Sinica Podcast

By SupChina

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A weekly discussion of current affairs in China with journalists, writers, academics, policy makers, business people and anyone with something compelling to say about the country that's reshaping the world. A SupChina production, hosted by Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn.

Episode Date
Taiwan: Saber rattling, salami slicing, and strategic ambiguity, with Shelley Rigger and Simona Grano

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Shelley Rigger of Davidson College returns to the show to talk Taiwan. She's joined by Simona Grano, a sinologist and Taiwan specialist at the University of Zürich. They talk about President Joe Biden's recent "gaffes" that call into question the longstanding, unofficial U.S. policy of "strategic ambiguity," talk about how Taiwan has been impacted by the Ukraine War, and much more.

4:59: – What did Joe Biden's latest "gaffe" on Taiwan actually signify?

10:06 – Did "strategic ambiguity" serve its intended purpose?

16:23 – The mood in Taiwan

20:51 – The impact of the Ukraine War on thinking in Beijing and in Taipei

34:12 – European countries navigating relationships with Taiwan

43:54 – The "One China Principle" versus the "One China Policy"

47:20 – Are bilateral trade agreements enough for Taiwan?

50:27 – Ethnicity, nationality, and the Taiwan issue

59:00 – Making sense of the PRC claim to Taiwan

A complete transcript of this podcast is available at


Simona: Orphan of Asia, a novel by Wu Zhuoliu; and the show Orange is the New Black

Shelley: Occupied, a Norwegian thriller series on Netflix

Kaiser:, a Chinese-language resource from the Carter Center's U.S.-China Perception Monitor, covering official, media, and social media commentary on U.S.-China relations

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Jun 16, 2022
A Comprehensive Mirror: James Carter's "This Week in China's History" column marks two years

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with James (Jay) Carter, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. Jay, who joined us on the show in December 2020 to talk about his book Champion's Day, is the author of one of the most widely-read columns that SupChina runs: This Week in China's History. In honor of two full years of contributions, with over 100 columns, Kaiser asked Jay to talk about his process, his purpose, and the challenges and the rewards of writing this excellent column.

6:34 – The origin story of the column, and its original intention

11:34 – How the hell does Jay do it week in and week out?

23:84 – Jay talks about Jonathan Spence and what it was like to study under him at Yale

31:32 – On the diversity of perspectives in the column

40:53 – How the column keeps Jay connected to academic work and intellectual life

43:35 – Threading the needle in deploying historical analogy, and right-sizing historical "rhymes" and patterns

A complete transcript of this podcast is available at


Jay: The Broadway musical Hadestown; and the New York City Ballet

Kaiser: The inaugural Sinologia Conference on June 10

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Jun 09, 2022
Mental health under lockdown: A clinical psychologist in Shanghai

This week on Sinica, Kaiser welcomes back Dr. George Hu, a clinical psychologist based in Shanghai, who has a lot to say about the state of mental health in Chinese cities under lockdown. Unsurprisingly, mental health disorders like anxiety and depression have been exacerbated under conditions of isolation and food insecurity. Surprisingly, there's a silver lining or two to the whole thing.

6:52 – Getting a sense for the scale of mental health problems related to the lockdown in Shanghai

16:23 – Have the lockdowns increased awareness of and empathy for people suffering from mental health disorders in Shanghai and in China?

20:07 – The lockdowns and impact on children and on the elderly

34:05 – The impact on essential workers

42:21 – What other Chinese cities are learning from Shanghai's COVID-19 experience

45:22 – The quarantine centers and mental health services

A full transcript of this podcast is available at


George: How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid For Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims

Kaiser: Nicholas Confessore's series in the New York Times on Tucker Carlson, "American Nationalist"

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Jun 02, 2022
Covering the U.S.-China relations beat with the FT's Demetri Sevastopulo

This week on Sinica, Kaiser welcomes veteran Asia reporter Demetri Sevastopulo, who covers the U.S.-China relationship for the Financial Times. They discuss some of Demetri's scoops, like the news that Vladimir Putin had requested military aid from Xi Jinping, leaked just before National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's meeting in Switzerland with State Councillor Yang Jiechi and just three weeks after Russia's invasion; and the news that China had tested a hypersonic glide craft in October of last year. But the focus of the discussion is on the Biden administration's China policy and its Indo-Pacific Economic Framework — an Asia strategy that, by all accounts, has met with a tepid response in the region.

1:47 – How Demetri landed a beat as U.S.-China relations correspondent

5:24 – How the FT scooped the story on Putin's military assistance request to Xi Jinping in March 2022

12:05 – The Chinese hypersonic glidecraft

24:42 – The DC China policy scene: A dramatis personae

40:11 – The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework: all guns and no butter

52:54 – The Quad and AUKUS: American-led security arrangements

A full transcript of this podcast is available at


Demetri: Gunpowder, an Irish gin from County Leitrim; and Roku, a Japanese whiskey by Suntori

Kaiser: Chokepoint Capitalism, a forthcoming book on how monopolies and monopsonies are ruining culture, by Rebecca Gilbin and Cory Doctorow

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May 26, 2022
Too much of a good thing? Connectivity and the age of "unpeace," with the ECFR's Mark Leonard

This week on Sinica, Kaiser is joined by Mark Leonard, founder and director of the European Council on Foreign Relations and author most recently of The Age of Unpeace: How Connectivity Causes Conflict. Mark talks about how despite the bright promise that increasing connectedness — whether in trade, telecommunications, or movements of individuals — would usher in a world of better mutual understanding and enduring peace, the reality is that this connectedness has made the world more fractured and fractious. He explains how the three "empires of connectivity" — the U.S., China, and the EU — each leverage their extensive connectivity to advance their own interests. He also unpacks his assertion that the world is coming to share China's longstanding ambivalence toward connectedness.

1:05 – Kaiser tells how researching an abortive book project presaged Mark's conclusion that familiarity can breed contempt

7:58 – How Mark came to be a deep ambivalence about connectivity

16:03 – The three "empires of connectivity" and how they leverage or weaponize connectivity

31:41 – How all the connected empires are taking on "Chinese characteristics"

41:41 – How the Russo-Ukrainian War fits into Mark's framework in the book

51:49 – Chinese intellectuals and the shift in their thinking

A full transcript of this interview is available on


Mark: Chinese Hegemony: Grand Strategy and International Institutions in East Asian History by Zhang Feng

Kaiser: "A Teacher in China Learns the Limits of Free Expression," the latest piece by Peter Hessler in The New Yorker; and the Israeli spy thriller Tehran on AppleTV.

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May 19, 2022
The rise and fall of U.S.-China scientific collaboration, with Deborah Seligsohn

This week on Sinica, Deborah Seligsohn returns to the show to talk about the sad state of U.S.-China scientific collaboration. As the Science Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from 2003 to 2007 — arguably the peak years for collaboration in science — she has ample firsthand experience with the relationship. Debbi, who is now an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University in Philadelphia, sees the U.S. decision to dismantle what was a diverse and fruitful regime of collaboration as a consequence of the basic American conception of the relationship: our tendency to see that relationship as one of teacher and student. She also argues that the American obsession with intellectual property protection is fundamentally misguided and inapplicable to scientific collaboration, which rarely deals with commercial IP.

3:15 – The rationale for prioritizing U.S.-China scientific collaboration in the 1970s

9:11 – A highlight reel of Sino-American scientific collaboration across four decades

31:03 – The stubborn American belief that freedom and democracy are necessary — or even sufficient — conditions for technological innovation

39:37 – The price we've paid and will continue to pay for the collapse of collaboration

44:00 – The end of collaboration and the DOJ's "China Initiative"

48:17 – How to rebuild the U.S.-China scientific partnership

A full transcript of this podcast is available on


Deborah: A Buzzfeed story by Peter Aldous about the strange origins of the "lab-leak theory" in the right-wing of the animal rights activist community; and two podcasts — Bloomberg's Odd Lots podcast and the Brookings podcast by David Dollar, Dollar and Sense.

Kaiser: The sci-fi thriller Severance on AppleTV.

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May 12, 2022
Chinese public opinion on the Russo-Ukrainian War, with Yawei Liu and Danielle Goldfarb

This week on Sinica, Kaiser is joined again by Yawei Liu, Senior Director for China at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia; and by Danielle Goldfarb, head of global research at RIWI Corp, an innovative web-based research outfit headquartered in Toronto. They discuss a survey commissioned by the Carter Center to look at Chinese attitudes toward the Russo-Ukrainian War: whether Chinese people believe supporting Russia to be in China's interest, what they believe China's best course of action to be, and whether they're aware of — and if so, whether they believe — disinformation pushed by Moscow about U.S.-run bio labs in Ukraine. Danielle also discusses other survey research that RIWI has conducted about China that relates to the war in Ukraine.

2:41 – Why public opinion still matters in authoritarian countries

5:35 – Has the debate over the Russian invasion of Ukraine been completely shut down in China?

12:17 – RIWI’s technology and survey methodology

18:47 – The Carter Center questionnaire and its results

28:05 – RIWI’s Military Conflict Risk Index, and the China-Taiwan results

35:26 – The puzzling correlation between education level and propensity to believe disinformation

42:00 – Popular attitudes about the relationships among Russia, China, and the U.S.

A transcript of this podcast is available on


Yawei: How China Loses: The Pushback Against Chinese Global Ambitions, by Luke Patey.

Danielle: Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez.

Kaiser: Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein

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May 05, 2022
China and India share a contested border and an uncomfortable neutrality in the Ukraine War — but not much else

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser is joined by Manjari Chatterjee Miller, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations and associate professor of political science at Boston University; and Manoj Kewalramani, chairperson of the Indo-Pacific Research Programme and a China studies fellow at the Takshashila Institution, a leading Indian public policy education center. They offer fascinating analysis and insight into the complex relationship between China and India in light of the Russo-Ukrainian War, as powerful and populous Asian nations caught between their commitments to Russia and their well-founded fear of alienating the West. Their predicaments, however, are about all they have in common: despite Chinese overtures, New Delhi and Beijing have too much historical baggage, too many open wounds, and visions for a post-war geopolitical map that are too divergent to allow them to make anything like common cause.

3:31 – Indian media positions, political elite takes, and popular opinion on the Russo-Ukrainian War

9:05 – Is there a partisan divide in India on the Ukraine War?

12:44 – Manoj's amazing potted history of Soviet/Russian relations with India, from 1947 to the eve of the war

29:38 – Manjari on how China figures into the Indo-Soviet/Indo-Russian relationship

35:33 – China as a factor in Indo-U.S. relations

43:17 – China's relative tone-deafness when it comes to India

55:56 – Sources of tension in the Russia-India relationship

A full transcript of this podcast is available at


Manjari: Bridgerton on Netflix

Manoj: The 1995 Bollywood film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge

Kaiser: The high school comedy Metal Lords on Netflix; and Matt Sheehan, "The Chinese Way Of Innovation: What Washington Can Learn From Beijing About Investing In Tech" in Foreign Affairs

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Apr 28, 2022
China, Europe, and the Russo-Ukrainian War, with Marina Rudyak

This week on Sinica, Kaiser is joined by Marina Rudyak, assistant professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Heidelberg. She offers her unique perspective on the underlying tensions and potential conflicts between Russia and China, the "dialogue of the deaf" that was the China-European Union summit on April 1st, Beijing's failure to understand the European perspective on Ukraine, and China's diplomatic and developmental policies in the Global South.

4:41 – Marina's personal background and its relevance to our topic

6:53 – China and Russia are simpatico in Central Asia? Not so fast.

17:14 – Europe, China, and the national security lens

22:30 – China's goals with respect to Europe

30:32 – What went wrong at the April 1st summit between Beijing and Brussels?

41:37 – European and American efforts to counter China's presence in the Global South

A transcript of this interview is available at


Marina: Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges, by Otto Scharmer

Kaiser: Robert Draper, "This Was Trump Pulling a Putin," in the New York Times Magazine; Fiona Hill, There Is Nothing For You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-first Century; and Steven Johnson, "AI is Mastering Language. Should We Trust What it Says?" in the New York Times Magazine.

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Apr 21, 2022
Inside the Shanghai lockdown, with SupChina's own Chang Che

The COVID lockdown in China's biggest city, Shanghai, hasn't been going exactly according to plan. This week on Sinica, we speak with our business editor Chang Che, who flew back to Shanghai in early March and emerged from quarantine just in time for "dynamic clearing." He gives us a first-hand look at the scramble for basic food, and offers his take on China's vaunted state capacity, the role of neighborhood committees in implementing central government policy, what went so badly wrong in Shanghai, and what lessons might be learned for the next Chinese city that sees an Omicron outbreak.

2:38 – Chang's experience of the lockdown

7:46 – The current mood in Shanghai

11:02 – Neighborhood Committees: the foot soldiers of pandemic prediction

14:00 – Explaining the relatively low rate of vaccination among the elderly in Shanghai

18:47 – The case for locking down Shanghai, and how they might have done it better

31:01 – The reputational damage to China

33:31 – Schadenfreude

41:04 – Why a state that can test 26 million in a day can't keep people fed

A transcript of this podcast is available on


Chang: Tokyo Vice on HBO Max

Kaiser: The National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia

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Apr 14, 2022
After the War: Scenarios China faces when the Russo-Ukrainian War eventually ends

This week on the Sinica Podcast, in a show taped on March 23, Chinese foreign policy expert Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, and former national intelligence officer for East Asia Paul Heer join Kaiser for a discussion of possible scenarios that China might face in the eventual aftermath of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

5:03 – The uncertain outcome of the war

10:06 – Russia as a pariah state

14:43 – Which is the junior partner, Russia or China?

17:17 – Can China impact the course of the war?

22:32 – The three levels of Chinese support for Russia

31:39 – What inducements could the U.S. offer China to move decisively away from Russia?

36:35 – Scenarios beyond the war: Pax Americana, the Extended Director's Cut; and the Law of the Jungle

40:43 – The West Divided, the Pivot Delayed

44:19 – Bandung II

51:01 – What about India?

A transcript of this podcast is available at


Yun: The Great Game In The Eurasia Continent by Fang Jinying

Paul: Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate by Mary Sarotte; and Nazis of Copley Square by Charles Gallagher

Kaiser: The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping's China by Kevin Rudd

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Apr 06, 2022
Susan Thornton on the urgent need for diplomacy with China over the Russo-Ukraine War

This week on Sinica, Kaiser is joined by Susan Thornton, former Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and a veteran diplomat. Susan makes a compelling case for the importance of diplomacy in the U.S.-China relationship — and the alarming absence of real diplomacy over the last several years. She helps interpret American and Chinese diplomatic engagements over the Russo-Ukrainian War and assesses the prospects for China actually playing a role in negotiating an end to the conflict.

3:42 – What diplomacy is really all about, and why it's so conspicuously absent

7:32 – Does it make sense for the U.S. to expect Beijing to outright condemn the invasion?

10:40 – What should the U.S. actually expect from China?

13:55 – Is China willing and able to play a meaningful role as a mediator?

17:06 – What's up with the leaks?

21:32 – Reading the readouts

28:20 – What is China's optimal endgame here?

32:06 – China's "southern strategy"

34:50 – Do upcoming U.S. midterm and presidential elections matter to Beijing?

41:29 – What are we missing when we talk about China's perspectives on the war?

A full transcript of this interview is available on


Susan: Butter Lamp, a short film directed by Hu Wei, nominated for Best Live Action Short at the 87th Academy Awards

Kaiser: Birria Tacos. Here's a good recipe! (These should come with a doctor's warning)




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Mar 30, 2022
Chinese international relations scholar Dingding Chen on Beijing's position in the Russo-Ukrainian War

This week on Sinica: Chén Dìngdìng 陈定定, professor of international relations at Jinan University in Guangzhou, offers his perspective on how Beijing views the war in Ukraine that began on February 24 with the Russian invasion. He concludes that while Beijing's short-term alignment with Russia is fairly locked in and unlikely to shift soon, the long-term prospects for the partnership are far less certain. Kaiser and Dingding discuss where Russian and Chinese worldviews are congruent, the unlikelihood that China will put itself forward as some kind of mediator in the war, and China's domestic considerations in the Russo-Ukrainian War.

4:37 – China's assessment of Russia's comprehensive national power

8:09 – Has the course of the war and Russian underperformance caused Beijing to recalibrate?

10:37 – When did the Sino-Russian convergence really happen?

24:47 – India and Vietnam as complicating factors in the Russo-Chinese relationship

27:26 – Does Xi's personal relationship with Putin matter?

29:16 – The leaks of alleged intel showing Russia asked for Chinese military assistance

38:23 – The significance of the Hu Wei essay calling for Beijing to break with Moscow over the war

46:38 – Domestic considerations

A transcript of this interview is available on


Dingding: The late Ezra Vogel's Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

Kaiser: Kingdom of Characters: the Language Revolution That Made China Modern by Jing Tsu

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Mar 23, 2022
China's soft power collides with the hard realities of the Russo-Ukrainian War: A conversation with Maria Repnikova

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Maria Repnikova, assistant professor of global communications at Georgia State University, who recently published a short book under the Cambridge Elements series called Chinese Soft Power. A native Russian speaker who also reads and speaks Chinese, Maria has been a keen observer of China's response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and offers her perspectives on Chinese media coverage of the war and the impact of China's pro-Russian tilt on Beijing's soft power ambitions. She recently co-authored a piece in The Atlantic arguing that China's apparent pro-Russian position is about one thing only: the United States and China's opposition to American unipolar hegemony.

4:25 – Definitions of soft power: Joseph Nye's and China's

8:49 – The Chinese discourse on soft power: three major schools

14:09 – How talking about soft power allows the airing of hard truths

23:24 – Chinese soft power in the global South

37:49 – How badly has the Russo-Ukraine War eroded Chinese soft power?

41:44 – How Russian media has been talking about China since the invasion of Ukraine began

44:50 – Why China's pro-Russia lean is really all about America

54:40 – Is Russia's media style the future of Chinese media? On the "RTification" of Chinese media

A full transcript of this podcast is available on


Maria: Prototype Nation by Silvia Lindtner; and an anti-recommendation for the show Inventing Anna, which is streaming on Netflix

Kaiser: Season 5 of the show The Last Kingdom; and the sequel to Vikings, called Vikings: Valhalla. Both are on Netflix.

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Mar 16, 2022
China’s Ukraine conundrum, with Evan Feigenbaum

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser chats with Evan Feigenbaum, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former vice-chairman of the Paulson Institute, and (during the second George W. Bush administration), Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs under Condoleeza Rice. Evan offers a very compelling analysis of the difficult position that Beijing now finds itself in after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — caught on the horns of a dilemma and unable to resolve conflicting commitments to, on the one hand, territorial sovereignty and, on the other, opposition to American unipolar hegemony. Meanwhile, Beijing is fearful of the repercussions of siding with Russia, fearing that sanctions may have a real bite. Evan also shares his thoughts on how China and Russia differ significantly in their posture toward the “rules-based international order,” on misguided thinking about Taiwan and the “strategic triangle,” and on the reshaping of the geopolitical and geoeconomic order that the Russian invasion of Ukraine will usher in.

4:48 – The basic contradictions in China's competing objectives

25:58 – Did Xi know about Putin's intention to invade?

31:34 – Are the U.S. and NATO pushing China into the Russian embrace?

35:15 – The economic impact of the war: China and sanctions

40:30 – Taiwan takes and why straight-line thinking doesn't cut it

48:53 – Does Beijing have an accurate sense of its ability to affect outcomes here?

50:26 – China and Russia: the differences in their international behavior

57:44 – The geopolitical and geoeconomic impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

A transcript of this interview is available at


Evan: Summer Kitchens, a Ukrainian cookbook by Olia Hercules

Kaiser: Fareed Zakaria on the Ezra Klein Show from March 4, 2022; and the new Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story

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Mar 09, 2022
Biden's China policy needs to be more than "Trump lite:" A conversation with Jeff Bader

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Jeff Bader, who served as senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council during the first years of the Obama presidency, until 2011. Now a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute, Jeff was deeply involved in U.S.-China affairs at the State Department from his first posting to Beijing back in 1981 continuously for the next 21 years, through 2002. He later served as U.S. ambassador to Namibia and was tapped to head Asian Affairs at the NSC after Obama took office. Jeff is the author of a fascinating book on Obama’s China policy, Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy. In this conversation, he offers a candid critique of the Biden China policy to date.

Note that this conversation was taped in mid-February — before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, and before the Department of Justice announced the end of the "China Initiative."

3:23 – How viewing China over 40 years of rapid development has shaped the way Jeff thinks about China

8:54 – Jeff Bader's critique of the Biden administration's China policy

19:40 – Is it important to have a China strategy?

24:55 – Right-sizing China's ambitions: Is Rush Doshi right?

31:17 – Defining China's legitimate interests

38:31 – Has China already concluded that the U.S., irrespective of who is in power, seeks to thwart China's rise?

43:16 – How can China participate in the rules-based international order?

47:52 – Is it still possible for Biden to change his tune on China?

52:57 – How much room does Biden have politically? Can he exploit to electorate's partisan divide on China?

59:54 – What is the "low-hanging fruit" that Biden could pluck to signal a lowering of temperature?

1:12:09 – Jeff Bader's precepts for better understanding of — and better policy toward — China

A transcript of this podcast is available at


Jeff: Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom, a book by Stephen Platt about the Taiping Civil War focusing on Hong Rengan.

Kaiser: Re-recommending two previous guests' recommendations: Iaian McGilchrists's The Master and his Emissary recommended by Anthea Roberts; and Unfabling the East: The Enlightenment's Encounter with Asia by Jurgen Osterhammel, recommended by Dan Wang.

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Mar 03, 2022
Veteran diplomat Bill Klein recalls the turbulent Trump years at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with William (Bill) Klein, who served as acting deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from 2016 to mid-2021. In a wide-ranging conversation, he offers insights about his postings at AIT in Taiwan in the aftermath of the Sunflower Movement, the APEC meeting in Hangzhou, and the vicissitudes of Sino-American diplomacy during the turbulent Trump years — Taiwan issues, the trade war, Huawei and diplomatic hostage-taking, the COVID-19 outbreak, and much more. Bill offers a measured and balanced view, exhibiting the same thoughtfulness and empathy that made him a great diplomat.

2:56 – The aftermath of the global financial crisis as the inflection point in U.S.-China relations

4:14 – Taiwan and the Sunflower Movement: Bill's years at AIT

8:33 – The G20 meeting in Hangzhou, 2016

12:12 – Chinese perspectives on the U.S. presidential race of 2016

16:40 – The Tsai Ing-wen phone call

19:17 – Trump pulls out of Paris

21:09 – The onset of the Trade War

24:44 – Ambassador Terry Branstad, his relationship with Xi, and what he accomplished

27:48 – The conflict over Chinese technology: Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, and the Two Michaels.

35:20 – The Trump response to early reports of the Xinjiang camps

39:35 – The view from the U.S. Embassy as the SARS CoV-2 virus began to spread

47:26 – The emerging Chinese consensus on U.S. intentions toward China — and how the Houston Consulate closure was a turning point.

A transcript of this interview is available on


Bill: Project Hail Mary, a science fiction novel by Andy Weir.

Kaiser: "The Modern Chinese Novel," an online course available free on YouTube by Christopher Rea.

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Feb 24, 2022
What China is reading and why it matters: A conversation with author Megan Walsh

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser chats with Megan Walsh, journalist, literary critic, and author of the brand-new book The Subplot: What China Is Reading and Why It Matters. The book offers an accessible overview of China's literary scene, from better-known writers like Mò Yán 莫言 and Yán Liánkē 阎连科 to writers working in fiction genres like crime and sci-fi, and from migrant worker poets to the largely anonymous legions of writers churning out vast amounts of internet fiction. Megan talks about the burden of politics in the life of writers, the wild popularity of dānměi 耽美 (gay-male-themed web fiction), and the surprising streak of techno-optimism in Chinese science fiction.

7:09 – The long shadow of the May Fourth Movement

12:09 – Politics and the western gaze

17:51 – Why Yan Lianke is Megan's favorite Chinese writer

26:51 – The literary scene in Beijing in the 2000s

29:05 – China's ginormous and mostly terrible internet fiction industry

39:19 – What makes Chinese science fiction Chinese?

A transcript of this interview is available on


Megan: Yiyun Li's memoir, Dear Friend, from my Life I Write to You in Your Life; and the New Zealand singer-songwriter Aldous Harding

Kaiser: The Audible Original epistolary audio drama When You Finish Saving the World by Jesse Eisenberg

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Feb 17, 2022
China's ideological landscape, with Jason Wu

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser chats with Indiana University political scientist Jason Wu about his work on China's ideological landscape. With so many now framing the contest between the U.S. (or, more broadly, "the West") and China in terms of ideology, it makes sense to examine what "ideology" means to each party, to get a sense of what China's actual ideology consists of, and how Chinese people understand their own ideological positioning relative to concepts like "left" and "right" that are familiar in the West. Wu's research yields some very surprising results: In most countries that have been studied, the degree of ideological constraint — coherence or consistency among different issue positions — tends to be higher among people with greater knowledge of politics. But in China, as with so many other things, just the opposite appears to be true.

4:23 – What is the meaning of "ideology"?

15:37 – What is China's ideology?

20:17 – On "The Nature of Ideology in Urban China" and the odd inverse correlation between political knowledge and ideological consistency in China

40:18 – On "Categorical Confusion: Ideological Labels in China" and the meaning of "left" and "right" in China

A transcript of this podcast is available on


Jason: The campus novels Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis and Straight Man by Richard Russo; and the two-person board game Twilight Struggle

Kaiser: The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

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Feb 10, 2022
Why the law matters in China, with Jeremy Daum of Yale's Paul Tsai China Law Center

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Jeremy Daum, senior research scholar in law and senior fellow at Yale University's Paul Tsai China Center. Jeremy runs, a Wiki-style resource for translations of Chinese laws and regulations and an invaluable resource not just for legal scholars but for anyone interested in understanding China's policy direction. In a wide-ranging conversation, Jeremy talks about why the law remains important despite frequent assertions that there is no rule of law in China, critiques the "techno-authoritarian" narrative on China, and offers an informed take on the much-maligned "social credit system." Jeremy's work on the social credit system has earned him a reputation as a debunker, and in this episode, he makes clear what the system is and is not.

3:28 – The project and its origins

5:21 – Why does the law matter in China?

10:09 – The technology narrative in Xinjiang

13:12 – Can the U.S. learn anything from Chinese law?

17:59 – Juvenile law and the Chinese conception of the state's role in the family

24:13 – The paternalistic conception of law and the COVID-19 response in China

28:49 – Mythbusting and the social credit system

42:21 – China's Plea Leniency System and the case for engagement in jurisprudence

A transcript of this interview is available on


Jeremy: The Fixer, a novel by Bernard Malamud

Kaiser: Going back to basics: Chinese stir-fry lessons on the YouTube channel "Chinese Cooking Demystified"

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Feb 03, 2022
Personality and political discontent in China, with Rory Truex

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser welcomes back Rory Truex, who teaches politics and international affairs at Princeton. In a fascinating as-yet-unpublished paper, Rory draws on extensive survey research that examines both political attitudes and personalities among Chinese participants and finds a strong correlation between political discontent and "isolating personality traits," like introversion, disagreeableness, and lack of close personal ties with others. Rory and Kaiser discuss the paper, the fascination with authoritarian resilience among Rory's cohort of China scholars, and the fertile intersection of psychology and politics.

4:03 – What's with the obsession among young China-focused political scientists with authoritarian resilience?

10:02 – The problem of "preference falsification" in social science research in China — and the solution!

16:29 – Rory describes the dataset and the approach behind his paper on personality and political discontent

33:14 – What do the personalities of Party members look like?

42:15 – Personality and politics in Russia vs. China

A transcript of this podcast is available at


Rory: The work of the Center for Security in Emerging Technology (CSET); and the Fan Brothers' oeuvre of children's books, including The Night Gardner and The Barnabus Project

Kaiser: The immensely popular daily word game Wordle

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Jan 27, 2022
Dan Wang on China in 2021: "Common prosperity," cultural stunting, and shortcomings of the "modal China story

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser welcomes back Dan Wang, technology analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, to talk about this year's annual letter. Dan's letters have become something of an institution: wide-ranging, insightful, and always contentious, his missives are read by a great many observers of contemporary China and spark some lively conversations. This year's letter contrasts the major megacities that Dan has lived in (Beijing, Shanghai, and the "Greater Bay Area" of the Pearl River Delta), examines Xi Jinping's efforts to shift the energies of China's technologists and entrepreneurs away from the consumer internet and toward deep tech, ponders the causes of China's "cultural stunting" and the challenges that China faces, and has not yet overcome, in creating cultural products that the rest of the world wants, and warns of the dangers of focusing only on China's weaknesses and problems and ignoring its prodigious capabilities. Tune in for a fascinating conversation with one of the Sinosphere's more original thinkers.

4:15 – Dan appraises Beijing, Shanghai, and the PRD Greater Bay Area

20:48 – How to think about the "common prosperity" agenda (a.k.a. the Red New Deal)

39:21 – The tradeoff between efficiency and resilience: China as an inefficient but anti-fragile economy

45:34 – Should the United States be learning from China? The case for reform of American institutions

50:38 – A technocratic resurgence in China? The rise of a "Beihang Clique"

58:17 – The causes of "cultural stunting" in China

A transcript of this podcast is available on


Dan: Charles Dickens, Bleak House, and Jurgen Osterhammel, Unfabling the East: The Enlightenment's Encounter with Asia

Kaiser: Ritchie Robertson, The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680 to 1790

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Jan 20, 2022
Mental models for understanding complexity, with Anthea Roberts and Nicolas Lamp

What we think about China depends in large measure on how we think about China. As a nation of 1.4 billion people in the throes of world-historic change, it's more important than ever to examine our own mental models when it comes to our understanding of China. This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser kicks off an informal series on "thinking about thinking about China" with a conversation with Anthea Roberts and Nicolas Lamp, co-authors of the book Six Faces of Globalization: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why it Matters. While the book focuses on globalization, in which China has been a central actor, it's really a book about ways to approach all complex issues — and will equip you with immensely useful ways to conceptualize any number of problems related to China. Kaiser calls the book "an upgrade to [his] mental operating system." Please enjoy this fascinating discussion with two brilliant scholars.

5:36 – What are the building blocks of a "narrative?"

8:08 – The six main narratives on globalization laid out

26:23 – The challenge of articulating problematic or objectionable narratives in good faith

53:54 – How China fits into the six "Western" narratives on globalization

56:55 – Chinese perspectives on globalization

1:11:58 – Different metaphors for integrative complexity

1:21:01 – Disciplines and training that prepare or predispose people toward complexity

1:24:33 – Name-checking the influences

A transcript of this conversation is available on


Anthea: The Master and His Emissary, by Ian McGilchrist

Nicolas: The Once and Future Worker, by Oren Cass; and the China Trade Monitor website, run by Simon Lester and Huan Zhu.

Kaiser: "China's Reform Generation Adapts to Life in the Middle Class," by Peter Hessler

Other Links: This episode mentions a great many books and authors. Here's a partial list!

Isaiah Berlin, The Hedgehog and the Fox

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Slow and Fast

Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice; and his memoir, A Synthesizing Mind

Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

Paul Blustein, Schism: China, America, and the Fracturing of the Global Trading System

Julia Galef, The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't

David Epstein, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

C.P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution

Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge

George Lakoff, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think

Gareth Morgan, Images of Organization

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Jan 13, 2022
The sociologist watching the China-watchers: A conversation with David McCourt

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with David McCourt, associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis. For the last several years, David — who is not himself a China specialist — has undertaken a sociological study of "China-watchers," and has presented his findings to date in a series of papers as he prepares to publish a book. Focusing on China-watchers as a community, he offers fascinating insights into how they interact to shape the major narratives of "engagement" and "strategic competition.

5:24 – Who counts as a “China-watcher”?

13:53 – A taxonomy of China-watchers

 21:43 – Small e engagement and capital E Engagement

 28:35 – The sociological sources of China policy

 37:54 – What China policy positions tell us about America

 45:14 – Habitus and China policy orientation

 55:19 – The China-watching community and American presidential administrations, Obama to Biden

A transcript of this conversation is available at


 David: Gregoire Chamayou, The Ungovernable Society: A Genealogy of Authoritarian Liberalism

 Kaiser: The works of the great American political scientist Robert Jervis, who died on December 9, especially Perception and Misperception in International Politics and System Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life

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Jan 06, 2022
Damien Ma of MacroPolo on China's economic and political outlook

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Damien Ma, managing director and co-founder of the Paulson Institute’s think-tank, MacroPolo. Damien discusses MacroPolo's new forecast of the property market in China and the likely impact of the predicted contraction of that market. Damien also offers advice on what smart China-watchers will be keeping their eyes on in the coming, highly political year in China in the leadup to the 20th Party Congress. And he shares the amusing story of what happened the evening after he last appeared on Sinica way back when.

2:58 – Damien recalls how he nearly led Sinica's interns to their doom one fateful night in 2014

7:23 – MacroPolo's forecast of the property market through 2025

16:28 – How will local governments fund themselves without land sales?

20:11 – Damien's take on Xi Jinping's "common prosperity" agenda

28:53 – Understanding China today through the lens of scarcity

30:49 – Tips for watching developments in China in this political year

40:00 – Cool stuff from MacroPolo

A transcript of this conversation is available on


Damien: Derek Thompson, "America is Running on Fumes," in The Atlantic.

Kaiser: Peter Jackson's epic Beatles documentary Get Back on Disney+

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Dec 30, 2021
The investigative team from MIT Technology Review that found major flaws with the DoJ's China Initiative

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser chats with Eileen Guo and Jess Aloe, two members of the three-person team of reporters at the MIT Technology Review who took a data-centered look at the U.S. Department of Justice's China Initiative and uncovered serious problems: an ill-defined mission, low conviction rates, post hoc efforts to remove cases previously described as falling under the China Initiative, and strong evidence of racial profiling.

3:03 – The genesis of the report

9:15 – How the Department of Justice defines — or doesn't define — the China Initiative

19:00 – The deletion of China Initiative cases from the DoJ's website

22:34 – Was the Anming Hu case a watershed?

30:57 – The evidence for racial profiling

38:26 – Biden's conundrum

A transcript of this podcast is available on


Eileen: America for Beginners, a novel by Leah Franqui

Jess: The Expanse, a science fiction series on Amazon Prime

Kaiser: Cloud Cuckoo Land, a novel by Anthony Doerr

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Dec 23, 2021
FOCAC 2021 in Dakar, Senegal, and B3W — the U.S. counter to China's BRI?

