due to a transcription error I omitted him from the original post. James has graciously forgiven me!

Bonus: 6 China Studies Grad Students/ABD to look for.

Leta Hong Fincher (@LetaHong) is currently ABD at Tsinghua. Research interests (and an international profile) in gender issues in China.

Andrew Chubb (@zhubochubo) is a PhD student at the University of Western Australia. Focus on the South China Sea, Chinese nationalism and foreign policy.

Maria Repnikova (@MariaRepnikova) is currently wrapping up her dissertation at Oxford prior to taking on a post-doc in the US. Research on media and governance in China, with subsidiary interests on Russia.

Dan Garrett (@DanGarrett97) is a PhD student at City University of HK. Interests in Chinese cyberspace, cyber security and all matters digital.

Maura Cunningham (@mauracunningham) is a PhD student in Chinese history at Irvine. Research and tweets on Chinese society, literature, women etc.

Michal Thim (@michalthim) is Steve Tsang’s PhD student at the China Policy Institute at Nottingham. Research and tweets on Taiwanese politics and security issues.

If you have any comments, corrections, suggested additions etc, get in touch @jonlsullivan. (I’m aware the list doesn’t quite add up to 50!)

Between China and Taiwan: Not Only Politics and Economics

This is a guest post by my colleague Chun-yi Lee, who edited a fantastic special issue in China Information to which I contributed this paper with Eliyahu V. Sapir. 

In the past, when we have referred to scholarly works on cross-Strait relations, the most common topics have been the strategic triangular relationship among the United States, Taiwan and China from an International Relations perspective; the security question, both from military and economic perspectives; and certainly, trade or investment across the Strait or in greater China. In other words, the outputs of scholarly works have been mainly focused on political or economic fields, most of them adapting a grand structural analytical framework.  However, we have noticed that the focus of much scholarly work has changed. More researchers focus not only on politics or economics, apply not only structural or policy analysis, but focus more on people-to-people interaction between Taiwan and China. In other words, we have started to see ‘people’ in the studies of cross-Strait relations, not only policy papers or investment figures.

Research on Taiwanese business people (Taishang) showed the earliest interest in ‘people’ in cross-Strait research. From soon after the lifting of martial law in 1987, many Taiwanese people started to use the excuse of ‘visiting relatives’ to set up businesses in China. However, until December 15, 2008, when President Ma Ying-Jeou lifted the prohibition on three direct links (by trade, mail and air) between mainland China and Taiwan, the Taishang had to invest in China through a third area/country. Opening the three direct links also meant that people who live in mainland China could visit Taiwan, initially with tourist groups. Gradually the immigration agency in Taiwan also relaxed the restrictions on Chinese citizens from certain cities to visit Taiwan individually, which means those citizens can visit Taiwan at their own convenience; they don’t need to register as a group with travel agencies.

How have those changes affected cross-Strait relations? More civic contacts mean that Taiwanese and Chinese people understand each other more from real life, not just from governmental propaganda or imagination. Consequently, more interesting research topics in cross-Strait studies emerged. The original motivation for this issue (Special Issue on Changing cross-Strait Relations, China Information March 2013 27(1)), to call for contributions from different perspectives on cross-Strait relationship studies, arose because we have witnessed a change in the nature of the cross-Strait relationship. It is time to refresh our understanding of that relationship. The macro-structural analysis of the cross-Strait relationship will continue to play an important role; however, more attention should be given to cross-Strait people-to-people interaction. This issue includes five cutting-edge research papers. Two of them are from a macro perspective or ‘top-down’ approach, one focusing on Taiwan’s domestic policy towards China, while the other one discusses the strategic triangular relationship involving the US, China and Taiwan. Jonathan Sullivan and Eliyahu V. Sapir’s paper focuses on the changing impact of Taiwan’s domestic politics on her mainland policies. They compare three presidential terms, namely Chen Shui-bian’s two terms from 2000 to 2004 and 2004 to 2008 and Ma Ying-jeou’s first term from 2008 to 2012.  Based on different questions raised by both Presidents Chen and Ma at different times during their reigns, their paper provides a thorough and systematic analysis of the differences in discourse context throughout three presidential terms from 2000 to 2012. One interesting and important factor that they mention at the end of their paper is the strategic implication of presidents’ public speeches. They use the example that the interpretation of ‘sovereignty’ used by Chen when addressing overseas audiences is very different than his approach in front of domestic audiences. They conclude that it is important for Taiwan’s leaders to target the specific audience with strategic purpose. Richard Weixing Hu’s paper analyses the cross-Strait relationship under an international structure, though Hu argues in his paper that China has been all the time seeking to ‘de-internationalise’ the cross-Strait relationship. Hu points out that Washington is a significant player across the Strait, but her role is delicate. According to Hu, America has to find a better niche in the currently peaceful cross-Strait relationship; he also argues that though that relationship presently seems to be harmonious, the dynamics of domestic power alternation in Taiwan will possibly disturb the cross-Strait détente and thus unbalance the triangular USA–China–Taiwan relationship.

