Research

The Ash Center's China Programs produce high quality research examining China's growing role in the world.  China Programs' work is disseminated through academic journals and the popular press, academic conferences and workshops, and executive education programs.

Surveys 

Since 2002, Anthony Saich, director of the Ash Center, has conducted detailed surveys of Chinese satisfaction with different levels of government.  As he details in his surveys, his research reveals stark differences in government approval ratings based on government level as well as respondents’ region and income level. 

Philanthropy 

The rise of private wealth is one of the most important developments in modern China, with implications for the country’s social, economic, and political arenas. How individuals choose to deploy such resources will shape the relationships between the individual and the state, between the state and business, and between the state and the social sector. In partnership with one of China’s leading research institutes focused on philanthropy, Beijing Normal University’s China Philanthropy Research Institute (CPRI), the Ash Center has launched a Global Leaders in Philanthropy Program. The Program will pursue a number of innovative research projects -- including China's Most Generous, a systematic and rigorous database of philanthropists, giving levels, recipient organizations, and a host of other research variables related to philanthropists and recipients.  The Center will also convene a philanthropist workshop and an executive education program for foundation staff to disseminate the findings of such research.

Recent 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.

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?
 
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Previous Research Funds and Projects

Hui Fund for Generating Powerful Ideas

By funding a combination of degree students, academic research, results-driven conferences, and targeted senior practitioners, the Hui Fund built a powerful body of strategic thinkers working on issues of direct relevance to the U.S. and Chinese policy-making communities. The Fund prioritized collaborative research initiatives that expressly collaborate with institutions and individuals from China in an effort to deepen the intellectual foundation of exchange between Harvard and the region.