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Showing posts for "Elizabeth C. Economy"

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 »

“In Line Behind a Billion People”: Fun, Fast, and Fact-filled

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Examinees walk into the entrance of a classroom building to take part in a three-day entrance exam for postgraduate studies, at Anhui University, in Hefei, Anhui province on January 5, 2013 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). Examinees walk into the entrance of a classroom building to take part in a three-day entrance exam for postgraduate studies, at Anhui University, in Hefei, Anhui province on January 5, 2013 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

What do we still not know about China? A never-ending stream of books explores every issue, every relationship, and every period of Chinese history. Newspaper articles report breathlessly on the same topics year after year—until we can practically predict when the articles reporting that Chinese wind farms are taking over the world will segue into those decrying the almost near-criminal level of overcapacity in wind power. So when a new China book appears on the scene, it is worth asking what, if anything, it contributes to our overall state of knowledge of China? Damien Ma’s and William Adams’ In Line Behind a Billion People does what many books attempt but few successfully accomplish: provide an eminently readable, even entertaining, guide to what is going on in China today. Read more »

Why Not Biden?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Vice President Joe Biden (L) order from the menu at a sandwich shop near the White House in Washington on October 4, 2013 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Vice President Joe Biden (L) order from the menu at a sandwich shop near the White House in Washington on October 4, 2013 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

Let’s be clear. Anyone who thinks that President Obama could leave Washington, DC, to travel to Asia for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and the East Asia Summit (EAS) in the midst of a virtual collapse of the U.S. government doesn’t understand the U.S. political system. The president would have been skewered—by the media, by the Republicans, and in private, by his own party. But why not send Vice President Biden? Read more »

China and Southeast Asia: Take Three

by Elizabeth C. Economy
China's Premier Li Keqiang, flanked by President of Myanmar Thein Sein (L) and Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, sows the "seed of hope" during the opening ceremony of the 10th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region, on September 3, 2013 (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters). China's Premier Li Keqiang, flanked by President of Myanmar Thein Sein (L) and Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, sows the "seed of hope" during the opening ceremony of the 10th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region, on September 3, 2013 (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters).

Most of the attention paid to China these days focuses on Beijing’s efforts to change things on the home front. Targeted arrests of officials on grounds of corruption, a crackdown on prominent Internet and human rights activists, and the establishment of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone are just some of the many policy (re)innovations that Xi Jinping and his team are advancing. Yet pieces are also in play on the foreign policy front, suggesting that China may be entering a new phase in its regional diplomacy. Read more »