“The Police’s Strength Is Limited, but the People’s Strength Is Boundless”

In some ways, “vigilantes” are the opposite of what their name suggests: rather than rogue agents meting out street justice, they are individuals deemed trustworthy by authorities, working under the guidance of local police forces, deputized to surveil their fellow citizens. In recent years, as Beijing has encouraged the “masses” to take a greater role in public safety, vigilante groups—and their close cousins, “safety promotion associations”—have sprung up across the country, working with the police to conduct traffic stops, mediate disputes, or even “catch [suspects] on the spot.” Indeed, China’s police are likely in need of some help.

Asia Society > China File “The Police’s Strength Is Limited, but the People’s Strength Is Boundless”

The Committee that Ended the Age of Engagement?

The U.S. Congress’ special China committee has a packed agenda for the few months left this term. But its most consequential work may be done: a more confrontational U.S. policy towards China. The Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party has racked up notable successes in its brief existence. Its scrutiny put Wall Street and Silicon Valley on notice to police their investments into China. Its investigations showed that Chinese tax programs support the export of ingredients for fentanyl, and got the Department of Homeland Security to step up inspections of small packages, tightening a loophole potentially used to import goods ma..

Asia Society > China File The Committee that Ended the Age of Engagement?

35 Years Later: A Retrospective of Our Work on the 1989 Tiananmen Protests and Crackdown

This year is the 35th anniversary of the 1989 mass demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and elsewhere around China, and their brutal suppression on June 4. The memories of these events are receding into the past, a process greatly aided in China by censorship. And even when remembered, the crackdown that ended the optimistic 1980s in China is viewed by some Chinese government supporters as justified.

Asia Society > China File 35 Years Later: A Retrospective of Our Work on the 1989 Tiananmen Protests and Crackdown

The Future According to Xi and Putin

On May 16 and 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a state visit to China, where he met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Xi has stood closely by Putin’s side since their announcement of the “no limits” partnership, and this does not look likely to change. But what has been the outcome of Putin’s trip? Did the two leaders make a serious attempt to negotiate on Ukraine, or were the optics of bilateral friendship the main aim? How should we expect the two countries’ trade relationship to change after this visit? What else came out of this trip?

Asia Society > China File The Future According to Xi and Putin

Beijing’s Culinary Crusade: Erasing Uyghur Identity through Food

Instruction began early on a November 2018 morning. This lesson was not taught in a classroom, but in a makeshift kitchen as part of Xinjiang’s “household school” program. There, a teacher stood before her class of adult women and asked: “What do you like to eat for breakfast?” The students responded in unison, “nan and milk” or “nan and tea.” “You don’t eat a bowl of hot congee?” the teacher interjected. This question sparked additional discussion and “even more curiosity” among the women in attendance.

Asia Society > China File Beijing’s Culinary Crusade: Erasing Uyghur Identity through Food

Why the African Union Stopped the Donkey Hide Trade with China

The African Union’s unprecedented decision to ban the trade of donkey skin ended a hitherto fast-evolving China-Africa business. It also is the result of an unusual agreement between the 55 African Union member countries on a matter that affects rural development, women’s rights, and poverty alleviation. Perhaps most unusually, the ban arose from an implicit unified pushback against a profitable business with China, Africa’s largest trade partner and one of its major investors and financiers.

Asia Society > China File Why the African Union Stopped the Donkey Hide Trade with China

Traces in the Land

The Xiao River rushes deep and clear out of the mountains of southern China into a narrow plain of paddies and villages. For several weeks in August 1967, more than nine thousand people were murdered in this region of Hunan province. Its epicenter was Dao county, which the Xiao River bisects on its way north toward the Xiang and then the Yangtze.

Asia Society > China File Traces in the Land

Updates to Our Database of Arrests under the Hong Kong National Security Law

We updated our suite of graphics tracking the impact of Hong Kong’s National Security Law. The law, which went into effect on June 30, 2020, and the allegation of “sedition,” have been used to arrest 292 individuals, charge 159, and convict 71 as of January 31, 2024.Among arrests under the law in recent months, four individuals were arrested for signing up for paid subscriptions to Patreon accounts for Nathan Law and Ted Hui, Hong Kong politicians now living in the UK and Australia, respectively. Reasons cited for other recent arrests include posting on social media criticizing officials, as well as calling for protests and threatening the families of government officials, leading to c..