The recently-concluded Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meeting in Dakar, Senegal, generated surprisingly little international press coverage — except for a few stories that seized on what looked, at first blush, like a significant decrease in Beijing's overall investment commitment on the continent. If Beijing sees a concerted effort by the U.S. and Europe to diminish, tarnish, or counteract China's position in Africa, it might well be excused: Its triannual Sino-African love fest, after all, didn't receive nearly as much attention as two problematic stories did: one centering on the alleged Chinese seizure of Uganda's Entebbe Airport, and another claiming that China plans to build a military base in Equatorial Guinea — a base that could threaten the East Coast of the United States, as reports suggested.

And then there's the U.S.-led "Build Back Better World" (B3W) initiative, which was launched at the G7 summit in June, and the European Commission's own answer to China's Belt and Road Initiative: the Global Gateway Strategy, which was announced on the final day of FOCAC. 

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with the Nairobi-based development economist Anzetse Were and Eric Olander, host of the China in Africa Podcast. They both have a lot to say about FOCAC coverage, media narratives on China in Africa, and the likelihood that programs like B3W and Global Gateway can move the needle when it comes to China's position on the continent.

5:08 – Major takeaways from FOCAC 2021

7:19 – Just how much money did China commit this time?

15:57 – FOCAC 2021 as an inflection point in China-Africa relations

19:05 – Media disconnects on the China-Africa story and "psychological self-soothing"

23:33 – The mistaken reports on China's alleged seizure of Entebbe Airport in Uganda

30:28 – The Wall Street Journal's report on China's alleged plans to build a military base in Equatorial Guinea

44:55 – China's vaccine diplomacy in Africa

52:12 – B3W (Build Back Better World) and Global Gateway as counters to the BRI

A transcript of this episode is available on


Jeremy: Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society by Paul Hollander

Anzetse: Market Power and Role of the Private Sector by the China-Africa Business Council; and "Africa's economic transformation: the role of Chinese investment," by Linda Calabrese and Xiaoyang Tang

Eric: "Guānxì: Power, Networking, and Influence in China-Africa Relations," by Paul Nantulya

Kaiser: Beware of Pity, a novel by Stefan Zweig

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Dec 16, 2021
Sinica presents the best of China Stories 2021

This week, we bring you a selection of the best of our China Stories podcast. Launched in late January this year, it has published nearly 400 narrated pieces from the best English-language media outlets focused on China: Sixth Tone, Caixin Global, The Wire China, Protocol China, The World of Chinese, and Week in China — plus, of course, SupChina. The stories are read by Chinese-speaking narrators who won't badly mispronounce Chinese names and other words. If you enjoy this sampling, please make sure to subscribe to China Stories wherever you get your podcasts.

3:04 – Peter Hessler's last class, published in Sixth Tone, written by He Yujia, and read by Elyse Ribbons

25:07 – Luo Jialing, a.k.a. Liza Hardoon, and the height of global Shanghai, written by James Carter, published in SupChina, and read by John D. Van Fleet

37:22 – Qianlong Emperor: The worst poet in Chinese history?, written by Sun Jiahui, published in The World of Chinese, and read by Cliff Larsen

46:52 – Partners in profit, published by Week in China, and read by Sylvia Franke

52:36 – Shot heard round the world: China's Olympic return, written by Sam Davies, published in The World of Chinese, and read by Sarah Kutulakos

58:32 – China's culture wars, now playing on Bilibili, written by Shen Lu, published in Protocol China, and read by Kaiser Kuo

1:07:23 – I sacrificed 16 years to the mines, as told to Gushi FM in Chinese by Chen Nianxi, translated by Nathaniel J. Gan, published in The World of Chinese, and read by Elyse Ribbons

1:34:50 – Family values, excerpted from One Thousand Years of Joys and Sorrows, by Ai Weiwei, published in The Wire China, and read by Kaiser Kuo

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Dec 09, 2021
Revisiting the Red New Deal, with Lizzi Lee and Jude Blanchette (live at NEXTChina 2021)

This week on the Sinica Podcast, we bring you Part 2 of a conversation with Lizzi Lee, an economist turned China analyst, and Jude Blanchette, the Freeman Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In September, Lizzi and Jude joined Kaiser and Jeremy to discuss the wide-ranging set of regulatory moves by Beijing, touching on many disparate realms of Chinese life — from real estate to renewable energy, and from entertainment to education. But much has happened since then, and as we promised at the end of that episode, we reconvened to discuss the same topic at our NEXTChina 2021 conference on November 10-11. Don't miss this one!

3:53 – A reappraisal and clarification of the Red New Deal

9:02 – Kaiser's hypothesis about why Xi Jinping is pushing such far-reaching changes now

10:29 – Lizzi Lee offers her take on the timing

14:41 – Jude on why "Red New Deal" doesn't quite go far enough in describing the changes afoot

18:50 – Lizzi on the dangers of bursting the real estate bubble

27:26 – Has Xi Jinping left any off-ramps?

A transcript of this episode is available at

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Dec 02, 2021
The Carter Center's survey on Chinese perception, with Yawei Liu and Michael Cerny

Recent polls conducted by organizations like Gallup and Pew have shown a precipitous decline in U.S. public opinion toward China. But how do the Chinese feel about the U.S.? This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Yawei Liu, senior China advisor at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and with Michael Cerny, associate editor of the Carter Center's China Perception Monitor, about a survey commissioned by the center on Chinese attitudes toward the United States and Chinese perceptions of global opinion on China.

7:48 – The methodology behind the survey

13:02 – The survey's central questions

25:30 – The polarized 55-64 age group

28:17 – The drivers of Chinese negative perceptions of the U.S.

37:35 – Inflection points in Chinese perceptions of the U.S.

45:31 – Generational effects on Chinese perceptions

50:27 – The causal direction: Do negative perceptions of the U.S. boost Chinese notions about international perceptions of China?

A transcript of this interview is available at


Michael: Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner; and Causal Inference: The Mixtape by Scott Cunningham

Yawei: How the Red Sun Rose by Gao Hua;, translated by Stacey Mosher; and The Battle of Chosin, a documentary film from PBS

Kaiser: Y: The Last Man, a post-apocalyptic TV show from FX, available on Hulu

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Nov 25, 2021
Peter Hessler live at the NEXTChina 2021 Conference in New York

This week on Sinica, a live show taped on November 11 at the fourth annual NEXTChina Conference at the China Institute in New York, featuring Peter Hessler. Pete returned to the U.S. from Chengdu over the summer after his contract at Sichuan University, where he was teaching journalism and freshman composition, was not renewed. His departure sparked speculation about government displeasure at his reporting for The New Yorker — despite earlier criticism that his coverage of China's COVID-19 response had been too favorable to Beijing. Pete joins Kaiser and Jeremy to discuss his latest book, The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution, his approach to writing on China, his interactions with his students, and the real reasons for his departure from China.

3:18 – How Egypt sheds light on China

7:00 – Language-learning as a device in Pete Hessler's writing

9:50 – How Pete kept in touch with over 100 students from Fuling — the making of a longitudinal cohort study

18:33 – How Pete is viewed in China vs. in Egypt

25:10 – Pete's writing on Chinese entrepreneurship

29:02 – Why Pete & Leslie moved to Chengdu — and why they had to leave

A transcript of this podcast is available on

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Nov 18, 2021
Psychologist George Hu of the United Family Mental Health Network on mental health in China

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy discuss mental health in China with George Hu, a Shanghai-based clinical psychologist who serves as president of the Shanghai International Mental Health Association and leads the United Family Mental Health Network. George describes how American ideas of psychiatry and psychology have shaped the way Chinese mental health professionals understand mental wellness and mental distress, resulting in the importation of approaches to diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders that may not always be the best fit with China's cultural, sociological, and historical realities.

5:14: – Trying to assess the scale of mental illness in China

9:45 – How mental health is diagnosed and classified in China

19:00 – Mental health and the extraordinary competitiveness of life in China

28:09 – The growing focus on the intersection between culture and mental health in China

37:21 – Issues faced by American students in China

46:17 – Mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic

50:42 – Bicultural therapy

A transcript of this interview is available on


Jeremy: Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

by Merlin Sheldrake

George: Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche by Ethan Watters

Kaiser: Awakening from Dukkha from the Inner Mongolian band Nine Treasures

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Nov 11, 2021
Bonus Episode: Introducing the China Sports Insider Podcast

A warm Sinica welcome to our newest network member, the China Sports Insider Podcast!

If it's about sports and there's a China angle, our hosts Mark Dreyer — the China Sports Insider himself — and Haig Balian, the show's producer, will talk about it. 

This week: fewer than a hundred days to go to the Beijing Olympics, and foreign athletes have been trickling in for test events. What's happening? What are they saying? (7:18)

The IOC released their playbook — their game plan for the Olympics. How will visiting media and athletes react to Beijing’s health and safety measures? (12:42)

Then we talk to USA Today’s Dan Wolken. He's covered four Olympics, and he's coming to Beijing. What does he make of the playbook? (19:06)

And we end with the saga of China's men’s national ice hockey team. Their story is getting a lot of attention from foreign media. At the Olympic tournament they'll be in a group with Canada, USA, and Germany, and there's a real chance they’ll get blown out. How did we get here? What’s the way out? (41:06)

Update: Since we recorded this, the IIHF has announced that China will not be kicked out of the Olympic tournament. 

For more stories read China Sports Insider

Find Mark Dreyer on Twitter

Find Haig Balian on Twitter

Learn about the Olympic playbooks

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Nov 04, 2021
The worldview of Wang Huning, the Party's leading theoretician

This week on Sinica, we present a deep-dive into the worldview of China’s leading Party theorist, Wáng Hùníng 王沪宁. Wang — the only member of the Politburo Standing Committee who has not run a province or provincial-level municipality — is believed to have been the thinker behind ideas as central (and as ideologically distinct) as Jiāng Zémín’s 江泽民 signature “Three Represents,” which brought capitalists into the Chinese Communist Party; Hú Jǐntāo’s 胡锦涛 “Scientific Outlook on Development” that focused on social harmony; and Xí Jìnpíng’s “Chinese Dream” that aimed at the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” While much of Wang’s life since he entered government has been hidden from view, his earlier writings contain many ideas that appear to have shaped Party policy across the tenure of three Party general secretaries over a period of nearly three decades, and offer clues about what still might be in store. Kaiser is joined by Joseph Fewsmith III, an eminent professor of political science at Boston University; the intellectual historian Timothy Cheek, professor of history at the University of British Columbia, whose work has focused on establishment intellectuals in the PRC; and Matthew Johnson, principal and founder of the China-focused consultancy AltaSilva LLC, who has studied and written about Wang extensively.

4:31 – An outline of Wang Huning's career

8:36 – Wang Huning's personality and temperament

12:28 – Wang speaks

16:45 – Wang as an example of post-charismatic leadership loyalty

24:02 – Wang's America Against America

31:04 – Wang Huning's concepts of cultural security and cultural sovereignty

46:36 – Wang and Document Number Nine

55:39 – Chinese conceptions of democracy

A transcript of this podcast is available on


Matt: The Nerves of Government: Models of Political Communication and Control by Karl Deutsch; and

The Logic of Images in International Relations by Robert Jervis.

Joe: Now that more Americans recognize that China is not becoming "more like us," they need a deeper understanding of China, and not one just rooted in hostility and militarism.

Tim: In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova.

Kaiser: River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

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Nov 04, 2021
It's Complicated: Getting our heads around a changing China

This week on Sinica, we present a talk delivered on October 19 by Kaiser at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, as part of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations China Town Hall. In this 30-minute speech, Kaiser offers his views on Xí Jìnpíng's 习近平 "Red New Deal," discusses the many lenses through which China is viewed, and argues that the changes now afoot in China constitute a major historic shift — and perhaps even the end of the modern period in China's history.

We'll be back next week with a conversation about Wáng Hùníng 王沪宁, the Chinese Communist Party's leading theorist, featuring three leading scholars on modern China's politics and intellectual history: Timothy Cheek of the University of British Columbia, Joseph Fewsmith III of Boston University, and Matthew Johnson, a historian who now runs a China-focused consultancy but has made Wang Huning a major focus of his work.

A transcript of this episode is available on

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Oct 28, 2021
Did tariffs make a difference in Trump’s trade war?

This week on Sinica: Did the Trump-era tariffs have their intended effects? In other words, did they prompt companies to pull up stakes in China and re-shore jobs to the United States? Kaiser chats with two political scientists, Samantha Vortherms of UC Irvine and Jack Zhang, director of the University of Kansas’s Trade War Lab, about the paper they recently published with the intention of answering that question. The paper is called “Political Risk and Firm Exit: Evidence from the US-China Trade War.” They share their findings and explore the paper’s policy implications.

4:16 – Sam and Jack offer their thoughts on U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai’s recent speech on U.S.-China trade

10:05 – Distinguishing between tariffs and other aspects of the trade war

13:46 – Previously, on the U.S.-China Trade War: A brief recap of the trade war to date

18:35 – The Foreign Invested Enterprises in China dataset

23:14 – A summary of the paper’s findings: Tariffs did not increase the likelihood of firms exiting

47:15 – What explains the relative reticence of affected firms when it comes to voicing opposition to tariffs?

55:36 – What would you tell Katherine Tai and Gina Raimondo if they were your captive audience?

A transcript of this interview is available on


Sam: The podcast Invisibilia, and specifically, a recent episode called “International Friend of Mystery.”

Jack: The Masters of Chinese Economics and Political Affairs (MCEPA) degree program at UC San Diego's School of Global Policy and Strategy, and Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke (part of the Ibis series).

Kaiser: A Song for Arbonne, a semi-historical fantasy novel by Guy Gavriel Kay.

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Oct 21, 2021
How Taiwan propelled China’s economic rise, with Shelley Rigger

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Shelley Rigger, Brown professor of political science at Davidson College and author of the new book The Tiger Leading the Dragon: How Taiwan Propelled China’s Economic Rise. Shelley recounts Taiwan’s rise as an export-led powerhouse and one of the Asian Tigers, and explains the wave of Taiwanese SMEs (small and medium enterprises) that transformed China into the factory to the world. She also opens a window on world-class Taiwanese companies like Foxconn, which employs some 15 million people in China and assembles some of Apple’s most iconic and consequential products, and TSMC, the world’s most valuable semiconductor company, and discusses how the island’s business relationship with China has complicated politics in Taiwan.

4:34 - The story of Chen Tian-fu, Umbrella King of Taiwan

9:27 - Explaining the psychological distance between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese

19:08 - The conditions that created the Taiwan manufacturing boom

33:42 - Why Taiwan manufacturing moved to the Mainland

48:36 - The vulnerability of Taishang on the Chinese mainland

53:03 - Moving up the value chain: Foxconn and TSMC

1:07:31 - Beyond business: the impact of Taiwan on Chinese cultural life

1:13:52 - Taiwan influence on Chinese institutions

A transcript of this interview is available on


Shelley: Giri/Haji, a joint BBC-Japanese crime drama on Netflix.

Kaiser: Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Crossroads

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Oct 14, 2021
Can China meet its ambitious emissions targets?

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Michael Davidson, a leading scholar on China’s environmental policy, who holds joint appointments at UC San Diego as an assistant professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy and the Jacobs School of Engineering. Michael unpacks recent announcements out of Beijing, including Xí Jìnpíng’s 习近平 decision to cease all funding for coal-fired power plants outside of China, and explains the linkage between China’s push for non-fossil energy and the recent power shortages that have affected 20 provinces. He also explains China’s new emissions trading scheme, or ETS, and discusses what China still needs to do to meet the ambitious targets set by Xi Jinping last year: reaching peak carbon emissions by 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. 

3:26 – Xi Jinping’s announced end to funding for coal-fired generators outside China at UNGA

12:00 – China’s recent power outages and their relationship to emissions reduction

19:32 – The basics of China’s new emissions trading scheme

38:37 – Coercive environmentalism, command-and-control, and market instruments

47:15 – Can U.S.-China competition result in a “race to the top” in emissions reduction?

54:24 – GHG reduction and the Red New Deal

A transcript of this interview is available on


Michael: The Chair, a Netflix show starring Sandra Oh.

Kaiser: Bewilderment, the new novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Overstory, Richard Powers

Mentioned in the show: Valerie Karplus’s paper on China’s ETS; New York Times Magazine piece on The Many Saints of Newark, a Sopranos prequel.

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Oct 07, 2021
How the Chinese state handles labor unrest, with Manfred Elfstrom

This week, Kaiser chats with Manfred Elfstrom, an assistant professor in the Department of Economics, Philosophy, and Political Science at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. Manfred’s new book, Workers and Change in China: Resistance, Repression, Responsiveness, examines the state’s dynamic approach to handling labor actions — petitions, protests, strikes, and the like — and how it has blended compromise and coercion to address the demands of workers. The book makes an important contribution to a growing body of literature that seeks a deeper understanding of authoritarian governance in China and more generally among autocratic regimes. 

3:27 – How the book’s argument fits into the broader literature on authoritarian governance

9:32 – The book’s geographic focus: The Pearl River Delta and the Yangzi River Delta

22:12 – Repression and responsiveness

32:39 – Why repression and responsiveness undercut one another

43:58 – The bureaucratic incentive to handle labor unrest well

50:28 – Labor issues, common prosperity, and the “Red New Deal”

55:58 – The Jasic protests and the crackdown on the Peking University Marxist study group

A transcript of this interview is available on


Manfred: Elizabeth Perry’s book Anyuan: Mining China’s Revolutionary Tradition; and James Green’s The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and their Battle for Freedom.

Kaiser: The Ezra Klein Show, and particularly the episode featuring Adam Tooze, “Economics Needs to Reckon with What it Doesn’t Know.” 

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Sep 30, 2021
The benefits of engagement with China, defined: An audit of the S&ED

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser welcomes former Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton to discuss a recently published audit of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), the annual set of high-level meetings with Chinese officials that were convened during the Obama administration by the U.S. Departments of State and the Treasury. The audit’s two lead authors, representing the two organizations behind the audit, the National Committee on U.S. Foreign Policy and the American Friends Service Committee, also join the conversation. Rorry Daniels is the Deputy Project Director at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy’s Forum on Asia-Pacific Security, where she organizes research and Track II discussions on security issues and conflict mediation in the Asia-Pacific. Daniel Jasper is the Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator, Asia, for the American Friends Service Committee, where his work focuses on China and North Korea. Susan, Rorry, and Dan make a strong case that, contrary to an emerging bipartisan consensus in Washington that engagement with China was a failure, the policy of engagement actually bore substantial fruit.

6:12 – The SED and the S&ED — why the ampersand matters

10:37 – The rationale behind the S&ED

16:15 – In the room at the S&ED meetings

30:12 – Critiques of the S&ED process

36:47 – The mechanics of the S&ED audit

44:13 – Five major accomplishments of the S&ED

1:01:38 – Other surprising U.S. gains from the S&ED

1:10:51 – How could the process be improved?

A transcript of this interview is available on


Rorry: The Good Place (a TV show by Michael Schur) and the eponymous podcast hosted by Tara Brach.

Dan: Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise, by Thich Nhat Hanh, and The China Hustle, a documentary on China-focused short sellers, by Jed Rothstein.

Susan: The Incredible Dr. Pol, a reality show about a veterinarian on National Geographic; Hidden Forces, a podcast hosted by Demetri Kofinas; and China and Japan: Facing History, the last book by the great scholar Ezra Vogel.

Kaiser: Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury, by Evan Osnos, especially in audiobook form, read by the author, and Grand Tamasha, a podcast about current affairs in India, hosted by Milan Vaishnav.

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Sep 23, 2021
What's the deal with the Red New Deal?

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy welcome Lizzi Lee (李其 Lǐ Qi), SupChina contributor and host of the excellent Chinese-language YouTube channel Wall Street Today, and Jude Blanchette, Freeman Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), to talk about the spate of regulatory actions, new rules, and Party-led initiatives that, taken together, we at SupChina have started calling the “Red New Deal.” Can these be understood as different facets of a larger, overarching program to remake China’s economy and society? Or are they better understood as distinct moves by different bureaucracies within the Party-state that happen to coincide in time? Listen in as we try to sort through what it all means.

11:42 - Lizzi’s contrarian take on whether the new regulation adds up to something bigger

15:00 - The logic of the political calendar in China

22:56 - What did the response to the Li Guangman viral post mean?

33:14 - Kevin Rudd’s take on what it all means – the “red thread”

43:32 - No, this isn’t the Cultural Revolution

53:00 - Is this a return to true communism?

57:34 - Is Xi Jinping China’s biggest tiger mom?

A transcript of this interview is available on


Jeremy: NüVoices Podcast: Barabara Demick on Eat the Buddha, the final NüVoices episode on SupChina; and the Vice video on YouTube, How China's Queer Youth Built An Underground Ballroom Scene.

Lizzi: Desmond Shum’s book Red Roulette: An Insider's Story of Wealth, Power, Corruption, and Vengeance in Today's China.

Jude: The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System by Milovan Djilas.

Kaiser: Shutdown: How COVID Shook the World Economy by Adam Tooze; Reservation Dogs (TV show from FX).

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Sep 16, 2021
The state of the field: U.S. China programs, with Rosie Levine and Jan Berris of the NCUSCR

Last month, the National Committee on United States-China Relations (NCUSCR) published a report for the Carnegie Corporation of New York titled “American International Relations and Security Programs Focused on China: A Survey of the Field.” This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with the report’s lead author, Rosie Levine, and with Jan Berris, long-serving vice president of the NCUSCR, who celebrates her 50th year with the National Committee this month. The report surveyed academic institutions, NGOs, and think tanks about the state of the field of American China studies at a time when relations between the U.S. and China are at their lowest in the five decades since the opening to China began under Nixon. Rosie and Jan review their findings and reflect on the challenges that the NCUSCR faces in these difficult days.

1:53: The mysterious and tragic disappearance of Rye and Caraway Triscuits

13:30: Growing demand for China-related content

18:35: Choked-off information flows out of China, fears over detention and the Two Michaels

27:35: The impact of the U.S. political environment on China discourse and scholarship

34:22: The singular focus on national security in U.S. discourse on China

48:22: How the National Committee is weathering the storm

A transcript of this interview is available on


Jan: Going back to summer camp, going off the grid, and re-reading Hemingway

Rosie: "Why does it cost so much to build thins in America?" from Vox; a Freakomics interview with Pete Buttigieg and Elaine Chao, the current and former Secretaries of Transportation.

Kaiser: Ezra Klein's recent interview with Robert Wright on Afghanistan, China, and U.S. foreign policy; and the 1975 Steven Spielberg film Jaws, which is the favorite film of Jude Blanchette, interviewed recently in The Wire China.

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Sep 09, 2021
The paradox of vast corruption and fast growth in China's "Gilded Age"

If corruption is a drag on economic growth, why does China appear to have undergone some of its fastest growth during its periods of deepest corruption? This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Yuen Yuen Ang, an associate professor of political science at the University of Michigan, about her book China’s Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption, which sets out to explain this apparent contradiction. The author highlights the inadequacies of existing measures of corruption, suggests her own alternative means of measuring it, and explains how the prevalence of one particular form of corruption — what she calls “access money” — is something China has in common with the United States in the age of robber barons.

5:00: A typology of corruption, and how drugs are a useful analogy

10:05: Why all corruption is ultimately bad for a country

20:25: Is the “revolving door” in the U.S. equivalent to access money corruption?

27:44: The relationship between corruption and regime type

41:45: Profit-sharing with Chinese characteristics

59:37: Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive: are officials spared because of performance, or patronage?


Yuen Yuen: The documentary film Generation Wealth 

Kaiser: The Netflix miniseries The Chair  and the podcast Chinese Whispers by Cindy Yu

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Sep 02, 2021
Harvard’s William Overholt on Esquel, cotton sanctions, and forced Uyghur labor

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with William (Bill) Overholt, senior research fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a veteran China-watcher whose career has run the gamut from investment banking to academia to the leading think tanks. Bill recently weighed in on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to place Esquel, a leading textile manufacturer headquartered in Hong Kong, on its entity list of companies alleged to be using forced labor from Xinjiang, lamenting that “it’s quite possible that the U.S. government has imposed sanctions on the world’s most socially responsible company and one that has been particularly beneficial to the Uyghurs.” Bill also discusses recent essays on other problems in American China policy.

7:17: First impressions of Esquel, its technology, and its working conditions for Uyghurs

21:47: Targeted sanctions vs. blanket sanctions

35:06: Lack of China expertise in the highest ranks of the Biden administration’s foreign policy team

44:43: Why the United States should return to an economic strategy

A transcript of this episode is available on


Bill: Newsletters and podcasts from SupChina; articles from The Wire China; and the article “The Chinese Debt Trap is a Myth” published in The Atlantic, by Deborah Brautigam and Meg Rithmire.

Kaiser: The novel The Lions of al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay.

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Aug 26, 2021
Historian Adam Tooze on why China’s modern history should matter to Americans

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with the Columbia historian Adam Tooze, who returns to the program a year after his first appearance. A prolific writer and wide-ranging public intellectual, Adam was trained as a Germanist and has focused, in his writings, largely on economic history. His books include The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916–1931, and Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crisis Changed the World. In July, Adam published an ambitious essay titled “Why there is no solution to our age of crisis without China” in The New Statesman, in which he lays out a brief history of China from the crisis of the Qing Empire in the 19th century through China’s “Century of Humiliation” up to the project of national rejuvenation, which has been the focus of Xí Jìnpíng’s 习近平 time in office. Adam talks about why he feels it’s important to occasionally venture outside one’s own field of specialization, as he did in writing on China as a non-specialist; the folly of two oft-cited historical analogies, comparing China with both Wilhelmine and Hitlerian Germany; the importance of comparative history in making sense of contemporary international relations; and America’s difficulty, when it comes to China, in accepting pluralism from anything but a position of dominance.

16:02: What we get wrong about the Thucydides Trap and other historical analogies about China

21:17: Why the modern P.R.C. is not a mature fascist state

28:58: The iterative nature of China’s economic modernization 

46:59: China as a civilization vs. China as a nation state

A transcript of this episode is available on


Adam: Stalingrad, by Vasily Grossman.

Kaiser: The Spanish-language television series The Legend of El Cid.

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Aug 19, 2021
Peter Martin on ‘China's Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy’

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Peter Martin, a correspondent for Bloomberg based in Washington, D.C., about his book, China’s Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy. This highly readable and informative book tells the story of China’s diplomatic corps from its creation ex nihilo under the guidance of Zhōu Ēnlái 周恩来 during the Communist Party’s years in Yan’an in the 1930s and 1940s through the foundation of the P.R.C., the vicissitudes of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, and the period of reform and opening up to the current, more assertive, and often pugilistic present under Xí Jìnpíng 习近平. Peter also offers his take on last week’s interview on Sinica with Ambassador Huáng Píng 黄屏, the consul general of China’s New York consulate.

7:48: The centrality of the national humiliation narrative to the institutional foundations of China’s Foreign Ministry

15:02: The contributions and diplomatic styles of prominent contemporaries such as Qián Qíchēn 钱其琛, Dài Bǐngguó 戴秉国, Yáng Jiéchí 杨洁篪, and Wáng Yì 王毅

24:46: The rise of Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚

47:28: Understanding Chinese diplomacy’s hard turn amidst a culture of discipline

A transcript of this episode is available on


Jeremy: Hummingbird feeders with homemade sugar water nectar.

Peter: The podcast series Dolly Parton's America

Kaiser: The movie The Green Knight, based on the Arthurian legend, by David Lowery. 

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Aug 12, 2021
A conversation with Ambassador Huang Ping, consul general of the P.R.C.'s New York Consulate

This week on Sinica, we’re pleased to present a conversation with Ambassador Huáng Píng 黄屏, a veteran Chinese diplomat who has been consul general of China’s New York Consulate since November 2018. He formerly served as China’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, and as consul general of China’s Chicago Consulate. The interview, recorded on July 22, covers a range of topics in U.S.-China relations from human rights to Taiwan, and from COVID-19 to China’s so-called “wolf warrior diplomacy.”

13:22: What Americans should understand about the Communist Party of China

38:15: Evaluating the Biden administration’s position on China

41:25: The American perspective on Taiwan

46:20: The impact of the pandemic on Chinese people

50:54: Beijing’s policies on Xinjiang 

A transcript of this episode is available on

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Aug 05, 2021
Reflecting on China's poverty reduction with Bill Bikales

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Bill Bikales, who recently returned to the U.S. after 15 years in China as a developmental economist with the United Nations. In June, Bill published a paper titled “Reflections on Poverty Reduction in China” for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), raising important questions about China’s claims about poverty reduction but giving due credit for its impressive successes. In the paper, Bill situates the Chinese leadership’s bold push for the eradication of extreme poverty in a historical context, questions Beijing’s use of 1978 as a benchmark for measuring progress in poverty reduction, and offers suggestions for what Beijing must do to make poverty reduction sustainable.

5:38: How the significance of poverty relief in China’s history has shaped the CCP’s priorities

22:15: The detriments of the hukou (户口 hùkǒu) system on reducing poverty sustainably 

46:00: Addressing the next set of poverty challenges and gaps in the current social protection system

51:30: Deducing lessons from China’s poverty reduction achievements 

A transcript of this episode is available on


Bill: Destiny of the Republic, by Candice Millard, and the car-sharing company Turo

Kaiser: The audiobook version of The Ill-Made Knight, by Christian Cameron, and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

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Jul 29, 2021
A data-driven dive into Chinese politics, with Stanford's Yiqing Xu

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Yiqing Xu, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University, about his work in applying modern methods in political science to the politics of contemporary China. In a wide-ranging conversation, they discuss qualitative vs. quantitative approaches and how the debate parallels the debate between the area studies approach to China and the discipline-centered approach, as well as the pitfalls of the current data obsession in the social sciences. They also look at some of Yiqing’s recent scholarship on China’s ideological landscape, and preview a longitudinal comparative study looking at Chinese students at elite universities in China and their compatriots studying in the United States.

7:44: The role of social scientists and the quantitative vs. qualitative methods debate in the political science field

19:18: Mapping ideology in China with the “Chinese Political Compass” data set 

31:21: Why policy preferences in authoritarian states matter

40:33: How discrimination in the United States impacts Chinese students’ attitudes toward the political system in China 

A transcript of this episode is available on


Yiqing: The iconic Japanese rock band X Japan

Kaiser: The album Discipline (1981) by the progressive rock band King Crimson.

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Jul 22, 2021
Avoiding ideological conflict with Beijing: Thomas Pepinsky and Jessica Chen Weiss

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Thomas Pepinsky and Jessica Chen Weiss, both professors of government at Cornell University, about their recent essay in Foreign Affairs, “The Clash of Systems? Washington Should Avoid Ideological Competition With Beijing.” In that essay, they argue that, despite all the talk of Chinese authoritarianism as an existential threat to American democracy, Beijing is mostly on the defensive, and does not seek to export its political system. This is not to say that American democracy is not under threat: It very much is — but not from China. Tom, a specialist on Southeast Asia, looks at the ASEAN countries and their relations with Beijing to show that ideological affinity is not a predictor of close ties to China. And Jessica offers an update to her influential 2019 essay on China’s effort to “make the world safe for autocracy.”

8:08: Defining ideology and ideological competition 

19:57: Beijing’s transactional conduct with nations in Southeast Asia and the geostrategic implications

25:20: How the current rhetoric in the United States fuels Sinophobia and anti-Asian racism

36:01: China as the disgruntled stakeholder 

A transcript of this episode is available on


Tom: The French television shows Lupin and The Bureau

Jessica: “The Ezra Klein Show” podcast interview with Jamila Michener, and anything written by Yangyang Cheng.

Kaiser: Music to read by: The Goldberg Variations (particularly the 1982 version performed by Glenn Gould and the version performed by Lang Lang), The Well-Tempered Clavier, and The French Suites, by Johann Sebastian Bach, and the YouTube series “What Makes This Song Great?,” by Rick Beato.

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Jul 18, 2021
How China escaped shock therapy: Isabella Weber unpacks the debates of the 1980s

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Isabella Weber, assistant professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, about her new book, How China Escaped Shock Therapy: The Market Reform Debate. Meticulously researched and persuasively argued, her book makes important contributions to our understanding of a critical period in China’s recent history: the decade of the 1980s, when a fierce debate between “package reformers” supporting sweeping price liberalization and gradualists who argued that state participation in the market was critical to dampen inflation and maintain social stability. And it sheds light on the run-up to the student-led demonstrations of 1989.

12:20: Debunking a conventional wisdom on China’s economy

22:05: The relationship between states and markets

40:01: A universal need for reform in the early 1980s

1:10:47: Student intellectuals in 1988 and the “full steam ahead” camp


Isabella: The movie Rashomon, directed by Akira Kurosawa and Cold War, directed by Paweł Aleksander Pawlikowski.

Kaiser: Assigned reading from Kaiser: The Chinese Communist Party: A Chinese Century in Ten Lives, edited by Timothy Cheek, Klaus Mühlhahn, and Hans van de Wen.

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Jul 08, 2021
The Chinese Communist Party at 100

This week on Sinica, Kaiser is joined by historian Timothy Cheek of the University of British Columbia, political scientist Elizabeth Perry of Harvard, and our very own Jeremy Goldkorn, editor-in-chief of SupChina, in a wide-ranging discussion of the Chinese Communist Party on the occasion of its 100th birthday. The three each contributed chapters to a new volume called The Chinese Communist Party: A Century in 10 Lives, edited by Timothy Cheek, Klaus Mülhahn, and Hans van de Ven. Don’t miss this one!

8:59: Cosmopolitan traditions within the CCP

13:10: Continuity and change within the Party

20:19: The oscillations between flexibility and rigidity

34:25: Intellectuals and their relationship with the Party

50:37: Wang Guangmei and the Peach Garden Experience


full transcript of this episode is available on


Jeremy: The Dairy Restaurant, by Ben Katchor. 

Elizabeth: Middle Class Shanghai: Reshaping U.S.-China Engagement, by Cheng Li, and The Wuhan Lockdown, by Yang Guobin.  

Timothy: The Internationale, performed by heavy metal band Tang Dynasty. 

Kaiser: The July/August edition of Foreign Affairs, especially the pieces by Wang Jisi and Yan Xuetong.

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Jul 01, 2021
China's population conundrum, with UNC demographer Yong Cai

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Yong Cai, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This episode — the first in-person interview since February 2020 — looks at the results of China’s 2020 census, the announcement of the much-maligned “three-child policy” that the Chinese government proclaimed shortly after the results of the census were released, and other measures the Chinese leadership is considering to avoid the demographic crisis it now faces.  

6:55: China’s top-heavy demographic structure

20:38: Techno-optimism and its impact on the declining workforce

30:18: Implications for women in family planning

38:53: An alternative approach to inclusive population studies


Yong Cai: A Village With My Name: A Family History of China's Opening to the World, by Scott Tong. 

Kaiser: The Kominsky Method, available on Netflix, and All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel, by Anthony Doerr.

