Chatham House on the Xi Administration

 

Xi Jinping - Caricature

Xi Jinping – Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

“The New Leadership in Beijing: Political and Economic Implications”
Kerry Brown
Chatham House
July 2013

If you have grown tired of reading analyses of Xi Jinping and his leadership program, you are not alone. The tea-leaf readers have been out in force this year, and anyone coming to the party at this point is somewhat late. But if you really care about what is going on in China, you are left with little choice but to keep reading. I do. Not necessarily because I expect a revelation with each new document, but because the better ones sharpen the definition of an incredibly fuzzy picture.

Many of my fellow China Condors and I are hoping to get some clarity about the next ten years following the coming plenum of the Party congress. The leaders have been chosen, the theory goes, and now it is time to lay out the policy platform that will guide the country over the next decade. There is much wishful thinking here: none of us are betting that we are going to be any clearer about the new leadership’s priorities then than we are now.

So we keep scouring the literature, and Kerry Brown’s paper is delightful in its brevity and clarity. Of all of his conclusions, the one that is likely to spark the most controversy (see the Eurasia Review link below) is this:

This is a leadership set up therefore for a domestic agenda and that will resist attempts to pull it more deeply into international affairs, which are seen as lying beyond what the elite define as in China’s national interests (preservation of stability, building up economic strength, safeguarding sovereignty), despite the very real pressures that will be put on it to that effect.

Comforting words, if true, particularly to China’s neighbors. Japan and the Philippines in particular are understandably worried about Chinese adventurism. Yet there is a limit implicit in Brown’s statement. The moment that China’s elite define the national interest as a plunge into international affairs – perhaps as a palliative to a restive populace, or in defense of the threatened assets of national enterprises – all bets are off.

A great read, and if you have read nothing else about the new leadership, Brown’s paper is an excellent précis of a vast and growing corpus of analysis.

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On the Rack: China Brief

English: Gordon G. Chang 中文: 章家敦

English: Gordon G. Chang 中文: 章家敦 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China Brief
The Jamestown Foundation

Of all of the free publications circulating about China, the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief has frustrated me the most – but in a good way.

Let me explain.

When I first started reading China Brief, I was struck by the number of authors who were unrepentant Panda Punchers, people like Gordon Chang (pictured) who seemed more interested in foisting a negative perspective on the PRC than on adding insight to the debate.

There is still some of that, as Chang remains a contributor and Willy Lam is a columnist. Under the editorship of Peter Mattis, who comes out of the National Bureau of Asian Research and the U.S. Government, the publication has become less shrill but much more insightful.

The tone is serious but not so academic that it is off-putting. The style strikes a balance between the insider insight of The Economist and the deep-diving thoughtfulness of professional and academic journals. In short, it belongs in the inbox of any regular reader of The Peking Review.

I have to confess that the fortnightly arrival of China Brief means that I don’t always get to read through the whole publication, but I feel intellectually naked if I don’t at least scan its pages.

The China Brief is a free download.