Publications

    Disciplining of a Society: Social Disciplining and Civilizing Processes in Contemporary China

    Thomas Heberer, August 2020

    In this paper, we specifically focus on the social disciplining process in China since 2012, i.e., in the Xi Jinping era, although we also briefly touch upon historical aspects of disciplining (Confucianism, Legalism, New Life Movement” in the 1930s political campaigns in the Mao era, etc.). The approach adopted in this paper is to conduct an analysis of the disciplining/civilizing top-down project of the state.
     
    We argue that the function of the current Chinese state as a disciplining and civilizing entity is the connecting link tying policies such as the state’s morality policies, its anti-corruption drive or the so-called “social credit system” together under a specific governance logic: to discipline and civilize society in order to prepare the people to become modernized. In fact, modernization and modernity encompass not only a process of economic and political-administrative modernizing but concurrently one related to the organization of society in general and the disciplining of this society and its individuals to create people with “modernized” minds in particular.
     
    Our principal research questions in this paper are twofold: (1) How should disciplining and civilizing processes in general and in contemporary China in particular be understood? (2) What kind of policies and tools does the Chinese state use to pursue and implement its disciplining objectives?
     

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    A Turbulent Decade: The Changes in Chinese Popular Attitudes toward Democracy

    Yinxian Zhang, August 2020 

    In light of the increasingly aggressive policies and rhetoric of the Chinese government, many came to believe that China may pose a severe threat to democracy and the international order. However, less attention has been paid to Chinese popular attitudes toward democracy and authoritarianism. How does the Chinese public think of democracy in the changing domestic and international environment?

     

    This paper uses a novel data set of Chinese social media posts generated between 2009 and 2017 and investigates the changes in popular attitudes toward democracy in the past decade. Results show that online discussion around democracy has decreased and voices questioning democracy have become pronounced since 2013. While tightened state control is a critical factor shaping popular attitudes, this paper demonstrates that people’s increasing exposure to two types of foreign information has also played into this trend. These information lead to a perception of dissatisfying performance of other countries and an awareness of racial attitudes of the West. Lastly, increasing doubts about democracy are not necessarily translated into a strong authoritarian legitimacy. Instead, online discussion presents a sense of ambivalence toward the two models, and the Chinese regime has continued to face a predicament of legitimacy.

     

    Cunningham, Edward, and Phillip Jordan. 2020. “Our Path to “New Normal” in Employment? Sobering Clues from China and Recovery Scores for U.S. Industry.” Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Read the full report Abstract

    Edward Cunningham and Philip Jordan, July 2020 

    The US National jobs reports for May and June exceeded expectations, and for many, this signaled that April was the true peak of American job losses and real recovery may be underway. Yet mounting evidence suggests that a job recovery is a long way off and that many jobs may not return.

    Part of the analytic disconnect stems from the fact that the global pandemic is a novel challenge for policymakers and analysts. We lack current, useful benchmarks for estimating the damage to the labor market, for estimating what recovery would look like, and for measuring an eventual recovery in jobs. Given this paucity of models, one place to look for patterns of potential recovery – particularly relating to consumption and mobility – is China.

    The Chinese economy is driven largely by consumption, urban job creation is driven by small and medium-sized companies, and China is several months ahead of the US in dealing with the pandemic’s economic and labor impact. An analysis of China’s experience may, therefore, offer important clues about our recovery here at home, and inform new models of thinking about American job recovery.

    Understanding CCP Resilience: Surveying Chinese Public Opinion Through Time
    Cunningham, Edward, Tony Saich, and Jessie Turiel. 2020. Understanding CCP Resilience: Surveying Chinese Public Opinion Through Time. Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Read the full report Abstract

    Edward Cunningham, Tony Saich, and Jessie Turiel, July 2020

    This policy brief reviews the findings of the longest-running independent effort to track Chinese citizen satisfaction of government performance. China today is the world’s second largest economy and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has ruled for some seventy years. Yet long-term, publicly-available, and nationally-representative surveys in mainland China are so rare that it is difficult to know how ordinary Chinese citizens feel about their government.

    We find that first, since the start of the survey in 2003, Chinese citizen satisfaction with government has increased virtually across the board. From the impact of broad national policies to the conduct of local town officials, Chinese citizens rate the government as more capable and effective than ever before. Interestingly, more marginalized groups in poorer, inland regions are actually comparatively more likely to report increases in satisfaction. Second, the attitudes of Chinese citizens appear to respond (both positively and negatively) to real changes in their material well-being, which suggests that support could be undermined by the twin challenges of declining economic growth and a deteriorating natural environment.

    While the CCP is seemingly under no imminent threat of popular upheaval, it cannot take the support of its people for granted. Although state censorship and propaganda are widespread, our survey reveals that citizen perceptions of governmental performance respond most to real, measurable changes in individuals’ material well-being. For government leaders, this is a double-edged sword, as citizens who have grown accustomed to increases in living standards will expect such improvements to continue, and citizens who praise government officials for effective policies may indeed blame them when such policy failures affect them or their family members directly. While our survey reinforces narratives of CCP resilience, our data also point to specific areas in which citizen satisfaction could decline in today’s era of slowing economic growth and continued environmental degradation.

