Publications

    The Risks for International Business under the Hong Kong National Security Law

    Dennis W. H. Kwok and Elizabeth Donkervoort, July 2021 

    Hong Kong, a former British colony, has been a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) since 1997. The National People’s Congress promulgation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Hong Kong National Security Law, HK NSL) on June 30, 2020, has a substantial impact on Hong Kong’s constitutional structure known as “One Country, Two Systems.” Enshrined under the Basic Law (Hong Kong’s constitution under the Sino British Joint Declaration), One Country, Two Systems guaranteed that Hong Kong would exercise a high degree of autonomy—with its own political, economic, and legal systems—based on the rule of law. The HK NSL has been in operation for one year. This article analyzes the impact of the HK NSL on Hong Kong’s legal system and, in particular, its civil law jurisprudence. The article also explores the new legal risks and challenges international businesses face when dealing with PRC businesses or matters impinging on national security in mergers and acquisitions, commercial transactions, and civil disputes. These issues will be examined against the current geopolitical landscape and rising tensions between the PRC and other nations.

    From Rebel to Ruler: One Hundred Years of the Chinese Communist Party

    Tony Saich, July 2021 

    Mao Zedong and the twelve other young men who founded the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 could hardly have imagined that less than thirty years later they would be rulers. On its hundredth anniversary, the party remains in command, leading a nation primed for global dominance.

    Tony Saich tells the authoritative, comprehensive story of the Chinese Communist Party—its rise to power against incredible odds, its struggle to consolidate rule and overcome self-inflicted disasters, and its thriving amid other communist parties’ collapse. Saich argues that the brutal Japanese invasion in the 1930s actually helped the party. As the Communists retreated into the countryside, they established themselves as the populist, grassroots alternative to the Nationalists, gaining the support they would need to triumph in the civil war. Once in power, however, the Communists faced the difficult task of learning how to rule. Saich examines the devastating economic consequences of Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the political chaos of the Cultural Revolution, as well as the party’s rebound under Deng Xiaoping’s reforms.

    Leninist systems are thought to be rigid, yet the Chinese Communist Party has proved adaptable. From Rebel to Ruler shows that the party owes its endurance to its flexibility. But is it nimble enough to realize Xi Jinping’s “China Dream”? Challenges are multiplying, as the growing middle class makes new demands on the state and the ideological retreat from communism draws the party further from its revolutionary roots. The legacy of the party may be secure, but its future is anything but guaranteed.

    The Chinese Population Implosion: An Unparalleled Demographic Challenge with Global Consequences

    Borje Ljunggren, June 2021 

    In late May, the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced that couples would be allowed to have three children. As late as 2015, CCP finally gave up its draconic one-child policy, in force since 1979, for a two-child policy, but the number of births soon kept falling. In spite of the two-child policy the fertility rate has in the last few years actually fallen to just 1.3, well below 2.1 births per woman, the level required to maintain a stable population.

    The Party is experiencing the recoil effect of its biopolitics. At the turn of the century, China’s population, according to UN World Population Prospects (2019) medium variant, will have fallen to just over 1 billion. The population in 55 countries is expected to decrease during the next few decades, but no other country, with the exception of Iran, has undergone such a rapid and compressed demographic transformation as China, with a rapidly aging population and a diminishing labor supply. The causes are deep-rooted, beyond just launching a three-child policy. The one-child policy also had a tragic impact on the nation’s gender ratio, resulting in an extreme predominance in birth rates for boys and tens of millions of “missing women.” Technological developments with robots and AI will dramatically reduce the effects of China’s declining supply of labor but is seems clear is that the country is facing unique demographic challenges, with global consequences. The shadow that China is casting is growing in complexity!

    Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Immigration Are Needed for the Middle Class

    David Dapice, June 2021 

    The US population aged 20–65, according to US Census projections, will grow by 355,000 a year this decade, and of that number, only 225,000 new entrants a year will likely be working and increasing the labor force. Yet, even after prepandemic employment is reached later this year or early in 2022, labor demand will continue to grow by millions of jobs far more than will be supplied by new entrants. If immigration policy and automation adjustments are not enough to make up for the deficit, there will be shortages and inflation, forcing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and perhaps cause a recession. Such a recession hurts middle- and working-class families. 

    The US has indicated it wishes to compete with China. China has already formed a large trade bloc in Asia, and the obvious alternative—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—was negotiated by the US but was never even put up for approval, lacking support from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Given all this, it is worth asking: is the TPP actually bad for labor and the middle class?