Asia Society > China File Updates to Our Database of Arrests under the Hong Kong National Security Law

Lessons from Tiananmen for Today’s University Presidents

Thirty-five years ago, in April 1989, Chinese students from Beijing’s elite universities began their occupation of Tiananmen Square. Their issues were different from those of American students today. Chinese demonstrators voiced concerns about corruption, inflation, the effects of on-going market reforms, and lack of free press and participatory governance. Today’s students at Columbia, NYU, Harvard, Yale, University of Minnesota, University of Texas, Brown, USC, and other campuses are mounting an antiwar movement, calling on their institutions to divest from Israel in light of the unprecedented levels of civilian death in Gaza, and for the U.S. government to stop supplying Israel’s of..

Asia Society > China File Lessons from Tiananmen for Today’s University Presidents

A New Round of Restrictions Further Constrains Religious Practice in Xinjiang

Authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region rang in 2024 by announcing an update to the region’s strictures on religious practice. Changes include new rules to ensure that sites of religious worship, like mosques, look adequately “Chinese,” and to mandate the cultivation of “patriotic” religious leaders.

Asia Society > China File A New Round of Restrictions Further Constrains Religious Practice in Xinjiang

Time up for TikTok?

On March 13, in a rare moment of bipartisanship, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that could result in TikTok’s being unable to do business in the U.S. What does the rapid passage of the bill in the House say about the state of Washington’s attitude to China? How would a potential sale work? How is Beijing likely to react? Is TikTok really a threat to the U.S.? What does the Act tell us about the state of the world and the global Internet in 2024?

Asia Society > China File Time up for TikTok?

Xinjiang Authorities Are Retroactively Applying Laws to Prosecute Religious Leaders as Criminals

Sholpan Amirkhan and her aunt gasped when the guards carried her brother-in-law Nurlan Pioner into the Jimunai County People’s Court, on the border with Kazakhstan in China’s western region of Xinjiang. He was gaunt, and a fetid smell followed him. When she shouted his name, she did not see any recognition on his face. He trembled, barely able to maintain a sitting posture as the guards settled him into the seat in the defendant’s cage. Here was a man that everyone in Amirkhan’s community adored and admired, a vital and eloquent religious leader wrecked by 14 months in detention.

Asia Society > China File Xinjiang Authorities Are Retroactively Applying Laws to Prosecute Religious Leaders as Criminals

ChinaFile Presents: A Wild Ride through China’s Economy with Author Anne Stevenson-Yang

The 1980s were an extraordinary time of hope in China, both for its citizens and for foreign visitors. Anne Stevenson-Yang first went to China in 1985, where she was enchanted by the lively cultural scene and what seemed to be the growing openness of the country’s political system. But there’s very little of that optimism left.

Asia Society > China File ChinaFile Presents: A Wild Ride through China’s Economy with Author Anne Stevenson-Yang

Studying in China May Have Gotten Harder for Americans, But We Shouldn’t Stop Trying

The U.S.-China relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world, but it is at its worst point since President Richard Nixon visited in 1972—more than 50 years ago. Getting the relationship right is not easy, but getting it wrong is not an option. Universities have an opportunity and a responsibility to help, but they face headwinds. COVID closed the borders for three years, with only a trickle of American university students finding a way to study in China between 2020 and 2023. But deteriorating U.S.-China tensions, which began well before the pandemic and are ongoing, are causing students, faculty, and administrators to think twice about engagement since the borders..

Asia Society > China File Studying in China May Have Gotten Harder for Americans, But We Shouldn’t Stop Trying

“There Is No CPEC in Gwadar, Except Security Check Posts”

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of the major spokes of Beijing’s multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious attempt to remake global trade and transport infrastructure. CPEC’s terminus is Gwadar, a port city in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, near the Iranian border. The plan for CPEC is to connect Gwadar with Xinjiang, the enormous “Uyghur Autonomous Region,” through a network of highways, railways, and pipelines. CPEC would boost trade between Pakistan and China, and give China access to the Indian Ocean for exports as well as a shorter route for imports of Middle Eastern oil. Despite growing local discontent and an insurgency that targ..

