Info

Sinica Podcast

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.
RSS Feed
2019
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2015
December
November
October
July
April
March


2014
September


2013
August


2012
June


2011
November
August


2010
June
May
April


All Episodes
Archives
Now displaying: 2018
Dec 20, 2018

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!

Dec 13, 2018

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.

Dec 6, 2018

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 www.yoyochinese.com/sinica — be sure to enter the code Sinica at checkout to receive 15% off!

Nov 29, 2018

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.

Nov 22, 2018

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 freeweibo.com [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: Manc.hu, a digital platform for studying the Manchu language.

Nov 15, 2018

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.

Nov 8, 2018

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 ta.for.ta.china@gmail.com.

Nov 1, 2018

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.

Oct 25, 2018

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.

Oct 18, 2018

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: “…projected over time, I would expect the U.S. to be by far the leader, and perhaps the unchallenged leader, in the developed countries. But pretty much in all the other countries (in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and to a lesser extent, in South America), China is going to be a major force to be reckoned with.”  

27:55: Kai-Fu describes three key undertakings of the Chinese government regarding industrial policy in China as well as how different provinces and institutions have different uses for AI. He also likens China’s infrastructure investments to Eisenhower’s creation of the Interstate Highway System.

Recommendations:

Jeremy: The Lutheran and Shakespearean insult generators, fantastic resources for online discourse.

Kai-Fu: A slew of sci-fi movies: 2001: A Space Odyssey; Minority Report; Robot & Frank; Gattaca; and his favorite sci-fi TV show, Black Mirror.

Kaiser: Alec Ash, executive editor of the China Channel at the L.A. Review of Books.

Chinese Taught in Plain English:

Check out the sponsor of this episode, Yoyo Chinese, by going to www.yoyochinese.com/sinica — be sure to enter the code Sinica at checkout to receive 15% off!

Oct 11, 2018

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy are joined by Nury Turkel, a prominent voice in the overseas Uyghur community and the chairman of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, now based in Washington, D.C. We discussed Nury’s own experiences as a Uyghur and an activist both in China and the United States; the increasingly vocal Uyghur diaspora around the world in the wake of widespread detentions in Xinjiang; the relative absence of state-level pushback outside of China; and the international organizations that advocate for Uyghur rights in China and the accompanying pushback from Beijing.  

If you aren’t yet up to speed on the deteriorating state of affairs for Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, take a look at SupChina’s explainer for a comprehensive overview of the reporting of information from October 2017 through August 2018.

What to listen for this week on the Sinica Podcast:

13:13: Nury elaborates on the most significant inflection points in the relationship between Xinjiang and Beijing: “The ethnic tension, the political repression, has already been there. But it has gotten worse over time. Starting in the mid-’90s, 2001, 2009, 2016. And now what we’re seeing is probably the darkest period in Uyghur history.”

22:11: Discussion of the goals of international organizations involved in documenting and researching Xinjiang and the plight of the Uyghurs, the largest being the World Uyghur Congress based in Munich, the Uyghur American Association based in Washington, D.C., and the Uyghur Human Rights Project, which Nury co-founded in 2004. Kaiser, Jeremy, and Nury discuss the ties to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the sharp rebuke these ties draw from Beijing.

33:19: “It is mind-boggling that, to this day, since this current nightmare started about 18 months ago, no Muslim country, no Muslim leader, has criticized the Chinese government in the slightest,” Nury said in response to a question raised by Jeremy about the growing trend of Islamophobia in China.

40:15: Nury notes that there is reason for optimism, despite the dire circumstances Uyghur residents in Xinjiang now face. “I think the current political environment in China has given an opportunity for the Uyghurs’ voice to be heard.” He continues, “This is a critical movement in Uyghur history. This is a terrible [humanitarian] crisis as it has been portrayed by some U.S. lawmakers. But, at the same time, this issue has put the Uyghurs on an international map.”

Recommendations:

Jeremy: Maus (1 and 2), graphic novels by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman.

Nury: The Uyghur Human Rights Project report The Mass Internment of Uyghurs. Also: The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History, by Rian Thum; The Uyghurs: Strangers in Their Own Land, by Gardner Bovingdon; and Eurasian Crossroads, by Jim Millward.

Kaiser: Harry Belafonte’s 1959 live album, At Carnegie Hall.