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Jun 24, 2021
COVID-19 origins revisited, with Deborah Seligsohn

Shortly after Deborah Seligsohn was last on Sinica, in April, the lab leak hypothesis seemed suddenly to gain traction — at least in American media. This week, Kaiser invites Deborah back to the show to talk about why the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a notion long regarded by virologists as less probable than zoonotic transmission, has burst back into the conversation. Deborah served as the State Department’s Environment, Science, Technology and Health Counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from 2003 to 2007. She is an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University in Philadelphia. 

3:00: The persistence of the lab leak theory

11:40: Navigating the political and institutional landscape within China 

25:36: A view from Beijing’s perspective

31:02: Eliciting cooperation from Beijing, and what should our priorities be


Deborah: The podcast This Week in Virology, particularly episodes 760 and 762, which touch on the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kaiser: Richard L. Watkins, a candidate running for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina.

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Jun 17, 2021
Journalist Andrew Jones on China's space program

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Andrew Jones, a Helsinki-based reporter who over the last several years has secured a place as the go-to English-language journalist covering China’s space program. With the successful arrival of the Tianwen spacecraft in Martian orbit and the deployment of the Zhurong Mars rover, China is catching up quickly with NASA in space exploration milestones. But China’s space program also comes in for criticism for its opacity and for potentially dangerous practices — like the uncontrolled reentry of a large Long March 5B rocket in early May. Andrew gives the latest on China’s outer-space ambitions, including planned missions to Jupiter’s outermost Galilean moon, Callisto, and beyond the edge of our solar system.

7:09: A look at the China National Space Administration

13:02: Major missions done by China’s space program

24:31: U.S. hesitance toward space collaboration with China

48:39: China’s private space companies

52:53: Potential future Chinese space missions


Andrew: The TV series The Expanse, available on Amazon Prime Video, the FIRST UP daily newsletter from Space News, the Axios Space newsletter, and the podcast Moonrise by the Washington Post.

Kaiser: The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.

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Jun 10, 2021
Chinese college students in the U.S., with Yingyi Ma

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Yingyi Ma, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University and the author of the book Ambitious and Anxious: How Chinese College Students Succeed and Struggle in American Higher Education. Yingyi’s book, which focuses on the specific experiences of Chinese undergraduates, examines the push-and-pull factors that have made studying abroad — and studying in the U.S. in particular — a “new education gospel” for many parents in China. She discusses why after 2006 Chinese students surged into American colleges and universities, and how despite their eagerness to build “cosmopolitan capital” by studying in the U.S., they’ve faced challenges in navigating American higher education.

6:56: A duality of ambition and anxiety

13:00: “Cosmopolitan capital” and globalization

39:57: The sacrifices made by Chinese families and researchers

43:58: American higher education and Chinese undergraduate students

46:14: With regard to education, the grass is always greener on the other side


Yingyi: Invisible China: How the Urban-Rural Divide Threatens China’s Rise, by Scott Rozelle and Natalie Hell, and the popular Chinese-language podcast Story FM

Kaiser: The app Weee!, specializing in Asian and Hispanic food delivery.

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Jun 03, 2021
China, Russia, and the U.S.: Does the 'strategic triangle' still matter?

Have China and Russia entered into a de facto anti-American alliance? Is Russia, which in Soviet days was for a time the “older brother” to Mao’s China, now comfortable with playing junior partner to Xi’s China? And has the United States, which in its opening to China demonstrated formidable acuity in managing the “strategic triangle,” now jettisoned that model and its logic? This week on Sinica, Kaiser is joined by Ali Wyne, a senior analyst with Eurasia Group's Global Macro practice, to discuss the motivations, the capabilities, and the strategies of Beijing and Moscow in their dealings with Washington — and with each other.

3:54: What of the rules-based international order?

15:04: The relationship between China and Russia

27:35: Inflection points in the early 2000s

48:52: Strategies and tactics employed by China and Russia 


Ali: Stronger: Adapting America's China Strategy in an Age of Competitive Interdependence, by Ryan Hass, and the documentary series Chasing Life, by Sanjay Gupta. 

Kaiser: The audiobook for The Committed, written by Viet Thanh Nguyen and narrated by Francois Chau.

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May 27, 2021
Orville Schell on his novel, My Old Home: A Novel of Exile

Veteran China scholar Orville Schell has written a dozen books on China, but his latest book — which Schell published at the age of 80 — is his first novel. My Old Home: A Novel of Exile is a bildungsroman that follows the life of Li Wende and his father, Li Shutong, from the early days of the Cultural Revolution to the tragedy of Tiananmen in 1989. This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Orville about the windows on China that nonfiction is unable to open but that fiction can; the challenges of writing a novel after a lifetime of publishing nonfiction; and continuity and change in modern Chinese history. 


Orville: The works of the famous writer and essayist Lu Xun, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, by Ai Weiwei (set for release in November 2021), and Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao's China, by Lian Xi.  

Kaiser: Interior Chinatown: A Novel, by Charles Yu.

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May 20, 2021
Margaret Lewis on ethnic profiling in the DOJ's China Initiative

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Margaret (Maggie) Lewis, a professor of law at Seton Hall University, about her work on the U.S. Department of Justice’s “China Initiative.” Launched under former attorney general Jeff Sessions in November 2018, the China Initiative sought to bring criminal cases against perpetrators of industrial espionage benefiting China, but as Maggie argues, it has in fact resulted in discriminatory ethnic profiling and the criminalization of what she calls “China-ness.” Listen to the end to hear Kaiser’s impression of Cookie Monster as a death metal vocalist.

8:24: Viewing China as an existential threat

17:44: Where the framing and implementation of the China Initiative falls short

28:11: Prosecuting “China-ness”

37:38: The impact on American competitiveness


Maggie: What Do You Do With an Idea?, What Do You Do With a Problem?, and What Do You Do With a Chance?, by Kobi Yamada; also, Beautiful Oops!, by Barney Saltzberg. 

Kaiser: The album Blackwater Park, by the Swedish progressive metal band Opeth.

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May 13, 2021
China’s Heart of Darkness

Prince Han Fei, or Hán Fēizǐ 韓非子, is perhaps the most influential Chinese thinker that many Westerners have never heard of. With Jeremy hosting Sinica this week, we bring to you a conversation recorded in November 2020 featuring writer and journalist Zhā Jiànyīng 渣建英 and Geremie R. Barmé, editor of China Heritage. The three discuss the overlooked salience of the words of Han Fei in understanding modern China, the concept of legalism and its relation to the contemporary interpretation of fazhi (法治 fǎzhì), or rule of law, and the churn of being caught between the United States and China as relations between the two great powers continue to sour.

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May 06, 2021
U.S.-China climate cooperation in a competitive age

This week on Sinica, after an eventful week of climate-change-focused meetings, including U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry’s trip to China, the U.S.-hosted Leaders Summit on Climate convened on April 22 and 23. Kaiser chats with China climate policy specialist Angel Hsu, an assistant professor in the Public Policy Department and the Energy, Environment, and Ecology Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Alex Wang, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, and a leading expert on environmental law and the law and politics of China. They provide insights into how China and the U.S. can continue to make progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions even while competing on other fronts. 

4:24: John Kerry’s mission to China

17:08: Fighting for leadership on meeting climate goals 

27:25: Will climate collaboration with China fall by the wayside?

43:01: The Green New Deal and China’s environmental policies


Angel: Blockchain Chicken Farm by Xiaowei Wang.

Alex: The Environment China podcast, Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert Caro, and the highly informative Twitter feed of carbon analyst Yan Qin.

Kaiser: The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War, The Steven Spielberg movie called Ready Player One.

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Apr 29, 2021
Searching for the six Chinese survivors of the ‘Titanic’

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Arthur Jones and Steven Schwankert about their documentary The Six. The film, directed by Jones and produced by James Cameron, focuses on Schwankert’s search for the six Chinese men who survived the sinking of the Titanic on the night of April 14, 1912. Tracing the fate of the men takes Schwankert from New York’s Chinatown to the dells of Wisconsin, from Canada to Australia, and from England to Guangdong Province. What his team discovers is the moving story of racial prejudice, the Chinese immigrant experience, and profound personal bravery. Originally scheduled to be released last year shortly after we taped, The Six is now finally out in Chinese theaters, with U.S. release dates to be announced. It marks the second collaboration between Jones and Schwankert — we discussed their earlier film, The Poseidon Project, with Schwankert on this program in 2014.

5:12: The journey from conception to completion of the film

14:21: The cultural significance of the Titanic in China

26:46: What were the survivors doing on the Titanic?

46:01: A story of immigration and the Chinese experience


Jeremy: The South African news website Daily Maverick.

Arthur: Two documentaries: Still Tomorrow, by Fan Jian, and Sleep Furiously, by Gideon Koppel.

Steven: Menno Moto: A Journey Across the Americas in Search of My Mennonite Identity, by Cameron Dueck, and Confucius and Opium: China Book Reviews, by Isham Cook.

Kaiser: The comedy television series The Good Place.

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Apr 22, 2021
Beethoven in Beijing

On April 16, PBS’s Great Performances will broadcast the world premiere of the documentary Beethoven in Beijing, which tells the story of classical music in China over the last half century through the lens of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s storied relationship with the country, from its first performances in the P.R.C. in 1973 until its most recent tour, in 2018. Along the way, the film profiles established Chinese musicians and composers, like Tán Dùn 谭盾 and Láng Lǎng 郎朗, and introduces us to new Chinese talent, like the composer Peng-Peng Gong 龚天鹏. 

This week, Kaiser chats with three individuals involved with the film: co-director Jennifer Lin, a veteran Philadelphia Inquirer reporter and the author of the 2017 book Shanghai Faithful; producer Cài Jīndōng 蔡金冬, a professor of music and arts at Bard College, the director of the US-China Music Institute, and a former conductor of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra; and Sheila Melvin, a script consultant for Beethoven in Beijing and the co-author, along with her husband, Cai, of Rhapsody in Red and Beethoven in China, both books about classical music in the People’s Republic of China. 


Sheila: This viola concerto, performed by the Shanghai Philharmonic. 

Jindong: The works of Zhōu Lóng 周龙.

Kaiser: A day in the life of Abed Salama, by Nathan Thrall, and Surviving the crackdown in Xinjiang, by Raffi Khatchadourian.

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Apr 15, 2021
China's new youth, with Alec Ash and Stephanie Studer

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Stephanie Studer, China correspondent for The Economist, who recently published a special report in the magazine about China’s “Post-90s” generation; and with Alec Ash, author of the book Wish Lanterns, which looks at a cohort of Chinese youth born between 1985 and 1990. The two explore the apparent contradictions between, on the one hand, the cosmopolitanism and socially progressive attitudes of young Chinese today and, on the other, their increasingly assertive national identity. 

9:15: Social liberalism and nationalism

10:55: Less impressed by the west

27:38: China’s millennials and their western counterparts

38:06: A progressive generation and regressive regime 

43:12: How state actors affect post-90’s discourse

Read more about China’s new youth here on SupChina, by Alec Ash. 


Stephanie: Frank Dorn’s jigsaw map of 1936 Beijing, available on the Beijing Postcards website.

Alec: He recommends traveling to Dali, Yunnan, as well as trying the provincial cuisine. 

Kaiser: The column Beijing Lights, published on the Spittoon Collective website.

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Apr 08, 2021
China's COVID-19 response and the virus's origins, with Deborah Seligsohn

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Deborah Seligsohn, who served as the State Department’s Environment, Science, Technology and Health Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from 2003 to 2007. She is now an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University in Philadelphia, where she currently teaches a course on pandemics and politics. She recalls her firsthand experience with China’s SARS response in 2003, shares her views on how much China improved in the intervening years, and talks about how, when, and why China mishandled its initial response to the novel coronavirus in the winter of 2019–2020. Deborah also offers her critical perspective on the persistent “lab-leak” theory.

This show was recorded on March 12, with an addendum recorded on March 29, in which Deborah addresses some of the news relating to the search for COVID’s origins that came out in the intervening weeks.

6:50: Understanding the origins of COVID-19

34:16: Chinese scientists’ unwillingness to share data 

43:54: The World Health Organization’s handling of the virus

54:36: The lab-leak theory


Deborah: Coronation, by Ai Weiwei, and the podcast In The Bubble: From The Frontlines.

Kaiser: The rise of made-in-China diplomacy, Peter Hessler’s latest piece in The New Yorker.

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Apr 01, 2021
Ryan Hass on his new book, ‘Stronger’

This week on Sinica, Kaiser welcomes back Ryan Hass, the Michael H. Armacost Chair at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute, a senior adviser at the Scowcroft Group and McLarty Associates, and the China Director at the National Security Council during the second Obama administration. Ryan’s new book, Stronger: Adapting America's China Strategy in an Age of Competitive Interdependence, lays out a great approach to right-sizing the challenges that China poses in the decades ahead and identifies a set of sensible U.S. responses: running faster instead of trying to trip the other guy, regaining confidence and avoiding declinism and defeatism, and not turning China into an enemy. 

4:42: Differences in Biden and Trump administrations

25:37: How interdependence with China raises American interests

29:31: A firm and steady approach to America’s foremost competitor

43:54: Risk reduction and crisis management vis-à-vis China


Ryan: Any publication by William J. Burns, the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency. 

Kaiser: Works by Susan B. Glasser, particularly those narrated by Julia Whelan.

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Mar 25, 2021
The parallel world of Chinese tech, with Lillian Li

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with ex-venture capitalist Lillian Li, who moved to China from the U.K. last year and has been looking at China’s tech ecosystem from a unique perspective — combining an investor’s eye, an academic background studying development, a grounding in Chinese language and culture, and a comparative instinct. Lillian shares her views on how technology platforms have become institutions, how the U.S. and China have responded to this development in starkly different ways, and the major features that distinguish the technology ecosystems of the West and China. 

10:19: Waiting on the next era of technology

25:06: The challenges faced by institutions

34:48: The future of the tech-government relationship

39:44: Two parallel worlds, China and the U.S. 

47:10: Scale is no longer guaranteed


Lillian: But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past, by Chuck Klosterman. 

Kaiser: Middlemarch by George Eliot, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

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Mar 18, 2021
Cheng Lei: The detention and arrest of an Australian CGTN reporter

In August 2020, the CGTN anchorwoman Chéng Lěi 成蕾, an Australian citizen, was detained in Beijing. Six months later, she was formally arrested and charged with violations of China’s expansive state secrets law. This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with ABC reporter Bill Birtles (whose involuntary departure from China was linked to Cheng Lei’s case), longtime Beijing-based Financial Times correspondent Lucy Hornby, and Chinese law specialist Donald Clarke, a professor of law at George Washington University, about the case and its relation to the deterioration of ties between Beijing and Canberra.

12:19: What we know about Cheng Lei’s time in detention

21:18: Reciprocal hostage taking, or something else?

25:00: Dawn raids on Chinese journalists in Australia

34:42: The public response to Cheng Lei’s arrest


Lucy: Revolutions, a history podcast exploring political revolutions, hosted by Mike Duncan. 

Don: The Construction of Guilt in China: An Empirical Account of Routine Chinese Injustice, by Yu Mou, The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy and the Life of John Maynard Keynes, by Zachary D. Carter, and the search software X1.

Bill: The politics of being Chinese in Australia, a comprehensive survey of attitudes and experiences of the Chinese-Australian community, by Jennifer Hsu. 

Kaiser: The British History Podcast, hosted by Jamie Jeffers.

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Mar 11, 2021
Getting Chinese politics wrong, with Jude Blanchette

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Jude Blanchette, the Freeman Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to talk about the faulty assumptions that American analysts and policymakers continue to make about politics in China — and the flawed policy built on those problematic assumptions. Despite much recent academic research into the behavior of authoritarian states that offer better models for understanding China’s politics, several older and less accurate heuristics persist. Jude deftly skewers these and offers useful approaches to thinking about Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and the CCP leadership. 

4:57: “Collapsism” and China’s political system

10:45: The shortcomings of engagement with China

24:21: “Xi besieged” 

34:26: The “hidden reformer” fallacy


Jeremy: The Plague Cycle: The Unending War Between Humanity and Infectious Disease, by Charles Kenny, and The War on the Uyghurs: China's Internal Campaign Against a Muslim Minority, by Sean R. Roberts.

Jude: Cabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere, by Steven Leckart and Zach Klein. 

Kaiser: Two essays by Thomas Meaney: The canonization of Richard Holbrooke and The limits of Barack Obama’s idealism.

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Mar 04, 2021
Julie Klinger on China's rare earth frontiers

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Julie Klinger, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware’s Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences, about rare earths — a family of 17 elements that are essential to the function of modern industry and are indispensable in everyday technology. Julie debunks many of the myths surrounding China and rare earths, and lays out her ideas about why, despite the relative ubiquity of mineable rare earth deposits, China has dominated production of these vitally important minerals for decades. 

3:00: Debunking conventional wisdom on China and rare earths

9:55: What are rare earths and how important are they

21:30: How China’s near-monopoly on rare earths came to be

32:49: Mining and environmental degradation

45:32: China’s decision to slow down rare earth production and its consequences


Julie: Going outside for the sake of going outside, and The Probiotic Planet: Using Life to Manage Life, by Jamie Lorimer.

Kaiser:The chip choke point,” by Tim De Chant, in The Wire China (listen to the article on China Stories).

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Feb 25, 2021
Journalist Te-Ping Chen on her short fiction collection, Land of Big Numbers

This week on Sinica, Kaiser is joined by Wall Street Journal correspondent Te-Ping Chen to talk about her just-released collection of short fiction, Land of Big Numbers: Stories. Featuring 10 short stories all set in China or featuring Chinese characters, it showcases both the author’s keen eye for detailed observation and her imaginative powers and offers an unfailingly empathetic look at China from a wide range of disparate angles. Te-Ping even reads a passage from one short story, “Lulu,” which was previously published in The New Yorker.

10:51: A real-life inspiration for her fiction

28:30: A reading from “Lulu”

37:10: The cultural disconnect between China and the U.S.

43:16: Te-Ping’s writing and publishing process


Te-Ping: A short story collection titled What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, by Lesley Nneka Arimah, and My Country and My People, from a collection of essays from the 1930s by Lín Yǔtáng 林语堂.

Kaiser: The Index of Self-Destructive Acts, by Christopher Beha.

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Feb 18, 2021
The Xinjiang camps on Clubhouse

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with three of the guests in a remarkable room on the drop-in voice chat app Clubhouse, which ran for 14 hours on Saturday, February 6. The room, called “Is there a concentration camp in Xinjiang?,” brought thousands of listeners from China and around the world to talk about the ongoing extralegal internment of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang. We spoke with the Han Chinese filmmaker who started the room (and wishes to remain anonymous); one of the main moderators, the journalist Muyi Xiao of the New York Times; and Rayhan Asat, a Uyghur attorney in the U.S. whose brother, a successful tech entrepreneur, has been put in the camps and has been incommunicado for three years.


Jeremy: The Ministry for the Future: A Novel, by Kim Stanley Robinson. 

Rayhan: The Queen’s Gambit, available on Netflix.

Muyi: A type of Wuhan hot dry noodle: 想念武汉热干面 (xiǎngniàn wǔhàn règānmiàn), available for purchase on Yamibuy

L: The 2012 film No, directed by Pablo Larraín.

Kaiser: The book Land of Big Numbers: Stories, by Te-Ping Chen.

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Feb 11, 2021
China’s struggle for tech ascendancy, with Dan Wang of Gavekal Dragonomics

This week on Sinica, Kaiser talks with Dan Wang, a Shanghai-based analyst at research firm Gavekal Dragonomics, who also contributes a regular opinion column to Bloomberg. Combining firsthand knowledge of China’s tech sector with broad erudition and a humanist’s perspective, Dan offers a unique take on China’s innovation ecosystem, the country’s efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in technology, and the role of economic growth, fundamental optimism, and inspiration in China’s rise as a tech power.

13:53: The outsize importance of economic growth

25:02: An overemphasis on digital technology

33:55: Reciprocity and technological codependence 

49:12: Technology is more than just tools and patents


Dan: The works of Marcel Proust, and the ham and mushrooms of Yunnan Province. 

Kaiser: The Netflix series Flavorful Origins and Great State: China and the World, by Timothy Brook.

Read Dan's 2020 annual letter:

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Feb 04, 2021
Talking Taiwan with former national intelligence officer Paul Heer

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Paul Heer about the conundrum of Taiwan — one of the thorniest and most fraught issues confronting the new Biden foreign policy team as it navigates the U.S.-China relationship. Paul is a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for the National Interest and studies Chinese and East Asian issues. He served as the national intelligence officer for East Asia from 2007 to 2015, and was previously a senior analyst at the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence in its China Issue Group. In December 2020, Paul published two articles about Taiwan policy in The National Interest: “The Strategic Dilemma of Taiwan’s Democracy” and “The Inconvenient Truth About Taiwan’s Place in the World.” This episode’s conversation centers on the diagnosis and recommendations made in those two pieces.

6:48: The democratic David versus the authoritarian Goliath

17:47: Taiwan reunification in the Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 era

36:55: The U.S. position on Taiwan

40:22: The future of one country, two systems


Paul: The works of Charles Dickens. 

Kaiser: Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, by Rebecca Wragg Sykes.

Subscribe to China Stories here, the newest podcast in the Sinica Podcast Network.

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Jan 28, 2021
A new U.S. strategy in East Asia, from the Quincy Institute

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with the three authors of a new policy paper from the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a relatively new D.C.-based think tank that advocates restraint in U.S. foreign policy. Michael D. Swaine, Jessica J. Lee, and Rachel Esplin Odell authored the report Toward an Inclusive & Balanced Regional Order: A New U.S. Strategy in East Asia, which was published by the Quincy Institute on January 11. In this longer-than-usual episode, they detail their recommendations for how they believe the Biden-Harris administration should approach the region, especially China.

12:17: Sinophobia and Cold War mentalities

23:33: The most pressing issues in East Asia

42:59: Limited disentanglement in U.S.-China technology

52:07: The role of U.S. forces in Japan and South Korea

1:05:30: Taiwan’s “porcupine strategy” 


Rachel: Women in Color, an album by Raye Zaragoza, and The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin. 

Jessica: Lengthy puzzles as a way to provide some respite from laptops and cell phones.

Michael: Continuing the trend of non-screen-related activities, Michael recommends taking up oil painting. 

Kaiser: Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State, by Barton Gellman.

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Jan 21, 2021
China's judicial decisions database and what it means

By the end of 2019, Chinese courts had uploaded some 80 million court cases to a massive, centralized database — a gold mine not only for people working in the legal professions in China, but also for researchers interested in what the court decisions can tell us about Chinese jurisprudence, criminal and civil procedures, and Chinese society more broadly. This week on Sinica, we present a show recorded back in December 2019 — prelapsarian days, before shelter-in-place orders, travel restrictions, and remote podcasting. Kaiser speaks with Rachel Stern, a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law and in the UC Berkeley political science department, and with Ben Liebman, a professor of law and the director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies at Columbia University. Both scholars have worked extensively with the database, and share their insights into why the Chinese government has pushed courts to upload cases to the database, and how it might transform the way that courts work in China.

7:19: What’s in the database, and how it’s unique to China

28:00: Pushing back against the techno-dystopian narrative

34:12: Creating a marketplace for legal implications

41:21: The limitations of artificial intelligence  


Rachel: A collection of translated essays written by Chinese intellectuals, titled Voices from the Chinese Century: Public Intellectual Debate from Contemporary China; Under Red Skies: Three Generations of Life, Loss, and Hope in China, by Karoline Kan; and the NüVoices podcast.

Ben: The works of artist Stuart Robertson

Kaiser: The popular Chinese talk show Informal Talks (非正式会谈 fēi zhèng shì huì tán), available to watch on YouTube.

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Jan 14, 2021
Ryan Hass on the Biden administration's China direction

This week on Sinica, Kaiser welcomes back former National Security Council China director Ryan Hass, who offers his perspective on the likely direction that the incoming Biden administration will take when it comes to managing the American relationship with China — the most difficult and most consequential of bilateral relationships. Thoughtful and measured as always, Ryan makes a good case for why the Biden team is not, in fact, boxed in by Trump’s antagonism toward China, and will chart a path that will diverge substantially from the one taken during four years of Trump without retreading the path taken during the Obama presidency.

1:56: The structural issues at the heart of U.S.-China tensions

6:59: Can the American political center hold? 

12:10: What can be deduced from Biden’s personnel choices

28:34: How the Biden election has changed Beijing’s political calculus

38:36: Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and a Biden administration


Ryan: Anything written by John le Carré. 

Kaiser: Ed Yong, a writer for The Atlantic, especially his recent piece How science beat the virus.

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Jan 07, 2021
Ian Johnson and Lin Yao on "liberal" Chinese Trump supporters

Why have so many prominent critical and dissident intellectuals from China come out vocally in support of Donald Trump? This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy set out to answer that question, and are joined by journalist Ian Johnson of the New York Times and by Lin Yao, a political scientist now earning a law degree at Yale, who writes frequently on Chinese intellectuals and U.S. politics.

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Dec 31, 2020
Historian James Carter on the final days of Old Shanghai

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with James “Jay” Carter, a professor of history at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, about his terrific new book, Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai, which focuses on horse racing as an unlikely but effective way to tell the story of Shanghai during the Nanjing decade (1928–1938) and World War II. We also talk about the challenges of presenting Chinese history to non-specialists, and about Jay’s weekly column in SupChina, “This Week in China’s History.”

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Dec 25, 2020
Veteran diplomat Evan Feigenbaum on U.S. policy in a changing Asia

This week on Sinica, Kaiser is joined by Evan Feigenbaum, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he oversees research in Washington, Beijing, and New Delhi on a dynamic region that encompasses both East Asia and South Asia. Evan also served as deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs under Condoleeza Rice during the second George W. Bush administration, and as vice chairman of the Paulson Institute, before joining Carnegie. Evan offers his unique perspective on how American policy over the last two decades has failed to keep up with changes happening in Asia, and how the increasing economic integration of the region has meant that the U.S. faces the threat of marginalization and relegation to a unidimensional role as a security provider. He offers useful ideas that the incoming Biden administration would do well to consider.


Evan: The documentary Statecraft: The BUSH 41 Team, available on Amazon Prime, and the cooking podcast Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio

Kaiser: The Ministry for the Future: A Novel, by Kim Stanley Robinson.

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Dec 17, 2020
China and India: Pallavi Aiyar and Ananth Krishnan on mutual misperceptions

This week on Sinica, we bring you a conversation with Pallavi Aiyar, a prolific writer and, until 2008, a Beijing-based journalist, and Ananth Krishnan, who reported from China for The Hindu and India Today until 2018. The two chatted with Kaiser and Jeremy as part of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival in November, covering subjects from popular Chinese misconceptions and stereotypes about India to India’s curiosity about — and sparse media coverage of — its powerful neighbor to the northeast. 

5:49: Mutual cultural ignorance between China and India 

11:06: Indian views on Chinese authoritarianism 

32:03: Social mobility and classism

42:00: Comparing Chinese and Indian nationalism 

52:23: 2020 as an inflection point in India-China relations

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Dec 10, 2020
Is coercive environmentalism the answer?

In this episode of Sinica, which was taped live at the fourth annual NEXTChina Conference on November 11, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Yifei Li and Judith Shapiro, co-authors of a new book called China Goes Green: Coercive Environmentalism for a Troubled Planet. Li, an assistant professor of environmental studies at NYU Shanghai, and Shapiro, the chair of the environmental politics program at American University, tackle the question of whether a state-led authoritarian approach is needed to address the crisis of global warming and other looming ecological catastrophes. And while their focus is on the environment, the book interrogates more broadly the whole technocratic authoritarian approach to governance, with relevance to pandemic response, population policy, and much more.

3:43: State-led environmentalism in China 

16:18: Mechanisms of state power and enforcement on the environment

23:12: Environmentalism and China’s illiberal turn

31:06: China’s space ambitions and technocratic leadership

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Dec 03, 2020
Chilies and China: Brian Dott on how a New World import defined regional cuisines in China

This week on Sinica, we teamed up with Columbia University Press and the Columbia Global Centers to convene a conversation with Brian Dott, a professor of history and Middle Eastern studies at Whitman College and the author of The Chili Pepper in China: A Cultural Biography. Kaiser — who is something of a chili head himself — chats with Brian about how, when, and why the chili pepper came to China and became such a fixture of the cuisines of Sichuan, Hunan, Guizhou, and Yunnan. 

7:19: Where chilies made landfall in mainland China

16:22: Chinese cuisine and cultural identity

25:48: Theories on how chilies proliferated throughout China

35:54: Chilies and medicinal applications

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Nov 27, 2020
Jennifer Pan studied clickbait in Chinese propaganda. You won’t believe what she discovered!

This week on Sinica, we present the first installment in a three-part series produced in collaboration with the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), highlighting the groundbreaking work of young social scientists who are focused on China. In this episode, Kaiser chats with Jennifer Pan, an assistant professor of communication at Stanford, about three of her research papers that illuminate different aspects of social control in the P.R.C.: the use of the dibao social welfare system, hiring decisions, and the use of clickbait headlines by government officials on social media.


Jennifer: A series of escapist fiction by Martha Wells, The Murderbot Diaries.

Kaiser: Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History, by Kurt Andersen.

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Nov 19, 2020
Rana Mitter on the reshaping of China’s World War II legacy

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Rana Mitter, professor of the history and politics of modern China at St. Cross College, Oxford, and director of the University of Oxford China Centre, about his new book, China’s Good War: How World War II Is Shaping a New Nationalism. The book is a meditation on how the evolving official narrative of World War II in contemporary Chinese political discourse shapes not only China’s domestic politics but its foreign policy as well.

8:51: What Chinese nationalism looked like before World War II

30:48: Shaping the narrative of China’s wartime experience

47:13: Giving China the postwar period it never had

57:55: Chinese public discussion about the war 


Rana: The Sword and the Spear, by Mia Couto. 

Kaiser: How the coronavirus hacks the immune system, by James Somers, and the anti-superhero series The Boys, available on Amazon Prime.

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Nov 12, 2020
A China policy for the progressive left

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Tobita Chow and Jake Werner about what a progressive U.S. policy toward China should look like. Tobita is the direc­tor of Jus­tice Is Glob­al, a spe­cial project of People’s Action that is build­ing a move­ment to cre­ate a more just and sus­tain­able glob­al econ­o­my and defeat right-wing nation­al­ism around the world. Jake is a Postdoctoral Global China Research Fellow at Boston University's Global Development Policy Center. He is currently researching the emergence of great power conflict between the U.S. and China following the 2008 financial crisis and how new strategies for global development could resolve those tensions. The three talk about whether the “tankies” bring anything to the conversation, whether a Biden presidency is likely to move U.S. policy off the current trajectory toward conflict with China, and how human rights should be considered in drafting progressive China policy.

3:58: Much ado about tankies

13:10: A worldwide shift toward authoritarianism

28:44: Imperialism — it’s complicated

33:31: Thoughts on a potential Joe Biden presidency

36:32: Progressive globalization

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Tobita: The album Fantasize Your Ghost, by Ohmme, and Punisher, by Phoebe Bridgers.

Jake: The Made in China Journal. Also, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory, by Herbert Marcuse.   

Kaiser: The show Raised by Wolves, available on HBO Max.

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Nov 05, 2020
The wuxia storyverse of Peter Shiao

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with the Los Angeles–based film producer Peter Shiao about his vision of bringing wuxia 武侠 — a genre that tells stories of chivalrous martial artists with supernatural abilities — to global audiences through comics, graphic novels, and films. The son of renowned martial arts novelist Shiao Yi (蕭逸 Xiāo Yì), who passed away in 2018, Peter wants to create a wuxia storyverse that will be to Chinese martial arts literature what the Marvel Comics Universe has been to the superhero genre. Read more about Peter’s Immortal Studios at

8:34: Bringing wuxia to mainstream audiences

12:27: Wuxia as a contribution to global pop culture

18:11: Chronicles of the Immortal Swordsmen 

28:30: Regional differences in wuxia writing and appeal


Peter: Visit Immortal Studios’ website here, and consider supporting the studio.

Kaiser: The 1997 TV miniseries Ivanhoe, featuring the late, great Christopher Lee, who plays the head of the Knights Templar.

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Oct 29, 2020
Southeast Asia in the dragon's shadow: A conversation with Sebastian Strangio

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Sebastian Strangio, the Southeast Asia editor at The Diplomat, about his new book, In the Dragon's Shadow: Southeast Asia in the Chinese Century. The book examines how each of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (except Brunei) has coped with China's rapid reemergence as a regional superpower, and offers superbly written on-the-ground reportage by a longtime resident of the region.


Jeremy: The novel True Grit, by Charles Portis. 

Sebastian: The novel World of Yesterday, by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. 

Kaiser: The Swedish progressive metal supergroup Soen. Start with the album Lykaia.

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Oct 22, 2020
The American journalists still in China

Since February, a series of tit-for-tat restrictions on and expulsions of journalists in the U.S. and China have resulted in the decimation of the ranks of reporters in the P.R.C. While the bureaus of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post remain open, they've had to make do with reduced staff and journalists reporting from outside of the Chinese mainland — in Taiwan and South Korea. Emily Feng, a reporter with National Public Radio (NPR), is one journalist who is still in Beijing. She tells us about how restrictions and expulsions have impacted morale and the ability to report on China.

16:58: Morale among foreign media reporters in China

26:29: Rising tensions and the U.S. strategy of reciprocity

33:33: Reporting from China under increasing pressure

36:08: Journalist expulsions and changing perceptions on China reporting


Jeremy: A column by Alex Colville: Chinese Lives, featured on SupChina. Specifically, Jeremy recommends Mao’s ‘shameless poet’: Guo Moruo and his checkered legacy.

Emily: The Children of Time series, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. 

Kaiser: The China conundrum: Deterrence as dominance, by Andrew Bacevich.

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Oct 15, 2020
The fight over Inner Mongolia's "bilingual education" policy

This week on Sinica, we discuss the controversy surrounding the decision by Beijing to selectively replace Mongolian-language instruction in schools in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region with Mandarin — and how people both in Inner Mongolia and in Mongolia are pushing back. We're joined by Christopher Atwood, one of the nation's leading specialists in Mongolian history and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and by Christian Sorace, an assistant professor of political science at Colorado College.

7:28: A historical overview of Mongolian history through independence

19:03: The demography of Inner Mongolia

23:09: What the bilingual education policy would actually do

35:07: The impetus for pushing language policy


Jeremy: Buying books from your local bookstore. He also recommends the website, which allows you to support local bookstores.

Christopher: Ravelstein, by Saul Bellow, and the album At Fillmore East, by the Allman Brothers Band. 

Christian: As a new father, he’s recommending a children’s book: Telephone Tales, by Gianni Rodari. 

Kaiser: The Vow, a true crime documentary series available on HBO Max.

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Oct 08, 2020
U.S.-China relations in 2020 with Susan Shirk

This podcast was recorded as part of the 2020 SupChina Women’s Conference on September 9, 2020. 