Asia Society > China File “There Is No CPEC in Gwadar, Except Security Check Posts”

“When It All Comes down to It, China Has No Real ‘New Year’”

I’ve written all of this because friends urged me to offer some reflections on the year gone by and jot down a few thoughts for the upcoming year. But I didn’t want to waste my time looking up data points. Anyway, I don’t see that there was all that much difference between 1949 and 1979, nor for that matter can I detect how 1962 and 2022 were different.

Asia Society > China File “When It All Comes down to It, China Has No Real ‘New Year’”

It’s Grim out There: China’s Economy in the Year of the Dragon

Some observers have been predicting an economic collapse in China for decades. Others have long predicted that China would be stuck in a middle-income trap or some other type of economic stagnation. Might some of these predictions come true this time? What does the Year of the Dragon have in store for consumers, companies, and markets? What should we look out for this year to understand both China’s real economy and its financial sector?

Asia Society > China File It’s Grim out There: China’s Economy in the Year of the Dragon

What Will Newly Increased Party Control Mean for China’s Universities?

In January, Radio Free Asia reported that the Chinese Communist Party is “taking a direct role in the running of universities across the country” by merging the presidents’ offices with their Party committees. Ideological controls on universities have been tightening for more than a decade. But this latest move may be even more dramatic: Although all universities have Party branches and committees, the Party has never directly controlled administrative offices. How are China’s universities going to change under the new system? Why is the Party doing this now?

Asia Society > China File What Will Newly Increased Party Control Mean for China’s Universities?

New Security Measure Curtailing the Study of China Alarm Educators

Late last year, The New York Times reported on a new state-level bill in Florida that was creating unintended consequences for prospective Chinese graduate students. The bill restricts universities from accepting grants from or participating in partnerships with seven “countries of concern,” including China. Now, it is creating confusion among Florida universities unsure where Chinese graduate students fall under the confines of that law. It may have already succeeded in scaring off talented students who could make important research contributions, and universities have refrained from making offers until the law is clarified, the Times reported.

Asia Society > China File New Security Measure Curtailing the Study of China Alarm Educators

“It’s Too Convenient to Say That Xi Jinping Is a Second Mao”

The Chinese Communist Party, an organization of over ninety million members, remains opaque to many outsiders, even within China. Wall Street Journal reporter Chun Han Wong spent years in Beijing documenting social, political, and economic changes as General Secretary Xi Jinping consolidated his power over the Party and country. Last year, Wong published Party of One, a portrait of the organization that rules China, and the man who rose to its top. Xi emerges in the book as a prisoner of the Party, and its history, as much as he is its leader. Wong spoke with Nick Frisch, a research fellow at Yale. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation. Nick Frisch: What misconceptions ..

Asia Society > China File “It’s Too Convenient to Say That Xi Jinping Is a Second Mao”

Beijing Is Pouring Resources into Its UN Human Rights Review—All to Prevent Any Real Review from Taking Place

On January 23, a large delegation of Chinese officials will appear at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) to try to defend the indefensible. For the first time since 2018, China will undergo a Universal Periodic Review (UPR), in which UN member states evaluate one another’s human rights records. When Xi Jinping took power just over a decade ago, China was already an authoritarian, one-party state, but since then he has tightened control so severely that persecution of dissidents and government monitoring of virtually all areas of life have become common.

Asia Society > China File Beijing Is Pouring Resources into Its UN Human Rights Review—All to Prevent Any Real Review from Taking Place

Managing the Taiwan Election Aftermath

Lai Ching-te is now president-elect of Taiwan, after a hard-fought race in which Beijing made its preference for his opponents clear. Lai is an outspoken advocate for Taiwan’s sovereignty, though he has said he wants to keep the status quo with China and that there is no need to declare independence since it is already a de facto reality. How can Taipei best negotiate another rocky period with China? What role should Washington play—and what should it avoid?

Asia Society > China File Managing the Taiwan Election Aftermath

Updates to Our Database of Arrests under the Hong Kong National Security Law

We updated our suite of graphics tracking the impact of Hong Kong’s National Security Law. The law, which went into effect on June 30, 2020, and the allegation of “sedition,” have been used to arrest 286 individuals, charge 156, and convict 68 as of the end of 2023. Reasons cited for some of the arrests in the second half of 2023 include wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong” and sharing social media posts of the “Glory” protest anthem. 10 people were arrested in August for their connection to the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which received donations to advocate for sanctions against Hong Kong and to assist organizations supporting people in exile. You can see ..