Oct 4, 2018

This week, the Sinica Podcast network adds another show: ChinaEconTalk, hosted by Jordan Schneider. In this crossover on Sinica, Jordan discusses "China's Grand AI Ambitions" with Rhodes scholar Jeff Ding.

Jeff Ding breaks down how China stacks up to the rest of the world in the race to develop AI. He delves into the connections between Chinese tech companies and government AI targets, AI’s military implications, as well as the ethical considerations of AI applications in China’s police state.

Jeff also discusses his recent paper “Deciphering China’s AI Dream,” as well as recent articles on AI he has translated from Chinese media on his ChinAI newsletter.

Subscribe to ChinaEconTalk on iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or by plugging the RSS feed straight into your podcast reader.

Sep 27, 2018

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Jude Blanchette, the Senior Advisor and China Practice Lead at Crumpton Group's China Practice. We pick his brain on the rumors swirling around Beijing this summer, about public criticisms of Xi’s leadership, about the lack of any real succession plan in the eventuality that Xi is somehow incapacitated or steps down, and an emerging political science literature on authoritarianism.

Jude has also discussed Chinese politics on Sinica on three other occasions in the past two years: Neo-Maoists: Everything old is new again; Nationalism in Russia and China; Takeaways from China’s 19th Party Congress.

Recommendations:

Jeremy: War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence, by Ronan Farrow.

Jude: The Youtube channel “Epic rap battles of history,” particularly their 2013 video on “Rasputin vs Stalin” — Jude calls it “a great way to learn about how closed political systems work through OK rap.”

Kaiser: Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Sep 20, 2018

This week, Kaiser chats with Paul Haenle, who is the Maurice R. Greenberg Director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, and previously served on the National Security Council as a staffer under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Their conversation — which runs the gamut from North Korea to Taiwan to the Belt and Road — was recorded live at Schwarzman College in Beijing on September 6.

Recommendations:

Paul: The China in the World podcast, which he hosts, and which recently published its 100th episode. The work of Tong Zhao, a North Korea scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua. “Singapore Sham,” a highly critical article by Jessica Matthews about the Trump-Kim summit. And The Impossible State, a podcast about North Korea by four experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Kaiser: Listennotes.com, where you can find topics and people in podcasts all neatly sorted and searchable.

Sep 13, 2018

This week, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Andrew Small, senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, D.C. Andrew is one of surprisingly few scholars with specialized experience researching China's relations with what it calls its "all-weather friend" — Pakistan. His book from 2015 on the subject is titled The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia's New Geopolitics.

Kaiser, Jeremy, and Andrew discuss how Sino-Pakistani ties have been impacted by the recent election of Imran Khan to prime minister, Pakistan's economic difficulties, and the numerous projects that comprise the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC – one of the most important components of China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Recommendations:

Jeremy: What3Words, a startup that has divided the entire world into a grid of 57 trillion squares, each of them three meters by three meters (9.8 feet), and assigned each square a three-word address, generated randomly by computer. Improving.shrimps.legal, for instance, is located just south of the Chairman Mao portrait at Tiananmen in Beijing. Read more about the system and its implications for developing countries and China on SupChina.

Andrew: Two alternative views on how an economic “decoupling” of the U.S. and China could happen, other than the tariff-driven trade war path currently being taken. First, “Trump thinks a trade war with China is the only option, but it’s not,” a piece by Dan Rosen in Foreign Affairs, and second, “Jennifer Hillman testifies on addressing Chinese market distortions,” where the Georgetown Law professor lays out before the U.S. Senate in early June how litigation could be brought before the World Trade Organization to address grievances against China.

Kaiser: Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, by Eric Schlosser.

Sep 6, 2018

This week on Sinica, Jeremy and Kaiser chat with Jackson Miller, a master’s candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School’s public policy program. Jackson’s research of illegal trade in Malagasy hardwood led him to discover the bizarre story of Gao Jose Ramaherison — an unemployed man from Liaoning, China, who parlayed his kung-fu skills into political prominence in Madagascar.

Recommendations:

Jeremy: Recommends that everyone should visit Madagascar, especially for its beautiful and diverse natural environment. He recommends Ile Sainte Marie, an island off the east coast of Madagascar. Jeremy also recommends visiting a bunch of islands near Madagascar before they are all underwater: Comoro Islands, to the northwest of Madagascar, along with Mauritius and the Seychelles.

