English: Profile image of Hu Shuli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mark Leonard, et. al.
The European Council on Foreign Relations
Those of us watching the goings-on in Chinese politics have been treated to the non-fiction equivalent of a byzantine soap opera over the past two years. The unexpectedly turbulent generational leadership transition has given us opportunity to speculate ad nauseum about who was going to get what seat, a debate doubly invigorated by the drama surrounding Bo Xilai‘s metoric rise and fall.
But the seats are filling, the slate of leaders is falling into place, and our attention turns from personalities to policies. What, exactly, are those leaders going to be doing for the next ten years?
President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have begun to lay out their policy priorities, but there are few surprises or insights to be gleaned from public positions. Of far greater interest are the debates taking place within government and the nation’s intelligentsia over the path to take in the future. As James McGregor summarizes in his recent book No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers, for the first time in generations the path forward for China is unclear, there are contending schools of thought at the top of the Party organization, and China lives under the threat of indecision and paralysis in Beijing.
Which is why this slim volume, edited by Mark Leonard, c0-founder and director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, is such a valuable survey. Rather than focusing on the dramatics, Leonard’s line up of scholars and observers (including Caixing’s Hu Shuli and blogger Michael Anti) focus on how the debates around finding that way forward are playing out.
In the course of a dozen pithy essays we are treated to a glimpse of how the nation’s leaders are thinking about the future of domestic politics, the economy, foreign policy, and the search for models from which China can glean its own pathway to the future. Most of us will never get a chance to sit in the halls where these decisions are being made, but in China 3.0 Leonard and the ECFR have given us a chance to sit outside the door and listen at the keyhole, all while being treated to the perspectives of 17 of China’s own most astute observers.
Kay King from the Council on Foreign Relations looks at the effect of Congressional gridlock on foreign and national security policy in this quick read from the CFR. New media and the longer election cycles have placed a higher political premium on pithy sound bytes and have eroded reflective debate. Fixing the problems won’t be easy, but King has some recommendations on where to start.
I know it sounds technical and esoteric, but this dissertation by Ying Liu at the RAND Graduate School is worth reading even if you just want to read the last essay. In that piece, Liu examines the state of China’s drug safety regime in the wake of the scandals between 2006 and 2008 that led to the sacking of China’s senior pharmaceutical regulator. The author looks at what has been fixed – and what has not – since China’s drug safety last made global headlines, providing a subtle warning about the problems that may yet come from that sector.
A short e-book describing how the U.S. government’s eclectic California think tank serves the purposes of the government and Congress. Fascinating stuff, especially since RAND has evolved far beyond its work for the U.S. Air Force.
This pdf book examines how America’s public health bureaucracy needs to address changes in the challenges it faces. Challenges change faster than organizations, and this blue-ribbon panel noted that America’s health ministry needed a new look and feel.
One can only wonder if medical bureaucrats elsewhere in the world are conducting any kind of penetrating self-examination.
In the face of an increasingly radicalized polity at home, there is something strangely ironic about the idea of the United States government thinking through the process of how to deradicalize extremists. And I have to confess that my latent libertarian (note the small “L”) is a bit discomfited with the idea of the US Government attempting to change the way anyone thinks.
But this RAND monograph by Angel Rabasa, Stacie Pettyjohn, Jeremy Ghez, and Christopher Boucek asks some pointed and challenging questions about the de-radicalization process, whether it is a valid approach, and what the fundamentals of a wise and effective effort might look like.
Among other things, the authors recognize that Islam is not a culture, and that radicals themselves are the products of their own home cultures. They argue that the de-radicalization process is going to differ from country to country and in some cases from individual to individual.
A fascinating read.
This pdf book draws an empirical line between good government relations and bad. The conclusions – that lobbying is better than bribery when one has the choice – are not prima facie surprising. The power of this publication comes from the data that support the conclusion.
This is an absolute must-read for any company crafting its government relations in the developing world and emerging markets, including China, and for any public affairs specialists at public relations firms.
A RAND opinion paper calling on Obama to cut the role of contractors in government. Contractors per se are not a bad thing, suggests this report, but when you start replacing core government functions with outsiders you not only lose something, you frequently wind up paying private sector rates for people who before had been happy taking government compensation.
I’m no fan of oversized bureaucracies, but I think our debate about government has become far too focused on size, and not focused enough on efficacy. While RAND to a certain extent has skin in this game, their point of view is less politicized than what is popularly discussed.
This is a question that over the longer term will occupy the governments of China and India as well. Both have long-standing traditions of bloated, multilevel bureaucracies that develop lives and power bases of their own, and will at some point need models to help them “right-size” and make more effective their legions of apparatchiks.
A very worthwhile RAND pdf book on a surprisingly under-discussed topic. Here we are, three decades into reforming and opening, with sustained high levels of foreign direct investment in Chinese enterprises, a growing cohort of Chinese companies listing on global stock exchanges, and we still are not probing the latent issues in corporate governance in Chinese companies.
That oversight will come back to bite investors at some point, and will have effects that reach far beyond Wall Street. One need only look at the recent food quality scandals and the way they were handled to see why.