The other three papers take a ‘bottom-up’ approach, to discuss Taiwanese people’s interaction across the Strait in business affairs and in their daily life. Taishang Taishang are certainly the main actors across the Strait. Gunter Schubert presents the importance of the Taishang as the ‘linkage community’, who play a significant role in the cross-Strait relationship. Schubert indicates clearly that though there is some existing research into the influence of Taishang on Chinese politics at local level, up to date there has not a systematic study of Taishang influence on Taiwan’s high-level politics. However, cross-Strait civic interactions have not only involved economic activities. André Laliberté analyses the cross-Strait relationship from a refreshing angle, from the perspective of religion and culture, using the Tzu Chi Buddhist foundation as the entry point. In China, religion has always been a sensitive topic; however, Tzu Chi as a Buddhist foundation was accepted by the Chinese authorities in March 2008. In this paper, André explains how Tzu Chi has influenced Chinese society, as a concrete case of Joseph Nye’s ‘soft power’ concept. He also raises the possibility that the benevolence embodied by Taiwanese volunteers in China could change perceptions in cross-Strait relations. Not focusing on cross-Strait economic and political confrontation or competition, Laliberté argues that in a way China perhaps can learn from Taiwan’s experiences, to use religious charity foundations to provide social services. The final paper of this issue is from Pin Lin, who takes a sociological and anthropological look at a group which has often been overlooked: Taiwanese female migrants to China. Tracing a group of Taiwanese female migrants’ daily experiences in China from 2004 to 2005 and then 2008 to 2010, Lin presents the gap between expectation (before migrating to China) and reality (after settling down in China); his results show this group of Taiwanese women finding it difficult to mingle with Chinese society. From his respondents, Lin argues that those Taiwanese women in China are like ‘birds in golden cage’, are isolated and alien to the Chinese society.

The impact across the Strait is bilateral, both from Taiwan to China and from China to Taiwan. It also has multiple strands, combining political, economic, and sociological aspects. We believe that these papers present a balanced combination of macro and micro research in cross-Strait studies. More importantly, this issue presents an updated dynamic in the field.

CPI Blog special issue on the NPC/NPPCC 两会

From March 5th China’s legislature (the almost 3000-strong National People’s Congress) will meet to pass legislation on the policy directions established by the Party at its Congress held in November last year. Although the NPC is not an autonomous body, indeed it is largely constituted by Party members and takes its lead from the Party Congress, the plenary meeting is an important part of the legislative mechanism. Furthermore, as the Party and state transition to a new leadership, the two meetings take on added significance as a valuable source of information on the direction the country will take under Xi Jinping. To decipher the political details and strategic subtexts, and to provide a broader perspective on the leadership transition and the prospects for reform in various policy sectors, the CPI Blog which I Edit has assembled a cast of renowned China scholars. You can find the blog here.

The confirmed line-up includes:

Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at Oxford University.

Jun Zhang, Professor of Economics at Fudan University and Director of the China Center for Economic Studies.

Allen Carlson, Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Cornell University.

Linda Yueh, Fellow in Economics at Oxford University, Professor of Economics at London Business School and incoming Chief Business Correspondent at the BBC.

Lowell Dittmer, Professor in the Department of Political Science at UC Berkeley.

David S G Goodman, Professor of Chinese Politics and Academic Director of the China Centre at the University of Sydney.

Willy Lo Lap Lam, former CNN correspondent and Professor of China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Shaun Breslin, Professor at Warwick University, Associate Fellow at Chatham House and an editor of The Pacific Review.

Shujie Yao, Professor of Economics and Head of SCCS at the University of Nottingham.

Kerry Brown, Professor and Executive Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, and former Head of Chatham House Asia Programme.

Andrew Wedeman, Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University.

Zhengxu Wang, Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham.

Steve Tsang, Professor of Contemporary China and Director of the China Policy Institute.

CPI China-Japan special issue

Dr Jonathan Sullivan, School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham

China Policy Institute Blog: Call for contributions*

The maritime disputes over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islets now threaten to cause significant damage to the very important relationship between China and Japan, with Taiwan being dragged into it.  With Xi Jinping taking a more nationalist stance generally than his predecessor and Shinzo Abe expected to defend Japan’s interests more robustly than his DPJ predecessor, whether the new leaders of these two countries will find a way to move forward without giving away too much is a crucial issue for regional stability and for sustaining economic complementarity.