Jeremy also likes the weird Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch and his painting The Garden of Earthly Delights. The Twitter account @artistbosch highlights particular parts of this and other paintings by Bosch in bite-sized pieces.

Jackson: Joe Studwell’s Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Also, the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief, a fantastic weekly newsletter that gives you a rundown of the big stories from all across Africa every Sunday morning, as well as a schedule of events for tech conferences and more, plus music recommendations.

Kaiser: Recommends taking up a new instrument in middle age. With Youtube, there’s no shortage of convenient ways to learn the basics — Kaiser picked up a used drum kit and has been bashing away at it for a while now.

Aug 30, 2018

This week on Sinica, we bring you part 3 of Kaiser and Jeremy’s interview with Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (see part 1 here, and part 2 here). In the final stretch of the conversation, Ambassador Freeman talks about U.S.-China military cooperation in the 1980s and discusses some aspects of that cooperation that might really surprise you. He also shares his unconventional take on the “three Ts” — Tibet, Taiwan, and Tiananmen. 

Recommendations:

Jeremy: Maka Angola, a website “dedicated to the struggle against corruption and to the defense of democracy in Angola,” which has recently been covering the scandals of Isabel dos Santos, the richest woman on the African continent. See this article from July 23 — Isabel dos Santos: The fall of Africa’s richest woman — and also a Financial Times lunch series piece from 2013 on dos Santos here (paywall).

Chas: SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard, and a series of seven books on Julius Caesar — here is a link to the first one — by Colleen McCullough. Chas finds much about the collapse of the Roman republic and the rise to autocracy of Julius Caesar “relevant to our current situation.”

Jeremy mentions that Mary Beard also edited a series called “Wonders of the World,” of which the entry on the Forbidden City by Geramie Barmé is “the single best thing to read” about the subject.  

Kaiser: AliExpress, the Alibaba site where you can buy a huge range of products directly from China for surprisingly cheap.

Aug 23, 2018

This week, Kaiser and Jeremy continue their conversation with Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (see part 1 here), and focus on how he got interested in China, his fascination with the Chinese language, his early diplomatic career, his extraordinary experience as chief interpreter during Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, and his prescient predictions of how China would evolve after the normalization of relations with the U.S.

Stay tuned for the third part of this interview, coming next week!

Aug 16, 2018

Few living figures of U.S.-China relations are as legendary as Charles W. "Chas" Freeman, Jr., the chief interpreter for Richard Nixon’s world-changing 1972 visit to China, and a former top American diplomat in countries such as China and Saudi Arabia. On this, the first of a two-part Sinica interview, Chas Freeman discusses grand strategy — and the current “strategy deficit” — in U.S.-China relations, as well as technological innovation, nationalism, xenophobia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and many other topics.

Recommendations: While waiting for the next part of the interview, check out Ambassador Freeman’s book, Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige, and also this extensive 1995 interview with Ambassador Freeman done by Charles Stewart Kennedy for The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training.

Aug 9, 2018

Today, we’re very proud to present a new podcast in the Sinica network on SupChina. It’s called NüVoices, and it’s a show all about women in China, with a focus on women in media and the arts. It’s hosted by Alice Xin Liu, a translator originally from Beijing, who grew up in the U.K. before coming back to Beijing, and by Joanna Chiu, a Hong Kong Canadian journalist whom you’ve heard on Sinica a couple of times in the last year.

Today's show is all about #MeToo and sexual harassment cases in China, and features Yuan Yang, a correspondent for the Financial Times in Beijing. We hope you like it, that it makes you think – and that you’ll subscribe (iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, RSS feed). And keep an ear out in the coming weeks as we introduce more great podcasts about various facets of China.

Aug 2, 2018

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Paul French, the best-selling author of Midnight in Peking. Paul has just written an outstanding new book called City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir, in which he tells a captivating story of two foreigners rising to prominence through conducting shady business in the underworld of Shanghai in the 1930s — a chaotic yet fascinating period, when the city was still known as the Paris of the Orient, leading up to the bleak realities of the war with Japan.

Recommendations:

Paul: A Killing Winter and A Spring Betrayal, two crime novels written by British author Tom Callaghan. Also, Hidden Man, a new movie directed by Chinese award-winning filmmaker Jiang Wen 姜文.

Kaiser: The Anatomy of Fascism, by Robert O. Paxton.

Jeremy: Jo Nesbø, Norway’s best-selling crime writer, whose notable books include The Snowman, The Thirst, and The Redbreast.