Susan Shirk, chair and research professor of the 21st Century China Center at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at University of California, San Diego, is on Sinica this week. Jeremy, Kaiser, and Susan take a broad look at the bilateral relationship as the U.S. inches toward a presidential election in November.


Jeremy: I’m doomsday prepping for the end of democracy by Farhad Manjoo, and We don’t know how to warn you any harder. America is dying., by Umair Haque.

Susan: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson and The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom. 

Kaiser: Is Russian meddling as dangerous as we think?, by Joshua Yaffa and How my mother and I became Chinese propaganda by Jiayang Fan.

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Oct 01, 2020
Online vitriol and identity with The New Yorker’s Jiayang Fan

Jiayang Fan, friend of Sinica and staff writer for The New Yorker, joins Kaiser and Jeremy for a discussion on her recently published long-form piece, How my mother and I became Chinese propaganda. The three talk about the experiences that informed her writing, her mother, and how this piece has been received in the United States and abroad.

7:27: Drawing the ire from both sides of the discussion on China

28:48: The remembered sense of humiliation in Chinese history

33:49: Losing face, family, and Chinese culture

46:40: Sexism within online commentary


Jeremy: A column by James Carter: This Week in China’s History, featured on SupChina.

Jiayang: Negroland: A Memoir, by Margo Jefferson. 

Kaiser: Dune, by Frank Herbert.

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Sep 24, 2020
Sinica celebrates the 500th episode of the China in Africa Podcast

Since 2010, the China in Africa Podcast has brought balanced, wide-ranging conversations about one of the most consequential developments in the global economy and geopolitics to a worldwide audience. Today, in honor of the 500th episode, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with the show’s co-founders, Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden, about its history and the major trends in Sino-African relations that they've seen in a decade of focusing on China's expanding presence in Africa.

Subscribe to the China in Africa Podcast on: 

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher 

10:43: Does Africa need aid or trade? 

18:21: Beware binary tropes on China-Africa relations

39:47: China’s high-risk vaccine diplomacy in Africa

45:03: How Chinese international development efforts are shifting away from sub-Saharan Africa


Jeremy: I Didn’t Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation, by Michela Wrong. 

Cobus: A partner of the China-Africa Project: the Africa-China Reporting Project at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, a source for investigative reporting on China-Africa issues

Eric: The Twitter feed of Gyude A. Moore, former Minister of Public Works in Liberia, and an article written by Moore in the Mail & Guardian titled A new cold war is coming. Africa should not pick sides

Kaiser: Avast, ye swabs. Kaiser is studying up on pirate lore. He recommends The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down, by Colin Woodard.

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Sep 17, 2020
Mary Kay Magistad - On China's New Silk Road (Episode 1: The China Dream)

This week, we're delighted to bring you the first episode of Mary Kay Magistad's brand new podcast, On China's New Silk Road. Mary Kay is a veteran China reporter and a dear friend of the Sinica Podcast – a frequent guest in our early days. After she moved back to the States, she created another great podcast called Who's Century It It?, a show that often looked at issues related to China.

We know that Sinica's audience would really appreciate her latest series and wanted to share it with you. On China's New Silk Road is a production of the Global Reporting Centre, a nonprofit group that teaches, practices and promotes innovation in global journalism. Make sure to subscribe to this great new series! We hope you enjoy this first episode.

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Sep 11, 2020
Black voices in the China space

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Keisha Brown, Mark Akpaninyie, and Leland Lazarus about initiatives they're involved with to increase black representation in China-related fields. Keisha Brown is a historian of modern China who is an assistant professor in the Department of History, Political Science, Geography, and Africana Studies at Tennessee State University. Mark Akpaninyie is a researcher focusing on China's Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese investment abroad, and China-Africa relations. Leland Lazarus is a foreign service officer stationed in Barbados, who recently joined Sinica for a discussion on China's influence in the Caribbean.

8:24: Disciplines within China studies that need black voices

10:45: Underrepresentation within China studies

20:31: Black role models in East Asian academia  

44:59: Right-wing populist parallels in America and China 

51:35: Engaging communities of color in China studies


Keisha: Asian Studies and Black Lives Matter, a digital dialogue conducted by the Association for Asian Studies, and the podcast Code Switch, by NPR.

Mark: A Chinese-language Black Lives Matter syllabus created by Amani Core. 

Leland: The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, by John M. Barry.  

Kaiser: How the pandemic defeated America, a story in the September issue of The Atlantic, by Ed Yong.

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Sep 10, 2020
Poverty eradication by 2020: A reality check

This week on Sinica, in a show that was streamed live on August 27, Kaiser and Jeremy examine China’s efforts to fulfill the goal of Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 of eradicating extreme poverty in China by the end of this year. They are joined by two guests: Gāo Qín 高琴 is a professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work and the founding director of the Columbia China Center for Social Policy. She is a leading authority on China’s social welfare system and published a book titled Welfare, Work, and Poverty: Social Assistance in China. Matthew Chitwood, who spent two years researching rural poverty in the remote mountain village of Bangdong in Yunnan Province, brings an on-the-ground perspective on poverty alleviation. He is currently writing a book based on his field research. 

4:39: Xi Jinping’s personal project of poverty eradication 

12:23: Poverty in China is confined to rural areas

25:44: How rural poverty alleviation actually works in China

34:16: Chinese social assistance programs and means testing 

48:49: Overlooked topics in the discussion on poverty eradication


Jeremy: Clean: The New Science of Skin, by James Hamblin.

Matthew: Chinese Village, Socialist State, by Edward Friedman, Paul G. Pickowicz, Mark Selden, and Kay Ann Johnson.

Gao: Blaming Immigrants: Nationalism and the Economics of Global Movement, by Neeraj Kaushal, and The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor, by Arthur Kleinman. 

Kaiser: Money for Nothing: The Scientists, Fraudsters, and Corrupt Politicians Who Reinvented Money, Panicked a Nation, and Made the World Rich, by Thomas Levenson.

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Sep 03, 2020
Rapper Bohan Phoenix and DJ Allyson Toy on hip-hop in China

In a show taped in May, Kaiser chats with New York–based rapper Bohan Phoenix, who has gained audiences in both the U.S. and China, and Allyson Toy, his manager, a Chinese American who has worked on cross-cultural music promotion and lived in Shanghai for a few years before returning to the U.S. in 2018. In a wide-ranging discussion, they look at hip-hop’s development in China, its relationship with African-American culture, and the travails of bridging two worlds as a Chinese-American hip-hop artist. 

5:36: An introverted immigrant becoming an American hip-hop artist

21:30: Inclusion and the changing hip-hop landscape in America

23:52: The early days of China’s hip-hop scene

32:54: Rap and racism in China

54:05: There’s no such thing as “Chinese hip-hop” 


Allyson: Asian Not Asian Podcast, hosted by the two New York City–based comedians Fumi Abe and Mic Nguyen.

Bohan: Jay Chou’s third studio album, The Eight Dimensions (八度空间 bā dù kōngjiàn), by Jay Chou.

Kaiser: An article in The Atlantic, titled the Prophecies of Q, by Adrienne LaFrance.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Aug 27, 2020
Rerun: Guo Wengui: The extraordinary tale of a Chinese billionaire turned dissident, told by Mike Forsythe and Alexandra Stevenson

This episode of the Sinica Podcast, recorded in June 2017, is running as a bonus this week. 

The arrest of Stephen Bannon yesterday on August 20, 2020, has brought renewed media attention to Guō Wénguì 郭文贵, a business associate of Bannon’s who is wanted by the Chinese government. The Wall Street Journal has recently reported that the federal authorities are examining the pair’s business dealings. Alexandra Stevenson and Mike Forsythe, journalists for the New York Times, joined Kaiser and Jeremy in 2017 to share their thoughts on Guo’s uncertain personal history and his quest to shine a light on the murky world of Chinese elite politics. 

The original description of the podcast, including many useful references of the people in Guo’s complicated backstory, is reproduced below:

The life and times of Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui 郭文贵 reads much like an epic play, so it is fitting that we have included with this podcast a dramatis personæ to explain the many characters in Guo’s story. Scroll to the bottom, below the recommendations, to follow along with them in order of appearance.

New York Times journalists Mike Forsythe and Alexandra Stevenson have spent over a dozen hours with the turbulent tycoon at the New York City penthouse overlooking Central Park where he resides in exile, listening to his stories and carefully investigating his most scandalous claims. Mike has for years been a leading reporter on the intersection of money and power in elite Chinese politics, first at Bloomberg and then at the Times. Alex, as a reporter at the Financial Times and now the New York Times, has focused on covering hedge funds, emerging markets, and the world of finance.

Are Guo’s myriad corruption allegations, which go as high as China’s anti-corruption chief, Wang Qishan 王岐山, credible? Is even Guo’s own life history verifiable? Who is he really, and why is he on this quest to unveil the shadowy world of Chinese elite politics? Mike and Alex don’t have all the answers, but they are two of the best people in the world to shed light on what is profound and what is puffery in Guo’s version of events.

The life and times of Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui 郭文贵 reads much like an epic play, so it is fitting that we have included with this podcast a dramatis personæ to explain the many characters in Guo’s story. Scroll to the bottom, below the recommendations, to follow along with them in order of appearance.

New York Times journalists Mike Forsythe and Alexandra Stevenson have spent over a dozen hours with the turbulent tycoon at the New York City penthouse overlooking Central Park where he resides in exile, listening to his stories and carefully investigating his most scandalous claims. Mike has for years been a leading reporter on the intersection of money and power in elite Chinese politics, first at Bloomberg and then at the Times. Alex, as a reporter at the Financial Times and now the New York Times, has focused on covering hedge funds, emerging markets, and the world of finance.

Are Guo’s myriad corruption allegations, which go as high as China’s anti-corruption chief, Wang Qishan 王岐山, credible? Is even Guo’s own life history verifiable? Who is he really, and why is he on this quest to unveil the shadowy world of Chinese elite politics? Mike and Alex don’t have all the answers, but they are two of the best people in the world to shed light on what is profound and what is puffery in Guo’s version of events.

Dramatis personæ:

To read more on Guo Wengui himself, see our narrative explainer and a compilation of more recent news on Guo from SupChina and beyond.

In order of mention in the podcast:

1.  Yue Qingzhi 岳庆芝, Guo Wengui’s wife, lives in New York, according to Guo. Yet she has not been seen in public nor by Mike and Alex, even though they have spent entire days at Guo’s penthouse. 

2. Wang Qishan 王岐山, the leader of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).

3. Li Keqiang 李克强, the current premier of China’s State Council, formerly a Party secretary in Henan Province where Guo claims to have met him.

4. Wu Yi 吴仪 served in top ministerial positions negotiating trade and managing public health in the early 21st century. Guo claims to have developed a relationship with her back in Henan.

5. Wu Guanzheng 吴官正 served as secretary for CCDI from 2002 to 2007.

6. Ma Jian 马建, the now-jailed close associate of Guo who served as vice minister of State Security from 2006 to 2015.

7. Liu Zhihua 刘志华, the former vice mayor of Beijing who was dismissed in 2006. Liu received a suspended death sentence for taking bribes of over 6 million yuan ($885,000) in October 2008.

8. He Guoqiang 贺国强, the predecessor to Wang Qishan as secretary of the CCDI. Guo alleges that his son He Jintao 贺锦涛 had a financial stake in Founder Securities at the time Guo tried to muscle his way into the company (the Times has confirmed this).

9. HNA Group, formerly Hainan Airlines, a politically connected business conglomerate that burst onto the public scene in 2016, scooping up foreign companies left and right.

10. Hu Shuli 胡舒立, the editor-in-chief of business news and investigative outlet Caixin (disclosure: Caixin partners with SupChina on the Business Brief podcast).

11. Li You 李友, Guo’s former business partner. In 2016, he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison and fined 750 million yuan ($110 million) for insider trading.

12. Yao Mingshan 姚明珊, the wife of Wang Qishan.

13. Meng Jianzhu 孟建柱, the current secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, which controls the police and security services.

14.  Xiao Jianhua 肖建华, another billionaire tycoon who had experience dealing at the top levels of the Chinese government. Xiao was apparently abducted by Chinese authorities in Hong Kong in late January 2017 and has not been seen in public since then.

15.  Zhang Yue 张越, a former provincial Party secretary in Hebei Province.

16. Meng Huiqing 孟会青, a now-jailed former CCDI official.

17. Fu Zhenghua 傅政华, the deputy minister of Public Security.

18. Yao Qing 姚庆, grandson of revolutionary and former vice premier Yao Yilin 姚依林, and nephew-in-law of Wang Qishan.

19. Guo’s two children, his son, Mileson Kwok 郭强 (Guo’s English name is Miles!), and his daughter, Guo Mei 郭美, whom Guo claims went to New York University with Ma Jian’s daughter.

20. A “dissident-minder from Guobao” (Ministry of Public Security 国保 guó bǎo), identified later in the podcast as Sun Lijun 孙立军, one of two people Guo claims to have met with in Washington, D.C., in late May 2017.

21. Amanda Bennett, the director of Voice of America (VOA), which aired an interview with Guo on April 19 that Guo and some VOA journalists complained was cut short.

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Aug 21, 2020
U.S. Foreign Service Officer Leland Lazarus on China-Caribbean relations

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Leland Lazarus, an American diplomat stationed in Barbados. Leland is a China specialist, and the conversation focuses on the U.S. response to growing Chinese influence in the Caribbean — an area that the U.S. has long considered its backyard, and a region that is home to many of the states that still maintain diplomatic relations with the Republic of China or Taiwan.

7:41: Beijing’s diplomatic aspirations 

12:28: How China is getting involved in island economies

14:17: Sentiments in the region toward Chinese investment

23:53: Taiwanese and Chinese diplomatic recognition

34:13: COVID-19 and the impact on American and Chinese influence in the region


Jeremy: Secrets of Snakes: The Science Beyond the Myths, by David A. Steen. He can also be found on Twitter @AlongsideWild. 

Leland: The popular Chinese-language podcast Story FM, an association promoting black engagement in East Asia called the National Association for Black Engagement in Asia, and the U.S. Foreign Service — check out career options here

Kaiser: A Beijing-based folk metal band called Chǔgē 楚歌 (Songs of Chu).

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Aug 20, 2020
Global Governance 2020: A discussion with Kaiser Kuo and Susan Thornton

Susan Thornton, former senior U.S. diplomat, returns to the Sinica Podcast this week. This conversation was recorded during the Princeton U.S.-China Coalition virtual event on August 1, 2020. Kaiser and Susan discuss the value of American diplomacy with China and if such engagement can help salvage what remains of a deeply strained bilateral relationship between China and the United States. 

9:27: Swapping diplomacy for machismo at the State Department

23:06: The sharp falloff in candidates entering the U.S. Foreign Service

28:29: Fatalism and China

34:08: Distrust and vilify, Washington’s new China policy


Susan: Mr. X and the Pacific: George F. Kennan and American Policy in East Asia, by Paul J. Heer. 

Kaiser: The TV show Better Call Saul, available on Netflix.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Aug 13, 2020
Adam Tooze on the geopolitics of the pandemic

This week, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Adam Tooze, professor of history at Columbia University and author of Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World, about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the U.S. and China, and how it has affected their position in the emerging geopolitical contest.

6:45: American power and political authority

14:01: China’s power during the pandemic

20:27: Trump’s deliberate strategy of “stress testing” 

33:24: The Trump administration’s full-court press against the CCP


Jeremy: Wu Fei’s Music Daily: an email newsletter with an original piece of music every day of the week by a composer and guzheng virtuoso. (Disclosure: She is his wife.) 

Adam: The Feast of the Goat: A Novel, written by Mario Vargas Llosa and translated by Edith Grossman.

Kaiser: The Hunt for Vulcan: ...And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe, by Thomas Levenson.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Aug 06, 2020
Sir Danny Alexander on AIIB in a time of crisis

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Sir Danny Alexander, vice president and corporate secretary of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and former Liberal Democrat MP and chief secretary to the Treasury of the United Kingdom. Sir Danny gives an overview of how Asia’s financial sector has been impacted by COVID-19.

5:27: The United Kingdom’s decision to join AIIB

11:49: AIIB and its accountability framework in decision making

25:16: How U.S.-China relations have affected AIIB

34:00: What AIIB is pushing investors toward now


Danny: Tengger Cavalry, a heavy metal band from Inner Mongolia.  

Kaiser: The heavy metal bands Ego Fall and Nine Treasures.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jul 30, 2020
‘Superpower Showdown’: A conversation with authors Bob Davis and Lingling Wei

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy talk to Wall Street Journal reporters Bob Davis and Lingling Wei about their great new book, Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War.

5:11: The increasingly insulated Chinese political elite

18:08: Chinese import competition and its effect on U.S. manufacturing employment

28:27: Líu Hè 刘鹤 and internal politics within Chinese trade negotiations

41:28: Chinese negotiators’ perceptions of their American counterparts

1:03:29: Huawei’s role in the trade war


Jeremy: This Chinese-to-pinyin generation tool by 蛙蛙工具 (“Frog Tools”). Conversely, Jeremy does NOT recommend Quibi. 

Lingling: The book Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, by Joan Chang. 

Bob: The new TV series Perry Mason, available on HBO, as well as the Australian TV series Rake.

Kaiser: The dark comedy TV series Search Party, available on HBO Max. 

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jul 23, 2020
Huawei and the 5G ecosystem

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Andy Purdy, chief security officer of Huawei USA, and Paul Triolo, practice head of geotechnology at the Eurasia Group. They explore the complexities of the 5G ecosystem, challenges to cybersecurity on 5G networks, the process of standards setting in advanced telecommunications, and how the Trump administration's animus toward Huawei might ultimately handicap the U.S. in this vital emerging technology.

5:18: What 5G will enable us to do

18:06: 5G standard setting bodies and their functions

29:55: China’s involvement in the standard setting process

37:05: 5G deployment around the world

50:59: The collateral damage done by banning Huawei


Andy: A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, and The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, by M. Scott Peck.

Paul: Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War by Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, and The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. 

Kaiser: The YouTube channel of Joe Parrish, a content creator and guitarist.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jul 16, 2020
Standoff in Ladakh: Ananth Krishnan on the China-India border conflict

Late on the night of June 15, a deadly melee erupted on the banks of the Galwan River, in a disputed region called Ladakh, high in the mountains between China and India. To help guide a discussion on this landmark event in China-India relations, Kaiser welcomes back Ananth Krishnan, a longtime correspondent for The Hindu, who is based in Beijing. Ananth discusses the context of the clash, which pits two massive, nuclear-armed states with increasingly nationalistic populations and growing regional ambitions against each other, and assesses the prospects for a settlement of the long-standing border dispute.

5:56: Context behind the India-China border clash

17:49: Indian sentiments toward China before the Galwan Valley skirmish

33:30: India’s future in the global geopolitical system

43:19: What could be ahead for the India-China relationship


Ananth: Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy, by Shivshankar Menon, and a docuseries that explores the creation of the hit TV series The Mandalorian, titled Disney Gallery: Star Wars: The Mandalorian.

Kaiser: The Takshashila PLA Insight newsletter, by Suyash Desai, and The Expanse, a sci-fi series available on Amazon Prime Video. 

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jul 09, 2020
The controversy over Fang Fang’s ‘Wuhan Diary’: A conversation with the translator, Michael Berry

This week on Sinica, Kaiser speaks with Michael Berry, the translator of the Wuhan-based writer Fang Fang’s controversial Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City. Michael discusses Fang Fang’s body of work and how her daily online posts on WeChat (which were compiled to become her book) drew the ire of critics who have denounced the diary as an act of national betrayal and have even leveled threats against both the author and the translator. Michael Berry is a professor of contemporary Chinese cultural studies and the director of the Center for Chinese Studies at UCLA. 

5:21: Reflections on Fang Fang’s Soft Burial 

10:42: Fang Fang’s diary, and its backlash 

21:08: An excerpt from Wuhan Diary

31:07: COVID-19: The common enemy of humankind 


Michael: The album Free Spirit, by the band Chandresh Kudwa. For a taste, you can listen to the title track here

Kaiser: The mockumentary TV show called What We Do in the Shadows.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jul 02, 2020
Why doesn't the China bubble pop? A conversation with Bloomberg’s chief economist, Tom Orlik

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Bloomberg’s chief economist, Tom Orlik, about his new book, China: The Bubble That Never Pops. A longtime resident of Beijing, Tom wrote for the Wall Street Journal before joining Bloomberg as chief Asia economist. His book argues that Beijing's leaders have learned valuable lessons from their own history and from the experiences of other countries, and applied them well to China's own economy. 

5:33: The bears have it wrong on China

10:08: Debt obligations and local government finance

18:29: What the Chinese leadership has learned, and what it hasn’t

30:21: Shadow loans, and the shadow banking sector 

47:42: The tools that China’s central banks have to deal with risk


Tom: China’s Unfinished Economic Revolution, by Nicholas R. Lardy, and The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1: The Golden Days, by Cáo Xuěqín 曹雪芹, translated by David Hawkes.

Kaiser: The 2010 Chinese television series Three Kingdoms.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jun 25, 2020
Censored: Molly Roberts on how China uses deterrence, distraction, and dilution to control its internet

This week on Sinica, we continue with the ongoing California series of podcasts that Kaiser recorded last winter, and present a conversation taped in December, when he chatted with Margaret (Molly) Roberts, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. Molly also co-directs the China Data Lab at the 21st Century China Center, and her latest book, Censored: Distraction and Diversion Inside China’s Great Firewall, takes a deep, data-driven look at the way that internet censorship functions, and how it impacts Chinese internet users. 

15:21: Dispelling two narratives about China’s internet censorship

25:24: Distracting online communities by digitally flooding forums

32:43: How censorship affects those who experience it

41:52: How the discussion around Chinese internet censorship has evolved


Molly: Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, by Virginia Eubanks. 

Kaiser: The Syllabus, by Evgeny Morozov: A website offering curated syllabi featuring text, audio, and video on a range of topics, including technology, global affairs, arts and culture, and more.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jun 18, 2020
‘Superpower Interrupted’: A conversation with veteran China journalist Michael Schuman about his Chinese history of the world

This week, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with Michael Schuman, a reporter and writer who’s been covering China for 23 years, about his new book, Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World. The book sets out to present world history as China has understood it, and what that understanding of history tells us about what the China of today really wants. 

11:12: Notable historical books on China that have withstood the test of time

17:48: What Chinese exceptionalism means

34:45: When historical context matters, and when it doesn’t

42:11: Michael Schuman’s insights on what China wants 


Jeremy: The work of SupChina’s very own society and culture editor, Jiayun Feng. Click here to explore more of her work

Michael: The Analects, a work attributed to Confucius and his peers.

Kaiser: The “Frankenstein” That Wasn’t: A Realistic Appraisal of Today’s China, an essay by Damien Ma of MacroPolo. 

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This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jun 11, 2020
Max Fisher of the New York Times on media coverage of China, COVID-19, and Trump

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Max Fisher, one of The Interpreter columnists for the New York Times, on what U.S. media coverage got right — and wrong — about the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, and the concerning parallels between 2002 and 2020.

8:33: American media coverage of the outbreak

15:14: Dehumanizing the disease in China

22:17: The role of the media in American political discourse

39:11: Moving the American consensus point on China


Max: The Farewell, by Lulu Wang. 

Kaiser: Eternal Life: A Novel, by Dara Horn.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jun 04, 2020
Has China won? Part 2 of our conversation with Singapore’s Kishore Mahbubani

In this second half of our interview with Kishore Mahbubani, a former UN ambassador of Singapore, he talks to Kaiser about the perils of American exceptionalism, the poverty of strategic thinking in Washington, and the view of U.S.-China competition from the rest of the world. His latest book, Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy, is a bracing read, unsparing in its criticisms of Chinese and American strategic blunders, and its tough-love approach is sure to rankle. 

8:52: Comparing Chinese realities to American ideals

15:31: How the outcome of the U.S.-China geopolitical contest will be decided

24:49: Strategic thinking regarding the South China Sea

37:57: America’s relationships with its allies


Kishore: Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938, by Stephen E. Ambrose and Douglas G. Brinkley.

Kaiser: A new podcast series by Patrick Radden Keefe, called Wind of Change.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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May 28, 2020
Has China won? A conversation with Singapore’s Kishore Mahbubani

In the first part of this two-part conversation, Kishore Mahbubani, a former UN ambassador of Singapore, returns to Sinica to chat with Kaiser about his latest book, Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy. It’s a bracing read, unsparing in its criticisms of Chinese and American strategic blunders, and its tough-love approach is sure to rankle. Part 2 will run next week. 

12:46: Contrasting the geopolitical challenges posed by China and Russia

23:03: The core pillars of American strength

31:23: A financial “nuclear option” for China

45:12: The fusion of civilizations

Recommendations to follow in next week’s episode.  

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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May 21, 2020
Kaiser interviews Gordon Chang!

No, not that Gordon Chang. The other one: the good one. Gordon H. Chang is a professor of American history at Stanford University, where he is also the Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities and the senior associate vice provost for undergraduate education. In this prelapsarian podcast, taped on December 19, Gordon chats with Kaiser about the rising tide of Sinophobia — presaging things to come once Trump really started fanning the flames during the present pandemic. 

12:15: American perceptions of China and Chinese people

20:54: A legacy of discrimination against Chinese scientists in the U.S.

31:43: The role of universities in pushing back against xenophobia

35:47: Espionage fears and restrictions against Chinese researchers


Gordon: The Transpacific Experiment: How China and California Collaborate and Compete for Our Future, by Matt Sheehan. 

Kaiser: The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage, by Mara Hvistendahl.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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May 14, 2020
Grounding China's drones: Leading drone maker DJI's Brendan Schulman on U.S. regulatory challenges

A congressional bill and a draft executive order threaten to prevent U.S. government agencies from using drones made in China or that contain Chinese components. Concerns over security issues may end successful programs by the Department of the Interior and other agencies using Chinese-made drones for a huge range of purposes. Brendan Schulman, vice president for public policy and legal affairs of leading Chinese drone maker DJI, joins Kaiser and Jeremy to discuss.

3:16: A history of DJI

16:04: Shenzhen and the consumer electronic supply chain

18:24: DJI under legal scrutiny in the U.S. and abroad 

29:01: The role of the U.S. Congress in pushing back against Chinese tech

39:18: Drone applications in the fight against COVID-19


Jeremy: Fine Music Radio, a Cape Town–based radio station that plays jazz and classical music, and New Frame, a media company that covers news in Africa. 

Brendan: The book Eternal Life, by Dara Horn. 

Kaiser: Two pieces from The New Yorker: How does the coronavirus behave inside a patient?, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, and The contrarian coronavirus theory that informed the Trump administration, by Isaac Chotiner.

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This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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May 07, 2020
The pathogen and the prejudice: Jiwei Xiao on COVID-19 in China and in America

Literature professor and cineaste Jiwei Xiao, who grew up in Wuhan and whose mother still lives there, published a piece in the New York Review of Books about watching the coronavirus pandemic unfold — first at a distance in Wuhan, then up close in the U.S., where she now resides. In this episode, Jiwei joins Kaiser and Jeremy to discuss her experiences. 

11:56: China’s initial response to the outbreak

16:18: Fang Fang’s comments on China’s response to COVID-19

25:09: Emerging literature on the pandemic

35:10: Occupying a space between nations and cultures


Jiwei: A work of “China noir”: The Wild Goose Lake, by Diao Yinan. 

Jeremy: Keep Cool, by Zhang Yimou.

Kaiser: A long-form piece in the New York Times Magazine, I’m an E.R. doctor in New York. None of us will ever be the same, by Helen Ouyang. 

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Apr 30, 2020
The Sinica Podcast turns 10

For our 10th anniversary show, Kaiser and Jeremy recorded live on Zoom, shared some reminiscences, reflected on how China and the podcast have changed in the years since they started the show, and took questions from listeners who tuned in. A video version of the podcast is available here

8:05: A bird’s-eye view of Western media coverage of China

26:52: The demise of area studies, and the rise of disciplines in China studies

36:59: How to keep up with current events in China

44:51: A discussion on xenophobia and nationalism in Chinese society

1:16:37: Can person-to-person diplomacy exist in an increasingly insular world


Jeremy: An interview with Stephen King by Terry Gross on Fresh Air, Stephen King is sorry you feel like you’re stuck in a Stephen King novel, and an article on SupChina, My family survived the lockdown in Wuhan. Now it’s my turn, in New York, by Zeyi Yang. 

Kaiser: Fearing for my mother in Wuhan, facing a new Sinophobia in the US, by Xiao Jiwei, and Shockwave, by Adam Tooze.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Apr 23, 2020
China's Venezuelan vicissitudes

In a show taped on March 2, before the full force of COVID-19 had hit the U.S., Kaiser and Jeremy chatted with Parsifal D'Sola Alvarado about China's strategy in the resource-rich but economically devastated Venezuela. Parsifal is a co-founder of the Andrés Bello China-Latin America Research Foundation and a foreign policy adviser to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

2:47: China-Venezuela relations before Hugo Chávez

11:29: Popular attitudes toward China under Chávez

30:27: Between Maduro and Guaidó, China is hedging its bets

40:40: Documenting Chinese interaction in Venezuela 

45:02: Do policymakers understand China’s involvement in South America


Jeremy: A list of healthcare and medical professionals on Twitter, dubbed “COVID-19 medical Twitter” by Jeremy. 

Parsifal: A book in Spanish by Francisco Suniaga, El pasajero de Truman, and The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom, by Simon Winchester. 

Kaiser: Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe.

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Apr 16, 2020
R.I.P. Liu Dehai, pipa virtuoso

Liú Déhǎi 刘德海, master of the pipa, a type of Chinese lute, died at the age of 83 on April 11, 2020. 

Liu was born in Shanghai in 1937. He received his early music education there before the Communist victory in 1949, and went on to become one of the idealistic young musicians who tried to form a specifically Chinese orchestral tradition. He learned a number of traditional instruments but became famous for playing the pipa, as well as for arranging and composing for it. Among many other achievements, he went on to play with both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic. 

Liu’s most famous work is “Ambush From All Sides” (十面埋伏 shímiàn máifú), which is featured in this podcast. It’s an ancient tune, but he rearranged it into the intense version you hear on this podcast — perhaps the closest thing to heavy metal that China produced before the 1990s, but played by one man on one acoustic instrument. 

In this Sinica Podcast Extra, Jeremy talks to classical composer and avant-garde guzheng performer Wu Fei about Liu, his legacy, and the amazing “Ambush From All Sides.” (Full disclosure: Fei is Jeremy’s wife.)

You can hear Ambush From All Sides on the podcast itself, but you might also want to look at Liu’s amazing technique in this Youtube video. The painting at Mogao Caves in Dunhuang mentioned in the podcast is Playing the pipa behind the head.

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Apr 13, 2020
Will China save the planet? A climatic conversation with NRDC's Barbara Finamore

In a show taped in late February, Kaiser chats with Barbara Finamore, senior attorney and senior strategic director, Asia, for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who shares her perspective on China's impressive progress in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the price of renewable energy, and producing electric vehicles. Tune in for a rare bit of optimism in these tough times!

6:05: How much China has invested in renewable infrastructure

14:48: The impetus behind Chinese environmental reform

28:59: The unsung heroes of China’s environmental movement

35:44: How jobs in clean energy can help revitalize an economy

45:23: Zero-emissions vehicles, and what the U.S. can learn


Barbara: Subscribing to the China Dialogue newsletter, for updates on environmental news in China. 

Kaiser: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Apr 09, 2020
Former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul on democracy promotion in Russia and China

This week, we bring you another show from the California podcast series that Kaiser recorded back in December, before the ravages of COVID-19. Take a break from thinking about the virus to listen to Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, talk about why China requires a very different foreign policy approach than Russia. 

4:31: Ideology and remnants of the Cold War

13:57: Promoting democratic values in Russia

22:22: Public diplomacy work in the 21st century

38:47: What to make of Chinese influence operations abroad


Michael: The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State, by Elizabeth Economy, Following the Leader, by David Lampton, and Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers, by Yan Xuetong.

Kaiser: Basin and Range, by John McPhee.  

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This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Apr 02, 2020
Dexter Roberts on ‘The Myth of Chinese Capitalism’

On this week's show, veteran reporter Dexter "Tiff" Roberts chats with Kaiser and Jeremy about his new book, The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World.

6:28: What is the myth of Chinese capitalism?

20:17: Chinese migrant workers and their children

35:54: Labor conditions in China

40:28: Strikes, the CCP, and labor union overhaul

45:48: Taobao villages and the transformation of the Chinese countryside


Jeremy: Videos for children in Chinese and English, coupled with improvised music by Wu Fei. 

Dexter: From the Soil: The Foundations of Chinese Society, by Fèi Xiàotōng 费孝通. 

Kaiser: The first two books in the trilogy by Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Mar 26, 2020
Janet Yang and Michael Berry on the state of cinema in a time of souring U.S.-China ties

This week on Sinica, Kaiser continues his California series with a conversation with Janet Yang, one of the legends of the U.S.-China film world, and Michael Berry, a professor at UCLA and a leading expert on Chinese cinema. They discuss how politics and other factors have taken the shine off the initial promise of U.S.-China film collaboration, but how some bright spots remain. 

This episode is part of the California series of podcasts, made possible by the Serica Initiative.

6:07: The Golden Horse and Golden Rooster Awards

11:41: A “perfect storm” for Chinese film industry disruptions

23:12: Sentiments of Chinese filmmakers in the current moment

39:29: Censorship, film, and the era of hypersensitivity


Janet: An animated movie that she created, based on a story about Cháng’é 嫦娥, the Chinese goddess of the Moon. Set to be released in fall 2020. 

Michael: The bands Plini and The Aristocrats

Kaiser: A book by Timothy C. Winegard, The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Mar 19, 2020
USCBC President Craig Allen on trade in a time of disruption

In a show taped live at the China-U.S. Summit at Duke University on February 29, Kaiser chats with Ambassador Craig Allen, the longtime Asia-based diplomat who now serves as president of the U.S.-China Business Council. Topics include the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on U.S. businesses with China exposure, the major issues plaguing American companies, the phase one trade deal inked in January, and more.

6:18: COVID-19 and decoupling

12:11: The role of business communities in the U.S.-China relationship

24:00: Where does Silicon Valley stand?

34:40: State-level sentiments outside the Beltway


Craig: Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World, by Branko Milanovic, and a report by BusinessEurope titled The EU and China - Addressing the systemic challenge

Kaiser: Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East, by Kim Ghattas.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Mar 12, 2020
UCLA's Alex Wang on where China leads and lags in climate change

In this episode, part of Sinica's California series, Kaiser chats with Alex Wang, a professor of law at UCLA and an expert on China's environmental law. Just back from the COP25 meeting in Madrid, Alex provides an informed and dispassionate assessment of China’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

8:26: China and the EU on climate change

21:42: Is coal making a resurgence in China? 