Since Xi took over the leadership of the Communist Party, the Chinese side has tried to put into effect a change of the realities on the ground, which is to challenge the Japanese position that it exercises undisputed sovereign authority over the islets.  How far will Xi be prepared to go to force Japan to acknowledge that a dispute exists?

On the Tokyo side, the ‘right-wing’ background that Prime Minister Abe enjoys gives him more scope to reach out to Beijing without appearing weak.  But does he have the intention, political will and the scope to reach an understanding with Xi to find a way to keep the dispute under control and avoid wider ramifications for the economic and other relations between the two countries?

Taiwan needs to avoid in its handling of the disputes from being interpreted in Beijing as “going its own way”. Taipei must also avoid antagonising Tokyo and making Japan unsympathetic to Taiwan over long-term cross-Strait relations. How much scope is there for Taiwan to avoid entanglement without giving up the ROC’s own sovereignty claim?

How far will the USA, which is not a party to the dispute but is being looked to by all disputants to play a positive role from their respective conflicting perspectives, be willing and able to play a constructive role?

The special issue of the CPI blog on this subject hope to bring in insights and perspectives from specialists who are able to shed light on the complexities of the issues concerned from multiple perspectives.

*Analytical contributions of ~1000 words addressing any of the above or related issues are welcome to jonathan.sullivan@nottingham.ac.uk. The deadline for submissions is Feb 17th and the special issue will run soon thereafter.

CPI blog makeover

From February 18th I will be taking over the Editorship of the China Policy Institute blog. As part of the makeover I will be introducing regular weekly columns and periodic ‘special issues’. I am currently collecting expressions of interest for these and other features shown below. Traditionally academics have been the main contributors to the CPI blog, and I expect this to continue. However, in addition to inviting academics to contribute, I am keen for other voices to be represented. So media and policy folk, NGO-ers, bloggers, students please do get in touch.

University of Nottingham, China Policy Institute Blog-Jonathan Sullivan, Editor.

  1. Regular Columns (once a week):

Research Digest-review of new & recent academic publications (books/articles/policy papers)

This week in China-summary & brief analysis of key events in and related to China

Taiwan Notes– analysis of events in Taiwan

2. Special Issues (variable frequency-minimum once a month)

‘Special Issues’ will run for one week with multiple posts centred around a common topic area or theme. The following are slated to run in the next couple of months:

China-Japan relations; Xi’s challenges; Taiwan one year after Ma Ying-jeou’s re-election; Weibo politics; South China Sea territorial disputes

3. Emergency Response

The CPI blog aims to publish timely pieces in response to emerging events and stories coming out of China. Please contact me if and when events occur that are within your interests and you could write a short commentary/analysis piece.

4. Unplanned posts

You are welcome, indeed encouraged, to submit pieces at any time on any topic as long as it pertains to China and is within our remit to provide analysis and commentary.

Writing for the CPI blog is EASY—simply write 500-1000 words in a Word document and send to me by email. I will do the rest—including publicizing your post among the media and online.

The audience for the CPI blog is journalists, policymakers, fellow academics and the generally interested public. Posts should therefore be written in accessible language and include links to other sources online, such as media articles, YouTube videos etc. (simply paste the link into your Word document and I will embed it for you). Please consult previous posts on the CPI blog to see what kind of material is being published http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/chinapolicyinstitute/.

Ideas or queries, just mail me jonlsullivan at gmail

Coming down the line

A couple of exciting new ventures to announce. First, I am taking over the China Policy Institute blog from Feb 18, and will kick off with week long special issue on China-Japan relations. Have some heavyweight contributors lined up. Second, I am launching a new China blog that will focus on research, teaching and learning, outreach, fieldwork, data and methods, student related stuff etc. that is going to launch in mid-late Feb. If you study China there will be something for you in these two blogs. Finally, I’m really delighted to note that Bill Bishop (@niub) has joined the China Policy Institute as a Senior Fellow. It is a great addition and we’re working on how best to exploit his analytical skills and knowledge of all things China.

Moving to Nottingham

Hi everybody, please note that from December 1st 2012 I will be moving to the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, as Associate Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies. There will be a lot of initiatives coming up as a consequence of this new role, and I will keep you posted here, on Twitter etc. I am very grateful to colleagues in the Dept of Politics and IR at the University of Southampton, for all their support during my time there.

Jon