    Howard Husock, Gaylen Moore, and Jorrit de Jong, May 2020 

    Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, high atop a great many of the older, concrete-block buildings in lower-income areas of central Hong Kong and the neighborhoods of the Kowloon peninsula, informal metal-framed wooden structures housed thousands of families in austere, inexpensive quarters. These rooftop dwellings created a sort of shantytown in the air and, though built illegally, were nonetheless bought, sold, and rented on the open market. These structures were just one example of the larger phenomenon of so-called unauthorized building works (UBWs) in Hong Kong. These included balconies added to windows—sometimes used for beds—as well as hundreds of thousands of storefront street signs and canopy extensions on buildings in commercial districts, used to create rental space below for stores and restaurants on the ground floor. By 1999, the total number of UBWs was estimated at 800,000. By one assessment, if authorities continued enforcing the laws in the manner they had been, it would take more than 130 years to remove all such structures—assuming that new ones were not built in their place.

    This case raises questions about how to respond effectively to a complex problem that has arisen as a solution to other problems.

    Thanks to a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.

    China's Most Generous: Examining Trends in Contemporary Chinese Philanthropy

    Edward Cunningham and Yunxin Li, March 2020 

    This annual report highlights leading results from the most recent data analysis of the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center’s China Philanthropy Project, capturing over one-quarter of estimated national giving in China. We focus on elite giving by building an annual database of the top 100 individual donors, top 100 donors from corporations and other organizations, and also top university recipients of philanthropic giving.

    In 2018, such Chinese giving:

    • was dominated by large organizations (most commonly corporations) rather than individuals,  
    • supported in large part central government policy priorities in the area of poverty alleviation,
    • revealed an intriguing new philanthropy-driven educational model in the country, and
    • remained fairly local in scope.

    Read the report in Chinese 

    Finding Allies and Making Revolution

    Tony Saich, Brill, February 2020 

    What does a Dutchman have to do with the rise of the Chinese Communist Party? Finding Allies and Making Revolution by Tony Saich reveals how Henk Sneevliet (alias Maring), arriving as Lenin’s choice for China work, provided the communists with two of their most enduring legacies: the idea of a Leninist party and the tactic of the united front. Sneevliet strived to instill discipline and structure for the left-leaning intellectuals searching for a solution to China’s humiliation. He was not an easy man and clashed with the Chinese comrades and his masters in Moscow. This new analysis is based on Sneevliet’s diaries and reports, together with contemporary materials from key Chinese figures, and important documents held in the Comintern’s China archive.

    Watch a video introduction to the book 

    William H. Overholt, December 2019

    This is an extensively edited, updated and expanded text of a lecture given for the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School on October 31, 2019. From the origination of “one country, two systems” in 1979 to today, this paper analyzes the history of the unique relationship between Hong Kong, Beijing, and the world.

    Playing by the Informal Rules
    Li, Yao. 2018. Playing by the Informal Rules. Cambridge University Press. Visit Publisher's Site Abstract

    Yao Li, Cambridge University Press, November 2018  

    Growing protests in non-democratic countries are often seen as signals of regime decline. China, however, has remained stable amid surging protests. Playing by the Informal Rules highlights the importance of informal norms in structuring state-protester interactions, mitigating conflict, and explaining regime resilience. Drawing on a nationwide dataset of protest and multi-sited ethnographic research, this book presents a bird's-eye view of Chinese contentious politics and illustrates the uneven application of informal norms across regions, social groups, and time. Through examinations of protests and their distinct implications for regime stability, Li offers a novel theoretical framework suitable for monitoring the trajectory of political contention in China and beyond. Overall, this study sheds new light on political mobilization and authoritarian resilience and provides fresh perspectives on power, rules, legitimacy, and resistance in modern societies.

     

    Shabbir Cheema, November 2018

    This policy brief explores how democratic processes in local governance affect access to urban services in Asian cities, especially for marginalized groups. It is based on research conducted by a group of national research and training institutions in nine cities in five Asian countries as well as regional dialogue hosted and facilitated by East-West Center with the support of the Swedish International Center for Local Democracy (ICLD). Governance process variables investigated were local government resources and capacity; mechanisms for local participation, accountability, and coordination; use of information and communications technology (ICT); implementation and replication of good practices; and management of peri-urbanization. This brief outlines research findings that are applicable across countries at the city level.

    Jun Jie Woo, May 2018 

    Decades of rapid economic growth and urbanization in Singapore have given rise to new and increasingly complex policy problems. Singapore’s policymakers have sought to address these problems by leveraging emerging technological solutions such as data analytics. This has culminated in the “Smart Nation” initiative, a nationwide and whole-of-government effort to digitize Singapore’s policy processes and urban environment. More importantly, the initiative has given rise to administrative reorganization and increased state-citizen engagement. These changes portend more fundamental shifts in Singapore’s governing milieu.