26:22: The carbon impact of the Belt and Road Initiative

30:15: How California collaborates with China on climate change

39:21: Predictions for the 2020 UN Climate Change Conference


Alex: The report Accelerating the low carbon transition, by David G. Victor, Frank W. Geels, and Simon Sharpe, and The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change: A Guide to the Debate, by Andrew Dressler.

Kaiser: The Netflix miniseries Trotsky, available with subtitles in English.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Mar 05, 2020
Jeff Wasserstrom on music in protest and revolution in modern China

From the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 that ended the Qing dynasty to the Second Sino-Japanese War to Tiananmen in 1989 and Hong Kong 30 years later, songs have inspired and united people in protest and political movements in China. In this episode, Kaiser chats with Jeff Wasserstrom of the University of California, Irvine, about the anthems that have animated activism, and about Jeff’s new book, Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink.

The episode is part of the Serica Initiative’s series of California-based podcasts. 

7:18: “Wolf,” by Chyi Chin

13:37: “Nothing to My Name,” by Cui Jian

30:47: “Glory to Hong Kong,” by Thomas dgx yhl

44:33: A preview of Jeff’s book, Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink


Jeff: 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, From Billie Holiday to Green Day, by Dorian Lynskey.

Kaiser: The albums Making Movies, by Dire Straits, and Voyage of the Acolyte, by Steve Hackett.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Feb 27, 2020
Chinese industrial espionage and FBI profiling and overreach, with Mara Hvistendahl

In a live show taped at the Asia Society, in partnership with ChinaFile, Kaiser sat down to chat with prolific author Mara Hvistendahl at the launch event of her latest book, The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage. Written in the style of a thriller, this page-turner is well researched, admirably balanced, and incredibly timely. 

12:49: Accusations against the scientists featured in the book

21:54: Instances of racial profiling against Chinese scientists

28:14: How to promote competitiveness with China

42:04: A passage from The Scientist and the Spy


Mara: Thread of the Silkworm, by Iris Chang. 

Kaiser: How Democracies Die, by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Feb 20, 2020
U.S. tries to persuade Africa it is a credible alternative to China

This week, we feature an episode from the newest member of our Sinica Podcast Network: the China in Africa Podcast, hosted by Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden. 

The United States sees Africa as a key arena to confront China's rising influence in the developing world. With its $60 billion International Development Finance Corporation and its Prosper Africa policy framework unveiled last year, the Trump administration is working hard to present African governments with an alternative development model. The problem is that U.S. officials don't have a lot to show for their efforts. 

This week, the China in Africa Podcast explores the complex U.S.-China-Africa relationship with two of Washington's leading experts on the issue. W. Gyude Moore is a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development and the former public works minister of Liberia and Aubrey Hruby is a senior fellow at the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council.

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Feb 13, 2020
Bonus Episode - coronavirus update with Yanzhong Huang

Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where he directs the Global Health Governance roundtable series. In addition to his role at CFR, Yanzhong is also a professor at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations, making him an ideal guest to talk about a pathogen with major domestic and international political implications. 


Jeremy: Three pieces from SupChina: Kenyan students in Wuhan plead for evacuation, by April Zhu; The disappearance of Perhat Tursun, one of the Uyghur world’s greatest authors, by Darren Byler; and Chinese moms in America’s illicit massage parlors, by Teng Chen. 

Yanzhong: Two movies, Outbreak and 28 Days Later

Kaiser: The subtle muckrakers of the coronavirus epidemic, by Maria Repnikova.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Feb 07, 2020
China policy and the American presidency

With the United States now in a presidential election year, how should an incoming administration — whether a Democratic presidency or a second Trump administration — approach China policy? This week, Kaiser chats with eminent scholars Susan Shirk and Barry Naughton of the University of California, San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, and asks them how they would advise the future occupant of the Oval Office. 

This episode is part of the California series, produced with the assistance of the Serica Initiative, SupChina’s nonprofit program.

23:18: Relitigating the case for engagement

26:44: The biggest economic hurdles for the U.S. and China

39:33: Addressing technological concerns with the P.R.C.

44:54: Shaping China policy for the future: Rebuild as it was, or begin anew? 


Barry: Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, by George Packer.

Susan: Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, by Ezra F. Vogel.

Kaiser: The New China Scare, in the January/February edition of Foreign Affairs, by Fareed Zakaria. 

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Feb 06, 2020
Former NSC official Jeff Prescott on China-Iran relations

In the aftermath of the targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani in early January, Kaiser talked to Jeff Prescott, a veteran China-watcher who now serves as a senior advisor to the Penn Biden Center. Jeff previously served as Special Assistant to President Obama, Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf States on the National Security Council, and Deputy National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden.

This show was taped live at the inaugural U.S.-China Series conference in Seattle, Washington, on January 15, 2020. 

6:05: Bringing China into the Iran Nuclear Deal

12:31: The role of oil in China-Iran relations

21:36: Reflections on the trade war and phase one trade deal

32:49: Creating a grand strategy while China looms large


Jeff: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson.

Kaiser: Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power (The Lamar Series in Western History), by Pekka Hämäläinen. 

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jan 30, 2020
Observing Taiwan’s presidential election

Maggie Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall University, discusses the recent presidential election in Taiwan, where she and other Chinese and Taiwanese legal scholars took part as independent observers. Maggie and Kaiser also discuss domestic Taiwanese politics, the impact of demographic and social trends within the context of the election, and cross-Strait relations in 2020.

4:49: Political posturing toward the P.R.C.

14:51: How the Hong Kong protests affected the election in Taiwan

24:48: China, and Taiwanese independence

32:18: The political views of Tsai Ing-wen

37:00: Did China interfere in Taiwan’s presidential election?


Maggie: Two recommendations related to the Pacific Northwest, where Maggie went to school: the band Sleater-Kinney and the Portland bookstore Powell’s.

Kaiser: The Light That Failed: Why the West Is Losing the Fight for Democracy, by Ivan Krasnev and Stephen Holmes.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jan 23, 2020
Military modernization in Xi Jinping’s China

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Professor Tai Ming Cheung of the University of California, San Diego. Tai is the director of the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) and also a leading expert on Chinese national security and defense modernization. This episode is part of a nine-part series taped in California in December 2019, made possible by the Serica Initiative, SupChina's nonprofit arm.

5:30: What the international security environment looks like to Xi Jinping

14:47: How prioritization on national security is implemented

22:38: How the PLA is funded, and where the money is going

28:36: Made in China 2025’s military counterpart

37:33: Beijing’s long march to technological self-reliance


Tai: In the Shadow of the Garrison State, by Aaron L. Friedberg. 

Kaiser: A new podcast, The Industrial Revolutions, by David Broker.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jan 16, 2020
The Hong Kong protests: The view from campus

On this week’s show, Kaiser chats with Alejandro Reyes, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong and a former senior policy adviser to Canada’s assistant deputy minister for Asia Pacific, about the ongoing Hong Kong protests and the spread of violence to some of Hong Kong’s best-known universities in November. Alejandro offers his take on this phase of the protests, and on how half a year of incessant protests has impacted the mental health of young Hongkongers.


Alejandro: Talking to my mother about Hong Kong, by SupChina columnist Yangyang Cheng. You can find more of her work here.

Kaiser: The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator, by Timothy C. Winegard.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jan 09, 2020
Gary Rieschel of Qiming Venture Partners on VC, tech, and the U.S.-China relationship

In a show taped in Seattle, Kaiser chats with Gary Rieschel, founding managing partner of Qiming Venture Partners. With 30 unicorns and over 30 exits, Qiming has been one of the most successful VCs in China, investing in numerous companies that have gone on to become household names in the country. Gary reflects on his years in China and the folly of decoupling.


Gary: Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, and Factfulness, by Hans Rosling. 

Kaiser: Watchmen, the new show on HBO created by Damon Lindelof. 

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jan 02, 2020
A conversation with Gary Locke

Gary Locke served as the U.S. ambassador to China from 2011 to 2014. Locke was not only the first Chinese-American ambassador to China, but also the first Chinese-American state governor and secretary of commerce. 

This week on Sinica, he joins Kaiser in a show taped in Seattle, Washington, to talk about his early visits to his ancestral village in China's Guangdong Province, the attempted defection of Chongqing police chief and erstwhile Bó Xīlái 薄熙来 underling Wáng Lìjūn 王立军 to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, and rare details about the flight of blind dissident lawyer Chén Guāngchéng 陈光诚 to the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

7:58: State-level interactions with China

17:54: Working as the secretary of commerce under President Obama

33:32: Wang Lijun’s attempted defection 

41:55: A look back at the Chen Guangcheng debacle 

1:01:09: Xi Jinping, and how he changed


Gary: Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson, and the movie Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho. 

Kaiser: The blog Reading the China Dream, which contains a collection of translated works of Chinese intellectuals.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Dec 19, 2019
Yangyang Cheng Live at NEXT China

In a show taped in front of a live audience at SupChina’s NEXT China conference, Kaiser and Jeremy chatted with particle physicist Yangyang Cheng, one of the boldest new voices writing on science and contemporary China. Get to know the woman behind SupChina’s Science and China column.

2:38: A day in the life of a particle physicist

8:26: Scientific research and the state

15:15: The overlap between politics and science

24:28: Is technocracy problematic?


Jeremy: A new podcast called You Can Learn Chinese, hosted by John Pasden and Jared Turner.  

Yangyang: The author James Baldwin and his novels, as well as a collection of short films titled Ten Years, which depict a dystopian future for Hong Kong in the year 2025. 

Kaiser: Middlemarch, by George Eliot.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Dec 12, 2019
Big Brother and big data at work in Xinjiang

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who covers China for Axios, was the lead reporter on an explosive leak of documents detailing the ongoing repression of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region. This week, she joins Kaiser and Jeremy to discuss her report, titled Exposed: China’s Operating Manuals for Mass Internment and Arrest by Algorithm. The leaks include what she describes as a "manual for operating the camps," and reveal how Chinese police are using big data to identify individuals deemed at risk for Islamic extremism or separatism in Xinjiang.

9:43: What do the leaks mean?

14:53: A timeline of events in Xinjiang

18:57: The “Integrated Joint Operations Platform”

24:50: The world’s highest-stakes “testing,” in Xinjiang camps

33:58: What can, and should, the U.S. do?


Jeremy: One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps, by Andrea Pitzer. 

Bethany: The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt, a look at totalitarian governments in the 20th century. 

Kaiser: The December issue of The Atlantic, themed “How to Stop a Civil War.” With an emphasis on a few essays: The dark psychology of social networks, by Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell; Too much democracy is bad for democracy, by Jonathan Rauch and Ray La Raja; and The dishonesty of the abortion debate, by Caitlin Flanagan.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Dec 05, 2019
Dynasty warriors: Ming vs. Qing smackdown

Sinica brings you a little levity for this Thanksgiving weekend: In one of the last live events taped at the storied Bookworm in Beijing, which shut its doors this month, the Royal Asiatic Society of Beijing sponsored a debate over a simple proposition: The Ming was better than the Qing. Four seasoned China-watchers battle it out for dynastic supremacy. Who will prevail?

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Nov 29, 2019
China and the techno-authoritarian narrative

In a podcast taped live for the Asia Society of Switzerland in Zurich, Kaiser is joined by Kristin Shi-Kupfer, director of the Research Area on Public Policy and Society at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin, and Evgeny Morozov, contributing editor at the New Republic and author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom and To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism. They discuss the shifting narratives about the relationship between technology and authoritarian politics, and how these shifts have been affected by China’s rise as a technology power. 

6:48: What we got wrong about China’s censorship regime

15:28: Was the internet ever meant to set us free?

25:20: Two competing visions for the internet

39:55: The role of the private sector versus the state

51:42: What role does the internet play in society?


Kristin: The Romance of the Three Kingdoms podcast. 

Evgeny: An essay in the most recent version of the New Left Review, Automation and the future of work—1, by Aaron Benanav. 

Kaiser: The audiobook version of A Hero Born: The Definitive Edition (The Legend of the Condor Heroes, volume 1), authored by Jin Yong and translated by Anna Holmwood.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Nov 22, 2019
Fuchsia Dunlop on ‘The Food of Sichuan’

Fuchsia Dunlop, the preeminent writer on Chinese cuisine in the English language, has published a completely revised and updated version of Land of Plenty, her classic book on Sichuan cookery, containing 70 new recipes. Her newest book is titled The Food of Sichuan. She joins Kaiser and guest host Jim Millward of Georgetown University in a discussion of this wildly popular cuisine — and how to get started as a Sichuan chef in your own kitchen.

12:18: Are there eight regional cuisines in China?

21:20: Sichuanese food going global

26:37: Sichuan cooking 101

35:01: Useful “hacks” for cooking and preparation

41:20: Food fads in China and how they migrate


Jim: Give Fuchsia a follow on Instagram; Women and China’s Revolutions, by Gail Hershatter; and the Los Angeles–based Cambodian and American psychedelic rock band Dengue Fever

Kaiser: A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism, by Adam Gopnik. 

Fuchsia: Away: A Novel, by Amy Bloom; The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Cultural History in the Old South, by Michael W. Twitty; and the soon-to-be-released posthumous album, Thanks for the Dance, by singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.

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Nov 14, 2019
Philanthropy in China, with Scott Kennedy of CSIS

This week on Sinica, Kaiser talks about the state of charitable giving in China with Scott Kennedy, senior adviser and Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Has philanthropy kept pace with the growth of wealth? And how have charities fared under Xi Jinping and China’s new laws governing NGOs and charity?

6:36: How has charity fared under Xi Jinping?

13:04: Party apprehensions about philanthropic giving

20:18: Red lines for foreign philanthropy in China

29:28: Where is Chinese funding going abroad? 

34:52: How philanthropy in China has changed over time


Scott: The China Hustle, by Magnolia Pictures.

Kaiser: A birthday letter to the People’s Republic, by Yangyang Cheng. She also writes the Science and China column for SupChina.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Nov 07, 2019
Jerome Cohen on the Hong Kong protests and the law

In this live show taped at New York University on October 16, Jeremy and Kaiser spoke with Jerry Cohen, the doyen of American studies of Chinese law. We explore the legal foundations for the Hong Kong handover in 1997, and how imprecision has contributed to many of the difficulties playing out in Hong Kong's streets today.

5:43: Ambiguity in Hong Kong Basic Law

19:38: A look at the 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill

32:35: Changing repercussions for detained and imprisoned Hongkongers

37:59: Hong Kong’s legal system wilting under pressure from Beijing

51:08: The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019


Jeremy: A series of oral histories by Ben Mauk, Weather Reports: Voices from Xinjiang.

Jerry: The works of a few individuals shining a light on the atrocities occurring in Xinjiang: James Leibold, Jim Millward, and Adrian Zenz

Kaiser: Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation, by Andrew Marantz.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Oct 31, 2019
Neil Thomas on regime support in the P.R.C.

This week on Sinica, Neil Thomas of MacroPolo sits down with Kaiser to talk about what we know — and what we don’t know — about popular support for the Chinese political leadership. Taking into account the effects of censorship and propaganda, how much “natural” regime support is left, and what explains it? 

8:51: How reliable are public opinion surveys of regime support?

19:53: Ian Johnson’s NYT op-ed on the October 1 parade

22:20: The Party and the People

38:18: Anniversaries and “dark anniversaries” — the significance of 2019

43:56: Hong Kong and Party legitimacy


Neil:Twists in the Belt and Road,” by Ryan Manuel. 

Kaiser: New episodes of The China History Podcast on the Warlord Period.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Oct 24, 2019
Live from Columbia: China tech triage with Samm Sacks

Samm Sacks, a Cybersecurity Policy and China Digital Economy Fellow at New America, speaks with Kaiser on Huawei’s nebulous role in the U.S.-China trade war, Beijing’s long march to technological self-reliance, and the growing U.S. Commerce Department Entity List. This episode was recorded live at the Columbia China and the World Forum 2019, on September 28, 2019, at Columbia University. 

4:12: Trading Huawei for soybeans

11:24: The growing Entity List

22:16: Beijing’s retaliation 

25:09: Silicon Valley’s varying views

27:21: Censorship on TikTok and Bytedance 


Samm: Novels by Irish millennial Sally Rooney, for her ability to invoke emotions you didn’t know you had.

Kaiser: Guitar nerd galore. Effects pedals by brand Mooer — the Radar Speaker CAB Simulator, and the overdrive pedal called the Hustle Drive — as well as the JAM BUDDY by JOYO.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Oct 17, 2019
Jude Blanchette on the Hong Kong protests

Jude Blanchette, the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), joins Kaiser for a discussion of the ongoing Hong Kong protests, possible U.S. responses, Beijing's puzzling inaction, the perspectives of mainland Chinese, and media coverage of ongoing events in Hong Kong.

4:52: Hong Kong’s young democratic leaders

15:39: The volatility of the Hong Kong protests

27:10: Mainland sentiments on Hong Kong

38:21: Media coverage of the protests

46:04: Speaking Mandarin, a new liability in Hong Kong?


Jude: How Hong Kong got to this point, an essay by Richard Bush. 

Kaiser: Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, by George Packer.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Oct 10, 2019
Podcast Golden Week: TechBuzz China Ep. 53: NetEase

Episode 53 of TechBuzz China is about NetEase. Listen to learn about the company’s founder, William Ding, and how he built a $33 billion empire based on a unique business style as well as on his belief that a company doesn’t need a direction or specific labels. Today, NetEase’s offerings range from email to publishing and developing games, and from breeding pigs to educating people. This episode originally aired on October 4, 2019.

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Oct 09, 2019
Podcast Golden Week: Peter Hessler on ChinaEconTalk

SupChina is celebrating Golden Week with a few of our best episodes from the Sinica Podcast Network. For today’s selection, enjoy this interview with Peter Hessler on ChinaEconTalk, along with host Jordan Schneider.

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Oct 08, 2019
Podcast Golden Week: Ta for Ta Episode 22

SupChina is celebrating Golden Week with a few of our best episodes from the Sinica Podcast Network. Today, please enjoy episode 22 of Ta for Ta, hosted by Juliana Batista.

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Oct 07, 2019
Podcast Golden Week: Middle Earth #16

SupChina is celebrating Golden Week with a few of our best episodes from the Sinica Podcast Network. Today, please enjoy episode 16 of the Middle Earth Podcast, hosted by Aladin Farré.

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Oct 04, 2019
Is China the Enemy? Featuring Ezra Vogel and Orville Schell

The Sinica Podcast this week features an exclusive recording of a China Institute event in New York on September 17 that sought to answer this question: How can the United States live with a rising China, an ideologically different country that is home to one-fifth of humanity? Joe Kahn, the managing editor of the New York Times and the paper’s former Beijing bureau chief, moderates the discussion with Ezra Vogel, the eminent Harvard University professor and author, and Orville Schell, author and the director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

10:50: Changing rhetoric: Harmful or helpful?

24:32: The future of the “China model”

33:09: Trump’s impact on U.S.-China relations

38:24: The legacy of engagement

41:04: A case for reengagement with China

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Oct 03, 2019
Christian Shepherd on Xinjiang and China's changing ethnic policy

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with Christian Shepherd, the Beijing correspondent for the Financial Times. They discuss his debut long-form piece for the FT, Fear and oppression in Xinjiang: China’s war on Uighur culture, dive into the policy drivers behind the assimilation efforts being carried out by the central government in Xinjiang, and discuss his experiences while reporting from the region.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

16:22: In an effort to forcefully assimilate Xinjiang into greater China, public signage in Uyghur has been replaced with Mandarin Chinese, and bookstores have been emptied of Uyghur-language texts. Christian noticed the same trend in legal language: “If you look at policy documents now, in Xinjiang and other regions, there has been that shift [to Mandarin]. The use of hanyu [汉语 hànyǔ, Mandarin Chinese] is diminished. Instead, it’s all guoyu [国语 guóyǔ, national language].” 

The linguistic replacement is also occurring in schools. Christian states: “In fact, in the schooling system, the emphasis is on that national language, instead of [on] the idea of there being multiple languages that were on an equal status.” 

34:26: Have there been any legal efforts to change the language within the Chinese constitution regarding minority policy? Christian explains: “I think there’s a real desire on the part of the Party to continue to pay lip service to the idea of being the champion of minority rights. Clearly, that is what is talked about through all government propaganda, and you see it in billboards all over Xinjiang about how Xi Jinping cares about the rights of the individual, [about] minorities, and about fostering ethnic unity and how that will lead to one great big family nationally.” 


Jeremy: The Planet Money podcast, particularly episode 939, The Working Tapes of Studs Terkel

Christian: Under Red Skies, by Karoline Kan, and the work of Darren Byler, including his column at SupChina and his blog, Living Otherwise

Kaiser: A documentary, The Brink, by director Alison Klayman.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Sep 26, 2019
Introducing 'Strangers in China'

The Sinica Podcast Network is proud to introduce the latest member of our family, Strangers in China, hosted by Clay Baldo. It features the voices of an emergent new China. Dissident voices, outspoken voices, marginalized voices, queer voices. Some are people who just find one aspect of living in China unreasonable, others are people who are rebellious. Some want to push the boundaries creatively, while others are just fighting to be seen. All are uniquely Chinese.

People who think differently can feel out of place in China and we capture that experience. Our perspective: If they live differently, they see Chinese society in a new way. We’re here to listen closely and illuminate their stories.

Subscribe to Strangers in China to hear the voices of a new China. Find the podcast on Apple PodcastsOvercastStitcher, or plug the RSS feed directly in to your favorite podcast app.

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Sep 19, 2019
‘Mirrorlands’: Ed Pulford on the Sino-Russian border

This week, Sinica features a chat with Ed Pulford, author of the recent book Mirrorlands: Russia, China, and Journeys in Between. Kaiser chats with Ed about the Sino-Russian border and Ed’s anthropological travelogue exploring the border’s past and present.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

28:06: Ed describes some of the tensions and perceptions that exist in the borderlands between Siberia and China’s northeast: “I think the increasing presence of Chinese ‘things’ — whether it’s material objects, consumer goods, or people who are coming over as tourists increasingly but also for longer as traders in the post-Soviet era — it’s a big shock and it has [presented] a lot of worries about the osmotic potential for what would happen if things were balanced out in terms of population and land use.”

43:43: Ed talks about Leonid, a Nanai man (赫哲族, Hèzhézú) whom he met during his travels along the Russian-Chinese border, his own ethnic awakening, and others that are occurring (and not occurring) around the world. “Among many, many indigenous groups of the Far East, the Far North, and Siberia, the post-Soviet period has been one where interest in global indigeneity — whether it’s Native American populations, Maori, or any other global indigenous cause — [there has] been a huge boom.” 

Ed explains that within China, conditions are different: “There’s been a lot of this inter-indigenous group communication and networking. Whereas in China, at least from the Hèzhé and other groups, including the Éluósīzú and other minority groups, they’re part of a Chinese world that is not so much a part of those same discussions.” 


Ed: The Crab Cannery Ship and Other Novels of Struggle, by Kobayashi Takiji, and National Book Award finalist Pachinko, by Minjin Lee.

Kaiser: Ivanhoe, a 1982 film adaptation of the original work by Sir Walter Scott.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Sep 12, 2019
Trade war economics, with Andy Rothman

On this week’s podcast, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with Andy Rothman, an investment strategist at Matthews Asia, to get his take on recent developments in the U.S.-China trade war. Andy lived in China for over 20 years, and was previously the chief China strategist for the brokerage and investment group CLSA after a long career in the U.S. Foreign Service. 

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

14:09: Andy comments on the protracted detentions of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig: “They need to treat the two Canadians as they would like Chinese to be treated in Canada and the United States. That’s not happening and it’s sending the wrong message, and it’s further politicizing what should be a technical issue. So, I’m hoping we’re going to see some progress on this, but certainly I don’t see any signs in that direction at the moment.” 

He also says a voice of reason could come from an unlikely place: “I would also like to see Huawei, as a company, speak out against this kind of retaliation.” In addition, he notes that he has mentioned this to individuals at the company, but “they did not have any response.”

36:54: Andy chimes in on the issue of engagement versus decoupling: “I think the engagement option for dealing with China versus decoupling and containment gets a bad rap. I think it’s really important for us to look back over the last 40 years of engagement and recognize that it has worked pretty well. Both for Americans and Chinese citizens, and that should be important for us, too.” 

He continues, diving into the numbers: “On the trade side, we’ve gotten fantastic access. China was an irrelevant player on the global economy up until 20 years ago. Now it’s our number one trading partner. Since China joined the WTO, U.S. exports are up to China about 500 percent, whereas they’re only up about 100 percent to the rest of the world. Prior to the tariff dispute, agricultural exports to China were up over 1,000 percent, and it was our biggest market.” 


Jeremy: The Secrets of the Hopewell Box: Stolen Elections, Southern Politics, and a City's Coming of Age, by James D. Squires.

Andy: The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America, by Margaret O’Mara. 

 Kaiser: American Factory, by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, available on Netflix. Kaiser’s review of the documentary can be found on our website here.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Sep 05, 2019
Making the world safe for autocracy: Jessica Chen Weiss on what Beijing wants

Jessica Chen Weiss is Associate Professor of Government at Cornell University and a prolific writer on Chinese nationalism and China's international relations. Kaiser sat down with her recently to hear her ideas on how we should understand what it is that Beijing ultimately wants, on how to right-size the challenges that China poses to the liberal world order, and about the CCP's relationship with its own nationalistic populace.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

10:44: Has China played a role in the global retreat from democracy? Jessica provides some insight: “I think there’s a greater risk of exaggerating China’s role and not recognizing the domestic factors, and other international factors that are leading to democratic backsliding around the world. China has done some things, first, to demonstrate that autocracy can work, sort of leading by example. It’s also made cheap financing available to governments that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it. It has exported some technologies that governments can use to surveil their populations. But I don’t think that it has by and large been the main force driving democratic backsliding and erosion.”

27:56: Jessica describes the tightrope Beijing must walk when navigating an increasingly hawkish Chinese public, referencing an article she wrote in May of this year: “I think surveys can help establish the baseline public opinion the Chinese government faces as it tries to navigate international disputes...the government has a lot of leeway to maneuver vis-à-vis public opinion. Rhetoric can obviously shape public opinion, and it’s important to document that. But, they still face costs for doing so. And the more hawkish the public is, the more the Chinese government has to dial back that appetite for conflict when trying to finesse a particular diplomatic situation in which maybe the online public is calling for war. There’s not a winning scenario there.” 


Jessica: Always Be My Maybe, with Ali Wong and Randall Park, and Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. 

Kaiser: The award-winning TV series, Breaking Bad

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Aug 29, 2019
Matt Sheehan on California's role in U.S.-China relations

Matt Sheehan, former China correspondent for the Huffington Post and current fellow at the MacroPolo think tank, discusses his new book, The Transpacific Experiment: How China and California Collaborate and Compete for Our Future. In this episode, Matt talks through a few select chapters of his book with Jeremy and Kaiser, such as the fracturing linkages between Silicon Valley and the Chinese tech industry, the story of Dalian Wanda entering the United States, and his outlook on the future of the U.S.-China relationship.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

16:23: Matt describes the thought process within universities courting overseas Chinese students hurt by funding cuts and the recession: “There’s a sense that if we as a society, as an economy, as a government, are not willing to step up to the plate on a national or state level, then local actors are going to do whatever they need to do, or whatever they can to fill those holes…And I think the same thing happened in universities across the board. They knew that they weren’t going to be able to reverse the effects of the financial crisis or the long term defunding of our public education. As they looked around, the most promising source right there, was China.” 

42:02: What is the toll being taken on tech ecosystems between the U.S. and China? Matt provides his take: “Right now, with the trade war and all the tensions, I see a lot of this as our attempt to ‘resolve’ the paradox — bring these things into balance, not through further integration, but by tearing apart many of those links at the ground level. Preventing integration in terms of people, sealing off money from going between them, and also looking to basically seal off ideas in one way or another.”


Jeremy: Jeremy’s two favorite Chinese films, both classics by Zhang Yimou: To Live and Keep Cool

Matt: A call to action for more people to study and research the artificial intelligence relationship between the United States and China.

Kaiser: Europe: A History, by Norman Davies. 

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Aug 22, 2019
The world according to Jeremy Goldkorn

This special episode of Sinica starring our very own Jeremy Goldkorn was recorded in New York on July 17. With decades of experience in China-related business, entrepreneurship, and media, Jeremy shares his views on the latest developments in Chinese business, technology, and politics, and tells personal stories from his 20 years living in China.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

“Everyday you see something you don’t see every day.” 

—Jim McGregor, on living in China

11:26: Throughout (almost) all of Jeremy’s entire professional life, he’s provided English-reading viewers coverage of China. But why? Jeremy: “First of all, it’s very interesting. China has never been well covered, ever, by European or American media. Not that there aren’t journalist and writers and scholars who do great work, but if you think about how much we know about every single city block in Manhattan compared to vast swathes of China that there’s no information at all in English — physically, culturally, or intellectually.” 

20:59: Beijing was a very different place during the 90s and early 2000s. Since that time, young Chinese people are now, in Jeremy’s words, “smarter, more talented, and more qualified — and they understand China better than [westerners].” Nowadays, many job opportunities afforded to foreigners coming to China are gone. 

Jeremy goes on to say, laughing, “China is so different now, how can you compare? There were donkey carts on the second ring road in 1995. Now you can’t cross it because there are too many Maseratis there.” 

41:30: Kaiser asks Jeremy about the “outsize role” that U.S.-China relations play in the discussion on China. Jeremy tells Kaiser, “It used to annoy me the way Americans always assume your baseline for normalcy is American…you know, Chinese people and American people are very similar in this way, they only really see their country and ‘the other big one’ — I think the Chinese people taught me to be tolerant of American self-centeredness.”

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Aug 15, 2019
Wealth and Power: Intellectuals in China

This week, while Kaiser is vacationing on the Carolina coast, we are running a March 2014 interview with Orville Schell and David Moser. Orville is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York and formerly served as dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The discussion in this episode centers on the book co-authored by Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century, and the role of select members of the Chinese intelligentsia in the formation of modern China. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 7:56: Orville opens the discussion describing how he and John Delury arrived at Wealth and Power as the title for their book: “For us, to try to sense what was the main current flowing through Chinese history — it was in fact, we concluded, this desire to see China great again. To become a country of consequence, and ‘wealth’ and ‘power’ really described it. And it was something that almost everybody in some form or [another] — whether nationalist, communist, dynastic, anarchist, Christian — they all understood that aspect, and I think that was a tremendously important, animating impulse that got us to the present.” 25:21: Orville recalls sitting in the front row at a summit held between Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton, the dialogue of which is included in Wealth and Power: “I was sitting right there during [the summit], in the front row, watching Jiang Zemin with ‘Bubba,’ the master of repartee, and trying to imitate him. It was quite touching, he did quite well. And looking back on it, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Hu Jintao or Xi Jinping would risk such a wager.” 41:56: Jeremy asks Orville about his placement of Liu Xiaobo at the end of his book, and what Liu’s question is for China and China’s future. He responds candidly: “I think the question that he poses for China, and indeed all of us, is: What’s the real goal? For him, the real goal is not to simply be wealthy and powerful…and I think also what’s lurking in the back of his critique is something that the leaders now sort of see but are quite surprised by. Namely that getting wealthy and getting powerful doesn’t, as everybody thought for these 170 years, create ipso facto respect. And that is what is really wanted. That’s why there’s such an incredible fixation on soft power.” Recommendations: Orville: Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices From the Internet Underground, by Emily Parker, and Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos. David: Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China, by Anne-Marie Brady. Jeremy: The blog East by Southeast.  Kaiser: The Chinese Enlightenment: Intellectuals and the Legacy of the May Fourth Movement of 1919, by Vera Schwarcz.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Aug 08, 2019
China correspondent Emily Feng: From the FT to NPR

Emily Feng is one of the rising stars among China reporters. She’s about to take up her post in Beijing as National Public Radio’s correspondent after an illustrious run with the Financial Times. In a show taped a few months ago, Emily speaks with Kaiser and Jeremy about her most recent reporting for the FT, covering important topics related to Xinjiang and technology. She also reflects on why, as a Chinese American, she feels like she’s under added pressure to present accurate and balanced reporting on China. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 14:02: Emily discusses the changing scope of topics that have garnered media coverage recently: “This year, rather than having conversations about #MeToo or Black Lives Matter, which, I think, really dominated discussions in the past two years, it's been about Chinese students [and] Chinese identity.” She also discusses a scandal at Duke University — Emily’s alma mater — in which an assistant professor at Duke University urged Chinese students via email to “commit to speaking English 100 percent of the time.” “Chinese Americans have always been very politically quiet. And I come from a Chinese-American family, [so] this is what has been taught to me: Don’t stick your head up. But I think that with what’s happening in the U.S.-China relationship, Chinese Americans are going to have to figure out what their stance is to partake more in political discussions happening on campuses [and] at the local government level.” 18:49: Emily, who has reported extensively on Xinjiang, reflects on her trips there in 2017 and 2018, and the rapidly deteriorating conditions for Uyghur Muslims in the region. “It was very, very evident that things were different. People [in 2017] could still talk freely about what was happening. You would talk to people in taxis, in restaurants — I met up with a number of Uyghur friends and they talked quite comfortably, but fearfully, about how their phones were being hacked and people were going to jail because of content they had shared that was vaguely Muslim from four or five years ago.” Outside of the capital of Urumqi, things were different, she explains. “I went to Hotan and Kashgar in October 2017, and Hotan was just another level. It was a police state. There were tanks and cars on the streets. There were checkpoints maybe every three or four blocks within the city. It was incredibly segregated.” 38:34: Emily wrote a deep-dive story on Hikvision, a Chinese CCTV company, which touches on the moral entanglement that U.S. companies face in supplying authoritarian governments with the nuts and bolts needed to monitor and sometimes oppress or imprison individuals abroad: “There are only a handful of companies out there that can make the type of commercially competitive semiconductors, components, [and] memory hard drives that go into the electronics we use every day — including the type of surveillance technology that China uses. So, that gives American companies a huge amount of power in saying, ‘This is whom we will sell to and this is whom we will not.’ But they’re understandably reluctant in making that distinction and making what they see as political decisions because their focus is the bottom line.” Recommendations: Jeremy: Sticky Notes: The Classical Music Podcast, by Joshua Weilerstein. Emily: The show Schitt’s Creek, available with a Netflix subscription. Kaiser: Another Netflix show, Russian Doll.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Aug 01, 2019
Michael Swaine on the ‘China is not an enemy’ open letter

The Washington Post recently published an open letter signed by five scholars and former government officials: M. Taylor Fravel, Stapleton Roy, Michael Swaine, Susan Thornton, and Ezra Vogel. The letter laid out seven main arguments for why the U.S. should not treat China as an enemy, and not surprisingly, the letter got a lot of pushback from more hawkish China-watchers. This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy talk to Michael Swaine, the primary author of the open letter, about the origins and intentions of the letter and the reactions to it. Michael is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 17:40: Michael expands on a point highlighted in the letter that was met with criticism from the wider community — “We do not believe Beijing is an economic enemy or an existential national security threat that must be confronted in every sphere” — which he says was “in part intended to try to get at [the] point that [China] is not a predatory economic entity, as the White House tends to describe it.” He acknowledges economic malfeasance by China, but pushes back on prevailing opinions on Pennsylvania Avenue regarding China’s approach to trade with the United States, noting that “of course, it’s based upon this one-dimensional, categorical, hair-on-fire notion that the Chinese are this predatory economic entity that’s out to screw everybody except themselves. It’s a fundamentally cartoonish depiction of what China is.” 27:27: What do Chinese leaders think of the United States leadership and its change of posture in the past few years? Michael speculates on where he thinks the Chinese bureaucracy’s mind is regarding foreign policy, arguing that, while there may be two highly polarized parties on either end of the spectrum, Xi Jinping lies somewhere between the two: “Xi Jinping may actually be in that middle ground, not in terms of domestic policy, but in terms of foreign policy. That is to say, he recognizes, or he thinks that, China can’t get out of the world, it can’t un-integrate from the world, it’s got to keep on trying to work with the world. And there are very concrete reasons why the United States and China, even though they may not like each other in terms of values and such, they have to cooperate.” He goes on to explain the shock that the leadership felt from the policy shifts after the 2016 election: “The Chinese leadership were taken aback by the rapidity and the extremity of the shift in the Trump administration against China. They didn’t quite expect it. They didn’t see it coming.” 36:52: What of the U.S.-China relationship beyond the current era of Trump? What should U.S. policymakers and interlocutors be articulating to their counterparts in Beijing? Michael provides his view: “We from China, a country with whom we can engage on issues that are vital to both countries and the world, we want a China whose interests are going to be supportive of continued global economic growth and development, and we want a China who is not bellicose or intimidating, through military arms, its neighbors…and that it needs to work with other parts of the international order in order to establish a more common approach to these security issues, economic issues, et cetera,” 46:05: What is the most effective approach in the U.S.-China relationship? Has the West “created a monster,” as described by Janos Kornai in a recent Financial Times article, or is there a case for reciprocity? Michael says that we “need to implement policies that are more based upon the idea of mutual accommodation,” and emphasizes the “problematic” view that “there is no such thing as mutual accommodation with the Chinese, because the Chinese will take what you give and they will pocket it and give you absolutely nothing in return.” He adds, “I think the historical record does not support that.” Recommendations: Jeremy: Read the letter ‘China is not an enemy’ in the Washington Post. Michael: Check out the exhibit on the pre-Raphaelites in the United States, located in the National Gallery in Washington, or just check out some art in general. Kaiser: The music of Anais Mitchell, a folk singer/songwriter, and the musical author behind the musical Hadestown. 

