Although he still faces uncertainty about where things may go with Beijing in the future, Ma Ying-jeou can look back over his first year in office with a reasonably high degree of satisfaction about achievements in cross-Strait relations. At the same time, he has confronted continuing doubts about the evolving state of Taiwan's economy as well as about the role of cross-Strait relations in helping restore the economy's upward track. The predictable negativism from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) toward Ma has not brought a concomitant rise in DPP popularity, despite Ma's tumbling popularity during much of the year. With the DPP riven by factionalism and by a lack of consensus over where the party should place its emphasis, a growing number of leading party members have picked up DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen's charge that the party cannot defeat the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) by attacks alone; rather, it needs a positive vision and agenda. But as it struggled to come to terms on what such a vision should be—including about how to approach the Mainland—the party continued its remorseless attacks on Ma's policies.
The Hong Kong press in mid-July highlighted recent shuffles in the senior Chinese military leadership involving top positions in all four General Departments. This article identifies those changes and offers biographies of the newly promoted officers, while also making a preliminary analysis of their promotions.
Over the past five years, Wenling City— particularly Xinhe Township—in southeastern Zhejiang Province has pioneered openness and public participation in local budgeting. Although there are flaws in the reform, it is nevertheless highly significant in underscoring a clear problem in local governance, breathing life into the normally inert local people's congresses, and introducing a degree of democratic supervision. Local leaders can justly take pride in these reforms. Although there have been efforts in other parts of China to introduce legislative supervision of local budgets, there are significant obstacles to popularizing this innovation, including recent efforts to centralize control over budgets.
Although the global economic crisis is far from over, China has engineered the beginning of a recovery from the initial acute downturn it experienced during the fourth quarter of 2008. Clear signs of resumed growth were evident by May 2009. China owes this rapid recovery to a vigorous response that has been a unique mixture of Keynesian and old-fashioned government planning. This has brought newly important policy actors to the fore, most significantly the new super-ministry, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The long-term implications are a more intrusive role for the government across a wide range of economic and policy arenas. Consumer spending has also grown, but the recovery on the consumer side is still fragile.
Since the fall of 2008, Beijing has faced the PRC's most severe economic downturn in the recent past. In addition, the year 2009 brings several sensitive anniversaries, each of which might prompt political agitation and protest. Nevertheless, the regime leadership from all appearances has thus far weathered these stresses with a consistent public façade of unity and discipline. This performance contrasts starkly with the failure of the regime leadership to do so two decades ago.
As Chinese think tanks begin to acquire the “revolving door” quality that has long described their peer institutions in other countries, business leaders from major state-owned companies and domestic (or Hong Kong–based) private companies now play a crucial role in the management of think tanks, gained through the financial contributions these companies make to the think tanks in reaction to government policies that strongly affect their businesses. Meanwhile, an increasing number of foreign-educated “returnees” find think tanks to be ideal institutional springboards from which to reintegrate into the Chinese political establishment and play a role in shaping the public discourse. A close look at the formation of three prominent think tanks in the country—the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, the Chinese Economists 50 Forum, and the China Center for Economic Research at Peking University—adds a new analytical wrinkle to the long-standing and complicated relationship between power, wealth, and knowledge.