    3-in-1: Governing a Global Financial Centre
    Woo, Jun Jie. 2017. 3-in-1: Governing a Global Financial Centre. World Scientific Publishing, 128. Publisher's Version Abstract

    Jun Jie Woo, World Scientific Publishing, August 2017

    3-in-1: Governing a Global Financial Centre provides a comprehensive understanding of Singapore's past development and future success as a global financial centre. It focuses on three transformational processes that have determined the city-state's financial sector development and governance — globalisation, financialisation, and centralisation — and their impacts across three areas: the economy, governance, and technology. More importantly, this book takes a multidimensional approach by considering the inter-related and interdependent nature of these three transformational processes. Just like the 3-in-1 coffee mix that is such an ubiquitous feature of everyday life in Singapore, the individual ingredients of Singapore's success as a global financial centre do not act alone, but as an integrated whole that manifests itself in one final product: the global financial centre.

    Tony Saich, August 2017

    This analysis argues that the period of easy reforms in China has ended, and the time of difficult reforms that touch core political interests has begun. The resulting challenges facing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping when he is confirmed for another five-year-term span political, economic, and international spheres. This leadership must both maintain a domestic focus to strengthen economic growth and avoid the “middle-income trap,” while also engaging in a host of regional and global actions to cement China’s position on the world stage.

    Arthur N. Holcombe, June 2017

    In this paper Holcombe discusses lessons from successful poverty alleviation in Tibetan areas of China during 1998–2016. In the period between 1978 and 2015, the World Bank estimates that over 700 million people have been raised out of poverty based on a poverty line of $1.50 per capita. It also estimates that about 48 percent of residual poverty in China is located in ethnic minority areas where top-down macroeconomic policies to reduce poverty have been least effective and where strategies to target poor ethnic minority households with additional financial, technical, and other support were not successful in overcom- ing cultural and other barriers to greater income and food security.

    David Dapice, May 2017 

    The paper provides an updated assessment of the danger that the Rakhine state conflict poses to all of Myanmar in terms of cost in lives, international reputation, depressed FDI, ongoing violence and sectarian conflict. The author makes the case that settling the issue will require a strategy that extends beyond restoring security, one that offers a real possibility of success at a political and economic level. He offers that the path forward lies in enabling moderate local and central leaders to bring about a new idea of citizenship, enhancing local socio-economic prospects by investing in roads, power and irrigation, as well as by restricting illegal foreign fishing off the cost of Rakhine, and by extending health and education services throughout the province to all residents.

    Anthony Saich & Paula D. Johnson, May 2017

    Values and Vision: Perspectives on Philanthropy in 21st Century China is an exploratory study of philanthropic giving among China’s very wealthy citizens. Recognizing the increasing number of successful entrepreneurs engaged in philanthropic activity in China, the study explores the economic and policy contexts in which this philanthropy is evolving; the philanthropic motivations, aspirations and priorities of some of the country’s most engaged philanthropists; and the challenges and opportunities for increasing philanthropic engagement and impact in China.

    Chinese (traditional) translation available here

    Chinese (simplified) translation available here 

    David Dapice, February 2017, revised April 2017

    In this paper, David Dapice, considers the factors that are at the heart of the instability in Rakhine state and suggests options for approaching citizenship and mobility issues and for overcoming the constraints on implementing development in the state.

    Zhang, Siwen, Hua Chen, Songyu Zhu, Jorrit de Jong, and Guy Stuart. 2017. “Health Education in China's Factories: A Case of Embedded Education”. Read full paper Abstract

    Siwen Zhang, Hua Chen, Songyu Zhu, Jorrit de Jong, and Guy Stuart, January 2017 

    This case study focuses on HERhealth, the health education program within the HERproject as it was implemented in China from 2007 onwards . Based on reports supplied by BSR this case study documents the health education and its effects on the behavior of women who received the education in terms of improved reproductive health, personal hygiene, and safe sex practices.

    Zhang, Siwen, Hua Chen, Songyu Zhu, Jorrit de Jong, and Guy Stuart. 2017. “HIV/AIDS Prevention on Southern China's Road Projects: A Case of Embedded Education”. Read full paper Abstract

    Siwen Zhang, Hua Chen, Songyu Zhu, Jorrit de Jong, and Guy Stuart, January 2017  

    This is a case study of the Asia Development Bank (ADB)-sponsored HIV/AIDS prevention program implemented at expressway construction sites in Guangxi province from 2008 to 2015 . The program delivered HIV/AIDS prevention education to migrant workers working at the sites, as well as to members of the communities near the sites.

    Sara Newland, July 2016 

    Often assumed to be an ethnically homogenous country, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in fact has a substantial minority population with 54 officially recognized ethnic groups that comprise close to 10 percent of the population. Integrating these diverse groups, many of which have a centuries-long history of conflict with the Han Chinese, into a unified Chinese nation-state has been a core policy challenge for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since 1949.1 At first, these challenges were largely political and ideological. The CCP struggled to integrate minority elites, many of whom did not share a common language or culture with the overwhelmingly Han leaders of the CCP, into the party. They also sought to create political institutions that both respected local cultural practices and combined these diverse regions under a single, unified state, a challenge that the Soviet Union also had to confront.

     

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