Asia Society > China File Updates to Our Database of Arrests under the Hong Kong National Security Law

What Does It Really Mean for Europe to ‘De-Risk’ Its Relationship with China?

At the core of many EU Commission and member states’ recent discussions of China is the concept of “de-risking.” Distinct from “decoupling,” the concept focuses on mitigating risks and limiting strategic dependencies in Europe’s relationship with China. They would achieve this using the EU’s economic defenses more effectively and engaging in open and frank dialogue, while remaining open to targeted cooperation and economic ties that are considered “un-risky.”

Asia Society > China File What Does It Really Mean for Europe to ‘De-Risk’ Its Relationship with China?

Debating Whether China Is Getting Stronger or Weaker Won’t Make U.S. Policy More Sound

Does the United States have more to fear from a powerful China that continues to strengthen or from a powerful China that begins to decline? While the question takes into account the economic, military, and diplomatic strides China has made over the past quarter-century—its starting point, after all, is that China is powerful—it seems to embed a questionable, two-part premise: that strategic competition between the United States and China will have a decisive resolution, and that Washington only has a narrow window in which to achieve that resolution on terms that it prefers or can at least accept.

Asia Society > China File Debating Whether China Is Getting Stronger or Weaker Won’t Make U.S. Policy More Sound

Hong Kong Finds Its Voice at the UN—And Uses It to Cheerlead for Beijing

Last May, in a meeting room at the United Nations in Geneva, I sat and listened as a delegate from my hometown of Hong Kong called me a liar. I was there as a representative from the civil society organization Hong Kong Watch, participating in a session on discrimination against women in China—which included the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

Asia Society > China File Hong Kong Finds Its Voice at the UN—And Uses It to Cheerlead for Beijing

Does America Have an End Game on China?

This fall, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan noted that the Biden administration is “often asked about the end state of U.S. competition with China.” He argued that “we do not expect a transformative end state like the one that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union.” Instead, the Biden administration has identified three lines of effort in U.S. relations with China: investing, aligning, and competing. Investing comprises domestic initiatives in the United States while aligning involves cooperation with allies and partners. Thus, the only portion of the Biden administration’s China strategy that explicitly centers on China is competition. Yet, competition does no..

Asia Society > China File Does America Have an End Game on China?

No One Is Talking About the Plight of Uyghurs with Disabilities in Detention. The World Owes Them More.

In 2016, Chinese authorities began rounding up Uyghur intellectuals. Among those detained was Ababekri Muhtar, the founder of Misranim, a popular social media site used by Uyghurs to debate with and learn from each other. Muhtar relies on a wheelchair for mobility, but this did not exempt him from the brutal treatment authorities inflicted upon the Uyghurs they had detained. While he was later released without further explanation, his detention exposes an overlooked facet of China’s relentless persecution of Uyghurs. In its single-minded pursuit of cultural obliteration, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) targets all Uyghurs, leading to especially dire consequences for the most vulnera..

Asia Society > China File No One Is Talking About the Plight of Uyghurs with Disabilities in Detention. The World Owes Them More.

China’s Vision for World Order

In October, in front of leaders from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, Xi Jinping stood triumphant in a celebratory keynote address celebrating the tenth birthday of his Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The speech, delivered at the BRI Forum, championed the initiative’s successes and charted a path toward a version 2.0 that will be smaller, greener, and more focused on diplomacy. The speech depicted China as an alternative standards-setter for the developing world in artificial intelligence, climate resilience, and attainable modernization.

Asia Society > China File China’s Vision for World Order

A Fallen Artist in Mao’s China

This book will be denounced in Beijing. Ha Jin’s The Woman Back from Moscow is a novel based on the life of Sun Weishi, an adopted daughter of Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, whose brilliant mind and intensive study in Moscow of the Stanislavski acting method brought her to the pinnacle of China’s theatrical world during the Mao years.

Asia Society > China File A Fallen Artist in Mao’s China