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jul 25, 2019
An update on the Hong Kong protests

This week, we speak again with Antony Dapiran, a corporate lawyer in Hong Kong and the author of City of Protest: A Recent History of Dissent in Hong Kong, to catch up on the fast-moving events in the former British colony. Antony talks about the occupation of the Legislative Council (LegCo) building by protesters, the curious decision by Hong Kong authorities to allow the occupation of that building — which has usually been a red line, to be defended at all costs — and the support that this seems to have within the broader movement. We also discuss reactions of mainland Chinese to events in Hong Kong and ponder what could come next. Listen to Antony’s earlier interview on Sinica: Umbrella Revolution 2.0 – or something else? Antony Dapiran on the Hong Kong demonstrations. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 4:51: July 1 is a public holiday in Hong Kong that celebrates the creation of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. This year, members of the Legislative Council, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam, celebrated a bit differently, as Antony recounts: “Traditionally, the morning of that day has been marked by a flag-raising ceremony at [Golden] Bauhinia Square at the convention center, which was the site of the ceremony itself…This year, protestors had indicated that they were planning to protest that flag-raising ceremony. And, as a result, the whole area was sealed off by police. Carrie Lam and all the dignitaries were forced to watch the flag-raising ceremony from inside [the LegCo building].” 8:19: Antony describes the scene around the LegCo building on the afternoon of July 1. After “a good six or seven hours” of the protestors “battering away” at tempered-glass windows, protestors breached and briefly occupied the building. The passivity of the police puzzled onlookers. After protestors broke through, the police withdrew. Antony has doubts about the explanation given by the Hong Kong Police: “The police themselves said there were ‘operational challenges’ using things like tear gas and pepper spray, but again, I’ve seen them using those very tools in that same space before, so I don’t quite buy that.” Another theory Antony has heard suggests that the Hong Kong government made a deliberate choice to “allow the protestors to do this, possibly as something of a calculated gamble that in doing this, they would do themselves a disservice or do some harm to their own image and cause the protests themselves to lose support across the broader community.” 13:57: Antony explains that the protestors vandalized the LegCo building in a “very targeted and highly symbolic fashion,” with a focus on “symbols of the Hong Kong government’s undemocratic control of Hong Kong and symbols of Beijing state power.” Books in the library were left untouched, and cash was left for drinks taken from refrigerators. However, in the main legislative chamber, individuals spray-painted over the portion of Hong Kong’s official emblem that says “The People’s Republic of China.” Antony: “Certainly, I think there was a sense that the way in which [the protestors] went about it was not a wanton act of destruction, but a carefully considered symbolic act.” 21:53: Antony forecasts what he thinks will ensue as a result of the continued dissatisfaction among the Hong Kong populace. More protests are to come, “in all of the 18 districts in Hong Kong over the coming weeks and months,” which could signal a call to action to the broader population outside of the central business district. “This movement is, in interesting ways, unlike past protest movements in Hong Kong, really spreading out among the people,” he states. “That combined with the desire to keep up the pressure from the protestors’ side is going to create a really interesting dynamic if the government can’t find its way to doing something to defuse the situation and start giving people something that they want.” Recommendations: Jeremy: A thread on Twitter by novelist Jeannette Ng on the topic of Mulan, which contains this Foreign Policy article that describes the many different versions of the story. Antony: The Mekong Review, a quarterly literary journal focused on Southeast Asia. Kaiser: Peter Hessler’s new book, The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jul 18, 2019
Searching for roots in China

This week, Kaiser chats with Huihan Lie, founder of the genealogical research startup MyChinaRoots, and with two of his colleagues, Clotilde Yap and Chrislyn Choo. The three have fascinating things to say about why a growing number of people are taking a new interest in their ancestry in China, how their company goes about finding information on the family histories of people even several generations removed from China, and some of the surprising and occasionally scandalous things they unearth when they start digging. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 5:17: While working as a consultant, Huihan began to research his own family history on the side. He describes the meaning of the experience to him: “I went to some ancestral villages on my father’s and my mother’s side, and I had never felt such a deep impact, such a personal connection to myself, to history, also to my parents, my family, and my grandfather. And as I started speaking to other people about my experience, I noticed the effect that it had on them.” 21:57: What are some of the methods that the team at MyChinaRoots uses to investigate undocumented family lines? Clotilde says that there are sometimes extraordinary clues written on tombstones, where ancestors “would have transcribed their names depending on the dialect that they spoke, but also the language that they spoke in the country of arrival.” She adds that some Chinese graves include not only the names of ancestors but also their hometowns back in China. 24:54: What remained of Confucian-rooted family records, or 族谱 zúpǔ, which one could assume were destroyed, after the Cultural Revolution? Huihan explains that their success rate of finding these records are quite high, roughly 80 percent. “A lot of it, of course, has [been destroyed]. But very importantly, in the south, there was a big resurgence in the 1980s and 1990s of clans getting back together and, basically, elderly villagers doing a collective brain dump and reestablishing and republishing their collective family records.” 51:14: In a race against time, the team at MyChinaRoots is making efforts to preserve family histories as well as investigate them. They are in the process of creating an online database for customers to interact and connect with relatives. Huihan tells Kaiser that there is “nothing left” of his own mother’s ancestral village, stating, “What we feel strongly about is preserving these cultural treasures because we wouldn’t want to stop economic development, even if we could. But what we can do is preserve cultural heritage online, and let it live on virtually.” Recommendations: Clotilde: A food blog on modern Chinese cooking, The Omnivore’s Cookbook, complete with starter kits and a guide to essential Chinese spices and ingredients. Chrislyn: The one-stop shop for pop culture television, TV Tropes. Huihan: “Haitian Fight Song,” by Charles Mingus — in Huihan’s words, the “most intense, greasy, fat, ugly, in-your-face music” available. Kaiser: A Richmond, Virginia-based band named Collin Phils, which Kaiser saw live in Chapel Hill. Soon to be headed to tour throughout China — check out the tour dates on the website.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jul 11, 2019
Military Strategy and Politics in the PRC: A Conversation with Taylor Fravel

This week, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Taylor Fravel, one of the world's leading authorities on the People's Liberation Army. Taylor has a brand-new book out called Active Defense: China's Military Strategy Since 1949, which examines the changes to the PLA's strategy, why they happen, and why, just as importantly, in some moments when we'd expect major changes in strategy, they don’t happen. Join us for this deep dive into the drivers of strategic change in this emerging superpower. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 15:33: One of Taylor’s main findings from his research in writing the book was the internal decision-making structure within China’s military: “One thing that I really came away with after doing this research is how much, in some respects, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) functions like a Party organization and not just a military organization.” 28:21: Taylor discusses how the combat experiences of the PLA in the 40s and 50s have a legacy into the present. In 1956, the PLA shifted their strategies away from an emphasis on mobile warfare (opportunistic engagement) to positional warfare (defending a fixed position): “Mobile warfare was the dominant way of fighting in the Civil War and much of the Korean war…so this is important in the context of the 1956 strategy, because it was a strategy that clearly rejected the emphasis on mobile warfare from the Civil War and said, ‘Look, we have to try to defend our new country, and we don’t want to cede large tracts of land to an invading country if we don’t have to.’” 38:34: Taylor explains the history behind China’s shift to the strategy of active defense in 1980: “The concept of active defense is associated with the early period of the Civil War in the 1930s, and then Mao’s writings about the operations in the encirclement campaigns at that time. And so, it’s a strategic concept that flows through China’s approach to strategy after 1949, and every strategy is said to be consistent with the concept of active defense.” So, what is it? “Strategically, China is defensive — it’s not offensive, it’s not an aggressor, it’s not a hegemon, but nevertheless, to achieve these defensive goals it will, at the operational and tactical levels of warfare, use offensive operations and means.” 46:36: Yet another strategic change occurred in 1993, when military guidelines emphasized the need to “win local wars in conditions of high technology.” Taylor describes the key takeaways: “I think this is the point in time, in 1993, when China really decides it’s going to try to wage war in a completely different way than it had in the past. And it believed it could do so in part because it no longer faced an existential threat of invasion from the Soviet Union or, previously in the 1950s, from the Americans. And so, the national objectives in using military force had changed from ensuring the survival of a country to prevailing in territorial disputes, as well as Taiwan’s reunification.” Recommendations: Jeremy: The Pl@ntNet app, which Jeremy is using extensively to identify the flora of Goldkorn Holler with “extraordinary accuracy”. Taylor: Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms, published by the National Defense University Press; and Making China Modern: From the Great Qing to Xi Jinping by Klaus Mühlhahn. Kaiser: An interview with Peter Hessler by Jordan Schneider on the ChinaEconTalk podcast.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jul 03, 2019
Umbrella Revolution 2.0 – or something else? Antony Dapiran on the Hong Kong demonstrations

Antony Dapiran is a seasoned corporate lawyer who has worked in Hong Kong and Beijing for the last two decades. In that time, he’s become a historian of protests in Hong Kong and the author of City of Protest: A Recent History of Dissent in Hong Kong (2017), which explores the idea of protest as an integral part of Hong Kong’s identity. In a conversation with Kaiser and Jeremy, Antony brings a historical perspective to his analysis of the current demonstrations over the highly unpopular extradition bill, the shelving of which has not slaked the anger of demonstrators. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 7:46: Reports emerged last week that suggested that the extradition bill, met with fierce opposition in Hong Kong, originated from the office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, rather than in Beijing. Antony provides his take on this development: “People felt it could only be the hand of Beijing behind this, directing the Hong Kong administration to do it. Otherwise, why would it be done in such a roughshod fashion on such an issue that was clearly going to be of great sensitivity in Hong Kong and potentially against the interest of the Hong Kong community? Notwithstanding how surprising it is, it really does raise questions about the competence of Carrie Lam and her administration.” 12:10: Given the stark pushback against the bill, did Lam and her team see this coming? As a career civil servant, she has never had to undergo a general election, so this fumble could be a result of “cluelessness,” according to Antony. “There are a number of jokes going around Hong Kong that she doesn’t know how to catch the MTR, or that when she first moved into the Chief Executive’s residence, she didn’t know where to buy toilet paper.” 13:57: Is the comparison to the Umbrella Movement of 2015 an apt one? Antony gives us his opinion: “They organized and mobilized themselves rather by way of online chat forums, private messaging groups on Telegram and WhatsApp — it’s even being said that they’re using AirDrop to communicate instructions and messages on the ground. And that is a really strong contrast to the Umbrella Movement of five years ago, which, even as a student movement, had very clear leadership and was very much centrally organized.” He continues, “I think part of the reason why the protesters, this time around, are avoiding that model is precisely a direct response to the Hong Kong government’s aggressive prosecution and jailing of the Umbrella Movement leaders.” 24:46: What has happened since the Umbrella Movement in 2015? “The Umbrella Movement was regarded as a failure — it didn’t achieve its aims,” Antony states. “And then, in the five years since then, the Hong Kong government has steadily tightened the screws on dissent in the city… Using the cover of the legal system and Hong Kong’s rule of law has resulted in what I call a campaign of ‘lawfare’ for that reason.” 35:57: What of the leadership in Beijing and its take on the protests, and the handling of the protests by the Hong Kong government? Antony explains: “The vacuum that’s likely to be left by the much diminished authority of Carrie Lam in itself presents either an opportunity or a threat.” The opportunity being that, while the Legislative Council has “almost been reduced to rubber stamp function,” this may reinvigorate legislators in Hong Kong — whereas the threat may be that Beijing sees the vacuum as Hong Kong’s inability to govern itself, and “decides that it needs to intervene.” Recommendations: Jeremy: A Twitter account, @finnegansreader, which is a bot reading James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake line by line. There is a sister account for the author’s Ulysses, @ulyssesreader. Antony: The author Dung Kai-cheung, and his masterpiece, Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City. Kaiser: Total War: Three Kingdoms, a turn-based strategy game by Creative Assembly, and John Zhu’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms podcast.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jun 27, 2019
A voice of reason within the Beltway: Ryan Hass vs. the so-called bipartisan consensus

Ryan Hass, who served as the Director for China on the National Security Council during President Barack Obama's second term, is alarmed at the direction that the U.S. policy toward China has been taking, and offers good sense on what we could be doing instead. While clear-eyed about Beijing, he warns that the path Washington is now on will lead to some dire outcomes. Ryan joins Kaiser in a show taped at the Brookings Institution, where Ryan now serves as a Rubenstein fellow with the John L. Thornton China Center. Today, we also publish on SupChina an essay by Ryan titled, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” In the essay, Ryan explains why the U.S.-China relationship will not return to the days before President Trump was elected, and suggests five questions the U.S. policy community could use to structure its thinking towards China going forward. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 3:10: China-watchers have witnessed tumultuous change in the U.S.-China relationship since President Trump’s election in 2016. Ryan elaborates on changes in Washington: “For 40 years, center-right and center-left policymakers basically had their hands on the steering wheel of American policy toward China. That changed two years ago.” However, this may not hold true outside the Beltway, according to Ryan: “If we look at polling by Pew, or the Chicago Council…what we find is that most Americans don’t think of China either as a partner or as a rival. They have mixed feelings on China.” 14:12: Ryan shares his opinions on the current moment we find ourselves in concerning the bilateral relationship with China. “I personally think that we are in the most precarious moment in the U.S.-China relationship that we have been in since 1979, or perhaps 1972,” he states, explaining that conflicting diagnoses on the main areas of contention result in greater disarray. Ryan adds that actors in Beijing claim that the United States’ “anxieties about China’s relative rise” in Washington have resulted in the heavy-handed policies, whereas on the other hand, those in Washington claim China has “stepped back from the path of reform and opening,” thus justifying the current approach. 32:13: Has the argument of containment reemerged in the era of Trump? Kaiser suggests that, with arms sales to Taiwan, F-35 sales to Japan, and the increasingly severe action and rhetoric taken against Huawei, one could hesitantly say yes if viewing the current state of affairs from Beijing’s perspective. Ryan responds: “There was a point in time when I could say confidently yes, that [containment] is an unreasonable conclusion for Beijing to draw… It’s harder for me to make that same case credibly anymore.” However, he does make a poignant case for optimism: “I guess I am just reluctant to accept the fatalism that seems to be so enrapturing the Beltway right now that it is impossible for our two countries, or systems, to coexist with each other because they are fundamentally at odds.” 40:53: The nature of the relationship between the United States and China will be one of increased competition. What can be done about it? Ryan suggests a more proactive approach, saying: “For me, the core question, though, isn’t whether we as Americans should feel righteous in our indignation about certain Chinese behaviors, but really: What should we be doing about it?” Recommendations: Ryan: The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal, by Bill Burns, a source of inspiration for Ryan in his diplomatic career, and the Hamilton soundtrack. Kaiser: Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces, a collection of essays by Michael Chabon.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jun 20, 2019
A student leader 30 years after Tiananmen: Wu’er Kaixi reflects on the movement

This week, Kaiser is joined by Nury Turkel of the Uyghur Human Rights Project in an in-depth conversation with Wu'er Kaixi (Örkesh Dölet), best known as one of the student leaders in the Tiananmen protests that rocked Beijing 30 years ago. He talks about the heady intellectual freedom of the 1980s, the movement's goals in 1989, the frustrations of exile, and his growing involvement in the Uyghur diaspora's efforts to draw attention to Beijing's draconian detentions of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China's Xinjiang region. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 17:41: Nury references a movement that is often overlooked in the context of late 20th century democratic movements around the world that served as an inspiration for the Tiananmen student movements: “In 1989, we were imitating Poland. That’s a very important reference that the world should know. What happened in 1989 feels like the Solidarity movement in Poland. We saw it [come] along step by step, and it was very inspiring.” 25:34: Nury describes the dramatic scene of several hundred thousand university students from local colleges marching a circuit around the second ring road that encircles the center of Beijing: “When we took the ring road — I mean, 100,000 students took the ring road… what’s more exciting is the people standing by on the two sides of the ring road. [They were] Beijingers. Their support is the [thing] that gave us all the confidence. [There had] to be half a million people there that day.” 59:02: Nury asks Kaixi about inaction on behalf of both Muslim and Western governments regarding the ongoing internment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. He responds: “The real reason the Uyghur movement has not been on the map — there are many, many factors that contribute to that: Number one, unfortunately, Uyghur people [follow] an Islamic faith. Let’s look at this with all honesty. Today’s world [is] not that honest. Today’s world is not that courageous. We don’t live in a perfect world. And the Western world finds it much more convenient to neglect the Uyghur movement.”

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jun 13, 2019
China's New Red Guards: Jude Blanchette on China's Far Left
01:23:11 — China consultants, on demand. Submit your project needs, and we will match you with qualified China consultants. This week, Kaiser sits down with Jude Blanchette in the Sinica South Studio in Durham, North Carolina, to talk about Jude's new book, China's New Red Guards: The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong, which just came out on June 3. Jude explains the origins of the neo-Maoists and others on the left opposition, and how overlooking the conservative reaction to reform and opening impoverishes our understanding of China and its politics. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 9:33: The show begins with a discussion on Diāo Wěimíng 刁伟铭, an editor of the prominent neo-Maoist website Utopia (乌有之乡 wūyǒu zhī xiāng), and his untimely death in a vehicle collision while leading a group of Chinese tourists in North Korea visiting the grave of Mao Zedong’s grandson. Jude states: “Not only is his story fascinating and the story of why the heck they were in North Korea, but also [because] the news of the bus crash was originally suppressed.” The sensitivity of information about neo-Maoists reflects how their relationship with the Communist Party is “fraught” and “complex,” Jude says, who adds that this relationship “has been evolving for decades and continues to evolve now.” 18:48: Are there online platforms that lend themselves to radicalization in China? Jude explains how individuals find these communities organically, and moments around the turn of the millennium that prompted galvanization, the 1999 NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade among them. “Several key print publications were shut down by Jiang Zemin in 2002 and 2003, and these were old, established, thick theoretical journals that essentially had been the only remaining outlets for the conservative intellectuals…and after those publications were shut down, they really cast about to see what to do next, and I think had there been no internet, it would have been quite difficult to reconstitute a movement. But they saw this fledgling piece of information technology…this provided a public square, so to speak, where people could come together.” 27:34: What is neo-authoritarianism? What are the linkages between this ideology, the neo-Maoists, and the increasing prominence of technology? Jude tells the story of this theory in China and of the early progenitors, one of whom now sits on the Politburo Standing Committee. 31:21: How does the radical left in China view the protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989? Jude notes: “You would think given what we know about the current political program of neo-Maoism that they would either minimize or deny that there was any sort of massacre on June 4th, but in fact that’s actually not the case…there’s actually a much more nuanced position on things like the Cultural Revolution and June 4th than you would originally think.” 57:32: During Wen Jiabao’s tenure in office, Jude claims there is a reason why he pointed to the Cultural Revolution — to warn against the increase in radical leftist political views: “I do think there is a reason Wen Jiabao chose to invoke the spirit of the cultural revolution when essentially he wanted to warn about the neo-Maoists and Bo Xilai. That there is this thread of radical politics, which is always a threat to the Communist Party. And the most powerful fuel for this radical style of politics is not this sort of Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei [style of] constitutional democracy. That’s not what the Party is really afraid of. It’s more afraid of people who outflank it from the left.” Recommendations: Jude: Behind the Curve, a film investigation into the “Flat Earth” community. Kaiser: How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States, by Daniel Immerwahr, a story of the United States beyond the lower 48 states. 

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jun 06, 2019
Charlene Barshefsky on Trump’s Trade War

This week on the Sinica Podcast, we are happy to share a live recording from the third annual SupChina Women’s Conference. Jeremy and Kaiser sat down with Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky, now a senior international partner at the law firm of WilmerHale, and a former United States Trade Representative under the Clinton administration. She came to New York for a candid discussion on her views regarding the recent deterioration of trade talks, her own experiences in the office of the United States Trade Representative, Huawei’s role in the dispute between the U.S. and China, and more possibilities in the trade war moving forward. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 3:42: What caused the trade deal to go up in smoke? The tariff hikes? The executive order banning Huawei? Chinese negotiators reneging on previously agreed-upon wording? Charlene provides her opinion — noting a misjudgement on Trump’s negotiating style, among other factors: “First of all, a continued and persistent misapprehension on the part of Xi Jinping about Donald Trump…coupled with seeing a text in full. Which, when one sees constituent parts, might not seem too overbearing, but when one sees in full relief, looks exceptionally overbearing, making China look, perhaps, small. Coupled with a sense on the part of China that certain of the provisions, in total, either impinged on China’s sovereignty with respect to changes in laws, or were unrealistic with respect to the extent of purchases the U.S. wanted China to make, or were themselves not emblematic of the negotiations that took place.” 14:37: How can leaders preempt the common criticism of trade deals that the final agreement erodes the sovereignty of their country? Charlene suggests an interesting rhetorical strategy to take during the negotiating process: “Let’s suppose I say to you: I will never agree to a deal that puts in question the sovereignty of my country. Never. I will never do that. And then you do a deal. Which, actually, puts in question the sovereignty of your country. But because you’ve said, quite convincingly, you’d never do a deal that does that. Whatever it is you did over here, by definition, is not that. So, you’ve covered yourself.” 22:44: What is the Trump administration’s approach to macroeconomic policy, and how could this view affect the bilateral relationship with China and other U.S. trade partners? Charlene offers some perspective on the bigger picture: “I think the Trump administration is quite interested in managed trade. I think this is really the calling card — that is to say, ‘We want you to buy more from us. And if you don’t buy more from us in the following quantity over the following time frame, well, we’re just going to have to impose tariffs on you to even out the score.’ Whatever score is being kept in his mind.” She continues: “One of the difficulties with these kinds of solutions is that they’re often very costly to consumers. They’re intended to divert trade from the existing suppliers to your suppliers…it just takes the hunk that was Brazil’s, or Argentina’s, or Europe’s, or South Africa’s, and gives it to the United States. Those countries, most assuredly, will not stand still for it as their industries, who are trading fairly, suffer from the repercussions of what is a managed trade approach.” 30:07: Attacks on Huawei via public denunciation and executive orders seem to have hit China in a way that tariffs and other escalatory measures have not. Jeremy asks, “How does this sledgehammer approach to Huawei complicate China’s negotiating position?” Charlene acknowledges national security concerns regarding the company but also underlines the importance of interchange in the 21st-century tech ecosystem: “Huawei is just stuck in the middle. There’s a security aspect, and a highly positive, innovative, and economic aspect. So, could there be a better way to protect the security aspect, or mitigate that aspect, while not losing this other very important part of the Huawei equation? I don’t think the administration was interested in trying to thread that course, at least not at the present time. But at some point, it will be necessary to thread that course, or we will see not just Huawei disadvantaged, but most of our major tech companies highly disadvantaged as well.”

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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May 30, 2019
Chinese Investment: Beyond the USA

This week's podcast was recorded at the Caixin "Talking China's Economy: 2019 Forecasts and Strategies" conference in Chengdu in April. Kaiser spoke with Professor Hé Fān 何帆 of the Antai College of Economics and Management at Shanghai Jiaotong University, and Michael Anti, CEO of Caixin Globus, which tracks Chinese global investment. They chat about how "globalization," which once meant "Americanization" to many Chinese, has taken on a much broader meaning as SAFE concerns over capital flight have reeled in the "gray rhinos" after an investment spree, and as a stricter CFIUS regime has made U.S. investments more difficult. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 7:04: Professor He Fan explains the nature of the bilateral investment relationship between the United States and China in the 21st century: “Recently, the number [of Chinese investment in the United States] in 2017 is above six billion US dollars and accounts for four percent of China’s outbound foreign direct investment. And I haven’t seen — even when talking about [China’s investment in] other parts of the world, the Belt and Road, other countries — but I haven’t seen a dramatic decline of China’s investment in the United States. And if you look at the numbers, I think we tend to overestimate the importance of bilateral investment.” 14:13: How much scrutiny is being placed on Chinese investment in the United States, and what does the outbound investment landscape from China look like at the current moment? Michael: “Actually Chinese companies have two challenges to put the investment out: first, is the government ... But, in terms of the many Chinese internet companies — they have US dollar funds. Because they have US dollars in Hong Kong. Not all in Silicon Valley, not necessarily in Beijing. So that kind of money isn’t really controlled by the Chinese government. Then, they meet the second challenge. The American government, [or] CFIUS. CFIUS is now blocking, I would say 90 percent of Chinese tech investment in the United States.” 19:10: Are immigration and Chinese investment linked? Michael sees a link, and points out investment in southern Europe and Japan as examples - however Professor He Fan pushes back: “I think we can find this link between immigration and investment, but then, it would be very difficult to use this as a proxy to predict where Chinese money will go, because Chinese people are everywhere. I’ve traveled to more than fifty countries and there is only one country where I cannot find many Chinese people. It’s Cuba. Because it’s a planned economy and Chinese people are not allowed to do business there.” He Fan continues, “People are talking about decoupling of China and the United States. For me, it’s very difficult to imagine the decoupling of the two largest economies in the world … to be frank, I think people in Washington D.C. and Beijing tend to overestimate their influence. And people in Chengdu are much better.” 28:13: Who is doing the overseas investment in areas outside of the United States, state-owned enterprises or privately owned enterprises? Professor He Fan introduces the Wenzhou index: “In other foreign markets, in Africa and Southeast Asia for example, my understanding is private companies discovered those new markets first and then [were] followed by some of the state-owned enterprises. So, private companies, like businessmen in Wenzhou and Yiwu, they always move faster than state-owned enterprises.” 42:14: He Fan give a prognosis for China’s relationship with its regional neighbors, Japan and Korea. Besides a notable warming of relations — could the downturn in U.S.-China relations rekindle the bilateral relationship in these countries? He Fan doesn’t think so, whose compass points southward: “I think this improvement of the bilateral relationship between China and Japan is a strategy … there’s no place where China can close the gap, if there’s really decoupling between China and the United States. But, maybe a new market in China will increase their investment and trade in the near future — my guess is Southeast Asia.” Recommendations: Michael: Two TV shows: Billions and The Good Fight. He Fan: His new book, 变量 biàn liàng by Hé Fān 何帆, and a French book, Le piège américain (“The American Trap” in English). Kaiser: A Woman First: First Woman by Selina Meyer and Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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May 23, 2019
‘Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy,’ with Sulmaan Wasif Khan

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with Sulmaan Wasif Khan, assistant professor of international history and Chinese foreign relations at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, about his book, Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping. He makes the case that China’s overriding concern is for maintaining the security and integrity of the state — something that, given China’s long history of foreign invasion, warlordism, civil war, and contested borders, hasn’t been easy. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 4:55: Does grand strategy need to be articulated, or communicated clearly to the general population? Usually the answer is yes, where nation states unify diplomatic, economic, and military power to pursue broadscale goals. However, China’s case is different, according to Sulmaan: “There does seem to be this overarching national objective, there is a sense in which the different categories of power [diplomacy, economics, and military] were calibrated to achieve that overarching national objective, but you don’t get it articulated that often, if at all.” 14:44: How much useful insight on contemporary Chinese politics can be gleaned by looking to the past? Sulmaan breaks it down: “China’s imperial past [is] much less grand than it’s typically considered to be… China’s empires at different points had different security threats. At various points, it wasn’t an Asia-centric order. So, simply imposing one version of the imperial past on China’s millennia of history, and saying, ‘This is the way it’s always been,’ seems to be a little misguided.” One feature from the imperial era that sticks out? Disorder. Sulmaan continues: “If you think about the Taiping Rebellion, for example, if you think about the Opium Wars — these are things that I think Chinese leaders still look to in the imperial past and worry about. The stories of the Opium Wars have never left the consciousness of the leadership, or Chinese people, for that matter. And that’s important to remember.” 30:07: “Hide your strength and bide your time” is a maxim spoken by Deng Xiaoping that has been used to define much of the era of reform and opening up. But is this truly an apt description of the time? Sulmaan states: “Hide and bide doesn’t really begin to sum up what [Deng] is up to. If you think about the sheer scale of economic change going on there, it’s kind of hard to keep that hidden — he’s almost like a kid when it comes to one country, two systems and joint development, how much he brags about those to anyone who will listen. That’s not hide and bide. If you’re sitting across the strait in Taiwan, you’re not seeing a lot of hiding and biding. 41:58: What are China’s future intentions on a grand strategic scale, and how do policymakers in the West feel about it? Sulmaan explains his view: “It says something about the way we typically think about China and other countries — that that kind of alarmism gains traction. There’s that old Atticus Finch line about walking around in someone else’s shoes and seeing how they feel, and I think much of the American foreign policy establishment is pretty bad at that. If the Chinese are doing something that we don’t like, it’s undemocratic or tyrannical. If the Russians are doing something we don’t like, ditto. If you’re not doing it our way, there’s something fundamentally wrong with you.” Recommendations: Jeremy: Nathan Hale — cartoonist, author, and illustrator of graphic novels for children. Sulmaan: Watership Down, by Richard Adams. A useful vessel for understanding China and a source of grand strategic wisdom. Kaiser: Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America, by Vegas Tenold, and Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, by Kathleen Belew.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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May 16, 2019
Howard French on how China's past shapes its present ambitions

On this week's show, recorded live in New York on April 3, Kaiser and Jeremy have a wide-ranging chat with former New York Times China correspondent Howard French, now a professor at Columbia University's School of Journalism. We talk about his book Everything Under the Heavens and China's ambitions and anxieties in the world today. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

7:31: How do Chinese people react to Western reporting about China? Howard has noticed a shift in his students from the People’s Republic of China and suggests, “Because of the changing climate in China, [Chinese students] have a greater appreciation of some of the liberties that go into being able to express criticism about China or being able to think off the beaten path about China.”

23:48: The three discuss Howard’s book, Everything Under The Heavens, and some of the themes in it. Howard: “So the argument that runs through the book is that, if not DNA, then these two realities of [China’s] longevity and continuity on the one hand, and size on the other hand, have created habits of language and habits of mind and patterns of diplomacy that are fairly consistent, but we can see them repeating themselves in variations over a very, very long period of time.”

32:56: Is China a revisionist power or a status quo power? Before Jeremy can finish asking this question, Howard replies, “It’s both.” Howard explains how this could be possible: “There is an insistent notion in China that I admire. I don’t think it’s always to China’s benefit, but I admire the instinct, if instinct is the right world. ‘For every problem we should find a Chinese way to answer it.’ And so, if international relations can be construed as a problem…then finding a Chinese way alongside of accepting incumbent arrangements is a reflex that one is likely to continue to see in China.”

44:46: The relationship between the United States and China appears to have arrived at a critical juncture. In response to Kaiser’s request to provide a prognosis for U.S.-China relations, Howard contests that “most of the liability of the present moment is actually bound up in the present moment.” He continues, “There will be consequences to pay even if Trump goes [in 2020]…and that the United States, I think, no matter what happens in the succession year after Trump, in the best of scenarios, will still have surrendered some not inconsiderable part of its prestige and power in the world.”


Jeremy: The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthy Kids, by Tom Hodgkinson, a case for laissez-faire parenting.

Howard: Empires of the Weak: The Real Story of European Expansion and the Creation of the New World Order, by J.C. Sharman, and River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom, by Walter Johnson.

