I will be in and out throughout the morning. Three questions that I am interested in, but feel free to weigh in with anything: What is the logical conclusion for the push for accountability for China and an independent investigation of the start of the virus?;
Best three books: (1) Lucian Pye the Spirit of Chinese Politics. This one is older and not high on most modern reading lists, but it explores the dislocations of the Cultural Revolution and the changes in Chinese politics in light of modernization. There is also an exploration of the consensus vs. conflict in Chinese elite politics. (2) Cheng Li's Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era: Reassessing Collective Leadership. I find myself going back to this one over and over to look at the evolution of collective leadership and political succession in China. It also quantifies advancement for senior Chinese leaders, which I found fascinating. (3) Richard McGregor's The Party is excellent as a starting point, of course.
3. Books. It was recommended in a previous thread to read Wealth and Power by Orville Schell and John Delury. I just finished it and strongly recommend reading the book. I work for a Chinese State owned company as a foreign expert and understand the blend of old traditional Chinese culture based on harmony and today's strive for respect and stability, explains many situations and helps at least me to better interpret discussions and decisions.
really glad you commented on Kim. Even today's Economist has him missing. (headline only)
will be interested in comments about question 1.
Loving the book recommendations! Three books I would throw out in to the mix (and would be happy to hear if people thought there were weaknesses in them):
- Richard McGregor's "The Party" because it provides such a rich and engaging examination of how the CCP is structured and operates in the modern age.
- John Pomfret's "Chinese Lessons" because it provides such an unguarded look at everyday Chinese people and their relationship to the Party.
- Simon Leys' "Chinese Shadows" because it exposes what lies at the heart of the Party.
I'll add a fourth only because I think it is important to know it exists. Laszlo Ladany's "The Communist Party of China and Marxism 1912-1985" should be read by all China Hands as it is about as thorough a read you'll find on the CCP's history. It wouldn't make my top three because it is a bit dry but for an institution like the CCP, that uses and places high value on its history, it is important that we know it just as well. Ladany's Ten Commandments for observing China's political system should be in all of our pockets at all times..."Above all, read the small print!"
I am also cognizant that all of the above, while superb, are written by Western authors...does anybody have any book recommendations on this subject from Chinese writers?
Rod MacFarquhar's Origins of the Cultural Revolution - shows the political nuances of the PRC in totalitarian leadership mode.
As for reparations, I think negligence on our (American) part turns calculating a number into it a fool's errand, even if it is unbalanced in the PRC's favor. I do believe, however, that Beijing suppressed vital information at every phase, probably at least since mid-December, in a fashion I can only describe as criminal, which is entirely in keeping with Xi Jinping's genocidal conduct.
So while I think reparations are valid topic, it's more important now to halt the criminal behavior than to seek reparations. As such, all options must be on the table, including doing something with treasury bonds. The fundamental question is, "How can we continue normal commerce with a genocidal power?"
Of course we cannot, although it may be difficult to cut off the massive amount of reward we are presently heaping on Beijing in exchange for intolerable behavior. Trump has been far too hesitant to cut this off, but also lacked refinement in doing so. It's a question of focusing the pain where it is most likely to do the most good. It also requires a steady - but by no means slow - ramp up of pressure.
With treasuries and other assets, I would recommend broadly targeted freezes of assets to be held in trust for the Chinese people until such a time as a government willing to cease criminal activities comes into power. For American currency and investments, I would simply recommend reciprocity for PRC entities - it doesn't leave the country until American assets can leave China freely.
The PRC is moving into a war footing against the rest of the world, probably out of fear. The mild correctives I'm suggesting would be a positive first step in preventing the worst.
Anything by Simon Leys.
Make the enquiry not about China but about what can be learned from all the missteps by all the major governments. Making it about shifting the blame and scapegoating is totally immoral and ultimately self-defeating, as there is no proper and credible way of doing it, let alone enforcing it.
