In dealing with the Islamic Republic of Iran, as with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Beijing confronts yet another exquisite dilemma. As with North Korea, the Chinese leadership must walk a diplomatic and political tightrope in its policies toward Tehran, in this instance seeking to maintain increasingly lucrative economic and strategically useful political ties to a major power and friend in a critical region of the world. At the same time, it must support international efforts to sustain the global nonproliferation regime, prevent the further destabilization of a highly volatile and critical region, and avoid antagonizing Washington and other key powers. This essay first examines China’s interests and policies toward Iran, especially as they affect the United States. It then takes a close look at the lines of apparent debate within China on the Iran nuclear issue and Chinese policy.
In his inaugural address in May 2008, Ma Ying-jeou laid out a vision for cross-Strait relations that was at once ambitious but also grounded in the reality of Taiwan’s political divisions. He set out a complex formula on the question of Taiwan’s status that he felt he could both defend domestically and still use to establish common ground to bring progress across the Strait as well as greater international space. And underlying the substance, he adopted an approach that was almost assured of achieving some success, if only because it was sharply different from that of his predecessor and eschewed all ambition to “declare independence.” But there was—and is—no certainty regarding how far cross-Strait relations can go based on this approach alone. After providing some assessment of recent developments, including ECFA, Taiwan politics, and the current issues in U.S.-PRC relations regarding Taiwan, this essay steps back for a moment to assess how Ma has done with respect to his inaugural vision and to suggest some factors that will affect how much more progress he can make over the remainder of this term.
On 14 April 2010, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in China’s southern Qinghai Province. The quake killed over 2,000 people and destroyed most of the buildings in the area. As in other recent Chinese natural disasters, such as the May 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army was mobilized to lead rescue and recovery operations. This article examines the organization of the response effort, and assesses its implications for party-military relations.
Like many agricultural areas of the interior, Xian’an district in Hubei Province faced enormous problems from growing numbers of bureaucratic offices, increasing numbers of cadres, escalating debt, and financial malfeasance. Beginning in 2000, a new Party secretary, Song Yaping, began drastic measures to reduce the size of the cadre force and restructure local government. With strong political backing and a forceful personality, Song appears to have been largely successful, though his reforms remain controversial. The bigger question is whether the model adopted in Xian’an can be spread to other areas, and the answer to that appears to be negative.
China reached an important turning point in housing policy on April 17, 2010. Policy shifted from stimulating growth to controlling speculative demand for housing, as well as increasing the supply of affordable housing. The central government has pushed the policies on reluctant local government officials, who are dependent on land-sales revenues and closely intertwined with real estate interests. Despite the tensions in implementation, central government commitment to the policy turn appears strong, and it is likely it will be sustained.
The 18th Party Congress, expected to convene in the fall of 2012, will see a turnover of leadership generations on a scale equaling that at the 16th Party Congress in 2002. Predicting changes in China’s top leadership has always been notoriously hazardous to the reputations of those who undertake it. Nevertheless, incremental institutionalization of leadership processes over the past two decades may offer a surer foundation for such predictions. This article projects what the 18th Central Committee leadership may look like based on the logic of institutionalization.
The PRC’s civilian-military relationship has always been a central concern among China watchers. Although the political leadership’s control over the military has not been challenged in the last two decades, several factors—a possibly ineffective civilian collective leadership, growing social tensions and public protests, and China’s great power aspirations amid a rapidly changing global environment—may all enhance the military’s influence and power in the years to come. The upcoming political succession in 2012 is expected to involve a large-scale turnover in both the civilian and military leadership. Based on in-depth analysis of the PRC’s 57 currently highest-ranking military officers, this essay aims to address the following important questions: Who are the most likely candidates to become the military’s top leadership at the 18th Party Congress? What are the group characteristics of these rising stars in the Chinese military? What can an analysis of the professional backgrounds and political networks of China’s top officers reveal about the new dynamics between civilian and military elites and the possible challenges that lie ahead?