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Showing posts for "Elizabeth C. Economy"

Michelle Obama’s China Choice: Public Diplomacy vs. Politics

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (L) participates in a language class with teacher Crystal Chen for pre-school students at the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School ahead of her upcoming trip to China, in Washington on March 4, 2014. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (L) participates in a language class with teacher Crystal Chen for pre-school students at the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School ahead of her upcoming trip to China, in Washington on March 4, 2014. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

Public diplomacy matters, but it is no substitute for policy. As First Lady Michelle Obama prepares to travel to China, she should consider weaving some policy into what appears to be almost entirely a week-long public diplomacy push. With her mother and two daughters in tow, the first lady will be visiting educational institutions and historical sites and discussing education in the United States and China. As media have reported, Mrs. Obama will “talk to young people about the power of education to help them achieve their aspirations,” speak with them about their lives, and tell them “about America and the values we hold dear.” Read more »

China’s Soft “Nyet” to Russia’s Ukraine Intervention

by Elizabeth C. Economy
China's President Xi Jinping ( C) and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich inspect honour guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 5, 2013. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) China's President Xi Jinping ( C) and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich inspect honour guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 5, 2013. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series on the implications for Asia of the crisis in Ukraine. See related posts from my colleagues Alyssa Ayres and Sheila Smith.

Russia’s de facto assertion of military control in Ukraine’s Crimean region has put China in a bind. Moscow’s actions fly in the face of one of China’s longest held tenets of foreign policy: “no interference in the internal affairs of others.” Yet China is loathe to criticize publicly one of the few countries that never criticizes it. So what is Beijing to do?

Read more »

Getting at the Heart of China’s Resource Quest

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A worker works at the Lauzoua manganese mine, supported by investment from the China National Geological and Mining Corporation, in the Ivory Coast on December 4, 2013. (Theirry Gouegnon/Courtesy Reuters) A worker works at the Lauzoua manganese mine, which is supported by investment from the China National Geological and Mining Corporation, in the Ivory Coast on December 4, 2013. (Theirry Gouegnon/Courtesy Reuters)

It all begins with courtship. The Chinese president arrives in the resource-rich country to woo the local leader with a large entourage of government and state-owned enterprise officials, bearing gifts of trade, aid, and investment. Love—or at least great friendship—is in the air, and a match is made. As Carly Simon says, “Nobody Does It better.” Read more »

The Political Plight of China’s Wealthy

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Visitors look around Rolls-Royce's vintage car during the Rolls-Royce's Concours d'Elegance event for celebrating its ten years of business in China on June 28, 2013. (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters) Visitors look around Rolls-Royce's vintage car during the Rolls-Royce's Concours d'Elegance event for celebrating its ten years of business in China on June 28, 2013. (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Technically, the news that many rich people in China have personal ties to China’s top leaders is not really news anymore. Nor is it news that many rich Chinese have placed their assets in offshore accounts or even that many rich people in China get that way through peddling influence or corruption. After all, the top fifty members of China’s National People’s Congress boast a combined wealth of $94.7 billion, making their American congressional cousins across the Pacific—whose top fifty members are worth only $1.6 billion—look positively poverty stricken. The link between politics and money in China is well-established. Read more »

China’s Unprecedented Political Reforms

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A man breaks the window of a police van with a wooden plank during a protest in Yuyao, Zhejiang province, on October 11, 2013. (Young/Courtesy Reuters) A man breaks the window of a police van with a wooden plank during a protest in Yuyao, Zhejiang province, on October 11, 2013. (Young/Courtesy Reuters)

I was heartened last week to read a piece in Foreign Affairs by Eric Li, a Chinese venture capitalist and political commentator, in which he asserts that “unprecedented” political reforms are underway in China [registration required]. Somehow I had missed them, mistakenly thinking that President Xi Jinping was tightening political control rather than offering greater opportunities for political participation. Read more »

China’s Incomparable Environmental Challenge

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A van carrying air sampling equipment drives through Los Angeles as part of the Los Angeles Reactive Pollutant Program in September 1973. (Gene Daniels/NARA/Wikimedia Commons) A van carrying air sampling equipment drives through Los Angeles as part of the Los Angeles Reactive Pollutant Program in September 1973. (Gene Daniels/NARA/Wikimedia Commons)

It is tempting to write-off China’s environmental situation as simply a moment in time. The imperative of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty while managing the economic demands of a burgeoning middle class is bound to take a toll on any country’s environment. Many commentators see China as now reaching the inflection point attained by the United States in the 1960s and 70s, where rising incomes, citizen awareness, and government priorities combined to produce a shift in how Americans understood the relationship between development and the environment. Read more »

Joe Biden: The Bull in the China Shop

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (C) and U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke (2nd L) meet visa applicants at the U.S. Embassy Consular Section in Beijing on December 4, 2013. (Ng Han Guan/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (C) and U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke (2nd L) meet visa applicants at the U.S. Embassy Consular Section in Beijing on December 4, 2013. (Ng Han Guan/Courtesy Reuters)

In the midst of an already diplomatically challenging trip to Japan, China, and South Korea, U.S. vice president Joe Biden managed to make life just that much more difficult for himself. The vice president had a number of thorny issues already on his agenda, such as advancing the cause of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, discussing how to make progress on North Korea, trying to get Japan and South Korea on the same page, and most importantly, trying to persuade Beijing to step back and renounce its establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that overlapped with the pre-established ADIZs of South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan or at the very least, to avoid declaring any new ADIZs. Read more »

Washington Rediscovers Asia

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) during their bilateral meeting in Singapore on July 26, 2013 (Tim Chong/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) during their bilateral meeting in Singapore on July 26, 2013 (Tim Chong/Courtesy Reuters).

Let’s face it. Since the departures of National Security Advisor Donilon and Secretary of State Clinton, anyone interested in Asia—whether in the United States or in the region—has been fretting. The new team seemed disinterested at best, inexpert at worst. Yet over the past few weeks, administration officials have unleashed a barrage of Asia-related speeches, commentaries, and initiatives that should reassure all concerned that the region will remain a centerpiece of the new foreign policy team’s agenda. Read more »

The Real Challenge for China’s Third Plenum

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A security guard stands at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 7, 2013 (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters). A security guard stands at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 7, 2013 (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters).

A version of this post originally appeared in the Economic Times and can be found here.

Anticipation is high as China approaches the third plenum of the 18th Party Congress, scheduled to take place on November 9-12. Why the excitement? Read more »

China’s Xinjiang Problem

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A child looks out from a door as a Uighur woman walks by in a residential area in Turpan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on October 31, 2013 (Michael Martina/Courtesy Reuters). A child looks out from a door as a Uighur woman walks by in a residential area in Turpan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on October 31, 2013 (Michael Martina/Courtesy Reuters).

This post first appeared on CNN’s GPS blog and can be found here.

In the aftermath of an apparent suicide attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on October 27 that injured dozens of people and killed five (including three involved in the attack), Chinese authorities moved quickly to label the incident terrorism and to arrest a handful of suspects who reportedly helped plot the attack. In the process, word leaked out that those involved were from Xinjiang, a Muslim-dominated region in the far northwest of China. For decades, Xinjiang, itself, has been the site of often-violent ethnic strife between the Muslim Uyghur majority and the Han Chinese minority. Uyghur discontent, however, has rarely spilled over into other parts of China. Now, Chinese authorities are claiming that Uyghur extremists have, for the first time, taken their cause to Beijing. Read more »