     

    Risk Mitigation and Creating Social Impact: Chinese Technology Companies in the United States

    Wenchi Yu, April 2021

    Chinese technology companies have become a topic of interest to not only the business and investor communities but also increasingly the national security and intelligence communities. Their scale and level of innovation present new possibilities and new competition as well as shape global trends. Yet the relationship of such companies to the Chinese government is often opaque. As a result, their growing integration into the global telecommunications system also casts doubt on their intentions and legitimacy.

    This paper reviews key US policy developments under the Trump administration, both broadly toward China and more narrowly relating to trade and technology, and examines the business strategy of four Chinese technology companies operating in the United States. It outlines the benefits of a corporate risk mitigation approach that incorporates social impact creation as an integral part of business and nonmarket strategy for Chinese technology companies, in the United States, and elsewhere. However, this paper also argues that corporate actions can only go so far. Because technology necessarily involves concerns of national security, the role of government—and government cooperation—is essential. It is only through a combination of more locally engaged corporate actions and internationally agreed upon sectoral rules and standard settings that we will be better able to improve transparency and trust-building across borders.

    Chinese Regional Planning Under Xi Jinping: The Politics and Policy Implications of the Greater Bay Area Initiative

    Jason Jia-Xi Wu, April 2021

    This paper seeks to explain the logic of Chinese regional planning pertaining to the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (粤港澳大湾区 , hereafter GBA) and the challenges it entails for spatial development. Three questions guide the inquiry of this research: First, what are the institutional underpinnings of the GBA initiative, and how is the path dependency of regional integration in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) unique compared to that in China’s other coastal macroregions? Second, how does Beijing’s changing strategy toward Hong Kong inform the costs and limits of the GBA initiative, and what are their policy implications for the future development of the PRD? Third, why is regional planning uniquely favored by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) central leadership, and what does this tell us about the changing policy parameters that govern center-local relations in China?

    This paper argues that the GBA initiative is an overly ambitious plan with very few policy instruments and little regulatory flexibility. It contends that the tensions between the GBA’s intended goals and the means of policy implementation are jointly resulted by three factors:

    1. Beijing’s emerging inclination toward using regional planning as an instrument to police center-local relations and cement its national security interests rather than using it as a mere instrument of economic governance.
    2. The declining room for policy experimentation at the local level, which reduces the state’s responsiveness to local demands and capacity to learn from mistakes.
    3. The historical and strategic importance of the Pearl River Delta to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which causes Beijing to prioritize the political interests of PRD integration much more than its pursuit for regional development in China’s other macroregions.

    These changes are reflective of a broader paradigm shift in Beijing’s regional developmental strategies, under the climate of power centralization in the Xi Jinping era (2012–present). Finally, this paper demonstrates that such changes in the CCP’s regional planning in relation to the GBA initiative will engender both the decline of adaptive governance and premature deindustrialization.

    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?
     
    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.

    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 

    Malcolm McPherson, March 2020 

    This paper examines how China can improve transboundary resource management within the Greater Mekong Basin (GMB) through its participation in the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC). Such improvement would ensure the efficient management and equitable development of the basin’s natural resources and ecosystems.

    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 

    In the fall of 1986, the World Bank offered the government of Indonesia a loan of approximately US $200-250 million for highway construction in the capital city of Jakarta and the country's other four largest urban centers. It was an attractive proposal: plummeting world oil prices had squeezed the national treasury, which had derived about 60 percent of its revenues from Indonesian oil profits. But for much the same reason, Indonesia's Ministry of Finance felt compelled to find new revenue sources to repay the loan. 

    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.

    David Dapice, November 2017

    How rapidly will or could demand for power grow in Vietnam? What will interest rates be? Will the cost of generating plants go up or down, and by how much? What will the cost of each fuel be? Will the cost of carbon or other pollution begin to enter into investment decisions?

    This paper will examine these questions. It will begin by looking at demand projections and investments in efficiency – getting more output per kilowatt hour used. It will then try to estimate the costs of building and running various types of generating plants in Vietnam over time. It will also use various costs of carbon to see if including these both as a source of global warming and as an indicator of local pollution changes the calculation. Changes in the domestic supply of gas will also influence the set of potential solutions, as will the declining costs of solar electricity and battery storage. In all of this it is the system or mix of investments that need to work, not any single investment.

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