Jul 26, 2018

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with David Brophy, senior lecturer in modern Chinese history at the University of Sydney and a prominent scholar on Xinjiang, and with Andrew Chubb, a post-doc fellow this year at the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, about the response to China’s alleged influence operations in Australia. David and Andrew were both signatories to one of two “dueling open letters” addressing the issue; the one they signed warned of the dangers of overreaction.

Recommendations:

Jeremy: Bruce Lee: A Life, by Matthew Polly.

David: Two pieces on China’s re-education camps for muslims in Xinjiang: “New Evidence for China’s Political Re-Education Campaign in Xinjiang,” by Adrian Zenz, and Rian Thum’s follow up piece in the New York Times.

Andrew: The Asia Power Index, by the Lowy Institute. It allows you to interact and play around with the ratings and measures that go into the somewhat arbitrary calculation of power and influence, and includes interesting metrics such as a “Google rating” of just the raw number of Google searches for the country, and the extent of visa-free entry agreements.

Kaiser: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right Paperback, by Arlie Russell Hochschild, an excellent example among the many books that attempt to explain the mindset of the kind of people who voted for Trump.

Jul 19, 2018

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Matthew Kohrman, associate professor of anthropology at Stanford University, about his work on China’s tobacco industry – and why China isn’t doing more to curb smoking. His new book on the subject is titled Poisonous Pandas: Chinese Cigarette Manufacturing in Critical Historical Perspectives.

Recommendations:

Matthew: Jia Zhangke, a Guy From Fenyang. In this documentary, Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles accompanies the prolific Chinese director Jia Zhangke 贾樟柯 on a walk down memory lane, as he revisits his hometown and other locations used in creating his ever-growing body of work. You can stream it on Netflix.

Kaiser: Cigarette Citadels Map, an interactive project that aims to locate all factories producing cigarettes worldwide and expose information about their practices. And Calypso, David Sedaris's new story collection.

Jeremy: Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making the world greener and healthier by planting trees.

Jul 12, 2018

Hydropower dams are a source of debate in the environmental and international relations communities alike. China has made use of hydropower in the past to supplement its reliance on coal and other energy forms, and in total the country has 40 percent of the world’s large hydro dams. While the power from electricity-producing dams is relatively clean, the construction and placement of the massive pieces of infrastructure has long-term ecological consequences and severe impacts for communities downstream.

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Stephanie Jensen-Cormier, China Program Director for the NGO International Rivers, about the consequences of China’s aggressive building of large dams and other issues related to rivers in China – and to Chinese involvement in international dam building projects. She shares bad news, but also some surprisingly good news.

Recommendations:

Stephanie: River of Life, River of Death: The Ganges and India's Future, a book by Richard Mallet that discusses the Ganges’ cultural and economic importance. She also recommends Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Laureate who started the Green Belt movement.

Kaiser: The audiobook for David Tod Roy’s translation of The Plum in the Golden Vase. The narrator, George Backman, has a perfect voice for the story, and performs it with decent Chinese pronunciation.

Jeremy: Mortality, Christopher Hitchens’ last book. Jeremy insists that despite the bleak subject matter, it is a good, short, and enjoyable read.

Jul 5, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Sinica Podcast, taped live in New York at the law offices of Dorsey and Whitney on June 19, Kaiser and Jeremy chat about DEF CON, the world’s premier hacker convention, which was — to the surprise of many — held in Beijing this May, and sponsored by Baidu. They also discuss U.S-China cyber relations throughout the years, including some of the finer emerging contours that define this relationship. Joining us are Kevin Collier, a reporter for BuzzFeed who reported on the conference from Beijing, and Priscilla Moriuchi, a 12-year veteran of the National Security Agency (NSA) who is now head of nation-state threat security at Recorded Future.

Recommendations:

Jeremy: Arab Tyrant Manual, a podcast hosted by Iyad El-Baghdadi and Ahmed Gatnash that discuss authoritarianism and freedom in the Middle East.

Priscilla: Crimetown, a podcast about organized crime and political corruption in Providence, RI in the 80’s and 90’s that is sure to please fans of Serial and S-Town alike.

Kevin: Tyler Childers, an authentic country musician who “cut his teeth” in Kevin’s Kentucky hometown.

Kaiser: Free Salamander Exhibit, an experimental metal band that Kaiser says has “crazy chops.”

1 2 Next »