Making mad demands and not getting them would simply make one look weak, strengthen chicom domestically and eventually internationally.
The book recommendations have been excellent and I only want to add one more — Louisa Lim's "The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited" for its excellent and multifaceted view of individual stories in the aftermath of 1989.
Don't forget John Pomfret's The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present. It historical approach to U.S.-China relations sets us up for today's fraught relationship.
Recommend Frank Dikotter's trilogy, "Tragedy of Liberation", "Mao's Great Famine", and "The Cultural Revolution". I think many China watchers are dazzled by China's post 1980 transformation and forget how much the Cultural Revolution, in particular, still looms large in the collective psyche of Chinese people as an unresolved trauma. For something more recent I recommend Minzner's "End of an Era", which I haven't read since around the time it came out but is probably eerily accurate in its predictions.
My thoughts run quite dark on the accountability push, as the science seems pretty clear on the fact that this was a natural emergence but few seem to care. Both sides of the debate over whether China is at fault have enough evidence to sound plausible -- "blame China" types can point to delays in the initial response, those more sympathetic to the PRC efforts can highlight how long Beijing managed to keep the virus contained in China, and there will never be a fully independent investigation to resolve any of this. Basically, I think China hawks and the PRC both have more ammunition to deepen existing grievances, and I don't see many ways for that to end well. Perhaps the best-case scenario I can currently see is that the nasty xenophobia and rhetoric recede slightly once the crisis is over, and China and the US emerge into a mostly stable pattern of mutual dislike and competition.
I do not expect this virus to be the last to emerge from China (or elsewhere for that matter) and as such the world has considerable need to understand where it came from and what gave it rise. In the same way that the world needs to understand how to react so as not to destroy the economy.
The Wuhan lab might have been lax in its procedures, but a natural evolution seems more likely. A scientific understanding of the origin and spread is in the interest of us all.
Books: Qiu Xiaolong's Inspector Chen series. The first, "Death of a Red Heroine" is a bit rough on the English but provides insight into the early stages of post-GPCR opening. Following the series shows the interplay between Party and economy. Also, more fun than some of the heavier poli sci and history works.
Philip Pan's "Out of Mao's Shadow" is an insightful picture into 1990s China on the cusp of the take off in the 2000s.
A couple of books that I’d put in a category with “The Party” - at least for me, are:
1) “China’s Quest” by John Garver — which, while an excellent overview of Chinese foreign policy, also provides the kind of big picture analysis that has been useful to me as I develop my own intellectual framework about China.
2) “China’s Dream” by Kerry Brown, also explores the growth of nationalism, the return of Confucianism, and the concept of Deep China, which he calls the “terrain of the real new cultural revolution.”
3) François Bougon’s “Inside the Mind of Xi Jinping” is a very fast read, but I was slowed by all my note taking. I thought it an excellent book.
On literature: I currently read Kishore Mabhubani's "Has China won?" His analysis is spot-on, however, his recommendations are very Singaporean-pragmatic and disregard the strong emphasis on ideology in Xi's self-declared new era.
The West has completely unlearned, how to deal with an opposition that is deeply rooted in ideology. Therefore, I warmly recommend reading Karl Marx's "Communist Manifest" and "Works" collection of Leon Trotsky writings - the latter being painful reading. Even more painful, some of the collection of Xi Jin Ping's important speeches (implies there were trivial ones...) are worth reading, too, just to get up to speed.
"How Asia works" by Joe Studwell I would also recommend.
The presentation series of Prof. John Mearsheimer "Can China rise peacefully?" is worth consideration.
3. Love the recs, but wanted to offer up some lighter, "beach reads" I've enjoyed over the years:
"Brave Dragons" by Jim Yardley (ex-NBA coach moves to Shanxi to coach)
"Midnight in Peking" by Paul French (An Agatha Christie set in 1937 Beijing)
"River Town" by Peter Hessler (first book I ever read on China, a classic)