Kaiser: An article in the London Review of Books, Is this the end of the American century?, by Adam Tooze.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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May 09, 2019
Strength in Numbers: USTR veteran Wendy Cutler on managing trade with China

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Wendy Cutler, vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute, about a new paper she has authored that calls for coordination between the U.S. and other countries in managing issues related to China trade. She makes the case for working through the WTO and other multilateral organizations, and explains why China is more apt to respond more positively to multilateral over bi- or unilateral approaches. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 4:08: American and Chinese economic advisers Robert Lighthizer and Liu He are said to be inching toward finalizing an agreement on bilateral trade in the early weeks of May. To begin, Wendy offers some insight into what developments could come: “I think we’re going to see a pretty robust agreement between the United States and China. It’ll have up to 150 pages of commitments, including market access commitments, purchasing commitments, structural reform commitments, as well as an enforcement mechanism to make sure China lives up to its obligations under the commitments.” 16:11: Wendy suggests that the building of new coalitions may be necessary, given the difficulty in gathering the 164 votes from each World Trade Organization member country needed for a formal agreement, and urges openness on collaboration on different issues with a wider range of partners. “What we’re advocating is that the United States doesn’t get fixated on working with the same countries on certain issues… If the United States has concerns, chances are other countries have concerns, too. So reach out to other countries and see if, at a minimum, you can share information, and maybe, at a maximum, coordinate responses or even send joint representations to China on what needs to be changed. There’s a range of options.” 25:28: What of investment restrictions on Chinese companies in the United States? Wendy elaborates on her suggested strategy: “We suggest that the United States work and coordinate with other countries to see what they’re doing in this area. Because, for the United States, we don’t want to see a situation where we put so many restrictions on Chinese access to our market, and then China just turns elsewhere. Our measures are then less effective.” 29:41: Could this approach lead to a less antagonistic relationship with China, at least regarding trade? Wendy explains: “My hope is that with a U.S.-China trade agreement in the offing, I think, once again, we’re in the endgame and we’ll see a trade agreement soon. We’ll see, at least on the trade front, a reduction in tensions in this area and hopefully this reduction will maybe spread to other areas. I do think we’re in a new world now — that there’s going to be tensions between the United States and China in all of these areas — but I’m hopeful that through the close contacts our negotiators have forged as a result of the U.S.-China trade talks, that this could help deescalate a lot of tensions as they are emerging…” Recommendations: Jeremy: A free bird identification app called Merlin Bird ID, produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Wendy: Finding a few songs to help the Chinese and U.S. negotiators to get through the highs and lows of international trade talks. Kaiser: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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May 02, 2019
An American Futurist in China: Alvin Toffler and Reform & Opening

This week on Sinica, China-watching wunderkind Julian Gewirtz joins Kaiser and Jeremy to chat about his recent paper on the American futurist Alvin Toffler (author of Future Shock and The Third Wave), who found a surprisingly receptive audience in the China of the early 1980s. His ideas on the role of technology in modernization were widely embraced by leaders of China's reform movement — including both Dèng Xiǎopíng 邓小平 and his right-hand man, Zhào Zǐyáng 赵紫阳. Julian describes how Toffler came to the attention of the reformers, and discusses the lasting impact of his influence. 11:51: As the Cultural Revolution ended, Chinese officials and intellectuals began to look for ideas that could breathe new life into the Chinese intelligentsia and bureaucracy. A translator named Dǒng Lèshān 董乐山 went to the United States, repeatedly came across The Third Wave, and subsequently invited Toffler to come to China. And so he did, with many copies of his book. One thing led to another, and Toffler’s work came under the gaze of the State Council and Zhao Ziyang himself. Jeremy reflects, “This is, in some ways, a story of China for foreigners in the 1980s and 1990s — you could have any shtick if you were a hustler. You could arrive in Beijing with your books and hand them out. The next thing, the Politburo is listening to you. Those days are long gone.” 15:35: In writing his first book, which focused extensively on economists, Julian came across Alvin Toffler’s name repeatedly. Upon delving further into research for his paper on Toffler, he got a bit more than he expected: “To be totally frank, I did not expect, when I started looking into it, that I would end up finding a story, from the Chinese perspective, of very significant interest that was more than just an intellectual craze or fad, but that really connected to fundamental questions about technology policy, how the Chinese state should support new technologies, and in a sense, the future that the Chinese leadership was envisioning for China itself.” 22:31: Technology policy, and mastering the implementation of such policy, has been a focus for Chinese leadership stretching to the beginning of reform and opening. Julian explains the importance of science and technology policy as China opened to the world: “We see a global information technology revolution occurring, and worry among Chinese leaders that, just as they’re opening to the world, just as China is beginning its process of catching up, maybe they’ll be left behind again. And the impetus to try to get ahead of the information technology revolution, which is one of the central goals that Deng and Zhao work on together, is, I think, a crucial aspect of the 1980s that we haven’t really understood so well thus far.” 32:21: Science and technology are venerated in China in a way that draws a stark contrast with the United States. “The nerds are the jocks in high school,” says Jeremy, to which Kaiser remarks, “Exactly. But they don’t ride by in the Camaro and shout, ‘Jock!’” Julian explains what this means on a broader scale: “We need to begin by looking at [Chinese technology] on its own terms, before we import our own ideas onto it. The reason that studying the transnational flow of ideas, someone like Toffler becoming big in China — the reason that can be so revealing, I think, is that it allows us to accentuate dimensions that differ or are unusual, or are surprising to observers from outside, again centering on that Chinese perspective, the Chinese leadership’s view of these things, and how certain ideas play there in a different way than how they play in the United States.” Recommendations: Jeremy: A 2006 People’s Daily interview with Alvin Toffler, who, contrary to popular belief, has some interesting ideas. Julian: Poems by W. S. Merwin, “The Hydra” in particular, and Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China, by Xiaolu Guo. Kaiser: Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, by Steven Pinker, and “The Two Cultures,” an essay by C. P. Snow.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at

Apr 25, 2019
Mark Rowswell a.k.a. Dashan Live at the Bookworm Literary Festival

China's most famous Canadian, Mark Rowswell, became famous — or at least "feimerse" — after appearing in the Spring Festival Gala on CCTV in 1990. In recent years, he's pioneered a hybrid between the xiangsheng (相声 xiàngsheng; crosstalk) for which he's known and Western-style stand-up comedy. Mark joined Anthony Tao and David Moser at the storied Bookworm on the final night of the Bookworm Literary Festival on March 30 to talk about the Chinese language, comedy, and the difficulties of Chinese soft power. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 11:51: Learning Chinese is difficult — however, the specific types of difficulties that individuals are presented with often vary widely. Ethnically Chinese people are often held to a higher linguistic standard than their Caucasian counterparts, whereas foreigners who speak Chinese have become less of a rarity — and consequently less professionally valuable — in recent years. Mark explains: “I’ve had friends say, ‘You know the Chinese respect the ugly American. They don’t respect the sensitive, understanding Chinese-speaking foreigner. They like foreigners to be foreign.’” 29:22: Dīng Guǎngquán 丁广泉, a late titan of the Chinese comedy world, was one of Mark and David’s mentors. Non-judgmental and highly attentive to his disciples’ strong and weak points (he once wrote a scene describing David as muddle-headed and forgetful), he created a platform for many foreigners to enter the world of performance in Chinese. Mark states: “For us, it was very much a partnership, because he wasn’t all that well known in China, either. I had the name, the image, the fame that brought these opportunities to perform, but he was the guy who knew how to do it. I wouldn’t know how to do this by myself. That had a huge impact on me.” 32:43: “Your Chinese is so good!” A woman had overheard Mark telling Anthony the name of a restaurant in Chinese and promptly complimented him. According to Mark, the reactions he gets when speaking Chinese with shopkeepers or taxi drivers hasn’t changed much in 20 years, pushing back on the idea that the novelty of foreigners speaking Chinese has faded. David quips, “What does that tell you? That Chinese is very hard to learn.” “Well,” Mark contests, “we still do a bad job of it.” 44:04: Is the difficulty of the Chinese language a hindrance on China’s ability to export soft power? Mark explains: “First of all, the Chinese state sort of organizes everything so it has to be an official program. And secondly, Chinese people, I think, just tend to tense up when they sense that they’re dealing with foreigners — they have to be careful about what they say, and they’re a ‘representative of China,’ you know, they have this huge emotional burden that they bring to it. I think that’s the main problem China has with soft power: They don’t let their people express that power.” Recommendations: David: Recommends investigating books by Earnshaw Books, a Hong Kong–based publishing house, founded by Graham Earnshaw. Graham’s music can also be found online on his Bandcamp page. Mark: Thirteen Invitations (十三邀 shísān yāo), by Xǔ Zhīyuǎn 许知远, a video series that can be found on Tencent Video here. Anthony: The website What’s on Weibo, the Beijing Invitational Craft Beer Festival, hosted by Great Leap, and The Last Tribe on Earth, by Liane Halton and Anthony Tao.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Apr 18, 2019
Peter Lorentzen's data-driven analysis of Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign

Is the ongoing anti-corruption drive a sincere effort to root out official wrongdoing? Or is it a political purge of the enemies of Xí Jìnpíng 习近平? These questions have been hotly debated since the outset of the campaign in 2013. Now Peter Lorentzen of the University of San Francisco and Xi Lu of the National University of Singapore have harnessed data to examine the anti-corruption drive in the hopes of settling the question. Kaiser sat down with Peter on the sidelines of the recent Association for Asian Studies Conference to talk about the findings in their paper, “Personal Ties, Meritocracy, and China’s Anti-Corruption Campaign.” What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 22:57: Of the many officials that have been purged since 2012, “three big tigers” in particular stand out: Sū Róng 苏荣, Líng Jìhuà 令计划, and Zhōu Yǒngkāng 周永康. Of the provinces Xi Lu and Peter analyzed, economic performance was a large contributing factor for official promotion except for Jiangxi, Shanxi, and Sichuan. Here, Peter provides background on these three officials, their downfall, and the “tiger territories” they previously oversaw. 30:34: In 2012, Bó Xīlái 薄熙来 was considered one of the main contenders to challenge Xi Jinping’s ascent to power. His association with the murder of a British businessman, Neil Heywood, reportedly ordered by his wife, brought a swift end to his political success. However, Peter was surprised by what he found regarding his political network in the aftermath: “If you rank people using the Google PageRank algorithm, you find Bo Xilai was below 20th. What that means, in practice, is that in our data there were not many people reported as being his cronies who were subordinate to him compared to a lot of other people.” 32:42: What does the inability of Politburo Standing Committee members to protect their personal networks say about the current political climate in China? Peter: “Even when you clump all other six Politburo [Standing Committee] members together, we didn’t see a sort of protective effect. Their associates, people we believed to be connected with them, were just as likely to go down as anyone else. So the question is: Why were they not able to protect their people?... This is not something we can observe directly in our data, but my sense is that it does show the demise of the collective leadership, first-among-equals approach.” 39:26: How many people have been subject to the corruption crackdown? Peter studied those who were investigated, whose names were published in reports by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection by 2015. “We’re looking at the first wave of the crackdown, but that was just a thousand people [whose names we could get]. I was looking at some estimates last night, and I think people are saying that the total number as of the end of last year was 20,000 to 30,000 people overall. And you know, they’re not all people who looked wrong at Xi Jinping some day. So it’s pretty clear that he’s got to have some other way of deciding who goes down.” Recommendations: Peter: Two sitcoms, Speechless (available on ABC) and Kim’s Convenience (available on Netflix). Kaiser: Two playlists on Spotify, “Instrumental Madness” and “Got Djent?”

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at

Apr 11, 2019
An update on the Xinjiang crisis with Nury Turkel

Kaiser sat down with Nury Turkel, chairman and founder of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, at the recent Association for Asian Studies conference in Denver for an impromptu catch-up on the current crisis in Xinjiang. Nury last appeared on the Sinica Podcast half a year ago. They discussed the policy options available to the U.S. as well as the difficulties of trying to get through to Chinese elites and ordinary Chinese people alike. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 2:31: The conversation begins with a recap of vote counts and support behind bipartisan bills that are currently working through the U.S. Congress: the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response (UIGHUR Act) and the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. Nury says that there could be more news on these bills in the coming months: “We were told that there’s a chance that [the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act] will be finalized…sometime this summer.” 6:44: Nury calls for a larger international coalition to decry the horrors in Xinjiang, and highlight the shadow that Uyghur internment will cast on the longer history of China, stating, “In the end, we want two things. One, we want the camps to be shut down. It’s an embarrassment to the Chinese people, even in their history. It needs to be shut down. And, two, we want to be able to restore the Uyghur people’s basic dignity. Give them their dignity and respect back.” 17:48: After reporting emerged on the supposed death of famed Uyghur musician Abdurehim Heyit, Beijing pushed back with a dubious “proof of life” video. This has resulted in a social media movement to raise awareness about the horrors being committed in Xinjiang, #MeTooUyghur. Nury comments: “So, this #MeTooUyghur movement is building up still. What is amazing about this is that a lot of Uyghurs who were not comfortable sharing their stories are coming out. So, the more people show up and come out telling their stories, the more people know about it. Eventually, it will result in some tangible action.” 27:12: The Uyghurs’ ongoing internment has taken a heavy toll on them. Nury explains: “The Uyghur communities around the world [are] going through a really tough time. Crippling anxiety, a sense of guilt, hopelessness…basically [making] the Uyghurs feel disconnected from their family members. Just basic things, such as calling your parents to say, ‘How are you?’ Just imagine that you hear your mother died in a concentration camp through Radio Free Asia. Just imagine that you recognize your children in the Chinese government propaganda material as a happy child…just imagine that you manage to go to your homeland and you are not able to see your sister because your iris was not scanned or [not] part of the government data. Just imagine that you walk out and try to go to your parents’ cemetery and the Chinese government prevents you because of your religion.” 39:58: How can individuals reach out and help sympathetic Han Chinese who are in China and willing to make a stand for the Uyghurs in Xinjiang? Nury underlines the high stakes involved, not only for the Uyghurs, but for all of China: “At least recognizing that what the Chinese government is doing in the 21st century, criminalizing the entire population [of Uyghurs] collectively, is not good for Chinese civilization.”

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at

Apr 04, 2019
Samm Sacks on the U.S.-China tech relationship

This live Sinica Podcast recorded in New York on March 6 features Samm Sacks, Cybersecurity Policy and China Digital Economy Fellow at New America. She and Kaiser Kuo discuss the many facets of U.S.-China technology integration and competition, touching on topics such as data security, artificial intelligence, and how to build “a small yard with a high fence.”

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

11:04: Decoupling is a theme that has defined one of the more extreme potential outcomes of the fraying U.S.-China relationship. Are these conversations prevalent outside of Washington? What about the Silicon Valley tech community? Samm addresses these questions here, among others: “The reality is when we think about technology development, whether it’s joint research, supply chains, collaboration of sciences — these things don’t really map nicely onto political borders. And these are really diffuse networks that, when you try to decouple [them], there’s just a disconnect here.”

21:13:What is the relationship between technology companies and the Communist Party? What impact does China’s Cybersecurity and National Intelligence Law have on the companies’ supposed obligations to cooperate with authorities on sharing private data? When two passengers using Didi, a popular ride-share service in China, were killed, the company cooperated reluctantly, resulting in a bizarre legal limbo. Samm explains: “Chinese legal scholars were saying, wait a second, if Didi is to fall in line on this data-sharing agreement, that’s a violation of China’s Cybersecurity Law, because the Cybersecurity Law has a framework around the conditions where data is collected and shared. So again I think there’s a lot more churn than people understand.”

27:46: What is important data? China’s Cybersecurity Law has outlined broad data localization requirements. Does the government have the ability (or capability) to review the huge amounts of data going in and out of the country? Samm points out: “One of the outcomes I would look for if we were to see the so-called structural issues on the tech side, one would be is the Chinese government going to agree to allow more kinds of commercial data out of the country without these arduous security audits?”

34:41: Is China deliberately exporting its model of censorship to governments and countries throughout the world? What of the future of domestic surveillance in China? Who is discussing the ethical and legal implications of artificial intelligence being brought into everyday life and society, and where? Samm attended a Track 2 dialogue between Berkeley Law and Beijing University Law and discusses the conversations in the academic world regarding algorithmic bias, and contesting decisions made by artificial intelligence here.

40:58: Samm elaborates on the concept of “small yard and high fence.” What are some actionable items in the technological tussle unfolding between Washington and Beijing? She provides her guiding principle: “Having a constructive bilateral trade and investment relationship with China, particularly with technology, is in the interest of the United States. And we cannot take an approach that is going to use blanket bans and discrimination based on national origin. We need to use tools like law enforcement as the scalpel they were intended to be because of the integration of our two systems. Otherwise, we end up shooting ourselves in the foot.”


Kaiser: Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, by James C. Scott.

Samm: Catastrophe, a British sitcom available on Prime Video.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at

Mar 28, 2019
China, the U.S., and Kenya

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser and Jeremy are joined by Eric Olander, host of the China in Africa Podcast from the China Africa Project, and by Anzetse Were, a developmental economist based in Nairobi. They explore questions related to Kenyan debt and development, as well as Sino-American competition in East Africa. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 10:33: When did China begin to put concerted diplomatic effort into relations with African countries? What were the optics of China’s push into the African continent? Anzetse highlights three examples that led to China’s success in dealing with businesses and governments: “[Chinese diplomats] are quite humble in their articulation, certainly to African people, saying, ‘While this has been the Chinese experience, we don’t know what you want, what you can learn and what you don’t want to learn.’ So they’re not prescriptive. But of course the biggest thing that African governments like is that they don’t lecture about anything.” 19:05: Is China leading African countries into “debt traps”? What are the primary causes for concern regarding the debts of African governments, and the wider international community? Anzetse explains that it’s a confluence of factors, including transparency issues and the effects of kindling trade relationships with new partners: “There is concern in the global north, particularly Europe and North America, as to reexposure in African governments to debt…and their concern is that they’re doing it with a party that the world does not really understand in terms of how it deals with debt defaults and how it deals with repayments owed. I think that Europe and North America were much more comfortable when debt owed was in their hands, obviously because they had [control], but I think because they had a common understanding on how this would be addressed. They do not know how the Chinese are going to do this.” 42:21: America is restructuring the way it provides aid to the rest of the world through the International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) and the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD Act), in an attempt to compete with China in the developing world. How effective is this restructuring? Eric provides some insight: “It’s not challenging China at all. It’s not intended to challenge China. Instead, they actually complement each other very, very well. So, a country like Kenya can turn to China for infrastructure and massive loans from the Chinese for a public sector type of development. But then, IDFC and the U.S. come in to fund American business and Kenyan business that can’t get funding anywhere else.” 49:36: What effect is the Belt and Road Initiative having in Africa? What about the African countries that are excluded from the plans, as China has made inroads, for the most part, on Africa’s eastern seaboard? Anzetse states: “I think the Chinese began to understand, ‘We do not want to start dividing African sentiments on China, we’re going to find a way to make sure all the regions in Africa are represented in this Belt and Road Initiative. Whether it will be practical is not clear.” Recommendations: Jeremy: I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation and In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo, both by Michela Wrong. Eric: Competing against Chinese loans, U.S. companies face long odds in Africa, an article in the New York Times by Ed Wong. Anzetse: Rhinocéros, by Eugène Ionesco. Kaiser: Lake Success: A Novel, by Gary Shteyngart.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at

Mar 21, 2019
Is there really an epidemic of self-censorship among China scholars

This week’s Sinica was recorded at UPenn’s Center for Study on Contemporary China. Jeremy and Kaiser speak with three prominent scholars on China: Sheena Greitens, associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri, Rory Truex, assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University, and Neysun Mahboubi, research scholar at the Center for the Study of Contemporary China at the University of Pennsylvania. The group tackles a topic that has long beleaguered China-watching circles: self-censorship. In addition, it focuses on a paper that Sheena and Rory published last summer, Repressive Experiences among China Scholars: New Evidence from Survey Data. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 22:41: Sheena describes the categories in which she and Rory organized “repressive experiences” in China, the center of their research, comprising 13 types of repression divided into three buckets: “The three broad categories that we looked at were restrictions on access to China itself, restriction on access to materials once you’re in China doing research, and monitoring and surveillance of that research by authorities in China.” According to their research, 20-25 percent of those interviewed had difficulty accessing archived materials, and 10 percent of visiting China scholars had been “invited” by authorities to speak with them and explain their research. When Chinese colleagues and interlocutors at host institutions are included in the sample, the figure jumps to 15 percent. 29:45: Rory’s hypothesis going into this project was that there would be a spike in repressive experiences and research after Xi Jinping’s ascent to power in 2012. Perceptions certainly trend in that direction. However, data from their research didn’t reveal major temporal trends related to these repressive experiences, with one caveat: “I talk to people who do a lot of fieldwork, and they say it’s actually much harder even to have interviews at all anymore. The one thing where there was a temporal trend was access to archives. If you talk to historians, they’ll talk a lot about how the archives are being sanitized, and projects, books, and dissertations that were feasible 10 or 15 years ago are no longer feasible today.” 48:05: What exactly is self-censorship? Neysun, Sheena, and Rory all take slightly differing views on what characterizes it. Rory discusses the calculus behind self-censorship, and identifies external stimuli that may have an impact on research and published materials in the United States: “We might be at the opposite [point of the problem], where the professional incentives [of researching contentious topics], plus the political environment in the United States are such that saying anything positive, or even neutral about the Communist Party is difficult to do, and difficult to publish.” 1:08:59: What role do China-watchers play in the larger conversation that, in the modern era, seems to be undergoing constant recalibration? What of the dichotomy among China-watchers, à la hawks versus doves? Here, Neysun, Sheena, and Rory all offer insight into these questions and suggestions on the way forward. Recommendations: Jeremy: Two jazz albums, Live at the Pershing, by Ahmad Jamal, a live recording from 1958, and Money Jungle, a studio album by Duke Ellington. Neysun: Evening Chats in Beijing: Probing China’s Predicament, by Perry Link. Sheena: Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westwood, and Harry and the Terrible Whatzit, by Dick Gackenbach. Rory: The website, a website that provides reports, commentary, and analysis on human rights in China. Kaiser: Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping, by Sulmaan Wasif Khan.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at

Mar 14, 2019
Everything you ever wanted to know about Taiwan but were afraid to ask, Part 2

This week, we feature the second half of an extensive interview (first part here) with Shelley Rigger, a political scientist at Davidson College and the leading U.S. expert on the politics of Taiwan. This second half of the interview, which covers the history of Taiwan from the 1990s to the present, was conducted by Neysun Mahboubi of the UPenn Center for the Study of Contemporary China Podcast (one of our favorite China podcasts), and is republished here with the Center’s permission. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 3:39: Shelley and Neysun discuss the nature of the relationship between Taiwan and China in the early 1990s, with identify the opponents and proponents of unification with the mainland. Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國 Jiǎng Jīng-guó, the son of Chiang Kai-shek, who succeeded his father as premier) allowed for veterans of the Chinese civil war to return to the mainland on humanitarian visits. These veterans were accompanied by their children, who saw economic opportunities on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. Shelley: “They get off the plane, and what Dad sees is, ‘I don’t recognize my hometown.’ What the son or son-in-law sees is, ‘This is perfect for my business.’” 17:55: What is it about Taiwanese independence that makes it such a contentious topic for officials in Beijing? What has been the result of the social, economic, and cultural interactions between Taiwan and the mainland since the 1990s? What role did Taiwanese investment in China play in the ’90s, and what about Chinese investment in Taiwan in the 21st century? Shelley and Neysun, Taiwan and China scholars respectively, talk through these questions. 33:49: Are there red lines in Beijing on the topic of Taiwanese independence? What are the primary points of inflection and contention in the relationship? What effect does a U.S. presence in Taiwan have on the Taiwan-P.R.C. relationship? Shelley explains: “Are we going to remind Beijing that we are in it in that way, and that in some sense the inability to solve this problem [of independence] that they have chosen for themselves is our fault? Are we going to put that right up in their faces, or are we going to say, ‘Taiwan is okay. We’re okay. We don’t need to, as my dad says, kick the skunk.’” 38:51: What about the U.S.-Taiwan relationship under the current U.S. administration? The phone call between Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīng-wén) and then president-elect Trump, which was intended to be private, certainly strained the relationship after being picked up by international media and tweets by Trump blaming Taiwan for the ensuing debacle that unfolded. Shelley: “The other thing about this administration that’s especially worrisome from the Taiwan perspective is that it’s very unpredictable, as you said, and so the possibility that Taiwan could be a bargaining chip or introduced into some transaction is ever-present…” 51:58: Taiwanese identity, and its role in the world, has undergone seismic changes throughout its history. Shelley points out that the discussion within the island nation has somewhat settled, but not without certain reservations: “The debate over identity that was raging in Taiwan in the 1990s and 2000s is pretty settled on the idea that, with the exception of the indigenous peoples and the ever-growing number of immigrants to Taiwan, our roots are in China…but that does not need to define us politically, and our community, the community of shared fate or common destiny that we belong to as Taiwanese, is specific to this island…”

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Mar 07, 2019
Everything you ever wanted to know about Taiwan but were afraid to ask, Part 1

This week, we feature the first half of an extensive interview with Shelley Rigger, a political scientist at Davidson College and the leading U.S. expert on the politics of Taiwan. This first half of the interview, which covers the history of Taiwan through 1996, was conducted by Neysun Mahboubi of the UPenn Center for the Study of Contemporary China Podcast (one of our favorite China podcasts), and is republished here with the Center’s permission. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 11:05: What was Taiwan’s status in the global world order before the normalization of U.S.-China relations, and in what direction did that status shift after 1978? How did this event help shape Taiwanese identity? Shelley begins the podcast by describing the importance of the history of the island nation. 15:00: After Taiwan was handed over to the Republic of China in 1945, the Chinese civil war continued on the Chinese mainland. Because the Nationalists’ efforts were primarily focused on defending the mainland, Taiwan became a “troublesome backwater” to the larger battle being fought across the Taiwan Strait. Shelley describes this post–World War II period in Taiwan: “The Nationalists are fighting hard to save the heartland of China, and so Taiwan became a kind of ‘troublesome backwater,’ a sideshow. But for the people of Taiwan to realize they had become this kind of sideshow and that their island was supposed to be kind of a platform from which the Nationalists could prosecute this other war, and could achieve their real goal, that was kind of shocking.” 24:05: When the Nationalists fled mainland China to Taiwan in 1949, they brought with them many officials who were elected two years previously on the mainland to “repopulate the legislature.” Shelley states: “Those people, those individuals, retained their seats from 1947 to 1991 because the logic went: ‘We can’t replace these guys until we can have an election back in their home district in Hubei, or Xinjiang, or wherever, so they have to just keep their seats.’” 39:35: From the 1970s onward, there were big changes in the Taiwanese psyche for a number of reasons. Taiwan had lost its seat at the UN Security Council, and Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger had canceled a mutual defense treaty with the Republic of China. Some thought the island nation was soon to be nonexistent. Shelley argues that it was instead liberating: “It released Taiwan from the necessity to pretend to be China, and it opened the door to reimagining Taiwan in a new way. So the obligation of the Taiwanese people and even Taiwan as a physical geographical space to subjugate itself to the destiny of China is gone…” 

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Feb 28, 2019
Sinica Live with Zha Jianying: Dealing with the troublemakers

This week, Sinica is live from Fordham Law School in New York City! This episode features Zhā Jiànyīng 查建英, journalist and author of China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids, and Bestsellers Are Transforming a Culture and Tide Players: The Movers and Shakers of a Rising China, who joined Jeremy and Kaiser at a Sinica Live Podcast event on January 14. The three discuss the experiences of Zha’s half-brother, Zhā Jiànguó 查建国, a democracy activist in China who was charged with subversion of state power and subsequently jailed for nine years. In addition, they pore over the political realities of contemporary China, the likelihood of reform, and the pressures that “moderate liberals” encounter in the face of rising suppression of political freedoms in the country. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 3:34: In the era of “stability maintenance” in China, netizens have coined unique nicknames for actions that censorship and security officials take to maintain order. “To be harmonized” (被和谐 bèihéxié), or to have speech censored, is the most well known, but there are many others. “To be touristed” (被旅游 bèi lǚyóu), or sent packing on a mandatory vacation accompanied by friendly police officers, is the subject of Zha’s writing, in this case. Zha elaborates: “I think this is a very eerie kind of symptom of the police state moving, in fact, you might say a little more sophisticated way of silencing or [getting] rid of those troublemakers in different spheres, right? Some of them are Party officials, others are critics like petitioners, NGO activists, or civil rights lawyers.” 18:24: Jeremy asks if Zha has ever been concerned whether her work as a journalist could potentially put her brother in danger. She says no, but adds that she intentionally kept him in the dark when writing her 2007 piece “Enemy of the State,” which was featured in The New Yorker, to protect him. Zha: “Still, the one point I did insist on was to not have the famous New Yorker fact-checkers call him beforehand because I knew all his phones and everything was tapped and monitored. And so I didn’t tell him I was writing this.” 29:58: Zha and Kaiser talk about political dissidents and activists. According to Zha, some of them endorse unfortunate and dated ideologies: “I don’t know, I used to think of them as liberals. Now I think maybe they need a different hat or label, you know — they’re sexist, because some of them in more recent phenomena really had a lot of trouble with #MeToo. The movement had kind of a short play in China…and there’s lots of people who have trouble with Islamic culture as well.” 32:17: High-profile Chinese dissidents and activists on a growing number of “sensitive” dates are often “touristed” for weeks on end. However, there is one caveat: No cell phones are allowed. Zha elaborates: “Back then, there were just these certain anniversaries or Party congresses. But now, China has emerged into this global powerhouse. So all kinds of global forums that are held in Beijing or in Qingdao or in Shanghai have also become sensitive days. And so, in such locations, the police would usually take selective numbers of ‘troublemakers’ out of the site of that city.” 57:53: Kaiser asks Zha about the modern Chinese intelligentsia: What role do Chinese intellectuals play in the political life of a country? Is their role understood in circles outside of China scholars? She responds, “Basically, the intellectuals played a very particular, important role of advising the emperor then, and now the leaders about the direction of the country, or they also are seen as the spokespeople for the common people…so they’re given this special kind of status or platform to govern or change the society. So that’s why this whole crackdown, right now, this whole ruthless crackdown on the intellectuals by stripping or removing platforms for their voices is so disturbing and casts such a chilling effect.” Recommendations: Jeremy: Red Moon, by Kim Stanley Robinson, an interstellar work of speculative fiction. Zha: The Ceremony 大典, by Wáng Lìxióng 王力雄. Also a podcast, The History of Rome, by Mike Duncan. Kaiser: A Beijing-based band called The Spice Cabinet.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Feb 21, 2019
Introducing the Middle Earth podcast

This week on Sinica, we’re proud to launch the Middle Earth podcast, which discusses China’s culture industry. In this debut episode on the Sinica Network, host Aladin Farré chats with three individuals who have all hit the big time and become internet celebrities in China: Erman, whose musings on love and relationships turned into a viral success and a full-time job; Ben Johnson, an Australian English teacher, whose short videos on cultural differences have attracted millions of views and 3 million followers; and Tang Yiqing, who started Juzi Video and has a venture-backed company with 30 million young fans. Learn their secrets for how to become a wanghong (网红 wǎnghóng; internet celebrity)! Subscribe to Middle Earth on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, or Stitcher, or plug the RSS feed into your favorite podcast app.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Feb 18, 2019
China’s ethnic policy in Xinjiang and Tibet: The move toward assimilation

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Jeremy and Kaiser speak with Tashi Rabgey, research professor of international affairs at George Washington University and director of the Tibet Governance Project. They are joined by returning guest Jim Millward, professor of history at Georgetown University and renowned scholar of Xinjiang and Central Asia. This episode focuses on their respective areas of expertise: human rights violations in the Xinjiang region; the P.R.C. approach to ethnic policies in Tibet and Xinjiang, referred to on this show as minzu (民族 mínzú) policy; and the assimilation and securitization of both regions. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 5:40: Jim gives an update on the disturbing conditions in Xinjiang: “We’re seeing more and more work facilities, or factories, in these camps. Recent reporting has revealed that this has become a serious part of what the camps are doing. That once these people ‘graduate’ from learning Chinese and sort of move on, they’re put to work in some kind of facilities, making textiles, shoes, some packaging, electronics, assembly, those kind of things, for a period of time we don’t know about.” 11:50: Tashi describes heightened levels of security in Tibet: “There’s a lot of contradictory practices being put into place that are hard to explain, really. And so, increasingly, I think the surveillance, through many different means, is higher than ever before in history, even just to circumambulate around the Potala Palace, for example. Local Tibetans talk about that [it’s harder to get into than an airport].” 13:07: Tashi explains the burden that is created by using self-immolation as a political tool: “I think what’s really significant is how this has sat with the Tibetan people, and I think there’s a kind of silent mourning going on. Whether or not it’s being covered in the media, it really sits on people’s conscience — the fact that it is not something narrowly limited to monks and nuns. In particular, I’d point out that during the 18th Party Congress, where we saw the change in power, there were 28 self-immolations. That’s pretty much one every day.” 24:15: In the ongoing debate surrounding minzu policy, a second-generation minzu policy (第二代民族政策 dì èr dài mínzú zhèngcè) has emerged among Chinese thought leaders, pushed by Peking University professor Mǎ Róng 马戎. His solution of depoliticization (去政治化 qù zhèngzhìhuà) was met with great pushback from ethnic minority academics and government officials, but with notable absences, which Tashi explains: “At the same time, they got massive pushback, especially led by shaoshu minzu [少数民族 shǎoshù mínzú; ethnic minority] intellectuals, Hui and Inner Mongolians, for example. You know who didn’t push back, generally speaking? Tibetans and the Uyghurs.” 43:34: Kaiser asks the two about the concept of territoriality. Jim cites the signing of the Treaty of Nanking, which spurred the creation of trade enclaves, treaty ports, and certain degrees of autonomy for merchants. However, in the modern era, things are very different, which Jim explains: “They are turning their back on these approaches, I would say, and chasing the will-o’-the-wisp of a homogeneous national identity, which doesn’t really exist. So I’m saying that China should look to its own traditions for creative ways of dealing with territoriality and sovereignty as a way of addressing the problems in Xinjiang and Tibet.” Recommendations: Jeremy: A retelling of John Milton’s Paradise Lost in the graphic novel version by Pablo Auladell. Tashi: Jinpa by Pema Tseden, a Tibetan-language film and recipient of Best Screenplay at the Venice International Film Festival. Jim: Post Reports by the Washington Post, a 20-minute podcast with stories drawn from the newspaper. Kaiser: Kaiser’s new favorite brand of rice, grown in the black soil of Heilongjiang Province, Fúlínmén dàohuāxiāng wǔchángdàmǐ 福临门稻花香五常大米.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Feb 14, 2019
Live from the US-China Business Council: The bilateral trade relationship in 2019

This week on the Sinica Podcast, we’re live from the US-China Business Council’s Forecast 2019 Conference in Washington, D.C. This show was recorded on January 31 — the day (and hour) that Donald Trump met with China’s top official in charge of trade negotiations, Liu He. Kaiser and Jeremy spoke with Tim Stratford, the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in the People's Republic of China, and with Craig Allen, the president of the US-China Business Council. Stratford has also headed the leading law firm Covington’s office in China for many years, while Allen has had a long career representing American economic interests at the Department of Commerce and in the State Department, most recently as the U.S. ambassador to Brunei. The wide-ranging conversation covers everything from technology policies to the structural changes that China is being asked to make to address U.S. complaints over unfair trade practices. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: “If you want a quiet life, don’t study China.” —Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy, per Craig Allen 5:22: Tim offers an analogy to describe the U.S.-China competitive relationship: a football match with one side playing American style, the other playing English style. “So, think of a Chinese SOE as an American-style football player that’s protected — it can receive subsidies and it can receive other protections from the state and it’s competing against, say, an American company that’s out there to play English-style football — and you can see how there could be an injury.” 15:14: The foreign business community, previously a reliable ballast in the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China, has soured in recent years. According to Tim, results in the annual Business Climate Review conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China were shocking, with 75 to 80 percent of its membership saying they feel less welcome than in the past. He explains: “There’s a credibility gap that still needs to be addressed, and I also think that a lot of things that have been offered up by the government have not really addressed the core structural issues we’ve been addressing.” 24:48: Is the Trump administration committed to technological decoupling? Craig notes: “There is a sense that seems to be shared between national security elites both in Beijing and in Washington — that both countries are too interdependent from a supply chain and technological perspective… It is clear that a lot of new thought is going into our export control plans and to our investment regimes, and it is very likely that the tightening up of both of those programs are going to have an effect on supply chains and innovation.” 30:48: To finish the live show, Tim and Craig do a bit of forecasting for the new year. Tim contends, “It’s going to take a little bit longer than just one year. I think it’s going to take three, four, or five years, even.” Craig emphasizes the relative health of the U.S. and Chinese economies, stating, “My hope is that both governments will both congeal around the rules that both have formally agreed to under the WTO and find common ground in the technology, trade, and investment space.” Recommendations: Jeremy: Civics study materials for the United States naturalization test, and Hello Gold Mountain, an original composition by Wu Fei for chamber orchestra, which tells the story of Jews who fled Europe for Shanghai after World War II. Craig: Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, by Francis Fukuyama. Tim: “Building a better deal with China,” by Scott Kennedy and Daniel H. Rosen. Kaiser: The Water Margin Podcast: Outlaws of the Marsh, by John Zhu, a retelling of one of the four classic Chinese novels in English.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Feb 07, 2019
Mexican and Canadian diplomats in a changing, challenging China

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with two former ambassadors to the PRC who served during the years marking the transition from the Hu/Wen administration to the rule of Xi Jinping: Jorge Guajardo of Mexico and David Mulroney of Canada. They discuss the significant challenges that they faced, the perceptible changes in China's diplomatic norms and practices during their tenures as ambassadors, and, finally, the benefits and drawbacks that their countries see from the Trump administration's more assertive posture toward China. Note: This show was recorded on December 20, 2018, five weeks before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sacked Canada’s latest ambassador to China. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 9:35: Ambassadors Guajardo and Mulroney speak about their experiences during their tenures in Beijing. Mulroney describes a change he noticed during his time as head of the Asia branch of Canada’s Foreign Ministry: “Dealing with the Chinese had become different. In the past, if there was a difficult decision or a tough negotiation, even if you came out on the short end, the Chinese would leave you something… That changed, and I saw it change on my visit as ambassador, where it was zero sum where they were going to walk away and leave you with nothing.” 25:26: Jeremy asks the two diplomats about the United States pressuring other countries to join the growing coalition that is pushing back against China on trade, and domestic discussions in their respective countries. Mulroney responds: “There’s a great fear of being seen to gang up on China, or to form a coalition against China. And that has, I think, precluded the possibility of really honest discussions of how we deal with China one on one. China has been remarkably successful in isolating countries, even big countries, like Britain and France. Canada has certainly felt that...” 29:47: Guajardo comments on changes in the U.S.-Mexico relationship and the effects this has on the relationship between the U.S. and China: “During all administrations prior to President Trump’s, there was sort of an unwritten rule with Mexico that Mexico would do all that was possible to block Huawei from building its telecommunications infrastructure. That changed with President Trump.” 37:45: How far should governments go in getting tough on China? Is there a red line, and if so, where is it? Mulroney explains: “Canada right now is dealing with the detention of a couple of Canadians, and an icy-cold relationship with China…a constellation of issues, Iran sanctions, the extradition treaty with the U.S., detention of citizens, but they all have something in common at the base…the suggestion that China has been a free rider in so many respects. We’ve come to this point before. We wring our hands and then China is given a pass. The one thing that President Trump has been getting right is that maybe we don’t give China a pass.” Recommendations: Jeremy: An essay by James Meek in the London Review of Books, “The Club and the Mob,” about the destruction of news media. Jorge: Travel to Mexico City! An affordable vacation spot with many direct flights, which will be fairly empty during the upcoming Easter holidays. David: The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, by none other than Dorothy Day. Kaiser: The comedy TV series Patriot, available on Amazon Prime Video.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jan 31, 2019
The U.S. and China: Cold war, or hot air?

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Ali Wyne, a policy analyst at the Rand Corporation, about the big picture in U.S.-China relations. Are we already in a cold war? Wyne gives a spirited argument that we're not — and makes the case that the interconnectedness between China and the U.S. can still serve as effective ballast in the relationship. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica: 5:13: Ali begins the conversation by elaborating on his argument against the use of a “cold war” trope in the modern U.S.-China context, which he wrote about in a conversation he spearheaded on ChinaFile. 13:27: Jeremy suggests alternatives to the cold war framing: “The decoupling? The freeze? The small ice age?” U.S.-China relations have undoubtedly shifted dramatically over the past two years, but how should China-watchers go about characterizing the shift? Kaiser, Jeremy, and Ali discuss, among other things, the November 2018 Hoover Institute publication, Chinese Influence & American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance. 22:58: Ali describes what could happen if further deterioration in U.S.-China relations occurs: “Decoupling is not a fait accompli…but what I worry about is that trade interdependence has been one of the few phenomena that has introduced some stability in a relationship between two countries that organically have little, if anything, in common. One of the few similarities between the United States and China, which actually amplifies their differences, is that both countries are convinced of their exceptionalism.” 33:27: Jeremy observes: “A few years ago, shortly after Xi Jinping came to power, Kaiser started calling it the 'new truculence,' which was a word we used on the show for many years, but it just doesn't seem right anymore because it's no longer 'new,' it's more like China has gone full honey badger and just doesn't give a f*** what the West thinks.” Jeremy and Ali discuss Beijing’s newfound confidence, and its potential geopolitical ramifications. 40:50: Ali cites an article by Samuel Huntington from the Winter 1988/89 edition of Foreign Affairs, The U.S. - decline or renewal?, where he urges the U.S. away from trying to “out-China China,” and encourages using this moment to push the U.S. to become a “more dynamic version of our best self.” Recommendations: Jeremy: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, by Samin Nosrat. Particularly useful for returning expats from China who have forgotten how to cook. Kaiser: “What Donald Trump and Dick Cheney got wrong about America,” an article about American exceptionalism in The Atlantic. Ali: The November/December 2018 issue of Foreign Affairs, with essays focused on nuclear weapons, and Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony, by Kori Schake.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jan 24, 2019
Gene-edited babies, CRISPR, and China’s changing ethical landscape

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Christina Larson, a science and technology reporter for the Associated Press, about a major story that her team broke: the Chinese scientist Hè Jiànkuí 贺建奎 announcement that he had edited the genes of embryos conceived in vitro, and that twin girls had been born, making them — if his claims are true — the world’s first gene-edited babies. We look at the overwhelmingly critical response to this announcement in the Chinese scientific community, among ordinary people, and among officials, as well as what this may mean for the ethical landscape in Chinese science. Please note that this show was taped in December 2018, and since then, He Jiankui has resurfaced, claiming that he’s doing just fine — so far. 15:20: The process by which He Jiankui conducted his research raised concerns throughout scientific circles worldwide. Christina was among a team of Associated Press reporters that spoke with the supposed founder of the hospital HarMoniCare, who allowed He to circumvent submitting his research to an ethical review board. “He told us, quite proudly, that he wasn’t a doctor or scientist, but a hospital property developer.” 24:34: The dodgy science behind a misguided experiment. Christina lists the litany of failures in He’s methodology, principal among them: the genes that were intended to be edited. “But there’s also evidence from the information Hè presented…that only half of the intended genes were edited in one of the two twins.” 31:10: When it comes to medicine, particularly ethically questionable experiments like the one He conducted last year, the stakes are higher. "So, ideally, scientists have peer review and ethical review boards, and technology companies have trade secrets and product launches in beta, because presumably the stakes are lower if it's a social media app. But things get messier in medicine when it's a life-or-death technology. You can't release something like that in beta." Recommendations: Jeremy: The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins, a gene-centered story of evolution. Christina: She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, by Carl Zimmer, a book on genetic inheritance; also, a story by Christina’s colleagues at the Associated Press on tracing products made in Uyghur internment camps: US sportswear traced to factory in China’s internment camps. Kaiser: The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple, by Jeff Guinn, a dispassionate story of the horrifically tragic story of Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jan 17, 2019
Huawei and the tech cold war

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with Samm Sacks, Cybersecurity Policy and Chinese Digital Economy Fellow at New America, and Paul Triolo, Geotechnology Practice Head at the Eurasia Group. The two are among the best positioned to discuss the implications of the shocking arrest of Huawei CFO Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟 in Vancouver on December 1. The discussion focuses primarily on technological and national security aspects of the clash between Washington and Beijing, how Meng’s arrest fits into that clash, and the realities of fragmentation in the global telecommunications industry. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 19:53: China’s new Cybersecurity Law was a cause of concern for MNCs and tech specialists alike. Samm elaborates on specific actions taken by the Chinese government: “If you look at the enforcement actions that have been taken against that law so far, the vast majority of them are aimed at Chinese companies. Really, they haven’t implemented it as much on foreign companies…and there are things like content violations…domestic cybersecurity issues. I think a lot of these fears are being bundled up together and creating this larger tech fear.” 23:03: During a recent visit to Zhejiang University, Paul and Samm spoke with a professor who wrote a book on Huawei’s corporate culture and described it as such: “It’s kind of like a car going 60 miles an hour on the highway and changing a tire at the same time.” 28:13: The extent to which Huawei can push back against the government and the degree to which Beijing is able to strong-arm private companies under China’s Internet Security Law remain largely opaque. However, gaining the trust of the international community has proved to be a steep uphill battle for Huawei: “Huawei is a global company, operating in 170 countries. If it became clear that Huawei was simply an arm of the Chinese government and was doing Beijing’s bidding at every turn, it wouldn’t be able to operate as a global company. The problem here is that the company is forced to prove a negative.” 38:27: Paul speaks about the globalization of supply chains: “…the problem is, for 30 years, companies have been told, ‘Optimize your supply chains and go to places like China,’ where there has been cheaper labor. But now it’s really more about skilled labor, not about cheaper labor — it’s about skilled engineers. Foxconn can build a facility to build iPhones in Zhejiang and easily find 30,000 engineers to staff it up, but when it goes to Wisconsin, it has a lot of problems.” Recommendations: Jeremy: Dr. Seuss, You’re Only Old Once!: A Book for Obsolete Children, a fun story of aging and falling apart. Samm: The Chilling Adventure of Sabrina, the Netflix reboot of the classic TV series Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Paul: A close read of the book AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, by Kai-Fu Lee 李开复. Kaiser: “The Huawei fallout leaves companies and countries with an impossible choice,” a Washington Post op-ed by Scott Moore. 

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jan 10, 2019
Meng Wanzhou’s arrest: The legal dimension

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with Julian Ku, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Maurice A. Deane Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law at Hofstra University. After the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟 in Vancouver at the behest of the U.S. Justice Department dominated international headlines in December 2018, U.S.-China relations have entered uncharted territory. The three convened to discuss the many legal aspects of her arrest and what this means for the bilateral relationship moving forward. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 7:54: Bank fraud, sanctions violations, or competition over 5G? All three? In response to Jeremy, Julian explains the strategy behind the decision to charge Meng with bank fraud and how this differs from the legal strategy in charging ZTE: “ they did with ZTE, it’s actually much easier for the Commerce Department to just go after them on a civil standard and say you’re violating our sanctions laws and we’re just going to cut you off from the U.S. market. There’s no jury, there’s no trial, you don’t have to prosecute that person, and you don’t have to worry about the complications with extradition.” 20:15: What internal processes and parties were involved in this arrest? Julian explains how these extradition requests are generally handled as they work their way through various government offices. “It’s sort of like a bureaucratic process but with a little bit of wiggle room among the different departments so that you’re not putting a country in a bad position. So, I think Canada is supposed to have a little room to think about this, and I think ideally we gave them a chance to think about it and turn them down. But we obviously really wanted this to happen.” 34:24: Julian discusses the role that variable interest entities (VIEs) play in Chinese companies and the legal claims made by Meng and HSBC. “For tax purposes or for regulatory purposes, the law will sometimes allow companies to be structured in different ways...or for corporate governance purposes. Having said that, there [is] also a long tradition of what we call piercing the corporate veil in the United States. Which is, we say, ‘Look, we know technically it’s a separate corporation but because they commited a separate tort or crime, we’re just going to pierce the corporate structure and go straight to the shareholders and hold them accountable.’” Recommendations: Jeremy: Two Kinds of Time, by Graham Peck, with an introduction by Robert Kapp. A book of observations of China from the 1940s. Julian: Indonesia Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation, by Elizabeth Pisani. A 2014 memoir of a journalist from the U.K. in Indonesia. Kaiser: The instrumental progressive rock band Animals As Leaders, led by guitarist Tosin Abasi.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Jan 03, 2019
40 years of reform and opening up, with Jude Blanchette

Jude Blanchette, the Senior Advisor and China Practice Lead at Crumpton Group’s China Practice, joins Kaiser and Jeremy for a live Sinica Podcast recording at Columbia University. Forty years after the policies of reform and opening up were adopted by the Communist Party of China, the three reflect on just how much the country has changed since 1978, and also restore figures like Zhào Zǐyáng 赵紫阳 and Hú Yàobāng 胡耀邦 to their proper place in the story of reform. Jude also talks about the conservative reaction to reform — the topic of his forthcoming book, Under the Red Flag: The Battle for the Soul of the Communist Party in a Reforming China. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 21:36: Jude discusses the roles of Zhao Ziyang and Hu Yaobang in the context of reform in China: “I don’t know what any of you were doing when you were twelve, but [Hu Yaobang] joined his first revolution when he was twelve and ran away from home and joined the Communist Party when he was fourteen, and was one of the youngest members on the famed Long March.” 23:59: Zhao Ziyang’s central role as a reformer was often viewed as radical by many conservatives within the Party, particularly during his brief tenure as General Secretary after the ousting of Hu Yaobang. In 1987 he pushed for separation of the Party and the government (党政分开 dǎngzhèng fēnkāi), which was ultimately unsuccessful. “The Party is the owner of the restaurant, it can decide what’s on the menu, but the government is the chef in the back kitchen. It’s the one that is going to be actually making the dishes, we need to give them that latitude and leeway to do that.” 31:52: As China transitioned away from a reserved foreign policy of ‘hide and bide’ (韬光养晦 tāoguāng yǎnghuì) in the 1990s to more assertive approach of fènfā yǒuwéi (奋发有为). Jude elaborates on the transformation: “There’s also just the natural transition of a developing country to one becoming increasingly strong and articulating its own goals which diverge from that of the United States or other client states… we’re seeing now the full force of it coming out under Xi Jinping today. But I think the casting off of hide and bide, even as a cynical strategy we can see in retrospect was a catastrophic mistake by Xi Jinping.” 1:02:31: In the past few years, Deng Xiaoping has been written out of the history of Reform and Opening. Jude speculates on why: “As long as Deng Xiaoping and his legacy is around, that’s a cudgel that opponents can pick up… the more you allow the speeches of Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang and Deng Xiaoping… speeches from Zhao Ziyang on political reform, speeches from Deng Xiaoping on separating the Party and the government. Basically, just Deng Xiaoping on [not having] a cult of leadership and how disastrous that is. Those are political weapons, so, clear them all away, get rid of them, burn the books.” Recommendations: Jude: Free Solo, a documentary of the climber Alex Honnold and his no-ropes climb up the 3,000-foot rock face of El Capitan. Kaiser: These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore, a historiographical account of the American experiment beginning in 1492. Jeremy: One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps by Andrea Pitzer. ---- From now until January 14, get a year of SupChina Access at 25% off for just $66!

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Dec 20, 2018
Blaming China

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Jeremy and Kaiser are joined by Benjamin Shobert, who visited the Sinica South studio in Durham, North Carolina, for this episode. He is a senior manager at Healthcare NExT, a healthcare initiative of Microsoft, and leads strategy with national governments. The topic of discussion is his compelling book, Blaming China: It Might Feel Good but It Won’t Fix America’s Economy. The three discuss the taxonomy of dragon slayers and panda huggers, and some realities with which the world is now grappling: the rise of China, outcomes of globalization, the watershed moment of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the impact it has had — and will continue to have — on the bilateral relationship between the United States and China. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 13:06: Ben talks about how, in 2016, traditional messaging by American politicians on the campaign trail in regard to China changed significantly: “...and to see [Mitt Romney] in the Rust Belt states talking quite vociferously about China as a near-peer threat and the source of economic anxieties…that was a signal.” 21:39: Ben explains the outsize role that the American Midwest has played in shaping the modern U.S.-China relationship: “Geographically, literally in parts of the American Midwest that matter to where this relationship goes, where there’s a realization that ‘China is not going to look like the way we thought, and I don’t know if we’re comfortable with that.’” 35:54: Ben reflects on the compatibility of views between “panda huggers” and “dragon slayers.” Is there any common ground between the two? “It’s almost as if this is a board game, and it’s not actual people making hard decisions in the context of different political systems, different cultures, different histories, and again the subtext for me in all of this is the United States during this modern global era has not been tending to its own knitting.” 37:24: “This is one of those conversations where if you get six people of both political persuasions in the same room, you’ll get more or less six people that agree: we need to invest more in infrastructure, we need to invest in healthcare and social spending, and yet, at the end of the day we didn’t do that. So we’re talking about China from this point of view of just extraordinary insecurity. Again, how much of that is because of what China has done? How much of that is because of things we haven’t?” Recommendations: Jeremy: Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America, by Beth Macy, a nonfiction book that charts the opioid crisis in the United States. Ben: Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town, by Brian Alexander, a story of Lancaster, Ohio, and the upheavals globalization brought to the community Kaiser: Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age, by Stephen R. Platt, plus its (exceptional) audiobook narration by Mark Deakens.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Dec 13, 2018
The Nature Conservancy in China

This week on Sinica, Kaiser speaks with Charles Bedford, who has been the managing director since 2012 of The Nature Conservancy (TNC)’s Asia-Pacific region, which encompasses Asia, the Pacific Islands, Indonesia, and Australia. The organization focuses on solving incredibly pressing and paramount issues central to the health of our planet. TNC is a charitable environmental organization that focuses on bringing the “best available science” to decision makers in all levels of government and local communities both inside and outside of the United States. In this episode, Kaiser and Charles discuss the formation of the national parks system in China beginning nearly two decades ago in which Charles and TNC played an instrumental role; the promising Chinese ecotourism industry; hydropower in China; “sponge cities” and “green bonds”; environmental activism and philanthropy; and local Chinese environmental organizations. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 12:30: Charles on responsibly developing hydropower projects in Southeast Asia: “The problem with the way that we have developed the world’s rivers is that we’ve done it through a death of a thousand cuts. In a sense that if you do these things bit by bit and without looking at entire river systems, then you can essentially destroy the ecological diversity, the function of the river for people, the ability of the river to produce food, to produce silts that are nutritional for agricultural production.” 25:50: Kaiser and Charles discuss sponge cities: “What China’s done over the last few years is taken a pretty remarkable step to rebuild its city infrastructure across the whole country. This is a massive, national ‘sponge city’ program to go back in and figure out how to de-hardscape and put in bioswales [drainage receptacles].” 31:21: Does China get too much credit or too much blame on the environmental front? “The preponderance, I’m told, of civil disturbances, riots essentially, in China, are resulting from pollution. [They] derive from some type of local pollution or land use problem with the government. So China is not necessarily a democratic place where issues can turf themselves up and go through a political process, but there’s still an outlet for people to say this is wrong. And the great thing about this is the Chinese government is pretty much open to these kinds of [environmental] protests.” 37:42: Charles tells Kaiser about an interview he had with Jack Ma, in which Ma describes nearly drowning in a river as a child in his native Hangzhou. He also shares that he returned there years later, and things had changed — he would have been hard-pressed to drown in that same river because the water now only reached his ankles, and he wouldn’t want to swim in it because it was clearly polluted. Ma is a Global Board Member of The Nature Conservancy. Recommendations: Charles: Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize, by Sean C. Carroll, a book on World War II and the stories of Albert Camus and Jacques Monod. Kaiser: The Wizard and the Prophet, by Charles C. Mann, and a seven-part recording of a 1995 live show by the band Idiot Flesh. --- Check out the sponsor of this episode, Yoyo Chinese, by going to — be sure to enter the code Sinica at checkout to receive 15% off!

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Dec 06, 2018
‘Shaken Authority’: Party-speak, propaganda, and the Sichuan earthquake of 2008

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with Christian Sorace, assistant professor of political science at Colorado College. The three discuss his book, Shaken Authority: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake, which analyzes the ways the Communist Party uses rhetoric to serve its interests, the consequences of this endeavor for the region and survivors of the quake, and the urbanization of China’s rural areas. Christian spent a year and a half in the region starting in 2012, conducting fieldwork in affected areas via open-ended interviews, ethnographic observations, meetings with leaders of non-governmental organizations and scholars, and analysis of hundreds of pages of internal Party reports. What to listen for this week on the Sinica Podcast: 13:10: Sorace explains why, for a short time in the aftermath of the quake, some perceived the seeds of civil society to be growing: “This activity was limited to a short window of the rescue period in which lives were at stake and time was of the essence. And after this short window of rescue, the reconstruction phase begins, and then the picture changes entirely and top-down control was reasserted.” 18:03: Sorace elaborates on the role of gratitude education (感恩教育活动 gǎn ēn jiàoyù huódong) in shaping perceptions of post-earthquake reconstruction: “Officials would talk about gratitude education as a way of ‘removing psychological obstacles, and returning overly emotional people to a reasonable and rational state,’ so there’s also a kind of control element here.” He then elaborates on the haunting similarities between what happened in the aftermath of the earthquake and the horrors that are occurring now in Xinjiang. 26:32: “Over 7.7 million square meters of urban space was built in the reconstruction. Fifty percent of their entire rural population were moved into cities, so this is a massive expansion of urban space.” Christian reflects on the concept of “utopian urbanization” and his time living in these newly built apartments that housed disaster victims. 39:11: Superfluous slogans, turgid language... Can anything of value truly be gleaned from official language coming from the Chinese state? Sorace explains the significance of rhetoric in understanding the Communist Party: “…to dismiss everything that the Communist Party says, as this empty propaganda actually makes everything that’s going on in China actually much harder to understand. And if we pay close attention and train [our] sensitivity to listening to this ‘Party-speak,’ it actually can tell us quite a bit about what’s going on.” Recommendations: Jeremy: The Epic of Gilgamesh, by father and son duo Kevin and Kent Dixon, a graphic novel version of the original epic. Kaiser: The Vietnam War, by Ken Burns. Christian: Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, by Peter Godfrey Smith, a look at the nature and evolution of consciousness.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Nov 29, 2018
Mythbusting China’s social credit system

This week on Sinica, Kaiser traveled across the Atlantic to host a live podcast at the Asia Society of Switzerland in Zurich. The topic of discussion is the social credit system (SCS) in China, a fiercely debated and highly controversial subject in the West, often construed as a monolithic and Orwellian initiative. Our guests are Manya Koetse, editor and founder of What’s on Weibo — a wonderful resource that aggregates and examines trending information from social media platform Sina Weibo — and Rogier Creemers, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Leiden, who has done extensive research on China’s governance and digital policy and has translated extensive primary source materials from Chinese government sources and publications on SCS. Rogier and Manya provide fresh perspectives on a subject that has become a wedge in the China-watching community. They discuss the varying perceptions of SCS around the world; what observers have gotten right and wrong about the system according to government publications; the relative lack of integration in the many different moving parts that comprise the SCS; and the changing role of technology in daily life and how big of a role that could play when one thinks of social credit. What to listen for this week on the Sinica Podcast: 13:19: Manya explains to Kaiser that “We in the West have somehow been trapped in this one-dimensional vision of this system, or this policy. Just looking at it from that angle, politically and also from the idea that it’s the state versus the people. Always the state versus the people … and it’s much more multidimensional than that.” 27:01: Is discussion of social credit systems suppressed in China? Manya answers, “This was a little bit difficult for me … I see it everywhere on Twitter, but it’s not a trending topic on Weibo, so I was looking on Weibo on what to write about.” Kaiser asks if this is because of internet censorship, to which Manya responds, “I don’t think so … there are some websites like [that show uncensored trending topics] and social credit system definitely is not one of them. Another thing is that state media is trying to propagate articles that are about the system and various local credit systems are on Weibo. If anything I have the feeling that there are probably people out there that wish this was more talked about on Weibo.” 37:16: Despite popular belief, there is local pushback against some local credit systems, which Rogier elaborates on: “One of the local trials, run in a place called Suining close to Shanghai in Jiangsu province, was actually shut down after it was criticized quite harshly in national official media. There is some jostling for ‘we want the system on the whole,’ but as with any system there are going to be negative consequences … not to want to present the Chinese government as more benevolent than it is … but it is also too simplistic to say that this is top-down impulse, no questions asked.” 43:01: Rogier provides two key takeaways to Kaiser’s question on how our expectations towards the world outside of the West have changed in the age of the internet. How have our perceptions of technology changed in the modern era? Towards China as a rising technological power? What role is an acceptable role for technology to play in our lives and in governance? Recommendations: Kaiser: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, the Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Alexandre Dumas written by Tom Reiss. Rogier: DigiChina, a platform for information on the development of China’s digital economy and digital politics, and The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan. Manya:, a digital platform for studying the Manchu language.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Nov 22, 2018
Shadow banking, P2P lending, and pyramid schemes: Lucy Hornby on China's gray economy

This week on Sinica, Kaiser speaks with Lucy Hornby, the deputy bureau chief of the Financial Times in Beijing and a veteran guest on the show. She has appeared on Sinica before to discuss professional representation for women in China, the last surviving comfort women in the country, and domestic environmental challenges. The two discuss shadow banking in China and its history; the cat-and-mouse relationship between regulators and shadow financiers; the advent of fintech and the proliferation of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms; and Lucy’s reporting on a pyramid scheme involving selenium-infused wheat in Hebei. What to listen for this week on the Sinica Podcast: 11:15: Lucy responding to Kaiser’s question on perceptions of shadow lending in China: “You see repeated attempts by the Chinese state to shut this down. And also the words that they use around it: shadow banking, private banking, private financiers, capitalists… They’re very much painted in a negative light. But at the same time, some of China’s biggest entrepreneurs have said they would never have gotten started or been able to make it through a downturn [without a shadow loan].” 13:02: Lucy points out that in the lead-up to the financial crisis of 2008, the state took control of building housing from private investors: “This cutoff in loans [to private entities] happened roughly around the time you had the global financial crisis and the Chinese government putting out a massive stimulus plan…and suddenly if you can make a 30 percent profit on something, you can take out a 20 percent loan… That's when you really had this explosion of shadow banking that reached into every sector of the economy.” 30:35: “The other thing I think a lot of people don’t realize is that Chinese shadow financing has flowed into peripheral countries… A lot of Mongolian entrepreneurs turn to that shadow financing, and you even had some who then took that and repackaged it at higher rates to Mongolian retail customers. So, that means that basically the nation of Mongolia is now completely exposed to the Chinese shadow banking sector.” 42:15: To conclude the discussion, Lucy provides a bird’s-eye view: “I think your point about China’s need for flexible financing is a real one, and that’s going to continue. But I think what we’re also seeing is a massive deleveraging and default of all these boom years into the pockets of the average Chinese person.” Recommendations: Lucy: Den of Thieves, by James B. Stewart, the tome-like account of the junk bond trading craze of the 1980s, and The China Dream, by Joe Studwell. Kaiser: Two books by Stephen R. Platt: Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age and Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Nov 15, 2018
Introducing the Ta for Ta Podcast

In lieu of Sinica this week, we are proud to announce the newest addition to our network, Ta for Ta, hosted by Juliana Batista. Ta for Ta is a new biweekly podcast, which captures the narratives of women from Greater China at the top of their professional game. “Ta for Ta” is a play on the Chinese spoken language that demonstrates equality between the sexes. Tā 他 is the word for “he”; tā 她 is also the word for “she.” Chenni Xu is the inaugural guest, a corporate communications executive and gender advocate. She moved back to New York after spending nearly a decade abroad in Beijing. Tune in to hear about the #MeToo movement in China and the proponents at the fore, Chenni’s views on gender inequality and professional representation for women, as well as her own experiences as a woman and an Asian American in China. Subscribe to Ta for Ta on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, or Stitcher, or plug the RSS feed into your favorite podcast app. For more musings and links relevant to this episode of Ta for Ta, check out this post on Juliana’s Medium page. Juliana loves to hear from listeners — send her a message at

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Nov 08, 2018
Kevin Rudd on Xi Jinping’s worldview

This week on Sinica, Kaiser speaks with the Honorable Kevin Rudd, the 26th prime minister of Australia and the inaugural president of the Asia Society Policy Institute. He is also a doctoral student at Jesus College, University of Oxford, who, through his studies, hopes to provide an explanation as to how Xi Jinping constructs his worldview. Mr. Rudd elaborates on the extent to which the Chinese government’s worldview has changed, the current direction of that worldview, and how much of that can be owed to Xi Jinping and domestic political maneuvering. The two take a deep dive into the state of ongoing flux in the U.S.-China relationship; the now-strategic competition between the U.S. and China; what the new rules for engagement are; Chinese foreign policy transitioning to a more active approach; the most significant changes in the bilateral relationship over the past 12 months; and the current state of Australia-China relations. What to listen for this week on the Sinica Podcast: 2:39: Rudd describes the transition of Chinese foreign policy from the reserved “conceal one’s strengths and bide one’s time” (韬光养晦 tāoguāng yǎnghuì) to a more active or energetic approach of “be energetic and show promise” (奋发有为 fènfā yǒuwéi), which reflects Beijing’s growing global ambitions. 13:40: Rudd in response to Kaiser’s request for an explanation of the basic tenets of Xi’s worldview in the modern era: “I think the one thing I probably got right about Xi Jinping was an estimation of his character and personality: that he would not be content with being primus inter pares.” 34:48: Rudd elaborates on several events over the past 12 months that he believes to be significant developments in the U.S.-China relationship, particularly Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the Hudson Institute earlier this month: “In terms of the harshness of the language, I think, again, it will cause Beijing to sit up and take notice, and it will confirm in the minds of many that the impending unfolding period of U.S. ‘containment’ of China is now entrenched.” 45:20: In response to Kaiser’s question on the future of coexistence with an increasingly authoritarian China, Rudd offers a direct response: “If liberal internationalism, as espoused post-’45, is to have a future, then how do you coexist with China? I think the other member states of the international community, if they want the current rules-based order based on its established pillars to survive, they’re going to have to argue for it and argue strongly for it… Otherwise, it will disappear beneath the waves of an economically dominant China over the long term.” Recommendations: Kevin Rudd: The film Crazy Rich Asians. Kaiser: Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K’ang-Hsi, by Jonathan D. Spence, a historical account written from the perspective of the Kangxi Emperor himself.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Nov 01, 2018
Danny Russel on the rebalancing and decoupling

This week on Sinica, Kaiser speaks with Danny Russel, career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 2013 to 2017, and currently vice president for international security and diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI). The conversation centers on all things diplomatic in East and Southeast Asia: the Trans-Pacific Partnership; internet freedom in China; the country’s “illiberal turn”; espionage and intellectual property theft during his time in Washington; the Obama administration’s position on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); and, finally, reflections on the current state of the U.S.-China relationship. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 3:20: Kaiser begins the discussion with a question about the characterization of the Obama administration’s regional strategy, the “Pivot to East Asia.” Russel maintains that “[Barack Obama]…understood intellectually and understood viscerally, that America’s economic development, that America’s security interests and America’s future, was inextricably linked to the Asia-Pacific region, which was clearly the driver of global growth.” 38:25: Assistant Secretary Russel elaborates on the driving forces behind the “illiberal turn” that has fueled anxieties among China-watchers. “It felt as if the impact of the 2008 financial crisis had sent a pulse through Chinese thinking. This pulse seemed to dispel the long-held notion that there was something to respect, and to perhaps imitate, in the Western economic model.” 57:31: “If China’s going to throw a lot of money behind the laudable objective of promoting infrastructure development in Asia, why doesn’t it use the Asian Development Bank, or the World Bank, or some of the existing mechanisms that are proven institutions? And if then, if China is going to create not a national bank, but an international development bank, the starting point for any new multilateral banking institution had better be the high-water mark in terms of standards and operations that have been achieved over the last 70 years by the existing multilateral banks.” 59:00: “Early on in the time of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s conception, it was all label and no substance. What we were seeing, and hearing was that China was asking governments to buy what was a pig in a poke.” 1:05:36: Kaiser raises a question regarding the anxieties that have taken root between Washington and Beijing and now are straining the relationship, some deserved and others unfounded. “We’re seeing what’s almost a perfect storm in which the accumulated frustration and unhappiness among so many different elements of U.S. society, and so many stakeholders that traditionally have supported the U.S.-China relationship,” Assistant Secretary Russel comments on the continually worsening state of affairs, as there is a the “diminished willingness to speak up” in defense of the relationship. Recommendations: Assistant Secretary Russel: No book or show, but rather a plea for public service; the Foreign Service, joining a non-governmental organization, nonprofit work, etc. Kaiser: Educated, by Tara Westover, a memoir of a young girl raised in a fundamentalist, survivalist Mormon family in Idaho.

This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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Oct 25, 2018
Kai-Fu Lee and the U.S.-China AI rivalry

This week on Sinica, Jeremy and Kaiser speak with Kai-Fu Lee 李开复, who has returned to discuss his new book, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order. Kai-Fu is a prominent member of the international artificial intelligence community and is chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, founded in 2009. Kai-Fu brings to Sinica a wealth of knowledge on topics that have developed into rather large points of contention in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship over the past year: AI and its various usages across a wide range of industries; the “high-octane” nature of Chinese data; tech policy in China; venture capital and its interplay with domestic private companies; the future of China’s AI industry and what that means for the rest of the world; and the nuances of the business and finance aspects of running a technology company in China. Kai-Fu previously spoke about artificial intelligence on Sinica last summer. What to listen for this week on the Sinica Podcast: 4:52: A discussion on potential future “Sputnik moments” in the field of artificial intelligence and why, given historical trends, we might not see another breakthrough for several decades. Kai-Fu elaborates: “I think we’ve shifted to the age of implementation, where China excels and arguably is caught [up] with the U.S. and maybe leading the U.S. over the next five years.” 15:10: Kai-Fu in response to Jeremy’s question about China potentially exporting its AI capacity, and what effects that may have on the rest of the world: